2019 Conference Workshops 


Beyond Wine and Gossip: Parent Volunteerism as a Key to Advancement and Retention

Jill Goodman, Jill Goodman Consulting, MD

Engaged and active parent volunteers benefit every aspect of a small independent school. They provide leadership, organization, and man/woman power for fundraising events, enrollment ambassador programs, and community building initiatives. Volunteers tend to make monetary donations to the school at a higher rate than their less engaged counterparts and are less likely to consider attrition when minor difficulties arise. So, why do faculty and administration (and some parents) cringe when the topic of the Parents Association comes up? In this workshop we will identify the disconnect between what motivates parents and what motivates the school staff in regard to parent involvement. We will explore the myths and realities of recruiting, managing, and stewarding effective parent volunteers and strategies for the staff members who rely on them. Through hands-on activities and sharing, participants will learn how to evaluate each program that involves parent volunteers for mission and brand alignment. Schools can conquer the divide through key tenets of respect driven management.

Reducing Bias in Admissions

Tanya Espy-Disparti, The Calhoun School, New York, NY

We all have bias. Identifying our own bias is the first step to reducing it.

This workshop is designed to allow administrators the opportunity to review their admissions process, step by step, and identify where it is welcoming to all and where it is not. We will do this by reviewing relevant terms, some examples of how bias shows up in our world, and strategies for reducing bias.

Culture Building in a Small School Environment

Kevin Gailey, Midwest Academy, Carmel, IN

We will discuss the process by which culture is built, culture development in general, and how change processes can be implemented. We will use the journey of Midwest Academy as an example of what is possible. By sharing the multi-year process of growth and several of the documents/models developed, participants should be able to begin to develop their own path to culture development, change, or maintenance.

We will talk about the good as well as that which needs to be altered or, given the opportunity, to grow further. Every school has aspects of its culture that should be treasured and held onto. Attending to these areas as well as those in need of improvement is vital to the process.

Come join the conversation.


New Research on Leadership and Governance in Small Schools: Findings and Recommendations

Brooke Carroll, Acies Strategies, MD

Valaida Wise, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

As educators working in small schools, we know that our communities and organizations are inherently different from our larger counterparts. Our small schools have distinct strengths and unique challenges that influence how we govern, lead, and manage, as well as how we teach. However, there is a dearth of research in the literature that focuses on the factors that impact leaders and Boards of small schools. This lack of research on small schools affects our collective ability to make distinctions when providing guidance in areas of “best practice” for leadership and governance. As two former Heads of small schools, we are on a mission to change that.

Join us as we discuss the findings from our initial qualitative study where we interviewed Heads of small schools around the country regarding leadership and governance. We present themes and recommendations for ways to think about and address the unique factors that small school leaders and Boards face. In addition, we will also engage the audience in a conversation about their perceptions of leadership and governance in small schools as we continue to build a body of knowledge to guide future research and recommendations for best practices.

Solicitation Savvy = Fearless Fundraising

Starr Snead, Advancement Connections, SC

Ask for what you need in a way that’s more likely to get it!  In this session we’ll figure out how to overcome the obstacles to effective gift solicitation.  It doesn’t take a lot to learn how to approach “the ask” with confidence, realistic expectations, and thorough preparation.  The coy, modest approach won’t work, so save that for your next dinner date – and don’t let your volunteers use it, either! Tips, techniques and case studies from this workshop will better inform your solicitation strategies, help you deal with donor reluctance, and strengthen your volunteer recruitment and training.  A packet of materials is included for each participant.


Using Data to Power Your Messaging Strategy

Dana Nelson-Isaacs, DNI Consulting, CA

Understanding your audience - who you are talking to - is key to effective marketing. Without good data, schools are often left using ineffective anecdotal evidence to build marketing plans. Using simple, solid research, you can pull together customer personas in order to create specific messaging platforms to reach your ideal audiences. Understanding how to use these pieces of data in combination with each other can be extremely effective guides for marketing strategy and planning, and small school see big impact when getting more nuanced with targeting messages. In this session, we'll discuss several research elements and how to use them to create your own customer personas. Attendees will receive practical tips that can be implemented immediately, along with longer term suggestions.

How to Manage 24/7 Social Media and "Off the Clock" Conduct

Susan Guerette, Fisher & Phillips LLP, Philadelphia, PA

Today’s school employees and students have access to an unprecedented level of technology, which impacts both operations and academics. As more students, parents, teachers and administrators tap into social networking sites and use email, texting, and the Internet for social communications, educational resources, admissions marketing and other purposes, the lines between what is personal and what can be regulated are becoming more and more blurred. Further, increasingly, social media use outside of the school campus is having a direct and significant impact on what happens in the classroom.

This workshop will analyze how social media can impact a school’s operations with respect to employees, from issues to be aware of when hiring, to what social media can be considered when disciplining faculty. We will discuss how schools should address teachers “friending” students and allowing students and parents to have unfettered access to the teacher’s private life on a social networking site. We will also review when a school can take action with regard to an employee’s posts on their own personal social media.

We will also review the challenges facing schools due to students’ increased use of social media and when, how, and to what extent a school should regulate and discipline students for their electronic behavior both during and after school hours. We will discuss when a school should get involved in off campus activity by students and review hypothetical situations to understand the school’s role is in cyberbullying and sexting situations.

Wednesday Morning Workshop

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Educators

Dave Mullen, The Nora School, Silver Spring, MD

The purpose of taking up a mindfulness practice is to develop skills in responding to, rather than reacting to, difficult situations, to improve concentration and focus, and to better cope with the stresses of professional life. By cultivating a mindful approach to work and life activities we are better able to be present for those in our classrooms, families, and places of work.

In a Mindfulness Course, participants will:

  • Identify and release stress triggers;

  • Develop tools and techniques for improving focus and responding to stress;

  • Build relaxation skills into everyday routines;

  • Observe and redirect thoughts and feelings as they arise;

  • Acknowledge mental clutter and refocus attention on tasks at hand.

  • Heighten awareness of bias, unhelpful patterns of thinking, and unconscious mental short-cuts that limit professional and personal effectiveness;

  • Understand the ways in which scientific research and literature validates the results of MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) and MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) and how a mindfulness practice confers these benefits.


Advisory - Where Each Student is Known, Loved, and Encouraged to Realize Their Potential

Michael Russell, Doane Academy, Burlington, NJ

One of the strongest benefits of a small school is the ability for faculty and staff to build meaningful relationships with students beyond the classroom through advisory programs. However, for many teachers being an advisor can feel like an unguided, extra prep period. Additionally, small schools often struggle to afford advisory programs the time and resources they need to be successful. During this student-facilitated workshop, participants will explore different models for advisory programs at small schools. They will also make use of various activities that help facilitate relationship-building, and finish the workshop by developing their own advisory activities in small groups.

Head of School Evaluation with a Focus on Partnership and Support

Namita Tolia, Montclair Cooperative School, Montclair, NJ

This workshop will describe how our school developed a system for evaluation and support of a new head of school from scratch, and not based on a pre-existing program. We used the NAIS best practices as our guide and as a small school, we chose to have a highly collaborative, supportive process. I’ll share the selection and composition of the Head Support and Evaluation Committee, the annual goal-setting process, calendar of meetings and feedback throughout the year, the NAIS HOS evaluation survey process, and our own committee's evaluation report and recommendations process. I will describe how we maintain a self-reflective and collaborative support process throughout.