#5 How is the school managed?
It’s important to know who’s in charge of what at your child’s school. At international schools, there are a number of different structures, and each has a different level of influence on student learning. Let’s look at some key players.
- Administrative management. Such leaders may be called principals, headmasters, heads, or directors. These individuals manage the day-to-day operations of the school, which can include finances and hiring in addition to matters directly related to academics. If the head isn’t involved in anything beyond academics, then you definitely should find out who is! Find out what the head’s relationship is to whomever is responsible, since they can have an effect on learning. If you learn the head never gets any say at all in hiring, for example, you may want to proceed with caution. Finally, ensure the head is regularly available and willing to meet with parents.
- Owners. This could be an individual or small group of investors, or it could be the company the school belongs to. However, the level of involvement they have can vary widely, particularly if the school is for profit. Ask who the owner/s of the school are and whether they have a background in education or not. It’s also useful to know how deeply involved they are in academic matters and hiring, particularly if their background isn’t in education. Additionally, if the school is for profit, it can be illuminating to find out what the profits go towards: is it simply to the owner’s pockets, or is it to investments that can be used to further develop the school? Also, what do the owners do in a year where profits are static or decreasing, and how does that affect student learning? Ask whether the owner/s are ever willing to meet parents, or if that’s completely unheard of. Chances are, you would never have a reason to talk to an owner, but it’s nice to know the organization welcomes it if you ever wanted to.
- School boards. A school board is essentially a group of stakeholders who ensure that everything at the school is running smoothly. They function as the governing body of the school, and the head is accountable to them. Board members vote on important issues, such as the annual budget, appointment of a new head, or facility improvements. While some boards are elected, some are appointed by other leaders in the school or organization. Most include the school head, and some also include parents who aren’t otherwise involved in the school’s operations. The quality of a school’s board can also vary widely: sometimes you’ll hear horror stories where boards insist the school’s admin change things at their every whim, while others barely find time to meet and let the head do whatever she wants. The ideal board is made up of diverse leaders in education, business, and management who put students first and effect change carefully and with transparency. Like with owners, find out if the board is willing to communicate with parents if issues arise.
Once again, we have a question that can garner a myriad of answers, but don’t worry too much about keeping track of all the little details. Just make sure you’re able to find a school with a management system that puts students first, values honest feedback, and engages in careful consideration before taking action.
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