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2019 Annual Conference
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An informative, innovative, and comprehensive opportunity for independent school leaders to gather and discover proven strategies and emerging trends. Join over 300 colleagues from across the Southeast to delve into hot topics and relevant issues. Attend sessions that fill in gaps in your experience, converse with leaders from schools with a similar size and budget, and learn from top-notch speakers.

Content will be geared toward heads of school, division heads, other administrative and aspiring leaders as well as deans and directors. A variety of sessions will be offered in the areas of:

  • leadership
  • legal issues
  • diversity/equity/inclusion
  • teaching and learning
  • marketing/communications
  • admissions/development

For questions about speakers and sessions, contact For questions about exhibits and sponsorships, contact


Sunday-Tuesday, October 27-29, 2019


Crowne Plaza Ravinia, 4355 Ashford-Dunwoody Rd, Atlanta, GA 30346


Dr. Kathy Pearson is a strategist, systems thinking expert, and authority in decision making. She is president and founder of Enterprise Learning Solutions, a firm focused on executive development and learning across industries. Kathy is an adjunct senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and has served as an adjunct associate professor in the operations and information management department at The Wharton School, both at the University of Pennsylvania.

An award-winning educator, Kathy is heavily involved in executive education at The Wharton School, Duke CE, and the Institute for Management Studies, teaching on a variety of topics such as complex decision making, strategic agility, the enterprise mindset, stakeholder management, operational excellence, and strategic execution. As learning integrator for many programs, she is responsible for the design of the academic curriculum, the integration of the material, and the overall educational quality of the program.

Kathy currently serves on the board of Summer Search Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization that works with disadvantaged youth to prepare them for college and beyond. She received her B.S. in theoretical mathematics from Auburn University, her M.S. in decision sciences from Georgia State University, and her Ph.D. in industrial engineering (concentration in statistics) from Northwestern University.

KEYNOTE - Tuesday, October 29, 9AM: 

Managing Uncertainty: The Need for Strategic Agility
Today’s business environment is no longer described as “ebb and flow” but rather a permanent “whitewater” condition, particularly for independent schools. This increased speed of change has made the traditional strategic planning process inadequate. Schools need a more dynamic planning process. Kathy Pearson will share the business case for strategic agility and provide a pathway to building the capability to be nimble in the strategic planning process.

BREAKOUT - Tuesday, October 29, 10:30AM: 

Tools and Actions to Build Strategic Agility: Practical Application
This session will describe best practices in building adaptability in the strategic planning process, including key leadership behaviors. It will also provide tools to overcome barriers to agility and to build the organizational ability to dynamically respond to rapid changes.


Mike Cobb is an international speaker and consultant in school design, change leadership, pedagogical ponderings, innovative practices, and frugal campus development. Mike has served schools as a teacher, coach, division head, admissions director, and head of school for over 25 years. Mike is a 2009 Vanderbilt University Peabody Fellow, holds an M.Ed. from Cambridge College, and additional degrees from the University of North Texas. With a passion for student engagement and authentic learning, he currently serves as the head of All Saints Episcopal School, a 3K-12 school of 650 in Tyler, TX. The school has received national recognition for innovative learning and leadership with Mike at the helm. All Saints has created renowned, innovative learning spaces and progressive programs that emphasize authentic learning and student agency. The design and implementation of ground-breaking spaces like the Collaboratory, Center for Innovation, Learning Farm, STEM Zone, Outdoor Learning Center, Science Explorium, and more demonstrate the very best of active learning.

KEYNOTE - Sunday, October 27, 5PM:

Intentional Innovation: Time, Space, & Talent
To prepare students for a future that is hard to imagine, we must be ready and able to innovate. Having rapidly - and frugally - transformed spaces across his Tyler, Texas, campus, Mike will share insight into leveraging resources to create authentic learning, increase student agency, and empower innovation at your school. He will help attendees formulate the requisite questions that can lead to transformational change and, ultimately, a more meaningful student experience.

BREAKOUT - Monday, October 28, 9:00AM:

Intentional Innovation: I'm Ready, Now What?
What challenges and obstacles do you face as you seek to innovate at your school? Bring them with you to this problem-solving session that will help you re-imagine programs, spaces, and personnel - whatever your budget or school setting. Mike will share leadership approaches that help alleviate faculty and parent pushback, enabling you to create the momentum needed to move your school in an innovative direction.



