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My Final From the ED 6.1.17

Dear Colleagues,

I have been writing to all of you at least once a month for nearly the past six years. This is my last “From the ED.” As my time leading MISBO comes to an end, I have thought a great deal about the transformation of MISBO over that period of time. MISBO has been serving independent schools for over 41 years, beginning in Atlanta with a small group of business officers looking to connect with each other, save money by combining their purchasing power, and learn from each other. Today, MISBO continues this tradition and reinforces our mission: MISBO connects independent school professionals and delivers exceptional value to enrich learning.

This affirms the thinking of the founder, Ken White at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, and the other leaders that first connected to get MISBO started. The prior mission statement noted “Southeast” and “business officers”; today MISBO serves about 350 school in 18 states. We are no longer just in the Southeast and we serve the entire school, which is evidenced by the over 2,500 independent school professionals that will receive this message today.

Today, MISBO continues to offer our member schools the only purchasing consortium designed and operated specifically for independent schools. MISBO staff listens to our members’ needs and collaborates with appropriate vendors to provide great value to your schools, from the smallest schools (less than 100 students) to our largest (nearly 3,000 students). The “power” of MISBO is the collaboration among our members that provides opportunities for schools of any size or type to participate and benefit.

We have developed a well-respected and valuable professional development program which offers programs and learning for a wide variety of independent school professionals including live events, webinars, and online resources; all designed to help you serve your school more effectively. I encourage you to attend the 2017 MISBO Fall Conference in New Orleans, LA, October 4-6. We have spent much of the last year working with IDEO and 12 cohort schools examining innovative ideas to transform the business model for independent schools through the MISBO + IDEO Project. The 2017 MISBO Fall Conference will provide an opportunity for you to learn from leaders of the participating schools as well as the IDEO team. I will be leading a couple of these workshops as well and hope to see many of you there.

The success of any organization is only possible with a strong team. For MISBO this means a devoted and talented staff whose focus is on service to you and your schools. It also means having a board of directors committed to leading the strategic direction of MISBO now and well into the future. I look back at the last six years and am very proud of the transformation of the MISBO Board of Directors. This group of dedicated volunteers represents all MISBO member schools. As with other changes, the board for 2017-2018 includes a diverse cross section of independent school leaders. For the coming year, the board will include seven business officers, three heads of schools, two technology directors, two human resources directors, one facilities director, one former business officer, one association executive, and one more whose position is more difficult to describe – a person who works with a group of six schools who are tied together. This wealth of knowledge is used to guide the MISBO staff and guide the future – always with member schools and your students in mind. This is the perfect opportunity for me to introduce the new board members who will begin their terms with MISBO on July 1st. I am so excited about the quality and diversity of this group; I wish I could be working with them:

These four were chosen from a large pool of very qualified candidates nominated to join the MISBO board. To me, this group of professionals represents the “power of MISBO” and the recognition we have received nationally in recent years. They are your representatives. Please reach out to them and the other board members with your thoughts, suggestions, comments, and complaints. MISBO can only get stronger with your help.

There are so many people I would like to thank and recognize for their contributions to MISBO and to me personally during my tenure as Executive Director. I want to acknowledge a few for now and hopefully you will join me in New Orleans for more. I would be remiss to not mention the contributions of Wendy Barnhart, former MISBO Board Chair and former Business Officer at The Westminster Schools. Wendy and I have been friends for many years and she served on the NBOA board when I was on staff with NBOA. She asked me for help as MISBO was struggling through a leadership transition, which ultimately led to my leadership of MISBO. Wendy’s vision for MISBO was much more than what existed at the time and I hope that she looks back with great pride on all of her contributions. Steven Wennerstrom, former Business Manager, Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park, FL, followed Wendy’s leadership of the MISBO board. Steven supported and provided an amazing foundation for the board to begin working at a more generative level. Julie Ray, CFO, Mount Paran Christian School, Kennesaw, GA is the current MISBO Board Chair and will remain on the board for one more year as past chair. Julie had just joined the board when I joined MISBO. I could tell from day one that Julie was a force to be reckoned with and I immediately spoke with Wendy about asking Julie to take on a leadership role for MISBO. During Julie’s leadership over the past four years, MISBO has reinvented the board, restated its mission, rebranded, created its first vision, and grown to 350 member schools in 18 states (and DC). She also led the search for a new executive director and has been my friend and trusted ally for all of these years. I am sure some of you serve on boards. If you have not been a board chair of a large association, you may not appreciate the extreme commitment this takes; it is like having a second job. Thank you, Julie!!

