Succession Planning for Charter School Boards and CEOs

Succession Planning for Charter School Boards and CEOs

It’s best practice to have a succession plan before you ever need to use it.

An effective succession-planning process will enable your organization not to lose operational momentum should one of your leaders leave their post for any reason.

Some authorizers require charter schools to have a leadership succession plan in place. So check with your authorizer to ensure your plan meets any set requirements.

Watch our on-demand webinar: Succession Planning for the Charter School CEO.

What are the parallels between CEO succession planning and board chair succession planning?

Use a similar process to create succession plans for your CEO and your Board Chair.

charter school ceo evaluation

It’s often assumed that the board's vice-chair would take over for the Board Chair. But you may want to formalize that process so that, should an emergency arise; you’ll know the steps to follow to ensure contiguous leadership.

Consider both Emergency and Long-Term Plans

To ensure schools can consistently provide solid results for students and families, CEOs and boards must ensure that their organization has a written emergency succession plan and a set of policies and approaches that are building the future generations of leaders for the organization — even from the organization’s earliest years.

Emergency Succession Planning:

This plan clarifies who would be responsible for managing which aspects of the school and who would report to the board if the CEO becomes suddenly unavailable to do their job or continue in their role.

It ensures that the board, school staff, and families will be clear on which staff members would be responsible for key responsibilities and which would report to the board in such a sudden emergency.

Long-Term Talent Development Strategy:

This can be as specific as an agreement on a future successor for the CEO and a timeline for the transition. But, for most organizations, it’s a more general planning process to ensure that the organization has policies and practices to build the next generation of leadership.

Follow our proven process for both emergency and long-term succession planning.

Development of a Charter School Emergency Succession Plan

The creation of an emergency succession plan originates with the CEO.

The CEO should draft a plan, share it with the CEO Support and Evaluation Committee, receive feedback, and revise it as necessary.

The revised document should be shared with the full board for an official vote to accept the emergency succession plan.

How to create a draft emergency succession plan for your CEO.

Confirm that the current CEO job description accurately reflects the CEO’s major responsibilities. Then, list the categories of the main responsibilities, with notes on the key pieces of each.

Assign each category of responsibility to specific staff members. Ideally, responsibility for the entire job would rest with one successor in an emergency, but often this is not feasible. Alternatively, divide the responsibilities between no more than two or, if unavoidable, three people.

Download our CEO succession planning template.

Next, consider carefully what skills or background knowledge these staff members might need to develop to fulfill these succession responsibilities successfully. Create action plans for meeting these learning needs. An example of this type of consideration and planning is summarized in the rightmost column on our example template.

As you create your emergency succession plan, there are a few key questions that you should be sure to address.

  1. Are all the responsibilities the CEO currently fulfills delineated in the job description?
    If not, it is time to revise it to document them. The board and CEO might consider making high-level task lists, calendars, and “where is everything?” lists to capture what the leader does.
  2. Do the designated successors have the skills and knowledge they will need? If not, how will they get it?
  3. Do the designated successors have the necessary relationships with the key constituencies (students, families, staff, donors, authorizers, community leaders, etc.)? If not, how will they develop them?
  4. Has the succession plan been made clear to senior staff?
    (While it can be uncomfortable to discuss emergency succession, key staff must know what they are responsible for if something comes up).
  5. When will the plan be reviewed each year to make any necessary updates?
    It’s best to do so at your September or October board meeting each year.

How to create a long-term Talent Development Strategy for your charter school team

The most important role a board can play in developing a long-term succession strategy is to ask smart questions that help the CEO to articulate what the organization is doing to grow future generations of leadership.

These questions include:

  • What, if any, part of the interview process for teachers or other staff is intended to gain insight into their capacity for and interest in future leadership?
  • How would your CEO divide their staff into these three tiers:
    • Those with strong leadership potential should be invested in
    • Those who may have leadership potential, but more probing is necessary to clarify the extent
    • Those who do not possess significant leadership potential
  • How does your organization assess which staff members are in which groups?
  • What is your CEO’s plan for each of these groups?
  • How does your school reward or invest in those with high potential?
  • What leadership opportunities has your school created to allow teachers to explore their potential?
    (E.g., grade team or department level chairs, enrichment coordinator, summer academy administrator, Saturday school administrator, etc.)
  • How does your CEO feel about their career progression?
    • What does the CEO imagine doing professionally in three-to-five years?
      (It’s worth revisiting this question every year as part of the CEO’s annual evaluation.)

Three steps to get started with succession planning for your charter school:

  1. The CEO writes a report outlining their thoughts on longer-term succession management. This document should contain answers to the questions above and other relevant information.
  2. The CEO then shares this document with the CEO Support and Evaluation Committee, receives feedback, and revises it as necessary.
  3. The revised plan is shared with the full board for an official vote to accept the intent of the succession management plan and the creation of specific goals and expectations for the CEO that may emerge from this process.

charter school ceo evaluation

Post navigation