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From SAIS President Debra Wilson - November 2019

Wednesday, November 6, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lori Spear
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Hello friends!

Let me start by saying what a joy it was to see so many of you in Atlanta for the SAIS Annual Conference. It was our largest ever, both in terms of attendees and the number of sessions offered. I am so proud of the SAIS team and the way they come together for these events to provide an exceptional experience, but I am also in awe of our community. The many first-time attendees not only appreciated the education being offered but more importantly the warm welcome extended by returning attendees. During these uncertain times, finding support and acceptance among friends – new and old – is a delight. November reminds us to be thankful for the many gifts we have been given, and I hope the conference gave you the opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we are to have purposeful and often joyful work. I hope that it was as refueling for you as it was for the SAIS team.

I had the great pleasure of delivering the President’s Address at the conference. By way of summary, here are some items to look out for:

  • SAIS has entered into a two-year partnership with Suniya Luthar and Authentic Connections to begin to develop an understanding of the wellness trends among students in our SAIS schools. SAIS schools that wish to participate may use the Student Wellbeing Index once in the next two years for free. You will be provided an overview of your results (in the very cool Tableaux database), and gain insight into how to move your work in this area forward. Schools with enrollments of fewer than 400 students may offer the survey again at half the regular cost during that two-year period. Authentic Connections will provide two online trend reports to our membership during this window, noting the regional and national trends. Importantly, they will also be working with the SAIS board and staff to understand these trends and help us identify ways we can collectively make progress on this crucial issue. You can learn more information here or here. Dr. Luthar will be participating in an online conversation on December 10 at 4:00 PM Eastern with two of our schools who are doing great work in this area. Register for that event here.
  • Also, along the survey lines, we are going to start beta testing two snapshot surveys, both looking at engagement and motivation. One is for students and the other is for teachers. If your school is interested in participating in the beta test of these surveys, email Director of Professional Development, Sheri Burkeen. We anticipate doing this beta testing in late winter or early spring.
  • We will also offer a new Net Promoter Score survey beginning December 1. Schools may wish to use this survey in the windows between using the longer Value Narrative Survey. The Net Promoter Score survey is designed to give schools a quick look at the willingness of stakeholders to recommend a school to others. This score is used as a proxy for gauging the stakeholder's overall satisfaction and loyalty to the school.
  • We are also looking at some regional trends. Next week, business officers will receive a benefits survey. This survey will give us a good window in the various packages being offered by schools across the region. Later this winter, we also plan on doing a governance and leadership survey to see if we can better understand the causes behind the leadership churn that we have been seeing. We will be doing a deep dive into crisis in leadership, including how to insulate a school against it, at the SAIS Leadership Retreat in April in Chattanooga.

There are plenty of other resources and learning opportunities coming your way over the next few months. Keep your eyes open for easy to attend sessions like the Online Conversation that I am doing with Terry Briggs today at 4:00 PM Eastern on heads contracts and compensation (you can still register here). We will provide recordings of these sessions for members, although it is always great to participate live.

Legal Updates

Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. This is an Establishment Clause case that is focusing the Supreme Court on a common state tax program that can often support private schools. The Montana legislature created a tax credit scholarship program in 2015. The program provides a tax credit to individuals and businesses who donate to private, nonprofit scholarship organizations. After the program was created, the Montana Department of Revenue put regulations in place limiting the use of those funds in religious schools. This regulation was created because of Montana’s own constitutional limitation on use of “direct or indirect” public funds for religiously affiliated programs (a slightly more in-depth overview may be found here). This kind of constitutional limitation is often called a Blaine Amendment. The case has not yet been set for argument. Click here to see the various filings and to track this case through the Supreme Court blog website. This case is important because it can change the way various state Blaine Amendments are interpreted. To see a map of which states have Blaine Amendments, see this resource.

Bostock v. Clayton County, GA. This case was most likely accepted by the Supreme Court to settle the split in the circuits and within the federal government itself on an increasingly more pressing issue of employment law. This case is the combination of several cases, but all of them come down to whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination under the definition of “sex.” The hearing on October 8 was extremely contentious and illustrated the current tensions within the Court. You can follow the action on this case through the Supreme Court blog website as well. This case is important because it could ultimately settle federal law in this area - among the courts but also within branches of the federal government that can also bring suits against employers, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Right now, the various federal circuits are split, causing confusion in the field.

The Supreme Court will issue opinions in both cases before the end of June.

Please do enjoy the month of Thanksgiving. We at SAIS are thankful for your participation, good humor, and community. We look forward to the next time we are together again, perhaps at the 2020 Winter Conference, January 26-28, in Atlanta.

Sincerely,

Debra



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Independent School Counselors Conference
June 10-11 | Atlanta, GA

Institute for New Heads
June 12-14 | Atlanta, GA

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