The President/Principal Model

Shared Vision, Professional Respect, Balanced Responsibility: Keys to a Successful President/Principal Model in a Catholic School

image of bob reganOur friend Bob Regan, executive search consultant overseeing the Catholic Schools Practice at Carney, Sandoe & Associates, recently completed a four-part blog series entitled “The President/Principal Model in Catholic Schools - Getting it Right.” In this series, Bob discusses some of the benefits and challenges of implementing the model.  As of 2015, approximately 56% of Catholic secondary schools have left the traditional all-in-one model of a Head of School behind and have embraced the President/Principal Model. 

The two leaders in this model – the President and the Principal – are equal proponents of the school’s Catholic Identity and Mission.  However, their specific duties do not overlap and are structured strategically to complement each other.  The President is the chief executive officer responsible for advancing the school through planning, vision-setting, development, fiscal management, and marketing.  The Principal functions as the chief academic officer overseeing the daily operations of the school including academic and student affairs, teacher supervision and development, and curriculum. Because two people share the leadership and each position has unique responsibilities, this model allows for a greater degree of focus in each area.  It also expands the pool of leadership candidates for Catholic schools. The President/Principal Model provides non-traditional candidates – such as mission-driven leaders from higher education, foundations, associations, and charities - with an opportunity to serve as President and use their passion and talents to advance Catholic education.

As Bob notes, planning for and implementing this model is not without challenges.  He suggests that schools who are planning to adopt this leadership model or who are struggling to make it work, focus on three key areas:

  • Get the Hiring Right
  • Get the Messaging Right
  • Get the Doing Right

Bob’s article takes a practical approach and lays out solutions to each of these.  “Selling” this partnership to parents, faculty, and the school community can be especially difficult because of its top heavy cost structure.  But the payoff is worth it if you get it right!

Our Center for Catholic Education’s first director, Dr. TJ Wallace, had been Principal at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School in Dayton for nine years when they adopted the President/Principal model in 1993.  He then served as President at CJ for three years before coming to the University of Dayton.  He said communication was vital for transitioning to this model.   Initially, communication with families and faculty outlined the job descriptions of each position and the expected benefits to the community.  As time progressed, communication was essential in detailing the progress being made in planning and development.  This exceptional progress was evidence of the value of the President/Principal model.

Twenty-two years later, Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School thrives under this model of leadership.  John Marshall, Principal at CJ, says “the model we operate under has clear roles and is also flexible for adaptation and change.  CJ President, Dan Meixner, adds “the leaders share a common vision, enjoy a good working relationship, and have professional respect for the gifts each one brings to the community.”

What are your experiences with the President/Principal Model of Leadership vs. the traditional all-in-one model of Head of School?  What challenges have you faced? What benefits have you enjoyed?  Please join the conversation over on our blog, Catholic Education Conversation.  We’d love to hear from you!

Visit Bob Regan's blog to read his four-part blog series in its entirety and share your thoughts directly with him!