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2020 Institute for New Heads
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An informative year-long program featuring 13 sessions to prepare new heads for a successful transition. The ongoing cohort model offers the opportunity to build a supportive network and gain valuable leadership skills. Learn from experienced heads as you acquire the tools needed to be an effective leader including: best practices for working with the board; building relationships in your school community; issues related to budgeting, finance, and fundraising; specific concerns related to running a school in light of a pandemic; maintaining balance in your life; and developing a plan for your first 90 days. Please review the full schedule and session info here.


– Building Bridges and Maintaining Balance
– Guardrails and Guidelines: Advice from Experienced Heads
– Legal Matters and Crisis Planning Now
– Money Matters - Finance and Fundraising
– Trends and Headwinds on the Educational Landscape
– What is the Culture State of Your School? Getting a Temperature Reading
– Where Do You Go From Here? Working With the Board


Chris Angel currently serves as head of school at Hammond School. He has served as head since 2009 and previously held the position of head of upper school from 2002-2009. During his tenure, the school saw unprecedented growth through the expansion of unique academic offerings, experiential education opportunities, national recognition among secondary schools, and an expanded footprint to include state-of-the-art facilities and co-curricular programs. Under his leadership, the athletic department was named a three-time winner of South Carolina’s most prestigious athletic award, the arts developed an international repertoire, and community service offerings were expanded school-wide.


Palmer Ball is the executive director of PAIS. She formed Palmer Ball Consulting, LLC, in 2016, specializing in project work for independent school financial operations. In addition to her consulting work, she was an adjunct faculty member of the independent school finance graduate class at the Klingenstein Institute. Before consulting, Ball served as business manager at Spartanburg Day School for 21 years and was vice president for business and finance at Converse College for four years, following three years in the development office.


DuBose Egleston has been at Porter-Gaud for 19 years and just completed his 10th year as the head of school. He attended O’Quinn and then Porter-Gaud for 12 years, graduating in 1993. DuBose enjoys working around young people and watching them grow up in the years they are at PG. He is proud of PG's excellent faculty and staff and enjoys being a part of a school family that sees so much hope and promise in the next generation.


Jack Hall began serving as Walker’s head of school in June 2011. Since taking the helm, he has led the school through a dual long-range planning and SACS re-accreditation process, overseen the largest land acquisition in the school's 58 year history, and grown Walker's annual fund to record levels in both revenue and parent participation. Over his educational career, he has served as director of admission & financial aid, middle and upper school head, and grade chair.  He has worked in a variety of independent schools including The Westminster Schools, The Lovett School and Mary Institute, and St. Louis Country Day School. In addition, Hall has served as both vice president and president of GISA.


Brett Jacobsen is completing his eleventh year at The Mount Vernon School (PS-12). Leading Mount Vernon through a transformational decade of innovation and impact, the School has grown by 45%, exceeding 1,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year. Brett shares his story of innovation through presenting nationally, hosting a leadership podcast, Counter Service, and leading Mount Vernon's consulting agency, MV Ventures.


Doreen Kelly has been head of Ravenscroft School since July 2003. She joined the Ravenscroft faculty in July 1999 as the director of the lower school. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in education. She also studied for two years at Villanova University. Prior to joining Ravenscroft, she served as upper school director of studies, head of middle school, English teacher, and volleyball coach over a 10-year career at Trinity-Pawling School, an all-boys boarding/day school in Pawling, New York. Prior to her responsibilities at Trinity-Pawling School, she taught English as a second language for two years at D'Education Populaire, France.


Leonard Kupersmith is the head of school of Christ Church Episcopal School. He has a B.A. in English from Brooklyn College, a doctorate in English from Kansas State University, and over 46 years of experience in the field of education as a teacher and an administrator. He has served independent schools since 1974. Prior to joining CCES in 2006 as associate head of school, Kupersmith served as headmaster of Wichita Collegiate School from 1986-1991 and founding headmaster of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, where he served for 13 years.


Nishant Mehta has been the head of school of The Children's School since May 2013. He is nationally recognized for his vision of improving school access and breaking down silos. He contributes to the discourse on leadership, equity, and justice and sits on the boards of the NAIS, NBOA, ESHA, and the Asheville School.


