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From SAIS President Debra Wilson - October 2019

Wednesday, October 2, 2019  
Posted by: Anna Taylor
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Dear friends,

October is hopefully cooling down your days and decreasing your AC bills as we settle more firmly into fall and the school year. The beginning of school always focuses on our families, boards, and staff. Fall allows school leaders to seize the opportunity to focus a bit on their own learning to energize the school year ahead with new ideas and reconnect with colleagues from around the region. SAIS is busy preparing that time and space for you to learn, reconnect, and bring back tools and insight to your schools.

In my former role, I spent a lot of time at conferences around the country. If you have never been, you should know that the SAIS Annual Conference is uniquely welcoming and the staff’s commitment to crispy bacon at breakfast is second to none. We anticipate that this year will once again provide our member schools with a fantastic experience. While the schedule is packed with excellent opportunities that will speak to any number of roles and interests, I am particularly focused on the following:

The Board/Head Retreat

Amada Torres (vice president of research at NAIS), Jack Creeden (current head at the Whitby School in Greenwich, CT, who recently wrote the Board Chair Handbook for NAIS), and I will lead this year’s Board/Head Retreat from 10AM-4PM on the Sunday of the conference, October 27. This year provides a special deep dive in building capacity to create healthy cultures and practices on your board to stave off the governance and leadership issues we are seeing in the field. Governance data will start the day off and we will cite current data on strategic issues in specific case studies to give your team concrete insights and approaches to take home. Find more info about the Board/Head Retreat here.

Effective Takeaways for Big Issues

As I speak with schools around the region, many are struggling to balance the need for strategic direction and the ability to act quickly as circumstances change. Mike Cobb will address the innovation quandary – how to get it going effectively and appropriately – particularly in the face of those quickly shifting, challenging circumstances. Known for her practical insights into the complexities surrounding nonprofit planning, Kathy Pearson will show us the other side of the coin, by providing some takeaways for maintaining direction while leaving room for responsive innovation. Tim Fish rounds out this triad by providing insights into maintaining momentum even after the newness of initial innovation has faded. Review the overall conference schedule here.

Evolution Sessions

I am struck by how many sessions will be offered on building school competencies or capacity. Schools looking for opportunities to learn more about taking topics to the next level, such as the growth of admissions into enrollment management, moving the financial conversation from headcount to net tuition revenue, the world of social media and social-emotional learning, new legal challenges, and more will want to review the program carefully and think about bringing team members who might benefit from these topics. Full session descriptions available here.

New This Year

We have added a diversity/equity/inclusion track to our conference. These sessions highlight key issues many schools have raised with us, namely the challenges around engaging more with families of color, moving diversity forward in your school, wrestling with the biases within your institution, and the broad range of neurodiversity we are seeing with our students.

Beyond the Annual Conference

We hope you noticed the new SAIS QuickLinks monthly enewsletter, designed to highlight key education-related readings. Like you, we are constantly inundated with the new research, thinking, modeling, and sharing what is happening out there. QuickLinks is designed to curate some of that content in a way that is easily accessible and shareable.

Along those lines, my key reading at the moment is Paul Tough’s new book, The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us. This book pulls together the many conundrums in higher education – cost, access, the admissions process, the stress and anxiety students and families are facing – and provides both context and background. I am not finished with it yet, but I think it will provide interesting insights and, potentially, lessons for us all. Do you want a little background first? Try this piece. Wondering where he struck a nerve? See the College Board’s responses to key points.

Finally, the Trump Administration has released the long-awaited updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act. You’ll find full details on the most important considerations for your school here. The SAIS staff and I cannot wait to see you at the end of the month at the Annual Conference in Atlanta!

Debra P. Wilson
President, SAIS

Calendar more
Annual Conference
October 21-23 | Virtual
Various dates & topics
Virtual Roundtables
Held monthly by role
More Events

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