2018 Conference Sessions


Session 1


Strategic Planning Through Community Involvement

Kevin Gailey, Midwest Academy, Carmel, IN

Small schools have a family feel and inclusion that in many areas makes sense. However, budgets are small and ideas can become big and expensive very quickly. For this reason small schools can appear to invert themselves philosophically when topics related to planning and budgets are concerned. Come see how an inclusive approach to planning allows everyone to be heard while the budget is maintained.

This workshop will outline a method of strategic planning that is both icon driven and inclusive of numerous constituents, but is still directed by key stakeholders, such as board members and the Head of School. This method allows for many groups to be heard an for new and unexpected ideas to be brought forth while the expected and appropriate parties maintain and drive the direction of the school.


Gender Identity Inclusive Athletic Programs

Jen Cort, Jen Cort Educational Consulting

As we expand our understanding of gender, gender identity, and transitioning between genders, our schools must provide support and opportunities for all students. Athletic programs are often asked to make the most changes including facilities, uniforms, leagues, and educating coaches. This workshop examines the questions for schools to consider in developing their programs, including:

  • Answer ‘Why focus on gender identity now?’
  • Define terminology
  • Examine your school’s values
  • Consider legal considerations
  • Define your reputation
  • Responding to myths and stereotypes
  • Answer ‘Now what?’
  • Know your risks
  • Use your opportunities
  • Use your resources
  • Remember the guidelines of coaches
  • Consider ‘What is my school’s commitment?’

Session 2


The Board-Head Partnership: Articulating Roles and Responsibilities in a Small School

Brooke Carroll, Acies Strategies

Liz Dover Baker, The GreenMount School, Baltimore, MD

Running a small school is challenging, rewarding, exhausting, and complex. One aspect that is often particularly tricky for Heads of Schools is understanding and managing the roles and responsibilities within the Board-Head relationship. A question we hear frequently is “Who is in charge here?” The Board is the Head’s “boss,” but often the Board relies heavily on the Head for direction. Well-meaning Trustees sometimes don’t have the experience to know how to govern. How do Heads navigate roles, responsibilities, and expectations with their Boards?

Join Liz Baker, current Head of The GreenMount School, and Brooke Carroll, former Head of a small school and current consultant, for a round-table discussion to share insights on the issues related to Board-Head roles and relationships as they play out in small schools, and develop strategies for developing clear, effective, and positive expectations and boundaries. Our goal is to leave this session with concrete examples of ways Heads of Schools can communicate with their Boards in order to ensure a positive, productive relationship.


Embracing Difficult Conversations in the Classroom

Rebekah Jordan, Indian Mountain School, Lakeville, CT

The world outside of our schools is a complex one, and one that is increasingly making its way through the walls of our institutions and into our classroom conversations. There is a tension between our responsibility to grow students of character who will think critically about the world and the natural feeling that sometimes we are unprepared to have these difficult conversations, particularly when the issues are emotionally or politically charged.

In small schools, where every teacher and every classroom conversation is highly visible, having these conversations responsibly becomes even more important. In this workshop, participants will:
• identify concerns around having (or supporting) challenging conversations in small schools;
• explore different ways of approaching these conversations in the classroom that allow for multiple perspectives and root the work in the curriculum;
• discuss ways that teachers and administrators can support each other in this work;
• identify opportunities to establish parents as allies and valuable members of the conversation; and
• locate boundaries, both personal and institutional, that can provide structure, support, and strong footing.

The end goal of this workshop is to help teachers and administrators have the tools to invite the conflict of the world around us into our classrooms so we can empower our students to find and use their voices for positive change. This workshop is also appropriate for development, admissions, and communications team members who are faced with questions from constituents about how our schools are addressing these complicated topics.


Building a Gifted and Talented Program With Little Money and Few Students

Kristin Zappie, Brocton Elementary School, Brocton, NY

Three years ago, I began a crusade to bring a STEAM enrichment program to our very small district in upstate New York. Without federal or state funding, this was nearly impossible, but it is now blossoming. This is something that every school should and could have. Our elementary school has fewer than 400 students in grades Pre-K through 5, and is in an extremely high poverty area. Despite this, we are creating opportunities for our students and your small school could too!

Session 3


Identity Awareness for Advocacy in Action

Jason Heisserer, Crossroads College Preparatory School, St. Louis, MO

An essential component to Advocacy in Action is self-awareness, particularly as it relates to privileged status, identity, or resources. In order to work in effective partnerships, particularly when it comes to those with an action orientation, self-examination and the capacity to give up or take up space, influence, or power, is essential. Participants in this workshop will have an opportunity to name how their identity diminishes or stymies their work when it comes to the conference theme, Small Communities, Big Impact, name how to interrupt this in themselves and others, and rehearse with each other moments when they must put this into practice. Small schools must also commit to justice and equity work and often are better able to develop deeper action and sustainability around it due to their small size.


7 Deadly Words: Does Your Website Say What You Think it Does?

Jill Goodman, Jill Goodman Consulting, Baltimore, MD

Liz Dover Baker, The GreenMount School, Baltimore, MD

Ashely Inman Krug, The GreenMount School, Baltimore, MD

If your school is more than 10 years old, there are words and phrases that have become part of your school’s lexicon that may no longer mean what you think they do. As the needs of students and families change, so have the words and phrases that indicate types of pedagogy, philosophy, academic support, and programming.

