What is the role of the IB Head of School?

As Day 1 on the Bayou comes to a close, I have taken some time to think more closely about the the specific role of the IB Head of School and the fortunate position that I have found myself in as the Head of a successful and established Diploma Program in Westchester County, NY. Earlier this afternoon I sat in on a panel discussion (“Heads to Heads”) that was moderated by Paul Campbell (Head of Regional Development, IB Americas) and included Drew Deutsch (@drewdeutsch), Director–IB Americas. The audience included well over 100 Heads of School from around the world and the panel took questions on a host of topics ranging from professional development to the authorization process. The IB Program continues to grow worldwide with 4531 programs being offered in 3632 IB World Schools and includes a superb support network of IB Heads of School who possess a wide range of experience and expertise.

In discussing the role of the IB Head of School, one of the panelists stated that Heads must “enable, empower, and energize” all aspects of the program to the various constituencies within the immediate and larger school community. More specifically, the Head of School articulates the vision and mission of the program and possesses a long-term plan for sustainability and growth. This role is especially critical in communities that include members who are unfamiliar with the IB and “the return” for students who attend an IB school. There is a wealth of research that suggests that IB students continually outperform their peers in college and beyond. In fact, the IB is now recognized as the “gold standard” by college admissions officers from around the world. As the research continues to surface, it is essential that Heads of Schools are able to clearly communicate these findings with all members of the school community while providing leadership to ensure that students are engaged in rigorous “IB” learning experiences each and every day.

Despite the fact that my school has been authorized since 1998, we still receive questions from parents about the program and how, for example, it compares to Advanced Placement and other college-level courses. We always welcome these questions and the opportunities that they provide for us to consider what we value as a community and what we believe is best for our students. For the Head of School, communication is paramount and must happen early and often without getting on “the defensive.” After all, the IB encourages students to question and analyze all topics from a variety of perspectives and points of view. As IB Heads of School, we must invite and encourage this same behavior from all members of our school community.

An aside to Heads of School who are new to the IB: It is critical to identify a coordinator who is thorough and can effectively oversee the logistics of the program. I am beyond lucky to work alongside a person who I believe is one of the top coordinators in the world. As a result, our program runs seamlessly despite the many requirements that are imposed by the IB. There will be more on this in a later post.


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