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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.™

As Students Return, So Do Exposures

MISBO-VendorThe content below is generously provided by MISBO Vendor EIS (Education Insurance Services).  EIS is a sister company to United Educators (UE), the only carrier owned and governed by the educational institutions it insures.

As Students Return, So Do Exposures

Back-to-school is often a time of eager anticipation for administrators, teachers, students, and their families. Yet for the business officer, this is an important time to be mindful of the heightened risks during the early weeks of the school year. For new students in particular, who may not be familiar with the campus yet, take steps now to reduce the risk of:

Slips and falls: Always a common source of claims, a study of independent school claims by United Educators (UE) found the 39% of claims occurred on walkways (stairs, sidewalks, doorways) and 24% involved a water hazard (ice, spills, and sometimes snow). Take steps now to repair walkways and ensure that a process is in place to quickly address water issues.

Athletic injuries: Be mindful that injuries can occur within, and outside of, organized sports. In fact, UE has settled several high-dollar claims resulting from recreational activity at schools, such as an injury sustained from a biking accident.

Sexual assault: Sexual assault involving school employees and students is of heightened concern for independent schools due to recent media reports around this issue. In addition, of assault claims resulting in a loss, UE found the majority (58%) involved peer-to-peer sexual assault. Review and reinforce sexual misconduct policies for staff and students; conduct training on this important issue; and provide immediate attention and response when incidents are reported.

Fortunately, for most schools, the transition for incoming students this fall will go smoothly and set the course for a positive academic experience. Taking steps now to ensure their safety and well-being will go a long way toward making that happen.

For information about insurance that best protects your school from these unique exposures, visit, or direct your broker to, the online toolkit for Education Insurance Services (EIS). EIS is a sister company to United Educators, the nation’s largest liability insurer dedicated solely to education.

From the ED 8.4.16

Dear Colleagues,

And just like that it is August! Next week MISBO’s auditors are onsite for 3-4 days; most of the work was done by the end of last week. However, it still takes time and energy. I am guessing that many of you understand exactly what I am talking about.

For MISBO staff our attention turns toward our fall programming including the 2016 MISBO Fall Conference. Designing Intelligent Schools is the theme for the conference to be held October 5-7, 2016 at the Sonesta Resort, Hilton Head Island, SC. Most conferences have a theme and we believe that this theme should give you some idea of the program you can expect. I started “designing” the theme and program for the conference after I saw Dr. Marc Brackett speak to a group of primarily business officers in California over a year ago. Immediately after that session, I spoke to Dr. Brackett. After a series of conversations, I invited him to open/keynote MISBO’s Fall Conference.

There are many definitions of emotional intelligence, but this picture from Daniel Goleman is a good visualization:

Emotional Intelligence


You may be wondering why this is important for me. Well, there are few moments during your day when you are not interacting with others. Having self-awareness of your own emotional intelligence and then understanding others, and the intersections and interactions, will allow you to be a more productive manager, deal with difficult situations better, interact with a wide and diverse set of constituents more effectively, and understand your colleagues (faculty), students, and parents with a new perspective. I’m sure some of this resonates with you. Well, I believe that Dr. Brackett’s session will provide each of you with a new set of skills to help you at your school – and in life!

We had not determined a theme yet for the conference when I met Christian Long, Founder, Wonder By Design. Christian and I immediately started talking about his work and the journey he had taken to get to this place as well as the journey I had taken to get to MISBO. We learned that we were both passionate about the learning environments in our schools and the importance to our children of being in spaces that are conducive to learning and teaching, for both the students and the faculty. I asked Christian to be part of the fall conference (you can see and hear Christian talk about his part of the program here). Now a theme was developing. With lots of help and suggestions from MISBO staff, we ended up with Designing Intelligent Schools.

Once these ideas came together, it was a matter of reaching out to other people/groups to provide sessions for the conference. With the addition of Debra Wilson, Legal Counsel, NAIS, Centerbridge Architects with St. Andrew’s School, an amazing interactive workshop led by Crescerance, Sourcing Solutions, Paul Ibsen and more, we believe there is something for everyone – Business Officer, Head of School, Human Resources, Technology, Facilities, and anyone working at an independent school. We know that teams learn best together and strongly encourage you to bring a team from your school. Take a look at the full schedule here.

MISBO has learned through feedback from attendees that the content and programming is very important to your decision to attend. However, the opportunity to see friends and colleagues, meet new people, mingle with MISBO vendors, and relax just a bit are just as important. We will be starting the conference on Wednesday evening with a reception and a reprisal of Rock, Paper, Scissors from our 2015 Fall Conference. I know there are some finalists from last year who will be attending, so let’s see how well they can do in 2016. The Sonesta Resort is an amazing place; you may want to consider staying for the weekend. I am assured that October is the best time of year to be in Hilton Head, SC.

In MISBO’s spirit of innovation, we are also offering a new program this year. A one-day New Business Officer Workshop will be offered on Wednesday, October 5th. This program is designed for business officers who are relatively new to independent schools with less than five (5) years of experience. This pre-conference led by four MISBO board members will provide attendees with an opportunity to learn about independent school culture as well as some specific sessions dealing with risk management, human resources, and technology – all geared just for independent school professionals. I hope if you are new to independent schools you will join us for this program in addition to the conference.

As you may have guessed I am excited about this conference. I am looking forward to working with this nationally acclaimed group of presenters and workshop leaders. I am also looking forward to reconnecting with good friends and making new ones. Please let me know if I can provide any additional information.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™