In this issue of Ideas & Perspectives,
we discuss the Financial Aid Committee, the ISM X, inbound marketing strategies, and how to maintain the Head’s file.
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The Financial Aid Committee plays an integral role in your school’s strategic enrollment management operation. Taking a best practices approach ensures your financial aid decision-making strengthens (rather than undermines) your school’s fiscal position—and your ability to sustain mission excellence over time. When managed strategically, your financial aid process and decisions enhance the mission experience of every student enrolled at your school.
The fifth iteration of the ISM Stability Markers has generated small—but necessary—alterations in the graphic representation (shown below), the ISM X™. These alterations center around changes in the scoring of the Strategic Board Assessment, which has become the Strategic Board Assessment II,2 the outcome of a two-year ISM study. This 15-item (Board self-scored) instrument, previously comprising four six-point Stability Markers (Letters A, B, C, and D) in the fourth iteration, has been transformed into a single 24-point Stability Marker in the fifth.
Standing out in the “virtual” crowd is becoming more difficult as families are overloaded with in-your-face marketing tactics and spam. Therefore, it’s important to create content that not only attracts mission-appropriate families, but also converts them into qualified leads.
With any employer-employee relationship, your school must maintain paper and electronic files. Just as your school should have a policy on what is contained in an employee’s file and who will keep it, your Board must do the same for its sole employee—the School Head. Basic documents on payroll and benefits should be kept by the Business Office. However, the Head’s contracts, evaluations, and supporting documents (and other employment-related correspondence) should not be accessible to anyone in the school. Only the Board should see this confidential information. (Access to health records should be limited even further—perhaps only to the Board President.)
Thanks to smartphones, the Internet, and social media, the news cycle is now 24-7-365. Being prepared to communicate and respond during a crisis is more critical than ever. While most schools have adopted a Crisis Management Plan, far fewer have taken their preparedness to the next level—creating a Crisis Communication Plan. Although having both plans may seem redundant or unnecessary, there is an important difference between the two.
The debate about personal “protected data” continues, in large part due to the explosion in the availability and sharing of electronic data. Much has been written about this issue, and laws have been passed to mitigate the problem. Private schools must be vigilant. Our focus in this article is on what and how schools access and handle student information.
Your annual orientation session for the new Trustee should be grounded in your governance-level mission statement. ISM has for decades suggested that Boards of Trustees create a governance-level mission statement—a mission statement for the Board itself, not to be confused with the institutional mission statement. Such a governance-level statement, ISM has suggested, should read approximately as follows.
Ideally, all of your school’s “official” social media accounts run directly through your Marketing Communications Office and are managed by your in-house staff. However, it may seem that your school’s social media “cat” is already out of the bag, with members of every club, team, and student group at your school launching its own Facebook group or Twitter account.
The ISM Stability Markers’ fourth iteration comprised 18 variables, each of which, according to ISM’s internal reviews, correlated with private-independent schools’ ability to sustain excellence over time. In the fifth iteration shown following, our revised perspectives have resulted in 15 Stability Markers. Benchmarks, weighting, points of reference, and methods of calculation have been updated to conform to ISM’s current position on each marker.
The phrase “best practices” has been in widespread use for some time. In private-independent schools, the phrase at times means that Trustees or senior administrators intend to turn to a meaningful and pertinent data array—such as those compiled and maintained by the best accreditation associations. School leaders often use that array as a framework, to develop benchmarks against which to measure their school as it moves to first strengthen, mission-delivery excellence and, then, its position in the marketplace.
Every private-independent school must recognize that some students—and faculty, staff, parents, and other constituents—may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Many students question their sexual orientation as they struggle to find their identity. This brings pressures to schools to examine their policies and practices. Be prepared to respond to harassment incidents within your community—regardless of whether these incidents involve children or adults.
A primary operational issue that private school Business Offices face is whether to outsource payroll processing rather than handling this task in-house. As a practical matter, either approach can work effectively—depending on the skills, experience, and financial and staffing resources within the Business Office. ISM recommends outsourcing only for tax information advantages. Consider these issues when making the payroll outsourcing decision for your school.
ISM Stability Marker No. 2—the second-ranked indicator for long-term private-school sustainability, according to ISM data—is an item focused on the existence and systematic use of a strategic plan and strategic financial plan that meets ISM criteria.
In previous issues of Ideas & Perspectives, we have examined the Spheres of Influence that impact enrollment demand at your school, including:
- market position;
- school culture; and
- constituent relationships.
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