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From the ED 8.6.15

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome Back to School!

We see these words all over every newspaper, and ads in general, selling everything school-related. For many of you, August is a turning point. Administrators return first, followed by the conclusion of summer programs, then faculty, and finally students. You are probably also preparing for your auditors’ arrival, getting finishing touches on new and renovated buildings, and all of the rest of the items on your to-do list to ensure that your school is at its best to open in the coming weeks.

A good number of our schools will be welcoming a new Head of School (as well as other new administrators, faculty, staff, families, etc.). As part of my work with the NAIS-led leadership development steering committee, I was invited to attend the NAIS Institute for New Heads (INH) that was held in July. There were nearly 100 new heads in attendance. A few had completed their first year, but most had not even started their new position; many had not even made the move to a new city or school to begin. As a group, they were excited about their new roles and opportunities and a bit anxious at the same time. More than a few times I heard the term “drinking from a fire hose”.

As with many senior level positions at our independent schools, the roles and responsibilities for the Head of School continue to grow in magnitude and complexity. The career path for most independent school Heads has been through the academic side of our schools; teachers (many History or English), Dean of Faculty (students), Division Director, and then Head. The challenge is that the increase in the skills and the demands on the Head are significantly greater than a Division Director role. One area that tends to be most challenging is Governance. Few new Heads are hired because of their governance experience. If the reaction of the group during the two-hour governance session at INH was any indication, most of these new Heads did not realize the amount of time and energy they would need to devote to this portion of their new job. Many of the faculty at INH (all experienced heads) discussed that up to 30% of their time was devoted to board work (governance) – more at times!

The other area of weakness tends to be finance and operations. Again, the typical career path provides little opportunity to learn about these critically important aspects of being a ‘CEO’ of a multi-million dollar corporation. I know that a large number of people read this article, including Heads, Business Officers, HR Directors, etc. After spending a few days with the INH group and a day last week with the FCIS New Heads, I would offer some the following advice based on your role:

New Heads: Seek out the counsel of the Business Officer, HR Director, and others on your team. Learn as much about their jobs, roles, and responsibilities as possible, it will help you understand the challenges they are facing daily. It will also greatly help in your time with your board (especially your finance committee). Read the by-laws for your school. I realize that this sounds boring, but it is incredibly important that you understand the legal organizational structure. Again, this helps you with your governance work as well and ensures that your school is operating in compliance with your by-laws.

Business Officers, HR Directors, Tech Directors, Facility Directors, etc.: One of your many roles is to support the Head of School. One simple piece of advice – NO SURPRISES! This can be difficult in the early stages as the new Head (in most cases coming from another school) has so much to learn and absorb. Be a resource for them, and also be a friend. Take the new Head on a complete tour of the school– do not miss anything. Walk them through the current and past financial statements. Discuss openly any past, present, and future challenges facing you and your school. Help prepare the new Head for the beginning of the new school year. Are there events that have been a tradition? Is there a family picnic? Who are the key parents / board members / faculty / staff / students / etc. that they should connect with right away? The list is endless, so be sure to ask how you can help the most.

Change of leadership can be difficult for a community and there is no doubt that our schools are communities with unique cultures. It is also a time of promise and excitement. Please take this opportunity to fully enjoy the changes and the opportunities for the future of your schools.

I would also encourage any Director in any independent school with new leadership to read Advanced Placement, recently published by MISBO. It presents four case studies of Head searches as well as some unique perspectives on their success and/or failure.

Other News and Reminders:

MISBO Fall 2015 Conference

The MISBO Fall 2015 Conference – Disrupting 21st Century Schools – will be held in Asheville, NC October 7-9, 2015. The full schedule and all information can be found at Jim Honan, Senior Lecturer on Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education will be providing the opening keynote to get us thinking about the future of education and your role. Jim has worked extensively with independent schools over the years and has provided his leadership and been instrumental in much of the thinking and discussion of financial sustainability.

DASL – 2015 Survey Dates:

Please be sure to read the article on the main page of the newsletter. NAIS’s DASL opens for data entry next week. Please remember that MISBO no longer offers a separate survey for members. All MISBO member schools (regardless of whether you are an NAIS member) can participate, enter data, and benchmark using DASL. Last year was the first year where many of the independent school associations across the country partnered with NAIS to provide access to DASL. Additionally, there are sections of the survey that are specific to just MISBO schools. These help MISBO help you, and provide critically important data for you to benchmark against other MISBO member schools.

Membership Dues Renewal:

Thank you to all of the schools that have renewed their membership and paid the renewal dues in a timely manner. As you know with collecting tuition from families, the more efficient the process, the more resources MISBO has to focus on member benefits. For those of you who have not submitted your payments, they were due by June 30th. If you have any questions or need any assistance with credit card payments, please feel free to contact Jean Horn, or 404-921-3815.


Marc Levinson
Executive Director, MISBO
Twitter: @MISBOconnects   @Marcll
Get the MISBO Mobile App!

From → MISBO

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