As in gymnastics, bull riding, and bicycle racing, when independent school leaders make an unscheduled dismount, leaving their positions suddenly — what the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) research refers to as an “unplanned transition” — the result can be painful and costly to the head and the school community. And as NAIS data indicates, these unplanned transitions have been trending upward since 2012.
Why is this? Heads of school today are “making unprecedented difficult decisions in an increasingly complex time,” writes Margaret Anne Rowe in a March 2021 Independent Ideas blog post. The national reckoning on racial justice, the sustained emotion and anxiety of a global pandemic, and the explosive volatility of social media are just some of the factors adding to the complexity and stress of the head’s job.