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2020 SAIS Annual Conference Schedule


Wednesday, October 21

1:30 pm - 1:45 pm

Welcome & Kick-Off

Debra Wilson, President, SAIS

Join SAIS President Debra Wilson for the official conference kick-off as well as some updates on the state of the independent school industry. Get the scoop on how to maximize your conference experience, how cohorts work, and tips for virtual engagement. We can’t wait to see your smiling faces!

1:45 pm - 2:45 pm

KEYNOTE: Change With Intentionality and Commitment

Reuben Brigety, Vice-Chancellor and President, The University of the South

sponsored by ATOMS Placement Services

Reuben Brigety has held many positions within the military, with human rights groups, within academia, and as an ambassador. In the spring of 2020 he was confirmed as the vice chancellor of the University of the South. The first African American leader of the university that was founded in the late 1850s and officially opened after the Civil War, Dr. Brigety has set his sights on helping the school understand and define its place as a college in the New South, while preserving the many special elements and tradition that have defined the school for over 150 years. This talk will address the challenges facing such institutions, as well as the many attributes that set them apart, and how leaders might manage change, particularly in such challenging times.

2:45 pm - 3:00 pm


3:00 pm - 3:30 pm


Conference attendees will be placed in a cohort of colleagues. Your cohort members will be those who share the same role or work at a similar type of school. Cohorts will meet after each keynote presentation to share take-aways, ask questions of their collective expertise, and discuss implications for the future. As you gather with your cohort, we hope you will develop a sense of belonging, a shared purpose, and a network that will support you going forward. 

3:30 pm - 3:45 pm


3:45 pm - 4:45 pm

KEYNOTE: I'm a Good Person! Isn't That Enough?

Debby Irving, Racial Justice Educator and Writer

sponsored by FACTS

Using historical and media images, Debby examines how she used her white-skewed belief system to interpret the world around her. Socialized on a narrow worldview, Debby explores how she spent decades silently reaffirming harmful, archaic racial patterns instead of questioning the racial disparities and tensions she could see and feel. This workshop is designed to support white people in making the paradigm shift from ‘fixing’ and ‘helping’ those believed to be inferior, to focusing on internalized white superiority and its role in perpetuating racism at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels. This presentation includes pauses for reflection, dialog, and Q&A.

4:45 pm - 5:00 pm


5:00 pm - 5:30 pm


5:30 pm - 6:00 pm


6:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Virtual Happy Hour


Thursday, October 22

9:00 am - 10:15 am

WELCOME & KEYNOTE: Evolution and Revolution

Heather Hoerle, Executive Director, The Enrollment Management Association

John Katzman, Founder and CEO, Noodle Partners

sponsored by SchoolAdmin

As independent school leaders align their pandemic response to the economic and demographic challenges ahead, a variety of approaches suggest themselves. John Katzman made his mark on the education world early by founding the Princeton Review, and has since created a few successful ed tech companies including two that help colleges and universities bring their programs online. Heather Hoerle runs the Enrollment Management Association, a non-profit helping independent schools understand the challenges of their markets and find enrollment success. SAIS President Debra Wilson will facilitate a dialogue around what is ahead for independent schools, how the principles of change management play out in education, and how your school can come out of this crisis in high gear.

10:15 am - 10:30 am


10:30 am - 11:00 am


11:00 am - 11:15 am


11:15 am - 12:15 pm

KEYNOTE: Will It Still Matter Who Gets In and Why?

Michael Horn, Author, Strategist, Futurist

Jeff Selingo, Author, Editor, Scholar

The cohosts of the Future U podcast—Jeff Selingo, bestselling author of the new book Who Gets In and Why, and Michael B. Horn, award-winning author of the book Choosing College— have both spent considerable time delving into all aspects of higher education and how that sector of the education ecosystem might evolve to stabilize its business model and meet current needs. During this crisis, they have spent many hours talking with those in higher education and also analyzing the disrupters to higher education and K-12 schools. In this ‘fireside chat’ session, they will both be in the hot seat to offer their advice and takes on the future of higher education, what it means for K–12 educators and parents, and more.

