Ideas & Perspectives

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Image of Ideas and Perspectives Newsletter on a Laptop

Learn practical strategies to handle emerging trends and leadership challenges in private schools.

No matter if you’re a School Head, Admission Director, Development Director, Board member, or any other private school administrator—Ideas & Perspectives, ISM’s premier private school publication, has strategic solutions for the pervasive problems you face.

  • Tuition not keeping pace with your expenses? In I&P, explore how to use strategic financial planning to create your budget and appropriately adjust your tuition.
  • Enrollment dropping off? Discover how to implement the right admission and enrollment management strategies that engage your community—and fill your classrooms.
  • Trouble retaining teachers? Learn how you can best support your teachers using ISM’s Comprehensive Faculty Development framework. Your faculty members will become more enthusiastic about their roles—which ultimately improves student outcomes.
  • Fundraising campaigns not as successful as you’d hoped? Implement ISM’s practical advice and guidance to build a thriving annual fund, construct an effective capital campaign, and secure major donors—no matter your community size or location.
  • Not sure how to provide professional development—for you and your staff? Learn ways to develop and fund a successful professional development strategy. You can improve teacher-centered satisfaction and growth, which in turn strengthens student-centered learning.
  • Problematic schedule? You can master the challenges of scheduling with the help of ISM’s practical advice, based on our experience with hundreds of schools and our time-tested theories.
  • And so much more.

I&P has shared targeted research, up-to-date insight, and sound theory with school leaders since 1975. More than 8,500 private school decision-makers find the answers to their schools’ administrative and governance matters in our advisory letter. We give you the strategic answers you need.

As an ISM Silver or Gold member, you not only receive issues online and in print 16 times a year, but you have access to more than 600 articles in our web archive. Need help? It’s at your fingertips! Learn more and sign up for ISM's membership here. 

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See the articles from our latest issue of Ideas & Perspectives.

ISM Stability Marker No. 1 Revisited: Cash Reserves, Debt, and Endowment

Volume 42 No. 16December 29, 2017

Cash reserves, coupled with low debt/no debt and endowment, have always ranked either first or second among the ISM Stability Markers. These indicators of institutional sustainability, in widespread use now for more than two decades, serve as fundamental points of departure in all private school leadership-level strategic conversations and plans. ISM suggests that you, as Board President, Finance Chair, School Head, or Business Manager, as a matter of basic organizational discipline, monitor the status of the three components in ISM Stability Marker No. 1.

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True Endowment

Volume 42 No. 15December 1, 2017

What is the nature of true endowment? We note that true endowment is distinguished from quasi-endowment (which will be dealt with in a subsequent article). From your view as School Head, Business Manager, or Finance Committee member, what are the issues you should be considering?

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Avoid the Danger of Misinterpreting Research

Volume 42 No. 15December 1, 2017

We live in an information age where we are inundated daily with information on multiple devices. News feeds quickly summarize research from various sources, and weeding through all this information can be daunting. As a result, we often forget to put on our critical reading glasses.

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Head Support and Evaluation Committee: Reporting to the Board

Volume 42 No. 15December 1, 2017

The Head Support and Evaluation Committee (HSEC) is the link between strategy and operations. It is a safe place for the Head to report ongoing progress toward his or her goals, and for the HSEC to advise, support, and hold the Head to account.1 But what is the relationship of the HSEC to the Board? After all, the reason for the HSEC is the Board’s inability to evaluate the Head. But, at the same time, the Board is the Head’s employer and has a “right to know” and ensure the Head is held accountable.

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Scheduling Supports Advisory Program Success

Volume 42 No. 14November 6, 2017

The advisory program can be a distinguishing feature among your school’s offerings, and a source of multiple benefits to your students and their families. Of course, it must be well-planned and effectively implemented. There’s also the question of how advisory activities will be scheduled. The success of your advisory program depends, in part, on how it is incorporated into the school day, week, and year. As the School Head, meet with your scheduler to go over your expectations and ensure the schedule supports the scope and excellence of the program.

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Executive Leadership: The Relationships Between Predictability and Support, the School Head's Well-Being, and Faculty Culture

Volume 42 No. 14November 6, 2017

In the first two articles in this series, we shared the results of our 2016 study on executive leadership, well-being, and school performance. The study validated the centrality of a high-quality, charismatic, and flourishing executive leader in the school’s ability to drive the school’s success, including enrollment demand.2 In this third article, we answer the question, “What predicts high scores on executive leadership?” Through the first two articles, we established that charismatic (but not excessively extroverted) leaders who guide schools with greater enrollment demand scored higher on our executive leadership measure. Of course, this assumes the school has a strategic plan and a strategic financial plan. In this article, we examine the factors that lead to high scoring on the executive leadership measure (Stability Marker No. 3). In other words, what are the major contributors to being a high-quality leader?

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We Need New Evidence for Old Meta-Messages

Volume 42 No. 14November 6, 2017

Private-independent schools have the daunting task of persuading families to purchase what is available free through their public school system. Despite national perceptions that public schools system are “broken,” the annual Gallup/PDK poll finds that parents are happy with their local public schools.1 We can’t rely on distaste for public education to drive our enrollment. More specifically, many of our families live in the same neighborhoods as the highest-ranked public schools in their area. Quite obviously, we must attract and re-attract families to our mission. While each school nuances these messages, schools have approached this task by delivering the following meta-messages to communicate the value of an independent education.

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The Head Support and Evaluation Committee: Technicalities

Volume 42 No. 13October 16, 2017

In an earlier article, “The Head Support and Evaluation Committee: An Update,” we stated that “the HSEC, as a Board Committee, is primarily concerned with the Board’s strategic objectives and the Head’s responsibilities in their successful achievement.” Consider now the HSEC’s membership, its charge, and its self-evaluation. In staffing the HSEC, the Committee on Trustees should consider the School Head’s position as an executive and as the sole employee of the Board. The Head is responsible for all aspects of the school’s operations, from marketing to teaching Social Studies—without a peer in the school. Use the following chart to ensure the appropriate questions have been asked about the HSEC’s membership.

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Review Your School's Capitalization Policy

Volume 42 No. 13October 16, 2017

As your school grows in size and complexity, you should review (or establish) accounting policies. Often overlooked is the school’s capitalization policy. A capitalization policy sets guidelines determining which purchases you expense and which purchases you capitalize and then depreciate. It allows your school to match revenues more closely to the expenses associated with the use of those assets. By depreciating an asset, you recognize that it will provide value to your school’s operation for several years. It is easy to determine what constitutes an asset. Land, buildings, utility systems, kitchen equipment, and vehicles certainly qualify. Classroom furniture, computers, and athletic equipment, among others, may also fall into the asset category.

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