I would also like to welcome Damian Kavanagh as the new Executive Director of MISBO. You can learn more about Damian’s background here. The MISBO board search committee asked me early on in the process for my thoughts about a new executive director. I expressed my desire to find a candidate that had both independent school leadership experience as well as independent school association leadership experience. That pool of possible people is not very large. I reached out to a number of colleagues to inquire about their interest. Damian, who was a VP at SAIS at the time, was clearly one of the top candidates and quickly rose to the top with the search committee. I am excited to see Damian step into this role and lead MISBO. We have already been working together for months to ensure a smooth transition for MISBO. I will continue to help Damian and the MISBO staff over the coming months and through the fall conference to make this leadership transition as seamless as possible for MISBO and, more importantly, for you.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to be a part of the MISBO community. I have had the chance to visit many of your schools – I figure about half, or 175 schools, over the past six years. I wish I could have made it to all of them. Being at a school and seeing the work you do and seeing the result (the students that thrive because of your work) is the greatest reward for me. About a year ago when we announced that I was leaving MISBO, I said that I did not have a plan for what’s next. That remains the same today. I made a commitment to myself, the MISBO board and staff, and to you to be 100% devoted to MISBO during this past year. I suspect that after some time for relaxation and reflection I will begin to consider new opportunities for my future. For the moment, I plan to enjoy a much quieter summer and fall, spend time with my family, hike, bike, play tennis, etc.

For those of you that know me well, you know that I can write (and talk) about schools, education, etc. at length. I know this is a long message. If you have read this far, I wish you all the very best. You each have a significant role to play for the future of our children. Each and every person at each and every school is critically important to the success of your schools. Thank you for what you do every day.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™

How Effective is your AED Program?

The information below is from MISBO Vendor AED Brands:

Implementing and maintaining an AED program goes beyond the purchase of the AED.  State and Federal requirements, as well as liability protection must also be considered.

An EFFECTIVE AED program is about managing all the components necessary to ensure compliance. However, it’s challenging to have the time and resources to keep a program up-to-date.

An EFFECTIVE AED program will have policies and procedures that outline the AED program criteria, responsibility of rescuers, maintenance guidelines, operational steps for use, post event procedures, reporting mechanisms and will be your overall guide that outlines the AED program as a whole.

By implementing an AED program in your school or business, you do not add any legal liability, as long as your AED is properly maintained.

An AED Program Management Solution will provide the administrative relief and assurance in the maintenance of an AED Program.  It reduces administrative time and helps ensure your program is rescue ready.

Customized Program Management:

It is understood that proper management of an AED program is paramount, but every customer’s needs are different.  This is why there are multiple solutions at various levels to meet your budget and help ensure accountability and compliance for your program.

An AED solution can include:

  • Physician prescription & oversight
  • Web-based tracking
  • Local registration – compliance with state and federal guidelines
  • Post-event services
  • CPR/AED Certification
  • Documentation
  • Online Resource Library
  • Site assessments
  • In-service calls
  • Product software upgrades
  • Annual on-site maintenance checks

Are Your AEDs Ready and Compliant?

Here are some important questions for anyone managing AEDs:

  • Are you certain every one of your AEDs is ready and will work in an emergency?
  • Do you know the current self-test status of every AED in your program?
  • Are you checking AED status regularly?
  • Do you know when to replace the pads and batteries for each of your AEDs?
  • Are you tracking the responders assigned to your AEDs?
  • Who will you call in order to train your responders in using AEDs and CPR?
  • Do you know when your responders will need re-training to maintain their rescue skills?
  • Can you quickly and accurately review the current status of all your AEDs and trained responders?

Having trouble answering these questions? If so, a formal, online AED management program solution, could make your life a lot easier.

