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From the ED 12.1.16

Dear Colleagues,

The last few weeks since I wrote has been an interesting, and in many cases, difficult time in America. The surprising results of the presidential election have created challenges for educators and especially for our independent schools. Many of my colleagues, other leaders of independent school associations, have commented on their concerns and for the most part I echo their sentiments – mostly that we need to be even more focused on our mission and more devoted to serving the students at our schools.

Independent schools have a shared vision which includes character development for our students. This one focus sets our schools apart from most other educational institutions. Inclusivity, embracing diversity, ensuring our students are equipped to function in a global society, and so much more are the other components that make independent school education a unique, valuable, and rewarding experience for our students. I believe that these attributes and many more are the core values of our independent schools. I look to all of you to continue to lead in a manner that demonstrates your commitment to your school’s mission.

I also want to be sure that you all saw the recent announcement from the NAIS Board of Trustees appointing Donna Orem as the new president of NAIS. Click here for more information. I have known Donna for many years and was excited to hear about her appointment to this very important leadership role at NAIS. Donna is an innovative thought leader. She brings significant experience to this role and her knowledge of independent schools encompasses all facets. Her recent work with leadership in our schools is particularly important to me and to your schools. I want to wish Donna all of the best as she takes on this new role.

MISBO is continually striving to bring more resources to our members and to provide greater value for your membership. We are excited to introduce The MISBO Network: a collection of characters which we hope will become a part of your personal network providing real solutions to your everyday hot topics:


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™

From the ED 11.3.16

Dear Colleagues,

Recently I wrote about MISBO’s new vision and the work that MISBO has done over the past couple of years to get the association moving in an exciting and innovative direction. MISBO’s vision is:

By 2021, MISBO will be among the top five go-to resources connecting and serving member school professionals in operational leadership.

If you are at a school, you received an invitation last week from BRND to complete a short ”vision survey”. Thank you to those that have completed the survey. For those that have not, please do so – it will take less than one minute of your time and be very helpful to MISBO.

With that vision in mind, I want to announce a very exciting project that MISBO is leading with the help and guidance of world-class global design firm IDEO. MISBO is honored to be working with IDEO on a project to “imagine innovative and sustainable business models that allow independent schools to provide accessible, high-quality education”. We have been working behind the scenes for many months now to design this project to challenge the status quo and help independent schools take action toward sustainable financial futures.

A cohort of 12 independent schools is being formed to work collaboratively with the guidance of a team from IDEO, but also individually to experiment with new ideas to view the business models at their schools. The list of schools below (including location, enrollment and Head of School) are fully committed to the project:

  1. Jackson Academy, Jackson, MS; 1,240, Cliff Kling
  2. Carrollwood Day School, Tampa, FL; 1,000, Ryan Kelly
  3. Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, Atlanta, GA; 932, Brett Jacobsen
  4. The Nueva School, Hillsborough, CA; 920, Diane Rosenberg
  5. Bancroft School, Worcester, MA; 450, Trey Cassidy
  6. Hillbrook School, Los Gatos, CA; 341, Mark Silver
  7. Colorado Academy, Denver, CO; 950, Mike Davis
  8. Cary Academy, Cary, NC; 751, Mike Ehrhardt
  9. American School of Bombay, Mumbai, India; 830, Craig Johnson
  10. West Island College, Calgary, Canada; 553, Carol Grant-Watt
  11. Woodberry Forest School, Woodberry, VA; 408, Byron Hulsey
  12. Indian Creek School, Crownsville, MD; 616, Rick Branson

MISBO + IDEO Project

We believe that this project and the outcomes, which we expect to ultimately serve all independent schools, are fully aligned with the mission and vision for MISBO. You will be seeing updates during the project here on the MISBO Blog. We are also planning for the 2017 MISBO Fall Conference to include workshop time related to this project. We plan to have a representative from each of the cohort schools as well as members of the IDEO team leading a workshop and reporting on the results of this work. This opportunity will provide great value to all schools and will help you to learn from the work being accomplished by your peers. Be sure to mark your calendars to join MISBO for the 2017 Fall Conference in New Orleans, October 4-6, 2017.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™

Bravo to These Member Schools

Congratulations are in order for these MISBO member schools!