Kavita Vasil joined Highlands School as head of school in July 2014. Prior to Highlands, she served as school director for Temple Beth Sholom Schools in Sarasota, Florida since 1994. She holds an undergraduate degree in developmental psychology from the University of Florida and a graduate degree in child development/education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In addition, she served as an assistant professor of education at the University of Maine where she focused on early and elementary education.


Jackie Westerfield is the head of school at Grandview Preparatory School in Boca Raton, Florida. She is a graduate of Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, Illinois and received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa. Westerfield practiced law and taught college courses in Iowa and Illinois before moving to Florida to work with Grandview Preparatory School. She completed the Klingenstein Head of School Program at Columbia University Teachers College in 2017. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Southern Association of Independent Schools, having also served on the boards of the Florida Council of Independent Schools and the Florida Kindergarten Council.


Debra Wilson joined the SAIS staff in July 2019. Debra received her B.A. in English from Sewanee, The University of the South, and her J.D. from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. She previously served as general counsel for NAIS for 19 years. In addition to her role as chief legal officer, she has presented to school leaders around the country and abroad, including at many SAIS events. SAIS school leaders may also know her from phone calls and emails she’s fielded from member schools facing particular legal or governance issues. Before joining the NAIS staff, Debra was a tax litigator at the Department of Justice. She is an avid reader, photographer, and cook, and loves to be outdoors in the low country of South Carolina.


The cohort will meet via Zoom as follows:

10 AM and 1 PM Eastern:
June 16-17
July 15-16

4 PM Eastern:
Sept 15
Nov 17
Jan 12
March 16
May 11


SAIS Member School: $695

Non-Member School: $899


  • Connecting with the presenters and other participants has laid a solid foundation as I move into this new position. The topics discussed have accelerated my learning and preparation. The wheels are turning!
  • I've been to a lot of conferences in my career, and this is the best I’ve ever attended. There are other courses for new heads available, but the SAIS Institute for New Heads is by far the best value for the money.
  • As a young head of school, I found the INH to be exactly what I needed to deepen my understanding of the position.
  • I gained an incredible amount of knowledge and wisdom! I put it right to work in dealing with a delicate issue at my summer camp.
  • A good chance to reflect on a vision for your first year(s) -- perhaps one of your last times to reflect with leisure and to plan for the big picture.
  • I appreciated the chance to build friendships and professional relationships with fellow new heads that will be a valuable resource in the days, weeks and years ahead. I visit by email or in person with several of my classmates regularly.
  • The SAIS Institute for New Heads was a rich experience to learn from some of the most experienced independent school leaders in the country, to collaborate with other new heads in the same position, and to go away with a notebook of synthesized materials covering every school topic a new head confronts. More than a traditional conference, the collegiality and mentorship from the INH will last a lifetime. If there is any conference a new head should attend his or her first year, this is the one.
  • It validated much of what I hope to accomplish as a new head as well as sparked new ideas.
  • I benefited so very much from the kindness, support, and brilliance of the facilitators. It was an opportunity that I am glad I did not miss in my first year as a head of school.
  • The opportunity to develop relationships at the INH was most encouraging. Networking with experienced heads and having the opportunity to learn from them was also a high point for me personally.
  • The institute was extremely worthwhile. It gave me the time to figure out what goals I have as a head of school and what drives me. It also reminded me that I am to be the leader for which I was chosen ... not to try and copy my predecessor.
  • The most valuable thing I will take away from the conference was being able to observe the attitude and perspective of great leaders.
  • I feel like SAIS and a cohort of heads will help me become more successful as a new head.
  • Networking with other heads was the most important part of the institute for me. Hearing the small pieces from the heads helped me realize that being a head is not all about budgets, technology, and curriculum. Being a head is about relationships with parents, community, and students. I was afraid that becoming a head would remove me from the students, but Scott Wilson proved to me that you can still be involved by opening car doors during carpool and engaging in school spirit as well.



If you have any questions, please contact


Cancellation Policy: Cancellations received before June 6 via will be refunded less a 10% processing fee. After that date refunds are no longer available.

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 currently employed by K-12 independent schools. Topics are presented from an independent school perspective and discussed based on that unique culture. As such, registration is limited to faculty/staff from SAIS member schools or from non-member schools meeting the SAIS candidacy criteria. Please contact if you have questions about eligibility.

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