John C. Littleford – Executive Searches with Littleford and Associates

For more than 45 years, John C. Littleford has dedicated himself to improving independent schools throughout the world. Since 1992, John Littleford has served as a full-time consultant with Littleford & Associates. Among his many responsibilities, he performs executive searches for non-profit organizations, including cultural programs, zoos, and charitable foundations.

Non-profits groups looking for new executives often consult Littleford & Associates for guidance to help them find leaders that suit their expectations and culture. The staff recognizes the difficulty of this challenge, as non-profits must consider organizational structure as well as political concerns among the entity’s current members. Additionally, the firm understands compensation and safe harbor matters across a myriad of non-profit organizations.

When hired, Littleford & Associates embarks on an in-depth analysis for the client. John Littleford interviews its constituents so he can learn about their needs and recommend the best candidate for the open position. Rather than relying on a database of resumes, the Firm searches nationally for talented executives who believe in the client’s mission. Additionally, the Firm interacts with new hires and their families throughout the transition process to make sure the transition is smooth. However, due to the comprehensive nature of the process, Littleford & Associates only accepts between three to five of these assignments annually.


Independent Schools – Board of Trustees

by John Littleford

As guardians of the school’s mission, a strong, stable, and wise board of trustees that understands its role ensures the ongoing health and well-being of an independent school. In consulting to hundreds of boards on the topic of healthy board governance, Littleford & Associates has identified these key traits of the ideal board member (in addition to adherence to the NAIS Principles of Good Practice):

• Wisdom

• A strategic outlook—not a narrow-minded, self-serving agenda

• Commitment and loyalty to the school’s mission

• Enthusiasm

• Availability to serve when needed without micromanaging

• Having no conflict of interest Along with identifying and recruiting new board members, the important Committee on Trustees or Nominating Committee builds stability by making sure that too much or too little turnover does not occur on the board. Excessive board turnover results in instability and a lack of institutional memory, while too little turnover creates stagnancy. Recruiting, orienting, training, evaluating, disciplining and removing (if necessary) trustees are extremely important in maintaining a mission-focused board that helps to guide independent schools in positive strategic directions.

Littleford & Associates Services

by John C. Littleford

As Founder of Littleford & Associates, I provide management consulting to independent and international schools, nonprofit organizations, and other companies. At Littleford & Associates, we conduct executive searches for heads and interim heads of schools and nonprofit organizations. When working with these institutions, we strive to gain an in-depth knowledge of the culture unique to each one. As a result, the services my company provides are finely tailored to meet individual needs. This approach also draws upon Littleford & Associates’ extensive knowledge of school head and nonprofit CEO compensation packages, gained over the course of more than two decades in the business.
I always emphasize to clients that Littleford & Associates does not simply offer placement services. Our executive searches are highly tailored to the strengths and challenges of each organization. This is why we take on a maximum of five searches per year, ensuring that each client gets the utmost attention, counsel and ongoing contact throughout the entire process. We screen candidates carefully for the correct fit with the organization. As Senior Partner of Littleford & Associates, I do not delegate these highly important tasks to other members of the Firm. This has been the case for more than 20 years.

One of the key tools I offer institutions searching for a CEO or head is an extensive database of experienced individuals qualified and willing to serve on either an interim or permanent basis. I do not draw constantly on the same “stable” of candidates. I advise the institution on the candidate screening, interview, and selection processes in a way that is sensitive, constructive, and effective. I guide the client in designing an appropriate compensation package to land the candidate of choice and that takes into consideration both the needs of the candidate and his/her family and the client’s budget. All stages of the executive search process are handled with absolute confidentiality and discretion. For further information on the range of services offered at Littleford & Associates, visit our website at

Mission-Based Teacher Compensation

Establishing a faculty compensation system and salary delivery method is a challenge for any independent or international school especially since the goals of teachers, boards, and heads are not always in sync. The first step is to assess the present health of the faculty culture and the basic level of trust placed in the school’s administration. This serves as the context for all future decisions about faculty compensation going forward. The next step is to analyze the current salary system and importantly, the underlying message that it sends to faculty. What is the basic philosophy behind the school’s current system and why did the system evolve in the way that it did? Also, does the system benefit any specific age group or experience level above another? Next, it is important to scrutinize the ways in which some faculty members attempt to maneuver around the current compensation system in order to earn extra pay. These include taking on titles that boost pay but may not really represent additional work that is commensurate with the extra pay: stipends for additional responsibilities (small and large); and tutoring (a “cottage industry” in some schools). After all of these contributing factors are considered, it is time to plan for future changes in compensation structures and delivery systems. The faculty compensation planning process should involve faculty members, board members, and administration. Discussions should never push towards a preconceived outcome but instead, work towards change that satisfies the needs and goals of all parties.

John Littleford’s Blog

For the past 40 years, John Littleford has worked in various roles across the educational spectrum, serving as teacher, administrator, and consultant. A resident of Delray Beach, Florida, John Littleford currently dedicates his professional efforts to a wide range of educational consulting objectives at Littleford & Associates, where he provides assistance to independent learning institutions around the world. At the helm of Littleford & Associates since 1994, John Littleford has developed his organization into a full-service consulting firm, handling such responsibilities as executive searches, fund-raising, marketing, administrative transitions, financial planning, staff compensation, and board governance. Owing to John Littleford’s strong performance as Senior Partner, Littleford & Associates commands an extensive network of clients in the United States and abroad and continues to build an impeccable reputation in the arena of educational consulting. John Littleford founded Littleford & Associates after a two-year period as Headmaster of La Jolla Country Day School in Southern California, where he increased enrollment by 20 percent and launched a Japanese exchange program, among other accomplishments. Arriving at La Jolla Country Day School after four years as Headmaster for the University School of Milwaukee, John Littleford achieved an ambitious mandate to increase faculty salaries through a $25 million endowment campaign. From 1974 to 1986, John Littleford built his considerable knowledge of educational infrastructure and independent schools as Headmaster of the Breck School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A graduate of Dickinson College, John Littleford studied history and various foreign languages, receiving his B.A. in 1966. Over the course of his career, John Littleford has also pursued graduate studies at Harvard University, Princeton University, and Stanford University, and holds an M.A. in East Asian Studies. An author as well, John Littleford wrote Faculty Salary Systems in Independent Schools during a full-year sabbatical at Harvard and ultimately was published by the National Association of Independent Schools.