For more information from AED Brands on AEDs, contact Christine Doran, Territory Manager at


From the ED 5.4.17

Dear Colleagues,

I3imagine | inspire | innovate – this is the theme for the 2017 MISBO Fall Conference in New Orleans October 4-6, 2017. The full schedule can be found at and registration is now open! This is going to be a very special and exciting event. The theme is based on the MISBO + IDEO Project which included participation from 12 independent schools from around the world. We just completed the second convening of the group with an all-day workshop held at IDEO’s San Francisco office. Nearly 50 school leaders and more than a dozen IDEO business designers and other staff participated. As with the first convening in March, this was a full day of learning, story-telling, brainstorming, and helping schools learn new ways to consider the business model for independent schools. This is important work for all independent schools, and you and your team have a chance to participate by attending the 2017 MISBO Fall Conference. We are offering two workshops co-facilitated by members of the IDEO team: the first will provide you with some of the training and tools the participating cohort schools took away from this project and the second will offer the opportunity to hear stories from a number of the cohort schools.

This is all in addition to the opening keynote by Christian Long, Wonder, By Design. Christian will challenge us, as independent school leaders, to ask “brave questions” and afterward he will facilitate a workshop to dive deeper into this concept.

Devon Young and Ariel Raz from the at Stanford (School Retool) will facilitate another workshop with the theme, “taking empathy to action to drive change.”

We have also brought together the top two smartest, most energetic, humorous attorneys in the country who know everything about independent schools. Suzanne Bogdan, Fisher Phillips and Debra Wilson, NAIS will team up for the first time ever to facilitate a morning-long workshop addressing the strategic risk management questions facing our schools and offering (with your help) some innovative solutions.

These are just some examples of what I believe will be the best learning experience for independent school leaders this year. I hope to see you all in New Orleans in October! Be sure to register early to secure you place in what is sure to be a sold-out event.

I would be remiss if I did not mention our upcoming 2017 MISBO Human Resources Intensive. You can see the full schedule and register here – MISBO offered this program in 2015 and it sold out and we expect the same for this year. This is a unique program focused specifically on the needs of human resources professionals in independent schools, no matter your actual title. The human resource function may be shared at many at your schools. We encourage business officers and heads of schools to attend this program. The sessions are presented by a mix of your colleagues and industry experts as well as a keynote presentation by Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a Senior Research Scientist in Psychology at Yale University. This will be an exciting, interactive session. I hope to see you in Atlanta June 11-13, 2017 for this event.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™

From the ED 4.6.17

Dear Colleagues,

Chip Broadway, Vice President & Treasurer, Episcopal Church Schools in the Diocese of VA and MISBO Board member reminds us that MISBO is the ONLY independent school association dues that saves his schools money. We know that each of your schools must make decisions about association membership and balance these decisions with limited resources. We also know that every association brings value to your schools. For a number of years, MISBO has provided a savings report showing your school’s participation and savings in the MISBO purchasing consortium. For nearly all member schools the savings from purchasing far exceeds the annual cost of membership dues. In a few weeks you will receive a NEW benefits report that provides more information about the benefits you are receiving as a MISBO member school. This includes attendance at webinars and live events, as well as other benefits. While we know that the purchasing consortium is a significant value proposition of MISBO membership, we want to be sure that you understand the large number of additional benefits. Another minor change this year is that you will no longer need to vote for MISBO board leadership. We are constantly looking to improve our processes and this formerly cumbersome process is no longer required due to a recommended change in our by-laws in conjunction with Georgia law.

One of your colleagues recently asked me for some assistance with resources to help his team think about succession planning. As most of you know, I have researched and written on this topic and believe it is critically important for schools to think about and plan for succession of all leadership positions. Please take a look at Advanced Placement: Evaluating the Head of School Transition for some ideas. Frequently this type of exercise causes anxiety for people, believing that succession planning is analogous to finding and training one’s replacement. Succession planning for an organization is a much deeper and more important process which every organization needs to consider for its viability and sustainability. I plan to spend some time with this one school exploring innovative approaches to developing their succession planning models and then plan to share with all of you the resources that we believe will provide value for your schools. I know that some of you have given this some thought and if you have, please send me the resources that you found valuable as you moved through your process with succession planning. Please email any resources or ideas directly to me at

And don’t forget – registration is open for the 2017 MISBO Human Resources Intensive!  Follow the link to see the full schedule and register. MISBO last offered this program in 2015 and we sold out and expect the same for 2017. This is a unique program focused specifically on the needs of human resources professionals in independent schools. The human resource function may be shared at many of your schools. We encourage business officers, heads of schools, and others that are involved in the processes to attend this program. The sessions will be presented by a mix of your colleagues and industry experts as well as a keynote presentation by Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a Senior Research Scientist in Psychology at Yale University. This will be an exciting, interactive session. I hope to see you at this event, hosted by Woodward Academy, in Atlanta, June 11-13, 2017.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™

Innovation in the Independent School Business Model – How many levers are there?