In the Fall 2016 Independent School magazine by NAIS, some of our member schools were mentioned.  In “the REPORTER” section, page 6, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School of Virginia was given the accolade of “Best Midsize Workplace” in the greater Washington, DC area for 2016 according to The Washington Post.  The Top Workplaces program, lead by WorkplaceDynamics, LLC, had 3,100 employees participate in the evaluation from a variety of employers and the results were solely based on employee feedback. That speaks volumes!

Also in the Fall 2016 issue, an 8th grade team from St. Francis Episcopal School in Texas rose to the challenge in the Lead2Feed Student Leadership Program earning a second place price of $10,000 to fight hunger in Houston.  The Lead2Feed Student Leadership Program was created in 2012 for middle and high school students.

We love sharing news like this about our member schools.  Please be sure to share your accomplishments with us at MISBO by contacting us directly or commenting below.

From the ED 10.6.16

Dear Colleagues,

Well THIS week certainly did not go as I had planned. I arrived on Hilton Head Island late Monday, but by Tuesday morning the change of plan emails were beginning, mostly from our Florida schools. Just as the rest of the MISBO staff arrived late Tuesday afternoon, the South Carolina Governor issued a mandatory evacuation of the island that forced MISBO to cancel our Fall Conference. Over a year of planning evaporated before my eyes. The silver lining is this: everyone involved is exactly where they need to be, whether it is at home or on call to protect their school and students. Our presenters have been extremely professional and understanding and I could not be prouder of the MISBO staff in how they handled the cancellation and tackled everything that needed to be done – and quickly! We are continuing to work out the deeper details, and will communicate with each constituency as soon as possible. I want everyone in the path of Hurricane Matthew to know that our thoughts and best wishes are with you for peace, safety, and recovery.

Last month I wrote about MISBO’s new vision and the work that MISBO has done over the past couple of years to get the association moving in a tremendous forward direction. What does it take for an association or a school to continually be moving forward, acting with intention, offering new innovative programs, ensuring sustainability, etc.? I believe the answer is strong, thoughtful leadership. However, leadership has many facets. Most will think about the CEO, executive director, or head of school first when they think about leadership. Clearly these leaders are critically important to the success of any organization. NAIS’ recently released Independent School Magazine’s theme is Good to Great Governance, which I will discuss more in a moment. In the article, “Authentic Leadership in an Era of Change” by Donna Orem, Interim President, NAIS, she discusses research about leadership traits. The leaders of independent schools as well as other organizations receive high scores for “emotional intelligence”. As leaders in your schools, regardless of your position, honing your emotional intelligence will help you with all of your relationships and lead to success.

Components of emotional intelligence include empathy which is a key component discussed in my current favorite book, Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelley. Empathy allows us as human beings to understand what motivates and drives others. It provides a framework for what I generically call “quality customer service”. We all have customers we serve – parents, students, board, faculty, staff, etc. If we can be empathetic leaders, we can provide quality service to all of these constituents by understanding them better. When I was a business officer long ago, a new head of school wondered why I would not only be up early on snowy mornings, but why I would actually drive a snowplow when I had staff to perform this task. The hour or two I spent driving a snow plow on those rare mornings made a huge impact on the entire maintenance staff. They knew I fully understood the sacrifices they made for our school – to ensure that all of the students, faculty, and staff could arrive safely. I was not sitting in a warm office with a cup of coffee; I was working with my team. I can relay countless examples, but you get the message – empathy leads to great leadership.

In the case of our association and your schools, there are many other components of leadership that must be working collaboratively to ensure sustainable success. MISBO has not been successful due to my leadership. MISBO has been successful because of the shared leadership with staff and, equally as important, because of the leadership of the MISBO Board of Directors. MISBO, like your schools, will always be governed by a board. Heads (executive directors) will come and go, but the board will continue to lead. In another article in Independent School Magazine, “Lead Better: The Case for a Good Governance Committee” by Dane Peters, he articulates the critical importance of this committee in developing board leadership.

