Notes from SAIS President Dr. Steve Robinson
Here we are, deep into the month of December. The holidays are upon us and 2013 is fast falling behind; a blurred memory of lessons, victories, struggles, and joys.
The feature article in this newsletter, The Gift of Education, chronicles the journeys of four schools serving their missions in communities that are very different from the vast majority of schools in SAIS or across the country. You will read about the dramatic life-changing transformations these schools make happen: their struggles, the partnerships they have developed with other remarkable schools in their areas, and the value they place on their association with like-minded mission-driven independent schools throughout the SAIS network.
You make a difference in our community. You share your time and wisdom by participating and leading SAIS accreditation visits, by attending and engaging in SAIS professional development and events, and by continuing to build the SAIS network that bolsters the independent school community. Together we are stronger and we are better equipped to take on the challenges of 2014.
I would like to thank you for everything you do for your students, faculty, families, and communities. All of us at SAIS would like to wish you a happy, safe, and restful holiday. We hope the time with your families allows you to unwind and refresh. You’ve earned it.
From China to Enrollment Management
I recently returned from a meaningful and productive trip to China. Along with seven leaders from SAIS schools, we networked with a number of student management agencies like Three W International and interacted with students and families interested in studying in the United States. The value of such trips cannot be overstated and I encourage you to make time in your busy schedules to pursue such rewarding and professionally transformative opportunities. Please also see the article below chronicling the trip.
Part of the SAIS spring forum series this year is titled: Creating a Road Map to your Strategic Enrollment Management Planning Process. Partnering with the Executive Director of AISAP (Association of Independent School Admission Professionals), Janice Crampton, we will help schools better understand the elements, aspects, and requirements for creating a successful enrollment management (SEM) plan. We will present on topics such as understanding the role of tuition elasticity in the creation of your school’s financial model, and understanding SEM from the perspective of different school leaders (heads of school, business officers and financial professionals, communications and marketing staff members, and admissions and enrollment managers). We’ll be speaking at schools across the region; check the calendar on the SAIS website for specific details.
It was a pleasure seeing so many of our members and friends at the SAIS 2013 Annual Conference: A Global Future: Preparing Students and Shaping Schools. I trust you enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow educators, and benefited from the many speakers who shared their experiences and research on how to best prepare our students for the 21st century.
As we listened to experts like Dr. Yong Zhao, Ian Symmonds, and Janice Abraham, we heard once again that the future is dynamic, complex, and global. As educators, it is our duty to equip ourselves with the best data and forecasts on what our students’ world and job markets will look like. While we cannot predict the future, we can anticipate trends and possibilities and consider what skill sets our students will require. Meanwhile, we are required to challenge old mindsets and the status quo, as we continue to pursue new ways to accomplish our mission: launching students who are equipped to negotiate the challenges of their world to the highest degree. SAIS is proud to partner with you on that mission and we are here to assist you in every way.
Human Connections Matter
We have never been more connected than we are today. Technology has linked cultures, continents, markets, communities, and people. Whether we reach out to those close to us in an instant on our phones, or those far away via online forums or media, the possibilities, the calls, the updates, the statuses, the likes, the sharing of information and knowledge is limitless.
Still, we are human and human connection matters. Creativity flows when we work face-to-face with our peers brainstorming ideas, sharing experiences, searching for solutions. Collaboration is accelerated when there is no lag, no loading time, and no screen filtering our interactions and framing our reactions. Experience, as many a poet, scientist and historian has said, is the greatest teacher, and there is a fulfillment from such interactions that cannot be replicated remotely.
So, with that in mind, I invite you to join us at the 2013 Annual Conference- The Global Future: Preparing Students, Shaping Schools. Hear from experts about the latest research and trends. Share your experiences and expertise with your peers. Stretch your 21st Century skills: creating, connecting, collaborating, and communicating in community. And together we can prepare for the global future ahead.
Increasingly, I have been talking to schools about a key to retaining current families and attracting new ones. The value narrative is the overarching, living story of a school, that which is at the core of what makes it valuable to families and students. One school’s value narrative might stress character development, long tradition and academic achievement; another’s stresses innovation, creativity and personal expression. One campus is small, another large; one is urban, one rural. But each school has its own unique value narrative that speaks to current or prospective families.
To successfully market your school, it is key to understand and develop your value narrative. The value narrative should be comprehensive and multi-faceted, with aspects that can address the diverse needs presented by different families and demographics. It should bend to speak both to the eighth-grade boy interested in sports, or the young mother considering preschool for her first child.
Traditionally, schools have assessed their value narrative via a comprehensive discussion among the school’s leadership, community, and its board. SAIS recently designed an assessment to gauge and compare a school’s presumptive narrative with the one their families perceived. This tool can be extremely useful for schools to hone their messaging and better streamline and target their marketing. Be sure to visit www.sais.org/surveys to read more about what we have to offer.
Regardless, schools must take the proper time in drafting and defining their value narrative. One cannot be complacent, rigid or incomplete in communicating the many strengths and unique qualities a school can provide to its students, families and the greater community.
SAIS would love to help you better define your school’s value narrative.
You are standing at a threshold: looking back at the summer and wondering where it went and looking forward to the new school year with trepidation and anticipation. For students, the end of summer and the start of school might seem to have come far too soon; for parents, it might be a welcome relief. But for educators, the sentiment is probably somewhere in the middle: the great relief at the end of the school year gave way to a summer of relaxation, recharging, maybe a common summer read or engagement in professional development opportunities finally followed by the certainty that first day will in fact come.
You have been planning for the return of your students: getting classrooms ready; making sure schedules and rosters are as correct as they can be; completing summer maintenance projects; implementing new curricula and new modalities of engagement.
The task that you and your colleagues perform exceedingly well is to guide your students and awaken their interests not just in subject matter, but also in the process of their own learning and discovery. As Plutarch said, "the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." I wish each of you the very best in your days of welcoming students back to campus and kindling in each of them values that your community holds dear.
Please let us know how SAIS can be of service to you as you pursue your school's mission in the 2013-14 school year.