In the past two years, fourteen charter school boards have changed CEOs or Executive Directors, impacting approximately 18,500 New Orleans public school students—more than one-third of the city’s student population. Looking ahead, many founding CEOs hired ten or more years ago are preparing to retire or move on to other roles. Boards and CEOs that wait to make succession plans until a leader’s departure inevitably struggle, and rushed, ill-prepared CEO transitions have detrimental effects on schools and the students they serve.
All CEOs and Executive Directors eventually leave their organizations, so boards must be prepared for and anticipate these inevitable CEO departures. As organizations evolve and develop new ways to serve students, their boards must continually and thoughtfully plan for changes in leadership. To do so, they must implement best practices that promote organizational strength, stability, and effectiveness.
At NSNO, our mission is to deliver on the promise of excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans. Because strong, stable leadership plays such a critical role in the success of our schools, NSNO has developed a CEO Succession Planning Toolkit to support boards in developing and executing a plan for successful CEO successions.
The best practices included in the Toolkit are based on lessons learned from national CEO succession planning research and a series of interviews with local charter school CEOs and board members who have undergone CEO successions.
Comprehensive guide that includes detailed information on best practices and steps every charter board should take to develop CEO succession plans.
Modifiable document that translates the CEO Succession Planning Guide into actual practice for boards through a board self-assessment, planning prompts, and sample planning documents
Resource developed in partnership with Bellwether Education Partners to detail the profile and competencies of successful New Orleans charter organization CEOs
NSNO’s E3 Fellowship is an excellent opportunity to develop senior leaders into potential future CEO candidates. Please click here for more information.
Articulate Roles and Responsibilities: The Board, Succession Planning Committee, staff, and any third-party entities that the board engages must understand their collective succession planning responsibilities and individual roles in carrying out these responsibilities.
Engage in Perpetual, Predictable Planning: Begin succession planning at the start of a new leader’s tenure. Define the steps that the Succession Planning Committee will take at least annually, calendar for meetings, and determine the materials needed at each one.
Determine who, in the event of a departure with either short notice or in an emergency situation, will step in as the temporary or permanent leader. Boards can take this step immediately and revisit this plan annually.
The practices below improve a board’s ability to deliver on all of their governance responsibilities. Boards must take stock of whether they engage in these practices and, if not, establish systems to do so before gradual succession planning.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training/Reflect Upon Personal Biases: The ability to note personal biases and the limitations of one’s perspective is foundational in succession planning, as unspoken criteria springing from personal biases can lead to dysfunction and confusion in selecting a new leader.
Understanding the Organization’s Strategic Priorities, Strengths, and Weaknesses: The board should have a clear understanding of the organization’s strategic priorities, strategic plan, strengths, and weaknesses, as each of these inform the competencies and characteristics needed in a CEO.
CEO Evaluations: Boards should conduct a quality CEO evaluation process that is aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities and seeks feedback from staff and other key stakeholders. This evaluation will serve as the foundation for defining the competencies/characteristics the board will seek in a new CEO.
Leadership Development Priorities: The board is responsible for holding the CEO accountable for progress towards staff leadership development goals that work to build the existing internal bench of potential future CEO candidates.
Boards and CEOs should have regular, honest conversations about the duration of the CEO’s tenure. Even if the board and CEO have no plans to make a change in CEO leadership for many years, the board should develop a timeline and process for how they will address the CEO’s eventual departure.
For more information on CEO Succession Planning supports, please contact Holly Reid, NSNO’s Chief of Policy and Portfolio, at firstname.lastname@example.org.