For most of our schools and associations, the governance committee is responsible for recruitment, nomination, training, and succession planning for board trustees and leaders. When I first arrived at MISBO I read the bylaws and realized that they were hindering our ability to grow and thrive as an association. With the leadership of the governance committee chair (Steven Wennerstrom, retired) we overhauled the by-laws. One significant aspect was to remove a series of restrictions on who could serve on the board. This has led to a much more diverse board which includes business officers, human resource directors, technology directors, facility directors, heads of school, and an association leader. It also allowed for more geographic diversity, which is very important as MISBO has grown to serve 335 schools in 16 states and DC. Term limits were reset and a formal board leadership succession plan model was established. All of this has led to development of an engaged, generative, strategic thinking board for MISBO which has worked closely with me and the MISBO staff to enhance the offerings for our members and provide high quality customer service. I would argue that board leadership is at least as important as head of school (executive director) leadership and the most productive is when the two work together towards meeting the mission and driving the vision of the organization.

I want to thank the MISBO board and specifically the current chair, Julie Ray, for the ongoing support she provides me personally and the association as a whole. Julie is a friend, a colleague, a collaborator, and a great leader for MISBO and for her school, Mount Paran Christian School.

I encourage each and every one of you to look for leadership throughout your schools and within yourself, and then be empathetic leaders, which will lead to quality customer service, and ultimately the reason we all do what we do every day. We need to provide an environment where our students can learn, grow, thrive, and be leaders themselves.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™

Being Prepared for an Emergency with Magnus911

What keeps you awake at night?  For leaders at independent schools it is the safety and security of their students.  Below is some information on Magnus911 by Magnus Health, a new MISBO Vendor:

Being Prepared for an Emergency with Magnus911

It would be great if we didn’t have to think about emergency situations, but that is not realistic. Things happen, and we must be prepared when they do. Knowing that students spend approximately 28% of their day at school, safety and quality healthcare is a top priority. Officials work tirelessly to prepare for unexpected situations, including incidents on field trips, injuries on the athletic field, and health emergencies in class.

During a chaotic emergency, time is extremely critical. Do you have time to track down and organize a student’s health information? Do you stop to consider what medications they’re taking or what allergies they have? What about chronic conditions? It’s doubtful that you will have enough time to run over to the health center and remove or copy the student’s health file before rushing over to the local emergency room.

Magnus Health has the solution for this. Magnus911 is an emergency response module that moves action plans forward. Schools can take advantage of Magnus911 and solve the problems associated with quickly accessing student medical information in emergency situations.

All of the vital health information is available in the most secure, efficient, and accessible manner. Chaperones, coaches, athletic trainers, emergency responders, and emergency room staff can now have the health essentials at their fingertips via mobile device, computer, or fax, allowing them to move forward with treatment in a more timely manner. Healthcare providers have the benefit of being able to access the student’s health history, allowing them to provide the highest level of care possible.

Magnus911 allows you to take proactive steps to aid in your response and recovery. With Magnus911, you’re empowered to electronically deliver the student’s health information to the point of care, ensuring the best possible care is available to students when they need it the most.

How Magnus911 worksmagnus

Scenario: Jimmy, a student living on-campus, sees a friend outside of his dorm room, opens the window and the window crashes down on his fingers. The school nurse is contacted and decides Jimmy needs to go to the emergency room.

How would you reach out to Jimmy’s emergency contacts and gather his medical information and permission to treat?

Since less than 50% of schools use an electronic student health record, many school nurses would need to copy their paper chart before returning to treat Jimmy. Even if you have an electronic school health record, you likely have to print copies or reports of health information. Either process is time-consuming and takes you away from Jimmy, who is injured and scared.

In the situation above, the Magnus911 administrator would immediately call an ambulance. Following the phone call, they would use their smartphone to find and call Jimmy’s emergency contacts using the Magnus Mobile app. Jimmy’s medical records can also be faxed directly to the emergency room through the Magnus911 feature. The medical record includes allergies, insurance, permission to treat, medical concerns, active medications, and current providers.

Magnus911 is accessible from any internet-connected device, including smartphones. With Magnus911, you are able to protect your students and their private information. Students are assigned a unique 16-digit identifier that is valid for 24 hours and grants first responders access to the patient’s health records. Inside Magnus911, you can fax vital health information to a hospital while the student is in transit, as well as send alerts and updates to emergency contacts.

