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Connecting and Collaborating at SAIS Summer Institutes

Friday, June 23, 2017  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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Bring school leaders from across the SAIS community together and anything can happen: new ideas start flowing, acquaintances become friends, entire visions can change. For the most part, people leave an SAIS Institute feeling refreshed, energized, and, as one attendee said, "empowered."

During the week of June 19, SAIS welcomed nearly 150 school administrators and teachers to the Institute for Strategic Leadership, the Institute for the Head's Assistant, the Administrative Leadership Institute, the Institute for New Heads, and the first-ever Dean of Students Symposium. All programs were held at the Emory University Conference Center in Atlanta. 

The deans' group discussed everything from bullying to campus safety to character education to issues associated with adolescents. In a session about crisis management, deans reviewed their roles in an emergency and how they work with their team. Many suggestions came to light that may inspire deans to initiate changes on their campuses; for example, how many people on staff are certified in CPR? In a breakout entitled "Empathetic Discipline," deans talked about appropriate penalties, the art of an apology, and reputations. An offense against the community, for example, should likely result in service to the community. 

Now in its third year, the Institute for the Head's Assistant drew 46 attendees who discussed their various job responsibilities, their relationship with their boss, communications strategies, and tips for dealing with challenging people. Assistants sometimes encounter difficulty in holding boundaries -- people often expect them to work 24/7 or to handle every single issue on campus, whether it is part of their responsibilities or not. Assistants often have to take the phone call from the screaming neighbor or calm a parent who is having a difficult moment. "You don't have to be rude, but you do have to be clear," said Dr. Michael Thompson, a speaker at the Institute. "Set limits." 

At the Institute for Strategic Leadership, attendees enjoyed the opportunity to examine their leadership capacity and reflect strategically on their schools. The Administrative Leadership Institute looked at change management, middle management in a school, and relationships with parents and colleagues. "People need to hear the 'why' behind the change," said speaker Rob Evans. "Your support makes it easier for them to try something new." 

The Institute for New Heads welcomed several individuals new to the role of school head. Reflecting on mission, leadership style, hiring techniques, crisis management, media skills, strategic planning, and more, leaders learned from SAIS President Dr. Kirk Walker as well as several current school heads or presidents. 

"I think it's important for educators to come together and share common ideas and experiences," Walker said. "People came not just for the camaraderie but to find inspiration and ideas for ways to get better at what they do. There was so much positive energy this week." 

For more information about upcoming SAIS professional development programs, visit

Calendar more
Institute for New Teachers
July 24-26, 2018 | Nashville, TN
Designed to equip new teachers with the skills to guide and support their first years in the classroom.

Board/Head Retreat
October 14, 2018 | Charleston, SC
Designed to strengthen the communication and partnership between the head of school and members of the board.

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