Jobs: Executive Search

Chief Executive Officer, Schools for Children

Winchester, Mass.
Dec / 6 / 2016

Schools for Children (SFC) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1981 when Lesley University divested itself of the lab schools operated by its education department. From this founding steeped in progressive education, SFC now operates five diverse schools and programs: Dearborn Academy, Dearborn STEP Program, Lesley Ellis School, Seaport Academy and Winn Brook Child Care, which currently serves approximately 550 students daily in the four Greater Boston communities of Arlington, Charlestown, Belmont and Newton.

Overview of the Organization and Programs

SFC believes that every student deserves a chance to learn, to be encouraged and supported by caring adults. Every student also deserves the opportunity to work towards ambitious educational goals. In addition, SFC believes that learning needs to be tailored to the individual.  Learning is never simple nor the same for everyone; it is complicated, messy, confusing, and not as easy as it sometimes seems. Research states that while there are predictable milestones to human development and general patterns of learning, individual learning differences are often dramatic. Differences in interest, in enthusiasm, in personality are also dramatic. Learning, it turns out, is as individual as we are as people.

SFC is committed to helping schools respond to children as individuals—that's what it believes makes a school great. SFC helps its schools create room for every student to be heard, the space to listen to what each student genuinely needs to move forward, and the time and expertise to teach students in effective—and joyful—ways. To fulfill its commitment to meeting the unique educational needs of students, SFC operates the following diverse portfolio of schools.

Dearborn Academy

Currently located in Arlington (but soon to be relocated to Newton), Dearborn Academy is one of New England's premiere state-approved day schools for children and adolescents with emotional, social and learning difficulties, especially language-based issues. Dearborn is comprised of two distinct programs—Dearborn Elementary/Middle and Dearborn High School—serving a total of 120 students - Learn More.

Lesley Ellis School

A nationally-recognized independent elementary/middle school (Preschool-Grade 8), Lesley Ellis School in Arlington, is one of the leading independent schools in the greater Boston area. Currently SFC's largest program, Lesley Ellis serves 175 students from Arlington and surrounding communities. The school supports the individual growth of students in the context of an outstanding academic environment incorporating creative and innovative educational experiences - Learn More.

Seaport Academy

Seaport Academy, a small, therapeutic day school beside Boston Harbor in Charlestown, is a collaborative, flexible community that supports the needs and aspirations of its students. Seaport Academy provides a multifaceted and individualized curriculum centered around five core academic subjects and a variety of required and elective activities that take advantage of its maritime setting, allowing students to gain a deeper understanding of the world by connecting skill-based learning to the real world. Teachers have developed a curriculum that both adheres to the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks, creates cross-curriculum activities and is mindful of the need for students to relate learning to real world applications - Learn More.

Dearborn STEP Program

Whenever a student in the greater Boston area is suspended or excluded from their school, STEP (Short-Term Educational Placement) is there to help. STEP, a 45-day assessment program, can turn a crisis into a healthy break—a chance to evaluate and assess the student's specific needs and address critical behavior and learning issues. STEP provides therapy, individual and family counseling, one-on-one learning support, medication consultation from a psychiatrist—whatever the student needs to get back on track and stay on track. STEP has served students from 30 different communities - Learn More

Winn Brook Child Care

Located at the Winn Brook Elementary School in Belmont, this EEC-licensed program provides high quality before- and after-school programming for children in the Winn Brook School community. Serving students in kindergarten through fourth grade, WBCC offers supervised and staff-directed activities that are designed to enhance student learning and promote their overall development. Skilled faculty and staff recognize the various needs of children at different ages and stages of development - Learn More.

Collectively, SFC’s operating budget is approximately $15 million, and the organization employs about 240 staff members who are overseen by a management team consisting of the CEO, CFO and directors for each of the schools and programs. SFC’s central office, located in Winchester, provides financial, technology, human resource and other related supports to each of its schools. SFC’s CEO reports to a volunteer board of directors currently comprised of 12 members, business leaders, community members, educators and supporters from Greater Boston.

Executive Transition

SFC has been very ably led by Ted Wilson, its CEO for close to 30 years. Ted, who will retire from his position effective June 30, 2017, will consult to the board on specific projects during the 2017-18 school year.  An eight-member search committee comprised of board members and senior staff has been appointed to manage the transition in leadership with a desired start date of July 1, 2017.