12:15 pm - 12:30 pm


12:30 pm - 1:00 pm


1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

{Lunch Break}

2:00 pm - 2:45 pm



- The Ever-Expanding Field of Privacy and Confidentiality in Schools

Suzanne Bogdan, Managing Partner, Fisher Phillips

There are numerous ways in which schools inadvertently violate privacy rights every year. “We need to tell the community about why Bob left mid-year” or “I was just having a friendly conversation with Jake about the results of his MRI.” Schools usually don’t get 20/20 vision about these issues until the claim comes. What about COVID testing and results, privacy and confidentiality? Find out where the pitfalls are so you can educate your community on how to avoid these problems in the future.


- Moving Past Triage: Claiming Your Ground in the Next 2-5 Years

Grant Lichtman, Chief Provocateur, The Future of K-12 Education

We must move beyond “triage” and into planning the mid-to-long term evolution of a pandemic-influenced education system. Over the spring and summer 2020, Grant worked with dozens of independent schools and hundreds of school leaders across the U.S. and Canada, focusing on post-triage strategies. He will share the big lessons and takeaways of these collaborations as schools manage both unprecedented challenges and seek to leverage enormous opportunities over the next 2-5 years.


- Community Partnerships for Learning Beyond the School Walls

Laura Day, Executive Director, Institute for Social Impact, Hockaday School

Jason Kreutner, Head of School, University School of the Lowcountry

Learn about two models of community engagement from the Institute for Social Impact at The Hockaday School and University School of the Lowcountry. Learn best practices, tangible ideas, and engage in conversations of how to shift culture at your own school.


Lessons in Leadership: Maintaining a Healthy School Culture in a Divisive Political Climate

Jen Landis, Associate Head of School, Oak Knoll School

Lisa Vardi, Director of Teaching and Learning, Bullis School

Since the 2016 election, American institutions, including schools, have experienced disruption and increased political divisiveness. How has this been manifested on independent school campuses? How have heads of schools and their administrative teams maintained a healthy school culture amidst this divisive political climate? The presenters will share research findings and discuss strategies and best practices school leaders might follow during challenging times. The session will include time for participants to engage in an open discussion on how their school communities plan to maintain a healthy school culture during this election season.

- Taking a Systems-Based Approach to Creating a Climate of Inclusion and Belonging

Nishant Mehta, Partner and Independent Schools Practice Leader, Storbeck Search & Associates

Independent schools are, by design, exclusive institutions. Even with missions that speak of diversity, equity, or inclusion, our schools require financial resources, community and family engagement, volunteer hours and service, transportation to and from school, and other investments of time, money, and more to fully embrace and be embraced by our families and colleagues. This spring and summer have brought forth a moral and cultural reckoning to our doorsteps and inside our halls and on our fields, classrooms, and campuses, challenging us to confront past inequities and failings in creating a more inclusive environment for every one of our students, alumni, families, faculty and staff. Long overdue, this conversation and the structures we must put in place to do better require a systems-based approach to creating inclusive communities where everyone can show up as their authentic self. This workshop will provide heads and other leaders with a process-driven framework to build momentum that every school can create and sustain regardless of type, endowment, budget, or personnel.

- Steps Towards an Equity-Centered Beginning: Becoming a School That LEARNS

Nicole Brittingham Furlonge, Director and Professor, Klingenstein Center, Columbia University; Co-Founder, LEARNS Collaborative

Beginnings are important. As Ralph Ellison wrote in his 1952 novel, Invisible Man, "The end is in the beginning, and lies far ahead." If your school is entering the planning and organization phase of their diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice work, you may be wondering how to move forward intentionally and effectively. What steps can you take towards a strong beginning? This workshop will introduce participants to LEARNS, a framework for transformation in schools. We will engage practical questions and steps to consider as your community moves forward in this challenging, necessary, hopeful work.

2:45 pm - 3:00 pm


3:00 pm - 3:45 pm



- Two-Five-Ten: A Framework for Change Management

Ross Peters, Vice President of School Strategy, EXPLO Elevate

In these difficult days, schools have often confused an earnest approach to change with a disciplined one. An earnest approach is one in which we express our earnest desire to reach for a new and improved program or vision without providing any understandable system for getting there. In so doing leaders can try to insert belief in the correctness of a direction where the labor of change management should be. Using Two-Five-Ten offers school leaders a far greater likelihood of building the consensus that empowers successful change. Given the pace of change requisite in these uncertain days, this approach provides schools with the ability to build the muscles they will need to glue a school community together, while moving it forward as well.