Tim Fish is the chief innovation officer at NAIS. He has deep roots in the independent school community and a long history at McDonogh School, MD. Before joining NAIS in 2016, Tim was the school’s associate headmaster. During his time at McDonogh, he also oversaw the K-12 admissions and financial aid process, the academic program, facility development, faculty development, technology, diversity, and strategic planning. In his role at NAIS, Tim is leading the Strategy Lab team in an effort to support strategic progress. The strategy lab team develops deep partnerships with member schools to co-create tools and frameworks that build capacity for the design and implementation of demand-side innovation. Tim also oversees data, application development, and information technology. Tim was also the founding president and CEO of the FolioCollaborative, a nonprofit community of more than 175 schools around the world focused on working together to build a flexible faculty/staff development process that is grounded in strong relationships and meaningful conversations. From 2011 to 2013, Fish managed the growth of the collaborative, seeing it through from its start-up roots through its early years as a growing non-profit. Tim is the co-author of the book Leadership and Technology at Independent Schools. He started his career as a 4th-grade teacher and has served as a founder, board member, and consultant for a variety of education and technology-related schools, organizations, and companies. He is currently serving on the board of Viewpoint School, CA, and is the president of the board for the FolioCollaborative. Tim is also a member of the board at the Enrollment Management Association and One Schoolhouse. Tim has an undergraduate degree from St. Francis University and an M.Ed. from George Mason University.

SESSION Monday, October 28, 2:30PM:

Strategic Momentum - a Key to Sustainability
During the past three years the Strategy Lab team at NAIS has worked with turnaround schools from all over the US and Canada. They’ve discovered that success is often tied to a school’s ability to create and sustain strategic momentum. In this interactive session, Tim Fish will deconstruct the components of momentum and provide participants with tools and frameworks they can use to help get their school “on the move."


Grant Lichtman is an internationally-recognized thought leader on the transformation of K-12 education. He works with school teams to develop a comfort and capacity for change in a rapidly changing world. For almost 15 years, Grant was a trustee and senior administrator at one of the largest independent schools in the United States. Since 2012, Grant has visited more than 125 schools and districts, published three books, written numerous articles, and worked with thousands of school and community stakeholders to develop unique and powerful visions and strategies for transforming education away from the Industrial Age and towards future-focused models of deeper learning.

SESSION - Tuesday, October 29, 10:30AM: 

How Schools Will Win the Education Revolution
Education thought leader Grant Lichtman has become a leader in strategic visioning and design with independent schools in the United States and Canada. In his new book, Thrive: How Schools Will Win the Education Revolution, Grant drills into key elements that will separate successful from struggling schools in a rapidly-evolving, increasingly competitive, and differentiated K-12 marketplace. In this session, Grant will get straight to the heart of the value-innovation-strategy cycle; the big tools that schools are using to successfully plan and accelerate strategic transformation; and new methods for engaging with, and building support from, your school’s community. Grant will share a treasure trove of resources, school examples, and activities that have proven successful in his work with school leadership and board groups over the past five years, and that you can use with your own school stakeholder teams.



Registration is not yet open. If you would like to be notified when registration opens, please email

$425 SAIS member school earlybird rate


Reservations may be made online or by phone at (770) 395-7700.

  • Group rate = $159
  • Cut-off date = Friday, October 4, or when the block is full
  • Complimentary wifi throughout hotel
  • Discounted parking: $7/day for self parking, $14/day for valet
  • Group rate offered three days pre/post based on availability

Please note that SAIS is not using a housing bureau for room reservations. SAIS nor the hotel will call you and ask you to make reservations over the phone. If you receive a phone call saying you need to make reservations, it is a scam. Please make your reservations online or by calling the hotel directly.


  • AIRPORT: Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (airport code = ATL)
  • GROUND TRANSPORTATION: The hotel is 1 mile from the Dunwoody MARTA station on the red line ($2.50 one way). Cabs are also available to/from the airport ($60 one way).


