This resource is designed to provide practical tools and guidance around what lay leaders can do right now to support heads of school as they navigate crisis. These are also leading practices in the field that contribute toward strong lay-head partnerships.
1. Lead with empathy.
Allow for your humanness—and that of others around you—to show up during this difficult time. Accept that mistakes and missteps will happen. Create space to reflect and learn from what is going on around you.
2. Demonstrate trust in your school’s professional leadership.
Communicate directly with your head and acknowledge their strengths, both in public and in private. Let them know you have their back and that you are in this together. Those messages matter a lot and help strengthen professional leaders. This is an opportunity to show your head and your school community how much you trust your head and value their leadership.
Remember, you are working toward shared goals for a strong school and community. Make sure you are on the same side of the table looking at the challenges together and, in partnership, figuring out how to work through them.
3. Discuss openly with your head a plan for what support looks like right now.
What support looks like and feels like will be different for each head of school and may change day by day. If your head is like most heads, they may not yet be sure what they need. Check in regularly. Let your head know you are thinking about them. Thank them for all they are doing. Ask what they need and notice what they are doing well.
Ensure you have a shared understanding of what your role is as board chair, and what the responsibility is of the board, and remain in close communication with your head of school.
Our Jewish day school heads of school are focused on myriad responsibilities at the moment. They are supporting their faculty, staff, students and leadership teams. They are getting the latest information and intelligence, liaising with local authorities, and connecting with heads of school around the country to learn how other schools are responding. They are learning about emergent needs in your school and community and responding. They are working day and night to ensure the children, faculty, staff and families are getting the support they need. The weight of the responsibility is heavy and they cannot do it alone.
You play an incredibly important role in protecting them, supporting their prioritization of their time and attention, and allowing heads a space to be seen and heard. They cannot do this job without your support.