In this issue of Ideas & Perspectives,
learn how student engagement impacts stress and well-being, how to staff your corps of advisors, and how to keep in touch with past parents.
The most forward-thinking advisory letter for private-independent school leaders.
More than 8,500 private school decision-makers find the answers to their schools’ administrative and governance matters in Ideas & Perspectives, our flagship advisory publication.
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It is a distressing and growing issue that private-independent school students are showing increasing levels of stress, substance use, risky behavior, and anxiety. Recommended strategies for mitigating stress and managing mental health, while improving student well-being, include enactment of a healthy daily schedule and yearly calendar, and a predictable and supportive faculty culture, with effective advisory and counseling programs. Recent ISM research with nearly 13,000 students in private-independent middle and upper schools demonstrates that increased student engagement must be added to that list.
ISM has encouraged schools to recognize the benefits a robust, mission-based advisory program can yield for students, faculty, and the institution. We encourage you, as School
Head or Division Head, to focus on creating and sustaining a professional guidance program contributing to a predictable and supportive experience for all middle- and upper-school students through a principled assignment of personnel to the advisor role.
When your students move on to other schools or college, do you lose touch with their parents? If so, you overlook a valuable resource—a constituency that has great and varied potential to support your school in marketing, fundraising, and overall advancement.
Your next accreditation visit is 12–18 months away. You, as Board President and/or Chair of the Committee on Trustees (COT), assisted by your School Head, should consider the steps needed to prepare your Board for that visit. For most schools and with most accreditation agencies, the following should comprise key ingredients in that preparation process.
As the School Head or Business Manager, you know how much the school spends to provide employee benefits. It’s frustrating when faculty, staff, and administrators do not take advantage of these programs to the fullest, don’t value them, or, worse yet, don’t even know they exist. This tends to be a reality in most organizations—not just schools. In our fast-paced society, unless people perceive that the information directly pertains to them, it may sometimes be hard to gain their attention.
Private-independent school leaders realize the value of professionally staffing their marketing communications function. And, while Boards and School Heads should be applauded for investing in a Marketing Communications Director or similar position,* many cannot dedicate the financial resources necessary to expand the operation beyond one full-time employee.
Capital campaigns are simultaneously exciting and anxiety-producing, especially for those in leadership positions. You, as Board President, Chair of the Committee on Trustees, or Chair of the Development Committee, must keep certain essentials in mind, before and during the capital campaign. This article focuses on two critical “early actions,” followed by a list of four essentials that every Trustee needs to embrace for ideal campaign outcomes when the campaign commences.
Predictable and supportive environments are the bedrock on which all great schools are built. We have observed schools suffering from poor leadership and precarious finances—but the culture often keeps a school going steady. Schools that once had strong financial stability began to erode when the predictable and supportive culture was overtaken by toxic elements.
Many school leaders view tuition remission as a teacher and staff recruitment and retention tool, and a means of keeping competitive with other private-independent schools. However, tuition remission often turns the employee-school relationship into a business transaction. School Heads and Boards often claim that they have to offer this perk—otherwise good candidates will be lured to other schools. And it’s not just teachers and staff. This benefit is often an intrinsic part of the contract for the Head and other administrators as well.
Every independent school must hire, develop, and retain the best faculty to deliver upon its mission and the Portrait of the Graduate. You need qualified teachers who are committed to your mission, can connect with your students, and contribute positively to the faculty culture. You hold tight to those pied piper teachers that embody the school’s Characteristics of Professional Excellence. How do you attract and retain such teachers?
You, as newly elected Board of Trustees President, may assume that leadership of private-independent-school Trustees is similar to leadership in other organizational settings. There are indeed similarities with some other kinds of leadership roles, including these.
- A President brings her or his own “management style” to the post. This tone-setting role is present to some degree in any organization, depending on its exact purpose(s) and structure.
- A President selects and appoints those who will exercise second-level management and leadership within the Board. Any organization larger than, say, a half-dozen individuals, needs this kind of action from the designated leader.
- A private-independent school Board of Trustees President can sometimes strongly influence the direction of the larger organization—the school itself—from a strategic perspective. This is analogous to other governing body leadership contexts, both in for-profit and nonprofit settings.
Your current students’ brothers and sisters can make ideal additions to your student body. Their families are mission-appropriate and already committed to your school. When parents enroll another child, they are making an obvious and powerful endorsement of your school.
Private-independent schools often face the sensitive issue of whether to re-enroll a current student whose parents owe tuition. A school wants to maintain its primary focus on the best interests of the student. Yet, the school simultaneously has a broader fiduciary responsibility to all the school’s families to fund and sustain mission excellence over time.
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