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Between the Lines- May 2011
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In The May Issue:

Good Mentoring Makes Good Teachers

Of all the factors that influence student success, research has continued to prove that the quality of teachers is the most powerful determinant. More and more, independent schools are investing in new teacher mentoring as part of their overall plans for student achievement.
By selecting good mentors, training them well, and providing them with time and tools to work intensively with new teachers, a school can foster a culture of inclusive excellence that inspires both new and veteran teachers to move from good to great.
The Mentoring Institute (Part I) is designed to help schools design and implement their own mentoring programs, which can be an extremely cost-effective way to involve both new and veteran teachers in a meaningful professional development experience and ongoing growth opportunity.
Without a vibrant mentoring program, new staff focus on surviving in their new school roles rather than thriving. Teachers entering any new environment find that each school has its own unique culture, which must be learned. The new teacher (or simply those new to independent schools) must not only prepare lessons but also assimilate and discern a host of unwritten responsibilities and policies that veteran teachers 
often perform unconsciously. An effective mentor program can provide the vehicle to successfully integrate the new teacher into the school’s life and community.

Many mentor programs don't achieve their potential because they haven’t trained well-selected mentors using a broad mentoring knowledge base. Building knowledge upon knowledge, the SAIS Mentoring Institute (Part I) will:

  • Present a dynamic learning process that examines the nature of mentoring and role of the mentor of new teachers
  • Reflect on mentor candidates’ own career beginning to increase sensitivity to the uncertainties, questions, and concerns of new teachers
  • Focus on helping new teachers analyze, organize, and implement successful classroom management and instructional planning systems
  • Refine observation and conferencing skills essential to effectively leading new teachers in constructing their own knowledge about teaching
  • Encourage mentor/novice collaboration in establishing first year mentoring plans
Mentoring can vary widely, from mentor-protege pairs to teams of mentors. Working at a new school and adjusting to its daily practices takes time, energy, and often adds stress to a new teacher's life. Easing a new teacher’s adjustment to your school’s culture and practices helps to ensure they’re prepared to support student achievement from their first day in a classroom. Establish (or re-inspire) your mentoring program with the SAIS Mentoring Institute.

2011 Annual Conference:
You Pick The Sessions

 Your vote counts! Help us select this year's Annual Conference breakout sessions by voting for your favorites here to ensure that the conference focuses on the issues you care about most.

Learn to Speak Your Business Officer's Language

SAIS is proud to announce the Finance Institute, a brand-new educational opportunity designed especially for independent school administrators and heads who don’t have a business background.
The institute will be led by veteran school business officer Barb Egan, Vice President of Finance and Administration at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, GA. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees for NAIS.
In this one-day intensive workshop on June 23, you will gain new tools for financial leadership, covering multi-year and strategic budgets, basic metrics and audits.


Are You Considering A Headship? 

Members of the senior leadership team are increasingly asked to bridge the divide between task-oriented management and strategy-driven leadership. 

SAIS is proud to announce the Institute for Senior Administrators on June 23, specifically designed to help you meet the challenges facing administrators who work closely with the head of school to set priorities and direction. 
The ISA curriculum will conclude with the creation of an action plan focused on expanding professional competencies-- a particularly helpful step for those who might be considering a headship in their future.
More information about the Institute for Senior Administrators here. 

Worst Case Scenario:
The Ultimate "Teachable Moment"

For three days in late April, a spring tornado outbreak terrorized parts of the Southeast and Midwest, leaving catastrophic damage across several states, especially Alabama, where a deadly twister leveled much of the city of Tuscaloosa. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would later confirm that April 27, 2011, was the most prolific and destructive tornado day in United States history.

