International School Headship Transitions--Reflections on Lessons Learned

As educational researchers Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink said, “Schools are better served when they plan for transitions that continue and build upon the good work of the past with little or no loss in institutional momentum.” For the April/May issue of Head2Head, Heads of International Schools who have either been through a transition or are in the midst of one, reflect on what they’ve learned to help create less disruption and to sustain productivity. In addition we have two guest authors who provide insights regarding headship changes and the need for transition planning.

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“A long-serving director needs to be ready to assist in the process of her replacement, but—importantly, not in the selection itself.”

Richard Spradling, Director of American School of the Hague, offers his experience regarding managing transition in a school where the head has been in the role for several years.


“Leaving isn’t easy, and starting isn’t a breeze, but our commitment to a transition characterized by transparency and positive regard, we hope, will …”

Coreen Hester, Head at The American School in London and Robin Appleby, Head Elect, describe how communication and commitments between the two is enabling a productive and smooth transition to occur.


“When I turned 50 years old last fall, I made a resolution of sorts. I vowed…to stop wishing my life away.”

Sheena Nabholz, Director at The American School of Yaounde and incoming head at Lincoln Community School in Ghana, discusses how it’s important not to count the seconds until your departure.

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“Change is external and can happen quickly. Transition, on the other hand, is internal and is what happens in people’s minds as they go through change.”

Carole Simoneau, Co-Director of Thinking Collaborative and a guest author , provides strategies for a successful change in leadership in a school that are based on William Bridges’ theories of transition.

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“Our forecasts calculate that within just five years (by 2021) the number of students attending international schools will have reached 6.5 million…(from 4.45 million currently)”

Richard Gaskell, Schools Director for ISC Research and a guest author, provides justification for Heads having the skills of transition in their toolkit, based on the growth of international schools and the need for maintaining the high caliber of skilled, qualified leaders.