Heads of Schools Program

"This was the most important two weeks of professional and personal development for me since I started in education. The work we did will affect the rest of my professional life as we have confronted, discussed and researched some of the most critical issues in independent and international education." Darlene Fisher, HDS '10, Enka School, Turkey

It may not seem that there are many similarities between schools in Thailand and New Jersey or Namibia and Vermont. But schools and students everywhere present similar challenges and opportunities.That makes it possible for Heads from varying backgrounds to connect around broad issues and ideals.

Every year, 20 Heads from around the world immerse themselves in a truly unique professional experience-- two weeks of intensive study and reflection among peers who confront similar challenges, share common experiences and grow through discussion and research. Each arrives ready to commit to philosophical ideals that guide the best of education while strengthening skills, defining vision and building stronger schools through rigorous study and interaction with colleagues.

Starting in late January, these heads examine educational issues and policies, drawing on an extensive reading list and a variety of prominent speakers. Additionally, seminars and colloquia address current issues confronting independent school educators, with preparatory readings assigned in advance of the program.

Heads also focus on a current issue of importance, self-selected for relevancy to their home schools. Related readings, research and group discussions on the topics guide heads to better understanding of real issues for their individual institutions and the field at large. Recent areas of focus have been: how to shape a school's ethos; the pros and cons of merit compensation; cultural relativism and institutional integrity; how to evaluate heads and boards; mentoring programs; unifying the K-12 curriculum; revitalizing professional development; learning disabilities programs; academic achievement and the arts; ability grouping; strategic planning; marketing strategies; 21st century curricula; and multiculturalism.

At various times during the program, heads also interact with Klingenstein Master’s and EdM students, providing the opportunity for discussions and learning among different levels of administrators in ways that often do not occur within individual schools.

Sample program overview

Courses taught by Teachers College and Columbia University professors and guest speakers include:

  • Moral leadership
  • Privatization in American education
  • Issues in independent school education
  • Using research to inform practice
  • Case study discussions
  • Collaboration with master’s students
  • Technology for research
  • Visits to local independent, charter and public schools

Recreational Activities

  • Dinners and cohort gatherings
  • Private museum tour
  • Theatre outing