Dr. Jeff Mitchell, Head of Tuscaloosa Academy, talks to Between the Lines about making critical decisions in an emergency, restoring normalcy and finding a teaching moment in a community disaster.
As a head of school, what was your first thought when you discovered that your school might be in critical danger?
“Truly, it was not until well after the tornado went through that I, and most people in Tuscaloosa, got word of the extent of the devastation. The storm wrecked havoc with the communication systems. It was probably the next day that the enormity of the situation became apparent, and I remember thinking that it was just dumb luck that Tuscaloosa Academy was spared and my own house was not in the storm’s path. I also remember thinking, it was real good call to dismiss school early that day. Sometimes we overreact in the situations, but not this time.”
Did you have a crisis communications plan in place to keep everyone well-informed before the tornado devastation? Will you revise your crisis communications plan now?
We had a pretty good plan in place. I’ve always approached crisis communication—up to this point, it was in theory only—with the KISS principle. For example, limiting the number of people who make critical decisions is vital. Also, there should only be one official communications feed. My thoughts were always that, with a large-scale crisis, it’s impossible to predict the nuances of the response. I felt it was best to establish a basic communications goal, like “Tuscaloosa Academy feels an obligation to respond to the greater Tuscaloosa community in every way feasible and with every constituent that’s appropriate,” and after that we were free to make the decisions we needed to make in a very fluid situation.
As luck would have it, we just purchased access to an emergency calling system about two months ago, and the use of this system greatly enhanced our communication efforts. I might be saying something different if we hadn’t made this investment.
What's been the biggest challenge in restoring normalcy to your school?
Fluidity. Tuscaloosa Academy took the approach of restoring normalcy by recognizing the need around us and responding within our community where we could. By shortening our period length, we were able to free-up the entire student body from grades 5-12 for age-appropriate service work from 1:30-3:00 pm every afternoon.
As you can imagine, the needs associated with a crisis of this magnitude change daily. I don’t think you should have the attitude that you will (or even should) restore normalcy. You respond in the most appropriate and positive way you can.
For example, the public school system here has suffered tremendous damage and loss. Of the 18,000 students who attend Tuscaloosa County Schools, approximately 1,100 lived directly in the path of the tornado. Several schools were also impacted. Holt Elementary was partially destroyed and is no longer a functioning school. The entire roof must be replaced along with many of the window and door units. Once the building is ready for occupancy, funds will be needed to replace capital items such as computers and furniture. We’re partnering with SAIS to help raise awareness and channel relief to these schools.
This is the ultimate “teachable moment” of my career.
Dr. Jeff Mitchell is a graduate of the SAIS Institute for New Heads and is entering his third year as head at Tuscaloosa Academy.

SAIS provides its membership with an online resource to connect them with other independent school leaders. Log on to now to discuss crisis management, disaster preparedness and other challenges with independent school colleagues from across the SAIS region. 
SAISand Tuscaloosa Academy will gladly facilitate the direction of funds and efforts to serve students in the Tuscaloosa area. If your school is involved in a relief effort and would like to donate to this disaster relief fund, you may send checks to SAIS, Disaster Relief Fund, PO Box 369, Alpharetta GA 30009. You may also donate securely online here.

Registration for all Summer 2011 SAIS Professional Development events is now open. Sign up at
Community Christian School
Stockbridge, GA
Fred Banke, Head

Tiftarea Academy

Chula, GA
Ron Drummonds, Head

 is one of the most valuable and dynamic services that we offer to our membership: it's a place to meet, discuss and collaborate with colleagues from the independent school community from across the SAIS region. It's free, and you're already a member! Log in at using your existing SAIS credentials.

Take a moment to visit some of these blogs from SAIS member heads and administrators. 

Ezra Adams
Director, Student Life
Episcopal Day School
Augusta, GA
Merlyn For Hire

Lee Burns
Presbyterian Day School
Memphis, TN
Headmaster's Blog

Laura Deisley
Director, 21st Century Learning
The Lovett School
Atlanta, GA
Architecture of Ideas

Stephen J. Hammond
St. Patrick Catholic School
Norfolk, VA
The Principal's Corner

Are you blogging? Drop us a line at or tweet us @SAISnews and let us know about it!
Copyright © 2011 SAIS, All rights reserved.
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