By Paul Shaviv
When I was a Head of School, I was always amused by people I met in the summer who would say things like “You must be busy planning next year”.  My response was – “If next year wasn’t already planned, I’d be in serious trouble – my head is already in the year after that!”
I have to assume that for most of my readers, 2016 – 2017 is already planned, and, apart from the unexpected it is ‘ready to roll.’
But you should be planning now for 2017 – 2018.
What should be on your agenda?
Below are six key topics – and I guarantee these three outcomes:
  • In a year’s time – you will feel very well prepared – less stress for you!
  • Your school will be ready to make positive changes
  • Your own professional profile will get a boost!
  • Student enrolment – (And what are your recruitment plans – these should already be in place for this fall!)
  • Staffing – can you forecast your staffing needs?  Can you recruit early?
  • Restructuring – is your school best served by your present organizational structure?  Do you need to consider changes?
  • Curriculum – do you need curriculum reform in 2017?  Refreshing of existing courses?  Introduction of new courses?  What PD needs will these generate?
  • Tech – where is your school?  Where does it need to be?
  • Budget – are you already projecting your 2017 budget?  Can you preserve quality of program but keep strict control on costs?  What opportunities can you take to review major expenditures over the coming year?
Of course, there may be other issues on your horizon which need longer-term planning  – e.g. building issues, Governance issues, or Staff training plans (individual and group).
  • Another topic – which we won’t address here – may be your own professional future
“Do I really have to bother with this???  I usually don’t think about the following year until round about February….”
You can wait until February (or January, or March… or April … or May… or JUNE!!)  But answer the following questions:
  • Do you always feel completely prepared at the beginning of each year?  (YES = 2; NO = 0)
  • Are you sometimes rushed or panicked when you make major decisions? (YES = 0; NO = 2)
  • Are you regarded as a good planner?  Is your vision being actively implemented? (YES = 2; NO = 0)
  • Are the funds lined up now for your future plans?  (YES = 2; NO = 0)
  • Is your school organizationally ‘winging it’ – albeit on a grand scale? (YES = 0; NO =2)
Desirable score:  10
As a leader, you should be at the forefront of institutional forward-thinking..  That is one of your major responsibilities.  If your Board isn’t, it is your job to stimulate them into doing so.
Your projections may not pan out exactly as you and your team foresee. They never do, although they should be fairly realistic, and close enough to give you a basis for decisions.  Along the way you will identify the variables.
Discussion and analysis of the future will generate team-work, it will give your colleagues the feeling that they have a voice in the school’s future, and it will generate school-improving ideas and thought.
The alternative is to fall into the dismal pattern visible in too many schools, which includes:
  • Last-minute solutions, leading to inferior decisions
  • Inertia-driven maintenance of the status quo
  • Institutional stagnation 
Schedule regular time in your diary now for future planning.
Start your ‘forward planning group’ at the end of the vacation, or the first week of the new year.
You may need a smaller Administration group to discuss sensitive staffing issues.
Think about the structure and process.  Who is part of this group?  (Administration, faculty, support staff, parents/Board… students?).
Set up regular meetings, with a recorder, a shared digital forum, and a target date to reach recommendations.
  • You will be amazed at the benefits of initiating early forward planning for 2017 – 18
  • It takes minimal organization
  • It allows for unhurried planning of large and small changes
  • The school will avoid many difficult moments caused by hurried decisions
  • It will set a very good precedent for future years

Paul Shaviv is a consultant. He has particularly specialized in management, organization, and process. Find more at