Thank you to the members of the advisory group for the 2019 AC:

  • Susan Carpenter, Director of Marketing and Communications, Charlotte Latin, NC

  • Scott Goode, High School Principal, The Howard School, GA

  • Scotty Jones, Head of Middle School, McCallie, TN

  • Bill McGee, Head of School, Legacy Christian Academy, TX

  • Marcia Prewitt-Spiller, Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Life, Woodward, GA

  • George Scouten, Head of Upper School, Heathwood Hall, SC
  • Quinton Walker, Head of Upper School, University School of Nashville, TN






  • FACEBOOK: Be sure to like the SAIS Facebook page.
  • INSTAGRAM: Follow us on Instagram @SAISnews.
  • TWITTER: Tweet us @SAISnews! The official Twitter hashtag for the conference is #saisAC. Please tag us when tweeting about the conference.
  • YOUTUBE: Check out the SAIS YouTube channel.


Click here for information about previous conferences, including keynote speakers, dates, and locations.


  • The value for the price is beyond excellent. I heard numerous attendees comment on the quality of programs and benefit of attendance while they were still at the conference - very high praise for the sessions and networking opportunities.
  • Always a great opportunity to meet other heads and network with each other. Great conference!
  • This was really a great conference. I found the vendors open and helpful. The speakers were very inspiring while being relevant to all schools. I also met new people and re-connected with others, all invaluable connections.
  • The SAIS conference continues to represent the best value of any state, regional, or national conference of which I am aware.
  • Just astounded at the wonderful sessions and the timeliness of all the information. Great presentations that are valuable to our organizations. Will help us strengthen our schools!
  • Both the sessions and the conversations are wonderful, and vital to improving my ability to further my school's direction.
  • The SAIS conference is consistently the best educational event that I attend.
  • The sessions were all so good, it was hard to decide this year! The conference was extremely valuable and one I will continue to attend!
  • Top notch "right now" trending talks. The presenters were knowledgeable, smart, clear, fun and made a real difference with me.
  • I always love this convention. I learn as much through networking opportunities as from the presenters.
  • I find that SAIS events are always above average and exceedingly well-organized, well-planned, and full of relevant and intriguing content.
  • This is the one conference I insist upon attending every year.
  • Best value for the dollar.  Great job!
  • I learned, once again, that there are both others out there experiencing and striving for the same things I am, and that there are others finding the same frustrations I am. This is good to know.
  • The most important thing about the conference was the opportunity to network with administrators from schools whose demographics were similar to our own. The conference schedule allowed for a great deal of such interactions that were very useful to me.
  • I was able to attend sessions that filled in gaps in my experience as an educator.
  • I was happy to make new connections this year, and I also appreciated the collaborative format in the workshops. Clearly much time was spent working with the presenters in advance. SAIS just keeps getting better and better.
  • Excellent presenters, with pertinent content, strategies, and ideas that can easily be used upon returning to my school.
  • This was my first visit to the conference and I gained so much that I definitely plan on returning next year.
  • With economic issues, I only attend one conference a year and I always select the SAIS Annual Conference.
  • Great content, well executed, up to usual SAIS standards.
  • The conference is excellent and a great value.  It is amazing how SAIS provides all this for the price!


If you require special accommodations or have any questions, please contact


Payment: Payment is required by credit card at the time of registration.

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations received in writing to 21 days prior to the event will be refunded less a 20% processing fee. After that date no refunds are available, but replacement registrants are welcomed.

Consent to Use of Photo / Video / Audio:  Registration, attendance at, or participation in SAIS meetings and other activities constitutes an agreement by the registrant to SAIS’s use and distribution (both now and in the future) of the registrant or attendee’s image or voice in photographs, videos, electronic reproductions, and audio of such events and activities.

Target Audience: SAIS professional development events are designed for those in the K-12 independent school community. Topics such as working with parents and the board are presented and discussed through the lens of the independent school culture. As such, registration is limited to those from independent schools that are either already members of SAIS or from non-member schools that meet the membership candidacy criteria.

2019 SAIS Board/Head Retreat


Designed to strengthen the communication and partnership between the head of school and members of the board, this program offers the opportunity to collaborate on current challenges and identify common goals for the success of the school. Featuring Jack Creeden, Amada Torres, and Debra Wilson.

The 2019 SAIS Board/Head Retreat will take place on Sunday, October 27 at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia, 4355 Ashford-Dunwoody Rd, Atlanta, GA 30346. More information may be found at

2019 BHR FACILITATORS: Jack Creeden, Amada Torres, and Debra Wilson

Jack Creeden

Amada Torres

Debra Wilson

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

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

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