Emergency preparedness is critical, and so is being able to spend time treating the student instead of searching for information. Magnus Mobile and Magnus911 allow you to focus your time where it needs to be – on the student.

About Magnus Health

Magnus Health strives to improve the collection, tracking and managing of student health information. They currently support over 450 independent K-12 schools, including 31 of the top 50 boarding schools in the US.

Learn more about Magnus Health at or request a free Live Demo.


The Re-Enrollment Contract – To Do, or Not To Do

Recently a colleague sent me a note asking what I thought of the concept of continuous re-enrollment for their independent school. The concept seems pretty basic and is one used almost exclusively by higher education institutions. Once a family enrolls and signs the initial enrollment contract, the assumption is that the student will continue with the school from year to year until graduation (at whatever grade level). There is then no need to go through the enrollment contract process annually for each student (each family). The burden is placed on the family to inform the school only if the student is NOT returning.

Sounds great; sounds easy – then why do most independent schools go through the process (along with a bit of anxiety and brain damage) each year? I have heard this question arise a number of times in recent years, but had never explored it in depth. I reached out to some trusted colleagues and asked their opinions, which I will attempt to summarize. There is not a clear consensus about the value or acceptability of this proposed process.

My initial reaction and question is, “What does a school really gain?” I understand the challenge with the logistics of successfully getting a large number of families to return the contracts in a timely manner. However, the advent of online processes makes this much more efficient than in the past. I believe that the hope the school administration has with continuous re-enrollment – that they will have more accurate, timely information on enrollment – may not be completely true. Families will continue to behave in a manner that best suits their needs. They may not “opt out” in a timely manner, but wait until a time when they determine they are ready to inform the school.

Debra Wilson, General Counsel, NAIS responded to my inquiry and has a few concerns:

  • The continuous concept may lead to a more difficult situation if/when a school wishes to end the enrollment of a student. This could be for disciplinary, academic, financial, or other reasons.
  • Changing the terms of the contract (which is done on a very regular basis) means that there may be a long series of addenda as well as different versions of the contract, depending on the date a family started with a school.
  • There are some disclosures like Truth in Lending that must be updated annually.

Suzanne K. Bogdan, Regional Managing Partner, Fisher & Phillips LLP has some thoughts as well:

  • If done right, it can save the school time each year by not sending out, getting back, or dealing with the huge mess that is re-enrollment contracts.
  • There are some risks – for instance, that the parent could say that they did not understand the process, that the school wants to make a major change that the parent who signed three years ago does not agree to, etc. But as long as you anticipate these issues and have good communication it could work.
  • The theory behind it, so to speak, is that by sending a parent a re-enrollment contract each year, the parent has to make a new decision whether to enroll, read the legalese, and consider options. By not dealing with that and only dealing with the parent and the money, there is an assumption by all parties that the relationship will continue without interruption.

Finally, I reached out to our colleagues at The Enrollment Management Association (formerly SSATB) – Nicole Suozzi, Chief Member Relations Officer, posed the question to some of the staff who had served in admission offices at independent schools and received a variety of responses and mixed reactions to the idea of continuous re-enrollment. Here are some of their comments:

  • I like the idea of continuous enrollment – colleges do it. No family applies with the idea that it would be for just one year. By asking them to enroll each year we are forcing them to reconsider their purchase. As long as the initial contract gives an out for both school and family under certain circumstances, I think it’s a good idea. (Kate Auger-Campbell, Director of Outreach)
  • My opinion is that it can be a clunky process, legally fraught with pitfalls (payment arrangements, communication about policy changes, stipulations about families “opting in” to new or additional features with a program/division, etc.). However, if you view enrollment as an auto-renewing subscription (like your cable or satellite contract) it does hold merit for many of our consumers who expect education to reflect the products and services they are accustomed to purchasing. (Dave Taibl, Director of Outreach)
  • I have never been a fan of the “you’re in unless you opt out” contract. While I understand why some schools might find it comforting to count on a family’s yearly return, I believe schools need to use the re-enrollment time to re-up their value proposition. Parents these days appear to want more control and the continuous contract could be viewed as too binding, potentially even turning a family off to the school. (Carinne Barker, Senior Director of Professional Development)
  • We decided to move to a continuous enrollment contract and I was so glad that we did. The first year we rolled out the new contract there were some challenges. We had many returning families who were confused and pushed back because it was confusing. We made sure to be proactive in sending out letters (mail and email) to all of our families explaining what would be happening, when, why, etc., but some families were still confused and needed hand-holding throughout the process. We expected this to happen and our admission office and business office staff were ready to help. The next year the entire process was very smooth. All of our returning families knew to expect it and our new families, about a quarter of the total population, thought it was something we had done for years. (Christina Coffey, Director of Outreach)

The Enrollment Management Association also presented a webinar on this topic, which can be found here.