In this workshop participants will learn at least 7 Deadly Words that could be barriers to attracting best fit families to your school. For the past 5 years, The GreenMount School processed about 70 applications for 12-20 spots. The volume of candidates was overwhelming for the admissions staff of one, but the truly difficult part was managing the disappointment of so many applicant families for whom GreenMount was not a good fit. Using The GreenMount School in Baltimore as an example, participants will learn how to identify deadly words, evaluate website copy, and steps to take to create new copy.

With more and more families stealthily deciding about a school before even meeting with admissions staff, it is vital that the website communicate clearly and truthfully the school’s mission, philosophy, and brand messages.


Evergreen Enrollment Contracts

Carl Parke, The Gooden School, Sierra Madre, CA

Has your school ever considered evergreen/continuous enrollment contracts? Your phone company, cable company, gym, bank, and magazines have. In today’s economic environment, many independent schools face unprecedented enrollment challenges. Is your school helping families make the decision to re-enroll as easy as possible? Does your school spend precious time and energy “chasing” families who you know will eventually re-enroll? Do your families complain about the hassle of re-completing the same forms and entering the same information at re-enrollment time year after year? Evergreen enrollment contracts help address just such questions, and are thus a growing trend in independent schools. This workshop will explore the potential benefits of such an approach for your school, along with implementation issues and legal concerns, a sample timeline, and first-hand accounts from schools that have embarked on this path.

Session 4


Strategies for Developing Content for your School’s Marketing Programs

Lisa Howell, Delaware Valley Friends School, Paoli, PA

Kelly Adams Keller, Delaware Valley Friends School, Paoli, PA

There are a number of wonderful tools that school marketers can use to develop content-rich marketing communications - from CRM systems to online publishing tools to integrated social media managers. But how do you keep feeding whatever "beast" you've created with fresh, timely content about what's happening in your school? This becomes even more challenging when you are a multi-tasking department of one responsible for admissions, marketing, and even sometimes development.

Lisa Howell and Kelly Keller from Delaware Valley Friends School will share several different strategies for creating and capturing content for a variety of marketing communications that they have worked to develop and implement.


Initiating Institutional Change Through SCDL and DEI Work

Katie Culver, Temple University & Student-Centered Deeper Learning Collaborative, Philadelphia, PA

Carissa Casey, Malvern Prep, Malvern, PA

What would a truly inclusive community look like? We often get “stuck” measuring success through means that fuel and perpetuate systems of dominance. Sometimes the culture of our schools celebrates visible successes but fails to recognize and support the invisible needs or struggles of our community members. While many small schools initiate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programming, often the approach is more “add on” than truly authentic work. Student-centered deeper learning (SCDL) is an approach that challenges the current paradigm of education, cultivating an environment where true DEI work can thrive. The innovative approach encourages critical thinking, collaboration and communication, which without, DEI work would be inauthentic.

SCDL is a pedagogy that by nature, incorporates and requires the teacher AND student to both co-learn multiple perspectives and stories as part of the curriculum. It is also a pedagogy that requires educators to highlight the unique strengths of each student instead of using the traditional 'one size fits all' model, a much easier feat in small schools where students are better known. The SCDL approach to teaching and learning compliments and enhances DEI strategies to better reach and ensure the success of a diverse group of students. Through this session, educators will have the opportunity to think about their own “blindspots” that can lead to learning experiences or policies that are not equitable to all learners. They will also think about how to initiate and engage in conversations that bring institutional change and address the larger system of oppression.

Session 5

Small Schools Collaborating for Big Change: The Greater Philadelphia Diversity Collaborative

Jeri Bond-Whatley, The Miquon School, Conshohocken, PA

Rod Stanton, The School in Rose Valley, Rose Valley, PA

Elementary and middle schools face unique challenges when it comes to creating developmentally appropriate diversity experiences for our students and schools. Research has shown that discussing difference with children as early as two-years-old is healthy, yet too often resources and funds are skewed to older students. The Greater Philadelphia Diversity Collaborative (GPDC) was formed as a forum for teachers of younger students to share resources on social justice and equity in the classroom and school community. GPDC is twelve schools strong, each a small school serving preschool through eighth-grade students. This group demonstrates a wonderful alternative, possible when smaller schools join forces to accomplish goals they cannot alone. This workshop will include an overview of GPDC formation, membership, communication, resource sharing, and successful events. Participants are invited to share questions, challenges, and successes related to discussing diversity topics with younger students at their own schools. We hope that as a result, there will be many more collaborative efforts among small schools!


Empowering Faculty to Support All Students

Claire Price, The Advent School, Boston, MA

Gretchen Vice, The Advent School, Boston, MA

Five years ago, The Advent School initiated an internal structural change from employing reading/math specialists to support specific students to a model in which instructional coaches empower teachers with tools to support all students. As leaders within a small school, we found that by working strategically with our faculty to build their expertise, more students were able to get learning support comprehensively and consistently.

In addition to supporting teacher growth, the Department of Learning Services (as we called ourselves) was formed to support the academic and social emotional development of every child. To this end, we developed protocols and systems in which teachers learned how to talk about students and the interventions that help students learn best. The most significant outcome of this change is securing our identity as a school that knows our students extremely well.

Within this workshop, we will describe the process we used to move to this instructional coaching model. Participants will engage with the protocols we have developed to ensure that all students get targeted, worthwhile instruction as well as have time to think about their own systems in how they service their students.