How to select a headmaster from 200 applicants

On Wednesday, January 29th, Amy and I interviewed Mr. Landroche, the Academic Dean, who was also a part of the Search Committee of the new head of school. We had a short interview with him about the election process of the new Head of School.

The search for the new Head of School is typically an 18-24 month process. Often, the head of school announces in October if he or she is planning to retire and continue working through the following year, which should give enough time for school to search for the next head of school. Because of Mr. Peter Saliba’s late announcement of retirement, the process went from an 18-month search to a 3-month search. So the Board of Trustees didn’t have much time to conduct their search. Students didn’t get to spend a lot of time getting in touch with candidates because there wasn’t enough time. “We, those who live and work here, said to these candidates we really ought to see them on campus, students would like to see them, faculty would want to meet them. So we made an opportunity for that.” – Mr. Landroche.

A small group of people, led by two members of the Board of Trustees, did much of the work in order to narrow down the candidates, from 200 applications to 10-15 top candidates. Then, they cut down that number to 7 candidates and conducted interviews in November and December in Boston. It was a four-day interview, and then the board then further eliminated four candidates, therefore the top three were selected to make an appearance on campus. The Head of School is eventually appointed by the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees has two jobs: hire the new Head of School, then make sure the school is financially in good shape.

The Search Committee consists of 5 board members and 5 non-board members. The non-board members include three faculty members and two non-faculty members: Ms. Kate Saunders, Mr. Mike Landroche, Mr. Tyson Conrad, Ms. Christine Louis, and Mr. Mike Schafer.

A new Head can have a big influence on admission. He/She has to be very good at connecting with people outside of the school. They also have to find ways to raise funds school. For example, if we want a building, we need students who would like to help financially after their graduation. The Board of the Trustees is always trying to do that. There are four qualities the board is looking for in the candidates:

  • The candidates’ knowledge of who we are, and where Tilton School is going. It was not hard to make the decision from the 7 candidates during the interview in Boston. The top three candidates not only knew what Tilton was doing, the kind of school we run, and why we work the kind of school, but they also demonstrated a passion for what Tilton stands for, and a love for this kind of school, therefore wanting to become part of Tilton. This desire to be with us means that it’s not just stepping into some other position, but they want to be, know, and love what we were doing.
  • Interpersonal skill and leadership style that fits our culture. Our culture is not like top-down dominant. It’s much more collaborative. The students are encouraged to develop collaboration. We asked the candidates what projects they were part of in their previous roles. We would also interview their colleagues so see what they would say about them. The interviews allowed the opportunity to learn more about what kind of leader each candidate was, and would their leadership style fit who we are and the needs of Tilton School.
  • Financial acumen — financial understanding and intelligence. Each candidate needs to be able to balance the budget.
  • Vision — We have to keep moving forward and making a difference. The question is what is the vision for a small boarding school like us. The new Head of School needs to envision what is next for us, as well as explore different developments in education. We also need the Head of School’s ability to impact the admission process. We want to bring in more people who are bright, willing to work, go out into the world, make a difference, and return to give back to Tilton.

Mr. Landroche’s opinion

Each of these factors has a unique influence in different situations. Each of the four skills becomes the most important for that moment. From day-to-day work, leadership, vision, finance, community to work with the board of trustees off-campus, different sets of skills become the brightest. That skill is to be open-minded and able to connect with others. In the end, human life is doing what we are doing now, sitting in a room with someone else, opening your ears and your heart, and your mind and trying to understand and connect.

Mr. David Thiel is a very positive and bright guy, he’s gonna be a lot of fun to work with. Mr. Thiel is eager to work and has a lot of ideas. He is going to be advocating for certain changes, and he understands enough about leadership and about who we are. He can’t just come in and begin making changes, he’s going to listen. In fact, he is a good listener, a bright thinker, a funny guy with a good sense of humor, and eager to make a difference. Thinking about the faculty work here, all of us are eager to make a change, and he’s gonna fit right into us.

One thought on “How to select a headmaster from 200 applicants

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Next Post

Red Reflection