Executive Coaching for Charter School Leaders Improves Leadership and Schools

Charter school leaders face daunting challenges compared to their private and public school counterparts. That said, public and private school leaders also have very complex and demanding jobs. Executive coaching can provide leaders with the support they need to meet the challenges and strengthen their leadership. Here we focus on executive coaching for charter school leaders.

Charter school principals do not have central office services like public schools or the financial resources enjoyed by most private schools, yet they have similar responsibilities. They are responsible for all aspects of running a school, nurturing trust between adults and students, managing limited financial resources, and balancing the inescapable demands of multiple constituencies school communities. They must recruit students and teachers, supervise and support teachers, secure and manage facilities, raise money, manage school finances and work with boards, to mention a few.

Inadequate facilities, recruiting excellent teachers, high teacher turnover, low faculty morale, constant fundraising, low student achievement, discipline problems, and balancing the budget are a few of the issues that keep charter school leaders awake at night. Furthermore, while taking care of the urgent, time for the important is rarely found. Strategic planning, quality review, schoolwide improvement planning and new initiatives are lost in the dust.

Despite the plethora of challenges, charter leaders are deeply devoted to the missions of their schools. They find satisfaction in the passion they feel for the mission of the school, the opportunity to make lasting change in students’ lives and the autonomy they have as leaders. Many passionate, talented people are stepping up to the challenge of charter school leadership.

While passion and devotion to a school’s mission are necessary, they are not enough to be a successful charter school leader. Experience and leadership training are critical.

Executive coaching is perhaps the most effective way for charter school leaders to learn and get support on the job. Research shows that leaders perform better when they are coached rather than “supervised”. Clearly, someone who has made it into a school leadership role has demonstrated considerable skill already. Yet the overwhelming demands faced by charter school leaders can quickly lead to burnout or pushout.

Coaches can help leaders avoid burnout and pushout, continue to be successful, and become more effective. Through careful listening and effective questioning, executive coaches provide support and guidance as leaders negotiate the complexities of headship and improve their leadership skills. Coaches also provide resources and advice as appropriate. However, more often than not, school leaders arrive at their own answers with assistance from the coach. That’s the beauty of coaching and being coached.

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