Skip To Main Content
Managing Leadership Transitions with School Communication Tools
Connor Gleason

Leadership transitions in schools are pivotal, historical, and often emotional for school communities. There's a certain bittersweetness that comes with saying “goodbye” to a trusted leader, paired with the excitement and nerves of welcoming a new one. These transitions are not just about a change in personnel; they’re about continuing legacies and shaping a new vision for the future.

Pretty heavy, right?

These days, it seems there are more and more departures, vacancies, and transitions in leadership than ever before. The pandemic, strained board-leadership relationships, and rising parent expectations have all contributed to outgoing heads leaving the field of education demoralized and burned out.

According to recent data from the Superintendent Research Project, about half of the 500 largest school districts have faced leadership change since early 2020. Not much earlier than that, independent schools faced increasing rates of leadership turnover — nearly one in five new heads of school in the 2019-2020 school year replaced a head of school who held the position for three years or fewer.

As more schools and districts search for, interview with, and welcome new leaders to their school communities, clear and consistent communication becomes the lifeboat that keeps everyone afloat.

Amidst this mix of emotions and expectations, successful communication during these transitions lies in instilling trust, fostering hope, and upholding transparency, and that’s when your communication tools play a critical role.

With the right blend of these elements, the transition can move from being a period of uncertainty to one of shared optimism and progress.

Using Digital Communication Channels at Different Stages of Leadership Transition

Just like any journey, leadership transitions involve several stages, each with its own challenges— and opportunities. Your school's communication tools can play an important role at every step of the way.

The Search

The search for new leadership is an exciting time, but it's also one where effective communication is crucial. You want everyone – from staff members to parents and students – to understand the process and trust that it's being handled with integrity.

Your school website can be a valuable resource during this stage. Within a “leadership search” page, share updates about the ongoing search, including timelines, selection criteria, progress reports, and archives of communications.

Introducing search committee members, dates of candidate campus visits, and public meetings, like Bloomfield Hills Schools' leadership transition plan, can all provide a level of transparency that helps everyone feel included and invested in the process.

bloomfield hills superintendent search

Meanwhile, emails can provide a more direct line of communication. Regular updates can reassure everyone that the search is moving forward and that their input is valued. Remember to link back to past communications, schedules, and resources within the hub you’ve created.

Once a candidate has been selected and they’ve accepted, it’s time to make the announcement.

Best Practices for Introducing the New Leadership

It's time to formally introduce the new leader to your school community. Your school's website and the subsequent social media posts, news stories, and leadership page updates all play a pivotal role here. Your website is the go-to source of information for most stakeholders, making it the perfect platform for an introduction.

Include this content to make a proper introduction and set the scene for what’s to come.


Start with a detailed profile of your new leader. This should include their educational background, professional experience, achievements, and anything else that stands out about their career. It's not just about listing credentials, though. Make it personal – share anecdotes, hobbies, introduce their family, or fun facts to help your community connect with them on a human level.


Videos can be an extremely engaging way to introduce your new leader. Consider a welcome video where they introduce themselves, share their vision, or even take viewers on a tour of their office. This helps put a face to the name and gives your new leader an opportunity to connect with the community in a more personal, engaging way.

Frederick Gunn School head video

The Frederick Gunn School introduced its 12th head of school with a warm welcome and video that accompanies its head of school search page.


A question-and-answer session can be a great way to address any questions or concerns your community might have. You could solicit questions from staff, students, and parents in advance, and then publish the Q&A on your website. This not only addresses your community's queries but also shows your new leader's willingness to engage and communicate openly.

A Welcome Letter

A welcome letter from the new leader can be a heartfelt way to kickstart their relationship with the school community. This could touch on their excitement about joining the school, their initial observations, their vision, and what they hope to accomplish. It's a chance for them to share their enthusiasm, acknowledge the responsibilities they're taking on, and assure faculty and staff of their commitment to the school's success.

By combining these elements on your school's website, you can create a comprehensive introduction for your new leader that instills trust, fosters hope, and upholds the transparency that smooths the way for a successful leadership transition.

woods academy head search videos

Check out The Wood's Academy's search page, which includes creative video testimonials from search committee members commenting on the reasons they believe the selected candidate is the right choice — great strategy!

Keep Reading: The First 100 Days: Tips for Introducing New School Leaders

Transition Stage

The transition stage is all about ensuring a smooth handover. This is where your school's portal can shine. A portal for your board of trustees, parents, and leaders provides a platform for sharing schedules, policies, and other documents relevant to the transition. 

Encourage feedback and facilitate discussions about the new leader's plans. This promotes a sense of involvement and shared responsibility for the school's future, and this also allows the administration to stay in sync.

Many leaders like to “get a feel” their first year and “live it” to sense the school culture; others aspire to make sweeping changes on day one. Either way, regular updates, and observations help keep staff, parents, and board feeling updated, connected, and informed about what steps are being taken to ensure a seamless transition.

Keep Reading: Passing the Torch: New Superintendent Transition Planning

New call-to-action

Onboarding and Beyond

Finally, the onboarding stage is about making the new leadership part of the school community. Your school website can help by featuring the new leader prominently, sharing their vision and plans for the school as they get up and running.


Podcasts can help share the vision, as well as the voice and personality, of your new school leader.


Blogs are a fantastic platform for thought leadership and are a great way to give insight into the happenings around the district or campus.

Social media

A Twitter account for your head or superintendent is a great way to establish better lines of communication for stakeholders and school leadership. Photos, updates, and insightful commentary on the latest news and events from school help humanize your leaders and share their vision.

Keep Reading: Before You Post: Sharing the True Voice of K-12 Leadership

Key Takeaway

Your school’s communication tools are instrumental in promoting transparency and creating smooth leadership transitions — don’t forget that they’re there to help you throughout this long journey. From the search stage to the onboarding stage, tools like your school website, emails, and your school portals can help you in your role of keeping everyone informed and ready for the exciting next phase of your school’s future.

Request a Free Website Report Card

Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

Explore More Recent Blogs

Subscribe to the Finalsite Blog

Love what you're reading? Join the 10k school marketers who get the newest best practices delivered to their inbox each week.

Request a FREE
website report card

Want feedback on your school or district's site? Get a free website report card, generated by an in-house website expert, sent right to your inbox.