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Operational Support For Founding Schools




As an senior leader of a founding school, I found that having a strong operational infrastructure is what gives a founding school more prestige. Having an operating team of Marketing, Admissions, Human Resources, Purchasing, and ICT Manager. Human Resource, Management is what makes an educational founding organization viable. The Human Resources Department was my primary resource, as they played a crucial role in recruiting the right individuals for the job. Those individuals who assist in the recruitment process are invaluable when establishing schools. They contribute significantly to crucial aspects such as recruitment and training, staffing of ancillary support teams, fiscal knowledge, legal compliance, and compensation.


Many founding schools start out small in the beginning. There might be only one person who holds the title of HR manager and possibly one-two people who hold roles as a HR specialist which take on specific responsibility in the HR department. The HR department has many functions, three essential functions are: 1) Professional Development 2) Organization Development 3) Career Development.


Professional Development


Professional Development focuses on changing or improving the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of individuals. As new hires enter the school organization, proper training and professional development are critical for smooth transition into the workplace.

The choice of training and development methods often depends on the specific needs of the organization, the nature of the skills to be developed, and the preferences of the employees involved. Combining various methods in a well-designed training program can be effective in meeting diverse learning needs.


Personally as a Head of School and former Principal, I found that having yearly induction weeks for new incoming staff was important. This induction allowed new staff to settle in to the local culture and environment, learn the required workplace routines, meet other colleagues and most importantly how to request and purchase items for the classroom. It is also important to offer workshops and weminar that are interactive sessions led by subject matter experts to teach specific skills or convey industry knowledge. Being able to have top experts such as Kath Murdoch, Tania Lattanzio, Denyse Ritchie of THRASS, Carol Tomlinson or well know IB trainers allowed for our staff to feel valued.


Organizational Development


HR managers are responsible for the hiring, onboarding, training, termination, and legal compliance of school employees. Most HR managers should be hired from within the country. These managers will have knowledge and understanding of the country's laws and cultural differences. Local HR managers are well versed in cultural differences and play an important role in bridging the cultural gaps discovered through international hiring and local hiring of staff.


Let's take a look at the recruitment process. The process of hiring skilled and seasoned educators, HR needs a comprehensive grasp of the specific job responsibilities associated with each teaching position. It is essential for HR to establish connections with reputable agency headhunters who possess the resources to attract and engage qualified candidates. HR Managers or Specialists should collaborate closely with administrative leaders. This collaboration enables school leaders to actively engage in the onboarding process for new employees, covering aspects like staff handbook guidelines, taxes and salary, banking procedures, country entry and exit policies, work visas and credentials. For example, at my recent two founding schools both HR managers knew of educational job fairs, recruiting agents and agencies both internationally and locally. This allowed for a strong starting point when recruiting. Having HR managers who have dealt with these agencies gives the school a step up.


Legal Compliance

To avoid legal trouble, it is critical that HR understands, abides by, and helps the school to enforce all legal requirements. Laws differ from one country to the next and therefore, an important role of a local experienced HR managers is to ensure all laws and regulations are followed in every country in which the school is operating.

For example many international schools require teachers who speak English originate from only 15 countries which designate English as the official language of the country. Some countries will not recognize these countries that designate English as the official language of the country. For example one of the basic requirements to legally teach English in China or Korea one must be a native English speaker. This means you should hold a passport from the big 7 ( United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa) where the national language is English. However, highly qualified candidates from other English-speaking countries such as South America or the Caribbean could possibly have a more difficult time to attain employment.


Benefits and Compensation Packages




Adhering to laws and regulations is crucial to prevent fines or legal complications. Compensation, encompassing salary, health benefits, vacation time, varies across countries. It is essential to have a skilled HR manager knowledgeable about benefits for both local and expatriate staff to foster inclusivity and diversity in the learning environment. I found it beneficial and culturally significant to have an HR manager with international travel experience, fluency in English, and a keen understanding of cultural assimilation. As an illustration, it is crucial to have an HR director who ensures that the school procures health benefits tailored to the requirements of young families, especially for international families.

This involves guaranteeing that the medical benefits package comprehensively covers aspects such as pregnancy, maternity birthing, and extends to wellness checkups both during and after the pregnancy period. This advantage plays a crucial role in onboarding expatriate staff, guaranteeing a transparent explanation of all benefits. Consistently upholding this approach throughout the school additionally reinforces the brand and enhances operational cohesion.


Career Development

Involves identifying and developing internal talent for future leadership roles. One of my recent HR managers had the foresight to proactively look for staff facilitators, who had the experience and knowledge in technology infrastructure and programs. By meeting and partnering with this employee, they were able to co-create a personalized career pathway. Having an HR professional who can read the growth needs of the school is aspirational and helps align the needs of the staff with the organization's goals. The example of our classroom teacher to ITC director was such a win win for our founding school. As our school began to grow in year two and three, the HR manager was able to develop internal middle level leader positions. This allowed for staff retention, concurrent training and planning as staff moved up into new mid-level positions.




Knowing you have a strong HR manager with knowledgeable supporting staff is what builds the reputation of your school. The HR department plays a pivotal role in constructing and maintaining the essential human capital required for the success of startup schools. In a founding international overseas school, a Human Resource Director or Manager is critical for growth and efficiency. They aid in hiring, developing, and retaining employees. HR practices can prevent the creation of toxic work environments, foster a strong company culture, and ensure fair compensation. They contribute to creating a positive work environment, ensuring legal compliance, provide training, create policies, and supporting the overall mission of the institution.


Ever wish of having invaluable insights and support while embarking on the journey of first time leadership, or perhaps academic training to open a founding school?


Look no further! Dr. Renata McFarland, with over 30 years of extensive experience in higher education, private, public, and international schools, along with a vast network, is here to work directly with you.


Contact Dr. McFarland at International Educational Consultants to leverage her expertise in addressing your leadership training, mentoring, school policy, startup school queries, or just overcoming challenges of day to day operations. Whether it's through training sessions, idea-sharing, attentive listening, or workshops- connect with Dr. Renata today!





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