This post is written in support and response of an article in the Spring 2017 edition of Independent School Magazine

Article: The Search for True Innovation: Examining Tuition, Compensation, and Class Size
By John Gulla, Executive Director, EE Ford Foundation

I read with great interest this article by John Gulla in the most recent edition of NAIS’s Independent School Magazine. Last summer, as MISBO was in the early stages of development and planning for the MISBO + IDEO Project, I spoke with John at some length about the proposed project along with my thoughts on the future of independent schools. He shared with me his thinking as well, much of which is expressed in this article which he was in the process of writing at the time.

John tells the story of his long-ago conversation with Pat Bassett (former president, NAIS) where Pat outlined his views of the limitations of nearly every independent school. Please note that this was about 20 years ago. The basis for the development of the current MISBO + IDEO Project is a direct result of the fact that our schools, school leaders, association, etc. have been talking about this known challenge for decades, yet little action has been taken to make real innovative changes. Pat indicated that there were three factors at the heart of the financial model (I prefer to use the term “business model” since the term “financial model” can be confused with a spreadsheet): what they charge (tuition), what they pay (compensation), and average class size. John provides some compelling reasons to take a close look at all three. I might argue that average class size actually drives compensation, but it is an important factor and I agree with their assessment that it can be viewed as a significant lever for a school to explore.

Tuition is the only significant driver of revenue for an independent school. However, from a business point of view there is little strategic design behind tuition setting. Most schools benchmark tuition against an appropriate group of peer schools and set their tuition at a similar level. Some choose to be at the median, while others may vary slightly higher or lower for a variety of reasons. The real question of tuition actually refers to net tuition – published tuition less financial aid. This may have a greater variance than the full-pay tuition amount, but schools still have essentially one product at one price. John suggests some alternative thinking about tuition and product offerings. How many of our schools actually look at this and consider that schools are selling a product? He uses the airplane example (very appropriate as I am writing this on an airplane) to suggest that our schools can look at other businesses for examples of different forms of pricing.

The second lever is on the expense side and that is of course compensation. I actually believe that this is a place where our schools have much more opportunity to be innovative. It is not just about salary levels, but also the full picture of staffing (all faculty, staff, and administration). Class size is certainly a factor, but John presents some models that may disrupt the long-held beliefs about class size. Michael Horn, in his recent book, Blended, discusses various modalities of blended learning and new ways to think about teaching and learning which may challenge our long-held beliefs. Michael also presents scenarios where blended learning can significantly reduce both compensation and facilities costs. This is happening now at many schools. Equally important is John’s challenge to us to consider the viability of a compensation system that essentially only rewards longevity without a similar correlation to performance. I agree with John and I am a strong advocate of transparency, but most of our schools have salary and compensation systems that reward longevity in many ways.

We all know that the number of employees has grown at our schools over the past 20 years. In an effort to provide a great array of programming and services we have added a large number of non-faculty positions. Another factor has been the dramatic increase in the compensation for our heads and subsequently all senior administrators. Add to the higher costs the fact that nearly all of our schools are top heavy with administration and this just adds to the challenge of keeping our largest expense in control and therefore controlling the increases in tuition.

I end with this quote from John: “I encourage schools to think more boldly, more courageously, about these “fixed” elements of our financial models – about our pricing, our compensation, and our classroom quantization.”

Insurance Offerings for Independent Schools

MISBO offers a number of options for your school’s insurance needs. Explore some of the member school savings possible by working with the following MISBO vendors.

