School Leader Search Process Recommendations

There are more than 80 schools for deaf and hard of hearing students in the United States, and many NAD members are alumni of these schools. Each school is valued and viewed as an invaluable resource for the residents of the respective states.

The search for and selection of a leader is one of the most challenging tasks for any school. The NAD seeks to support all states and their schools for the deaf in securing the best possible leaders of their programs to provide quality education to deaf and hard of hearing students.

With that aim, the NAD has created recommendations to help guide schools for the deaf and/or state departments of education that are seeking to search for and select new superintendents or school leaders. The goal of these recommendations is to support schools for the deaf in their search and selection process to find and hire the best possible candidates to take on leadership roles in their programs.


Every search process begins with the formation of a committee whether it is to actively search or to interview potential candidates or both. Given that schools for the deaf are viewed by the deaf community as part of their lives as well as the place where their future leaders currently are educated, members of the deaf community should be included in this search process. The NAD recommends that search committees be formed that include at least two representatives of the deaf community, particularly those that are alumni of the school or representatives of the state association of the deaf. It is also encouraged that the search committee membership reflects the diversity of the student population, including  at least two individuals who are parents of deaf or hard of hearing students attending the school. One of these parents should also be deaf or hard of hearing. The majority of the search committee should be deaf or hard of hearing.

In addition, throughout the search process, the school should engage with the deaf and hard of hearing community in the state and provide them with updates on the progress with the search. It is  encouraged that these updates be provided in all forms such as but not limited to mass emails, website postings, videos, and social media.

These two inclusive steps are essential to ensuring that the deaf and hard of hearing community feels invested and included in the search for the school’s next leader. To do otherwise is to exclude this community and may result in unnecessary tension.


The needs of every school vary greatly based on numerous factors such as budgeting, infrastructure, state law, educational requirements, and the student population. The school leader should be trained in all aspects of administration and governance of a school and be able to oversee all employees and functions of the school. However, in addition to these required skills, the NAD believes that the search for a new school leader should include the following criteria: fluency in both American Sign Language (ASL) and English; knowledge about bilingual education; and the ability to engage effectively and directly with faculty, students, parents and the deaf community.

Fluency in both ASL and English will promote open and direct communication within the school community, as well as with the community at large. A bilingual leader will inspire all students and give them a role model for the acquisition of two languages for the furtherance of their education.

A working knowledge of bilingual education will better ensure strong implementation of the latest research and studies promoting best practices for education of deaf and hard of hearing students. The leader should also be able to accommodate students and parents from homes that speak other languages as well as students who benefit from and use spoken English.

In addition, we strongly urge schools to look within the deaf and hard of hearing community to locate their next school leader. Deaf and hard of hearing students deserve a strong role model in their school leader, and this is best accomplished if the leader is like them, deaf or hard of hearing. By including the deaf community in the search process, schools will better be able to identify any qualified candidates who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The NAD acknowledges that the task of selecting a school leader does not come easily. For this reason, the NAD stands ready to provide support to schools to find the best individual for the position.