One of the most important roles of a charter school board is to hire and then annually assess the performance of its top leader[1].  Best practices indicate the value of following a formal process to gather data from multiple constituents and review performance relative to goals and competencies required for the job.  This ensures the CEO is clear on what the board expects, and understands how he or she is doing relative to those expectations.

When this process is executed effectively, it can lead to higher engagement, productivity and retention of the CEO and ultimately result in a better learning experience for students.  Having clarity on goals and frequent dialogue on performance can also make the job of the board easier if and when performance issues surface.  Many boards recognize and understand the significance of this responsibility, yet may not plan for it adequately or know what process to follow.

Below is an outline of the framework with actions to take for each:

  1. Prepare – Plan and get ready to kick-off the annual evaluation cycle
    • Ensure CEO goals have been set, clarified and agreed upon at the beginning of the year.  If not, create them with input from the CEO
    • Appoint a specific CEO Support and Evaluation Taskforce to coordinate the process; review evaluation tool for relevancy and determine who will be providing feedback
    • Create and review process and timeline with the CEO, full board and/or applicable committee to ensure buy-in and understanding
  2. Launch – Officially begin the review cycle by launching the tool and getting feedback
    • CEO completes a self-evaluation including an update on goals
    • Announce survey has launched and distribute link to the full board and senior staff including sharing CEO self-evaluation with participants
    • Participants provide feedback via the survey tool
  3. Assess – Review the data to assess and evaluate the CEO’s overall performance
    • Close the survey
    • Compile and analyze the data
    • Determine overall performance rating and themes for discussion
  4. Communicate – Share the results with the full board for review and discussion with the CEO
    • Provide results to the full board in closed session for alignment and discussion
    • Board chair and at least one other board member conducts performance evaluation discussion with CEO
    • Action items based on results are discussed and agreed between board and CEO
  5. Execute – Determine next steps, evaluate the process and begin to implement recommendations
    • Act on reward/recognition opportunities and/or performance plans if applicable
    • Set goals for the next year
    • Evaluate the process to determine what went well, what should be changed for future years and gain signatures on evaluation results for the files that indicates discussion was held.

[1]Charter schools come in all shapes and sizes, and they call their leader a wide range of terms:  Executive Director, Head of School, School Director, Principal and CEO. In BoardOnTrack lexicon, we have chosen to call the person at the very top of the org chart the CEO.  A charter school is a multi-million dollar public enterprise and many of the flaws of charter schools come from not having the right leader/leadership structure in place. The schools that we see be successful typically have some one at the top of the organization chart who serves as a CEO—some one who is not just the instructional lead, but can conduct effective oversight of the financial health and operational systems as well as fundraise and work effectively with the board.