  • As you all know there is a great deal of uncertainty today about the future of the Affordable Care Act. Several years ago MISBO evaluated many options in an attempt to provide a medical insurance plan for our member schools. Ultimately, we determined that we would promote a plan already in place with a great track record – ISBC (Independent School Benefits Consortium). Click here for more information about the program or here for more information from ISBC.
  • MISBO also offers a unique program for your school’s property and casualty needs. We know that the risks facing your schools have become increasingly complex which is why we chose to work with EIS (Education Insurance Services) which is part of UE (United Educators). UE is the only carrier which serves educational institutions and we believe they are best suited to serve your needs. Please click here for more information.
  • A newer MISBO offering is our International Student Accident and Sickness Plan offered by ISM Insurance. This MISBO program already has almost 30 MISBO member schools participating. Click here for more information on this program.
  • Finally, MISBO has a long-standing relationship with CorpCare, which offers an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Now is a great time to consider adding an EAP to your benefit offerings. Please click here for more information.

From the ED 3.2.17

Dear Colleagues,

As with most of your schools, the success of the organization depends upon a board of directors (trustees) to lead and govern the organization. The board for a non-profit has some key responsibilities:

  • Focus on the strategic direction of the organization, reviewing the mission and vision to ensure the organization continues to move forward in the appropriate direction.
  • Hire and support the leader (executive director, head of school, etc.). MISBO has recently been through the hiring process and I am certainly confident in the support piece.
  • Overall fiduciary responsibility.

A number of years ago MISBO revised its bylaws to be more consistent with its mission to serve independent schools and a part of that was opening board participation to a much wider group of leaders. The current board includes business officers, heads of schools, human resources professionals, technology leaders, and facilities leaders. We also strive to ensure geographic, school size and type, gender, and ethnic diversity. A year ago, the MISBO board determined that adding an independent school association executive would bring great value as well. We accomplished that goal by asking Damian Kavanagh, VP, Accreditation & Membership, SAIS to join the board. Damian was such a great addition that the search committee ultimately offered Damian the Executive Director position beginning July 1, 2017. Beginning next week, MISBO will again be interested in nominations for open positions beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. You may self-nominate or be nominated by a colleague.

MISBO is hoping to receive nominations which include: independent school association executives, technology leaders, operations leaders, and heads of schools. The board’s governance committee will start receiving nominations, spend the next couple of months interviewing candidates, and present a recommended slate of candidates to the full board at the scheduled April board meeting.

We encourage anyone who is interested and wishes to serve to read all about the process and requirements when they are released next week. Please be sure to contact me or any of the current MISBO board members if you have questions.

I was so fortunate to spend a day last week with the team at IDEO in their San Francisco offices to plan the first convening (workshop) for the 12 cohort schools that are participating in the MISBO + IDEO project. Click here to learn more and see which schools are part of this ground-breaking work.

At one point we moved to a brainstorming session about the business model for independent schools (the premise for this work) and in addition to the five IDEO team members, three additional business designers joined the session. We discussed the fact that “business design” is not something that can be learned in school. Many of us in the room have MBAs but no one had learned business design in school, yet this is a critical element for business innovation and growth. I encourage you to read this short article about business designers. Here is a brief description from IDEO:

But fewer know about business design, a discipline at IDEO that has formed over the past decade. There are a few dozen of us across the company, and our role is to balance the needs of users with the needs of our clients. In IDEO’s Venn diagram, innovative solutions hit the sweet spot where viability, desirability, and feasibility overlap. Business designers, to put it simply, design for viability.

This article – How Can Design Advance Education? – will provide you with one example of the power of business design. Look for more information and stories after our first workshop this Saturday.

I also hope you will join me, the MISBO board leadership, and incoming Executive Director Damian Kavanagh for the MISBO Forum on Wednesday, March 8th at 2:00 pm ET. This is an online “state of the association” meeting and registration is required. Please plan on joining us by registering at

The next MISBO On the Road will be held at St. Catherine’s School, Richmond, VA on Tuesday, March 14th starting at 10:00 am. The speaker for the day is Aaron Lundberg, Praesidium. You can find more information and registration by clicking here. Our next On the Road will be in Tampa, FL on April 25th – all the details can be found at MISBO On the Road events are open to both member and non-member schools.

We recently opened registration for the 2017 MISBO Human Resources Intensive and you can see the full schedule and register at MISBO last offered this program in 2015 and we sold out, and we expect the same for 2017. This is a unique program focused specifically on the needs of human resources professionals in independent schools. The sessions are presented by a mix of your colleagues and industry experts as well as a keynote presentation by Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a Senior Research Scientist in Psychology at Yale University. This will be an exciting, interactive session. I hope to see you in Atlanta, June 11-13, 2017 for this event.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO

We power independent schools.™