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Should I Ask My Charter School Board for a Raise?

Each spring, charter school leaders across the country sprint to the end of the year. You’re looking forward to some well-earned time to plan the next school year…and a bit of a summer break.

Whether you’re graduating your first or your fifteenth class, the school year has likely been a long slog. You’re exhausted but energized. You know that your team, and your kids, have made real progress.

And, hopefully, you’re engaged with your board in an end-of-year school leader evaluation — one that proves out the part you played in all that progress and provides direction for your own growth. The results of your CEO support & evaluation process should energize you.

But. There’s an elephant in the living room. It’s your compensation.

It’s time to pull back the curtain on charter school leader compensation.

Charter school leaders need to better understand the landscape, benchmarks, and quite frankly how to talk to your boards about your compensation.

And, conversely, charter school boards — especially the board chairs who partner most closely with charter CEOs — need proven practices and expert guidance on the subject. You need to feel confident about how to respond to CEOs when they broach the topic, how to lead your boards through the conversations, and how to make responsible decisions.

This article launches a multi-part series designed to demystify the topic of charter school leader compensation. Consider it your roadmap. And please reach out to us to share your stories and questions. Or, if you’re a BoardOnTrack member, log in to start a conversation in our members-only community.

We’re starting with a piece for the CEOs, tackling the vital and very common question: “Should I ask?”

In subsequent posts, we’ll dig into exactly how to approach your board, and, for the board, how to measure your CEO’s performance and responsibly lead your board’s approach to this vital topic.

Should you ask for a raise?

In most cases, the answer is…Absolutely! But…

Every situation is different. First and foremost, you have to have done your homework.

You have to fully understand your role, how your success is measured, and how your performance stacks up against those metrics.

You’ve got to be ready to make the case for a raise.


Learn how to talk about your charter CEO’s compensation, when a raise is right, and the tools your board needs to measure CEO performance.


Are you ready to ask for a raise?

Timing is everything.

Discussing your raise should be part of the natural cycle of the organization’s budget building, goal setting, and other planning. That means your board should be ready for it.

Don’t catch your board off guard.

This isn’t a topic to just blurt out to your board chair over coffee — or, worse, to the full board at a board meeting.

If they’re blindsided, your board will be put on the defensive. They could get the impression that you’re making an end-run or giving them an ultimatum. That could result in making any open and honest conversation nearly impossible. And you will not get your desired result.

Get your positioning in place.

You’re in a position to ask for a raise not because you need it. You’re ready to ask for a raise when you’ve earned it and you can prove it.

Let’s be clear. You don’t demand a raise because you just found out how much your close friend and colleague is earning. It’s not because you need to earn more to pay off your student loans, or because you haven’t been able to afford a vacation. Not even when you’re putting together a down payment for your first home {or your dream home}, or for any other myriad reasons you can think of.

You’re ready to ask for a raise when you can clearly, concisely, and accurately make the case. Because you are a skilled Chief Executive Officer, hired to do an incredibly important job, and you are knocking it out of the park — and you have the results to justify your request.

Be clear about the value and scope of your role as a charter school CEO.

Charter schools come in all shapes and sizes. The same is true for the CEO role. Whether you’re an Executive Director, School Leader, Principal, or Head of School, you are at the top of the org chart.

You’re reporting to the board. You are the top executive of your organization. And that makes you the CEO, regardless of your title.

And at the core, there are similarities that define this role.

Sample charter school leader job description.

Set clear expectations for your charter school’s CEO. Use our template as your starting point. It’s built on the knowledge of the hundreds of charter schools we’ve worked with, nationwide.


A charter school leader is the CEO of a multimillion-dollar public enterprise.

As the leader of your organization, you are running a multimillion-dollar public enterprise.

This is true if you’re in the start-up phase, launching with 180 kids in a few grades, and a $2M operating budget. And it’s true if you’re in your 10th year of operations, running multiple campuses, and have grown to be a $15M organization.


As CEO, you’re ultimately on the hook for the well-being and safety of hundreds or thousands of people.

Size and scale varies across the charter movement. But, even the smallest charter schools are comprised of significant numbers of staff, kids, and families. And they all rely on you, as CEO, for their safety, well-being, and — for staff — their employment. This is a weighty task.


You are the CEO of a high-risk, entrepreneurial start-up.

You have chosen to be part of a relatively new movement; one that is constantly under siege. You’re an entrepreneur who chose this path over one of more stability in a traditional public education setting.


You are a highly skilled, intensively trained professional

You’ve invested time and money in the training that prepared you to take on this challenge. You probably have an advanced degree, maybe participated in an incubator or fellowship, and have devoted significant time and money to get to the place where you are now.


You should ask your board for a raise. When you’re ready.

As a highly-skilled professional running a multimillion-dollar high-stakes, high-risk entrepreneurial endeavor with hundreds, if not thousands of people relying on you for their safety and well-being, you deserve to be well-compensated. And you deserve to see an ongoing path for increased compensation, tied to the results you deliver.

But, you shouldn’t ask for a raise without doing all the right strategic work up front. If done well, asking for a raise will be uplifting for you, and will strengthen your partnership with your board.

Our next post will show you the right steps to take to get yourself in a position to ask for a raise.


Without preparing sufficiently, and timing the conversation appropriately, you won’t get your desired outcome. And you could actually set yourself back.


Wish your board had an easier way to measure — and reward — your performance?

The charter CEO evaluation process built into BoardOnTrack is the best-in-class method for supporting and evaluating charter school leaders. And key pieces can be customized to fit your role.

See how BoardOnTrack works.