- The Head of School and Chief Diversity Officer Partnership: More Relevant Than Ever

Karen Bradberry, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, The Galloway School

James Calleroz White, Head of School, The Galloway School

Many schools are in the planning and organization phase of their DEI work and need practical advice on how to move forward. This session is designed to lay out the why and the how of this work. We will focus on the partnership between the head of school and chief diversity officer and the subsequent work that boards have to do to maintain and sustain this work; work that is needed in our schools now more than ever.


- Pandemic Impact: Supporting Student Well-Being

Nina Kumar, Co-Founder and CEO, Authentic Connections

Suniya Luthar, Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer, Authentic Connections

The COVID pandemic has had profound and far-reaching impacts on students’ lives, and it is doubtful that life will ever return to the “normal” they knew before the pandemic. Many schools have implemented innovative and effective initiatives, during both distance and in-person learning, to support their students’ well-being. In this workshop, Dr. Suniya Luthar and Nina Kumar will facilitate an open discussion with participants on programs that have been effective at their own schools and share best-practices gathered from schools that proved to be most resilient during the Spring 2020 school closures. After this workshop, attendees will have concrete examples of trends in student well-being to watch at their own school and ways that other, resilient schools have combatted or capitalized on these trends.


- Unburdening the Interactive Process: Reasonable Accommodations and Leave During COVID-19 and Beyond

Janice Gregerson, Associate, Venable

Grace Lee, Partner, Venable

The ADAAA and the interactive process took center stage for many schools as they planned to resume in-person learning in the fall of 2020. Schools were faced with a record number of requests for accommodation, some of which triggered affirmative legal obligations to engage in the interactive process and some of which did not. In addition, many decisions made about accommodations for the fall of 2020 were intended to be temporary, or flexible and revisited on an as-needed basis. Compounding the confusion, a patchwork of federal, state and local leave laws created additional uncertainty. This session will focus on lessons learned and practical guidance schools can use to navigate the interactive process and leave laws in a manner that protects the school from liability, maintains flexibility and balances the employee needs against operational needs.


- Strengthening Governance During the Time of COVID

David Michelman, Life Investigator, Michelman Consulting

COVID compelled schools to make many important and fiscally impactful decisions quickly. Given those circumstances some boards began to get overly engaged in the day-to-day functioning of school while other boards abrogated their responsibilities almost entirely. In this interactive session, we will explore the various governance approaches arising out of COVID and how to create the right partnership for your school moving forward.


Friday, October 23

9:00 am - 10:15 am

WELCOME & KEYNOTE: Creating Communities That Value and Nurture Well-Being

Nina Kumar, Co-Founder and CEO, Authentic Connections

Suniya Luthar, Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer, Authentic Connections

sponsored by Veracross

Children’s well-being rests in large part on the grownups who care for them. Indeed, the physical and psychological health of the adults who teach our children and lead our school communities is an area that deserves focused attention as we start the 2020-21 school year. What are these adults’ specific concerns in this time of pandemic, social upheaval, change, and uncertainty? And what can school leaders do to create communities that value and nurture their well-being?

10:15 am - 10:30 am


10:30 am - 11:00 am


11:00 am - 11:15 am


11:15 am - 12:15 pm

KEYNOTE: Hope Through History

Jon Meacham, Historian and Author

sponsored by ISM

As difficult as the present is, the American past is the story of challenges overcome, crises resolved, and progress made. In this nonpartisan speech, Jon Meacham walks audiences through moments that have seemed intractable – which can include the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, the battle against polio, FDR’s reaction to the first days of the Depression, Winston Churchill’s decision to fight on against Hitler, and the Cuban Missile Crisis – to offer lessons for leaders in how to endure and prevail when everything appears hopeless.

12:15 pm - 12:30 pm


12:30 pm - 1:00 pm



1:00 pm - 1:15 pm


2020 SAIS Annual Conference Sponsors:

Gold Sponsors



Silver Sponsors





Bronze Sponsors

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Annual Conference
October 21-23 | Virtual
Various dates & topics
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Held monthly by role
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