Strategic Opportunities and Challenges

SFC is at an important historical juncture as it approaches its first CEO transition in 30 years which was preceded this year by the retirement of its equally long-serving director of the Dearborn Academy. In addition to successfully navigating these transitions, SFC is poised to chart a refreshed future for itself. 

High priorities for the new CEO include:

  • Managing effectively and efficiently the daily operations of a complex, multi-site, $15 million nonprofit educating approximately 550 children daily and employing more than 240 staff members.
  • Navigating the first major leadership transition in 30 years, both at the CEO and the director level, ensuring that the reconstituted management team is cohesive, developed professionally, energized and aligned in its pursuit of institutional excellence. 
  • Because both the Lesley Ellis School and Dearborn Academy will relocate before the next school year, building on work that will be in progress, managing the physical relocation of two programs (and the potential morale issues often associated with a move).
  • Conducting an audit of existing supports provided by the central office to the schools and programs to determine whether the value added is sufficient or whether additional supports are needed for schools to operate more effectively and efficiently.
  • Challenging the status quo to define a collective vision, culture and strategic direction for the organization, one which considers the disparate nature of SFC’s existing schools and programs, leverages and capitalizes on current strengths, considers additional opportunities for growth and ensures a sustainable future.
  • Strengthening interconnectedness and communication between the central office, schools and programs so historically independent leaders and programs see the advantages of and commit to operating under a new collaborative paradigm where best practices and learnings are shared and leveraged.
  • Defining and implementing a marketing and public relations program that raises the profile of the organization, its schools and programs to support enrollment and fundraising, collectively and by the individual schools.
  • Working collaboratively with the board to refresh and build its membership and capacity.

Desired Credentials

  • A minimum of five years of senior executive leadership, preferably in an education-related organization, nonprofit or school.
  • Master’s degree in education or a related field
  • Experience working with children; prior teaching experience a plus

Skills and Experience

Visionary Strategic Planner

The next CEO of SFC must be able to lead SFC through a planning process to develop a clear mission, vision and strategic direction for a relatively complex and diverse organization. S/he must be able to consider the viewpoints of disparate communities and offer and weigh creative business and revenue-generating solutions that will contribute to long-term institutional sustainability.

Effective Leader of Staff

The new CEO must assume a leadership role in a multi-site organization and be able to inspire, develop and empower others. The new leader must generate trust and respect across the entire organization. Working collaboratively with senior leaders and the board, the CEO will need to determine an appropriate centralized structure, optimal staffing pattern and consistent communication practices to engage, energize and support all affiliated schools and their staff members.

External Facing Leader

The new CEO must demonstrate strong interest and skill at creating an external presence and strategy for SFC. S/he must serve as an eager and energetic public face for the institution, able to build and sustain collaborative relationships with town governments, school systems, like-minded organizations, partners and consumers. S/he must also mobilize others, especially members of the board of directors, to proactively pursue opportunities to achieve significant results, inclusive of expanding a broad-based, yet targeted, marketing and fundraising program.

Education Leader

Ideally, the new CEO will have experience in the education sector, either in a school, education-based nonprofit or related business. S/he must be able to understand educational best practices and child development for diverse student populations, particularly students requiring special education services. Working collaboratively with SFC leadership, the new CEO should be skilled at identifying and leveraging the internal best practices employed by SFC’s affiliated yet disparate schools, while encouraging leadership to explore and consider innovative practices employed by thought leaders, collaborators or competitors.

Strong Administrator

As the agency’s chief executive and administrator officer, the new leader will be responsible for overseeing the organization’s operations, finances, facilities and human capital, efficiently aligning and maximizing resources to achieve SFC’s strategic goals. The new leader will also serve as the primary liaison to the board of directors as it recruits new members and engages all members in effective governance and fundraising. Strong problem solving, time management and organization skills will be highly valued.

Candidate Guidelines

This search is being conducted by Third Sector New England's Executive Transitions Program with Transition Consultant John Tarvin.  All submissions are confidential. Interested candidates should submit materials via the online application below.

Click here to apply online.

Please include a resume and a cover letter with salary requirements, where you learned of the position and a description of how your qualifications and experience match SFC’s needs. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Candidates will be contacted after January 20 to schedule interviews.

Salary is commensurate with experience, within the framework of the organization’s annual operating budget.

SFC is an Equal Opportunity Employer and actively seeks a diverse pool of candidates.