Strategic Staffing: How to Benchmark Your Charter Network Leadership & Central Office Structure

Marguerite Thibodeaux| May 2024

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

“We know ESSER funds are going away. We’re trying to continue growing enrollment while our funding is changing. How do we know where we need to move folks to meet our goals and our new budget?” 

Over the last year, I have heard some variation of this from many school leaders and so have my EdFuel colleagues. Across the country, school budgets are shrinking while expenses are growing. When budget pressure rises, personnel is often one of the first places organizations reach for a release valve. Schools are, unfortunately, not immune. Thankfully, strategic staffing helps schools make the most of the budget they do have while minimizing the negative impact to their staff and students.

Strategic staffing is the process of aligning your school’s organizational chart to your school’s long-term priorities and unique context such as budget, community commitments, and student needs. When a strategic staffing review is a regular part of your school’s talent calendar, you can address staffing budget challenges in a way that reduces the impact to both staff and students. One school leader recently shared, “We have been working on this since last year, so we avoided a lot of the panic [and disruption] that can come with it.”

While a full breakdown of a strategic staffing project does not fit in a single blog post, I do want to share how I answer one of the most common questions my school partners have: What are other schools doing?

Here is how I helped a charter network benchmark and make customized adjustments to their central network and leadership structure. Let’s call the charter network Awesome CMO.

How to Benchmark & Customize Your Leadership & Central Office Structure

1. Determine school similar characteristics

I first worked with Awesome CMO’s leadership team to determine which characteristics would help us find the most similar schools. We focused on student enrollment, grade level taught, and geography.

You may wonder why I did not mention the number of campuses or budget. In EdFuel’s compensation studies, we see a strong correlation between student enrollment, number of campuses, and budget size, and, of the three, student enrollment is usually the easiest to find.

2. Collect data

Next, I mined EdFuel’s National Charter School Compensation and Benefits Study for data on similar schools. EdFuel’s recent national study was the largest charter school specific compensation study in the country with over 200 participating charter management organizations (“CMOs”). I ended up with compensation and headcount data for the 29 CMOs in the study most similar to Awesome CMO.

Alternate data sources
If you did not participate in our most recent study, you can follow a similar process by compiling data from:

When compiling data on your own, you will collect either staffing ratios or the inputs for calculating them for each comparable school:

  • headcount per role
  • compensation by role
  • student enrollment

3. Scale the data

Next, I scaled the data to more closely match Awesome CMO’s 2,000 student enrollment, the most important metric for trying to match staffing to their budget. This creates staffing ratio ranges by role.

For example, our data told us that the 29 CMOs had a total of 93 Instructional Coaches among them. We then scaled this by student enrollment; the 29 CMOs all fell within the “2,000 – 3,999” student enrollment category, so we calculated that on average, they had about 2 to 3 Instructional Coaches per 2,000 students.

4. Convert ratios to an organizational chart

Now that we had staff ratio ranges, I converted them into an organizational chart like this one.

5. Compare & Customize

Once we understood how similar schools staff, we considered additional questions to craft customized strategic staffing recommendations. Click here for a list of example questions I use with school leaders to compare and customize their strategic staffing plans.

Awesome CMO is now using my full strategic staffing analysis to make changes that will allow them to continue growing despite the challenging funding climate, including:

  • expand their senior leadership team strategically to meet long-term priorities
  • assess creative ways to resource core promises to stakeholders such as forging outside partnerships rather than staffing from scratch in-house
  • prioritize efficiency projects that will create more bandwidth across teams and reduce additional headcount needs as they continue to grow

What opportunities could strategic staffing unlock for your school in the current funding climate?

We want to hear from you!

  • How are you navigating budget constraints and staffing? What opportunities could strategic staffing unlock for your school?
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We want to help you!

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