Dissertation Proposal Defense Announcement by Kevin Yaley

This event occurred in the past

Dissertation Proposal Defense Announcement by Kevin Yaley

This event occurred in the past

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    by Kevin Yaley


           According to the National Association of Independent Schools (2020), independent schools across the country continue to experience an increasing number of head-of-school vacancies, both expected and unexpected. Save for the departures by heads who are retiring or obviously chasing greener pastures, the reasons why an increasing number of heads are departing at a disquieting rate are as enigmatic as the departures themselves.
            As part of its governance responsibilities, the board has unconditional authority over the employment of the head, including, most especially, the ability to influence the retention of the head. Unfortunately, since these boards of trustees operate independently, there is no easy mechanism for researching what factors, if any, might influence enigmatic departures. Information, in short, is hard to come by due to both the need for preserving confidentiality as well as the desire for schools to communicate departure decisions in as amenable and mutually beneficial manner as possible to minimize the inevitable disruption to the school community such departures create.
            What can be more easily researched are the factors that might influence the retention of heads, especially those who are enjoying a longer-than-average tenure at their current school. Presumably, there are many motivating factors that influence a head’s job satisfaction and, consequently, their decision to remain at their current school. This dissertation utilized a mixed-methods approach that included a web-based survey and interviews with selected heads from independent schools across the country in order to identify motivating factors for heads remaining in their current positions. Findings pointed to aspects of the relationship between the school head and the board chair as important motivating factors. The study, for example, asked participants to rank-order the five aspects of the head/board relationship that were identified (but not prioritized) in a 2016 study. Open communication between the head and the board chair was judged the most important aspect of the head/board chair relationship and providing operational support was considered the least important.
            The findings of this research should remind boards of the primacy of the head/chair partnership. They should encourage boards to continue to invest in supporting and fostering this partnership.

    *Dissertation defenses are open to USD faculty, students, staff and alumni. During this time defenses are held remotely on Zoom. Please email the committee chair and the student who is defending if you are interested in attending. Spots are limited and up to the discretion of the committee chair.


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