As you can see, there is no clear consensus on this subject. I suspect that in the coming years more of our schools will experiment with new methods of re-enrollment as they have with online processes in recent years. More data (knowledge for schools) will be available for each of our schools to evaluate the successes and failures that are likely to occur. As with many questions, I suggest that school leaders consider their school’s mission and their community’s unique culture carefully before making a decision like this.

If your school has discussed this topic, please leave a comment below to share your school’s thoughts and concerns so all schools can benefit from this continuing discussion.

Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™

From the ED 9.1.16

Dear Colleagues,

For over a year you have been hearing about the rebranding effort for MISBO. A significant piece of that work was the revised mission below, developed by MISBO board and staff over a period of time with significant thought and effort:

MISBO connects independent school professionals and
delivers exceptional value to enrich learning.

During the spring, culminating with the MISBO board meeting in April, we took this to the next level and developed a new vision for MISBO. I think this may have taken even more thoughtfulness, energy and discussion. Visions should be aspirational, but they should also have a time frame. The MISBO vision, developed by board and staff, and approved by our board is:

By 2021, MISBO will be among the top five go-to resources connecting and serving member school professionals in operational leadership.

You might imagine (correctly) that there was considerable discussion about nearly every word in this vision statement. The conversation was quickly followed by the question: How will we know? In the coming weeks you will be receiving a message with a very short survey asking about the resources, specifically the associations, which provide the most value to you in your role at your school. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey. It is important for us to know where we stand and the work we have to do.

You have heard me talk about the book Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelly from IDEO. You may recall that empathy and customer experience are a significant piece of the value of this book. In an effort to be responsive to MISBO’s customers (members) and enhance the experience, we have added a new “chat feature” to our website. You will notice an icon in the bottom right corner on each page. Just click on this and you can chat with MISBO during hours when staff is available. If no one is available, you can just leave us a message. You may even see a staff member’s face pop up (most likely Susan’s) and greet you if you have been browsing a number of pages. Our goal is to help you find what you need and answer your questions as quickly as possible. Please be sure to let us know about your chat experience and if you find it helpful.

I would like to thank my friend Brett Jacobsen, Head of School, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School for recommending that I read Essentialism by Greg McKeown. On a delayed and long flight home from FL on Saturday I was able to read a significant portion of this book and was able to give great thought to better ways to meet the challenges of a very full life – family, friends, work, myself – where a distinct priority does not always seem clear. In fact, one subject that McKeown addresses is the concept of priority. He tells us on page 16 that the word priority came into the English language in the 1400s but was singular until a plural version came into our language in the 1900s. “Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality.” I find this an intriguing concept worth some thought. Perhaps we need to reconsider our thinking and go back to “priority” as opposed to trying to juggle “priorities” as we all do, nearly on a daily basis. There is much more in this book that I am finding thought-provoking and useful and hopefully will lead to some changes for myself.

Nearly all of your schools have opened and everyone is busy and getting acclimated to the new school year, new schedules, etc. Please take a minute and think about yourself now that you have helped everyone else get settled. Professional development, networking, getting away from your office are critical components to doing your work well – and taking care of yourself. We believe we have an amazing program designed for the 2016 MISBO Fall Conference – Designing Intelligent Schools – to be held at the Sonesta Resort, Hilton Head Island, October 5-7, 2016. For those of you that are relatively new to the business officer role, or those aspiring business officers, our Pre-Conference Workshop is for you. You can find the schedule here. Please remember that the early bird registration discount ends on September 15th. Also, we know that our room block at the Sonesta will fill (since we’ve extended it once already) and the discounted room rate of $149/night also expires on September 15th. Hope to see you there!


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™