2017 Conference Sessions

Session 1


Don't Send a Vegan to Slice the Sausage: A Guide to Intentional Professional Culture

Erick Johnson, The Howard Gardner School, Alexandria, VA

The faculty and staff of a small school are unusual creatures. We steered our careers to these minute institutions for a reason. Oftentimes, in our zeal for involvement, we allow ourselves and others to take on "just one more thing," until, creaking under the weight of our dissimilar and diverse responsibilities, we stagger to the realm of resentment and ineffectualism. A faculty and staff culture that emphasizes the "get it handled, it's everyone's job" mode, has tremendous advantages. It also creates any number of potential pitfalls. During this three-section workshop, participants will learn some of the theory behind intentional (and unintentional) professional culture, actively reflect on their own school's faculty and staff culture, and take away the background and practical skills to help their school develop an intentional, effective, efficient, and sustainable professional culture.


Pivot-Leadership: The Modern Face of School Leadership    

Brian Bloomfield, The Academy at Charlemont, Charlemont, MA

Next to teachers in classrooms, school leaders have the biggest impact on the success of our students. But leadership models have changed over the past 40 years. Where once austere-looking people cultivated gravitas, we now see a variety of leadership styles.

In this session we will lay out some of the major movements in leadership and then introduce the notion of pivot-leadership. Rather than a new model, pivot-leadership explores the notion that leadership styles, personalities, and models are all valid, but applied differently in context. The job of an effective leader, then, is to master and personalize them all, and deploy them according to context and need.


Using Music in an Interdisciplinary Setting

Bill Carbone & Christine Nick, The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, New York, NY

The TeachRock presentation will center around the interdisciplinary, multi-cultural, and analytical nature of the curriculum and, more specifically, how to use popular music as a gateway to engaging discussions about American history and culture. The session will feature hands-on activities from several lessons, and draw material from the TeachRock core curriculum, as well as special projects such as the PBS Soundbreaking and American Epic series, The Ron Howard Beatles documentary Eight Days A Week, and the Dave Grohl-produced HBO series Sonic Highways.


Session 2


The Rewards and Challenges of Advising an Independent School Online Student Newspaper

David Cutler, Brimmer and May School, Chestnut Hill, MA

Is your school thinking about launching an online student newspaper, but isn't sure exactly how or what's involved? Is your school passionate about promoting student voice, but worries about how sensitive content or poorly written stories may impact the community, including recruitment, retention and matriculation? In this 1-hour presentation, Brimmer and May School Journalism teacher David Cutler will share how he helped students launch The Gator, an award-winning student news site, and what it took to get the ball rolling at a small independent school. Cutler, who has also written about the value of student voice for Edutopia, The Atlantic, and the National Association of Independent Schools, will cover the ins-and-outs of what small schools must consider before launching an online journalism program, as well as who should lead the effort.


Adding OOMPH to Development in Small Schools

Starr Snead, Advancement Connections

Get a grip! The tangled, elusive priorities of fundraising in small schools could discombobulate Indiana Jones – and it’s even tougher for more conventionally gifted humans. So busy changing hats that you nearly lose your head? Realize wistfully in October you forgot the course you set in September? Did midwinter and spring find you just putting one foot in front of the other, eyes to the linoleum? If you long for your program’s True North, some reliable means of quieting the noise of competing projects, voices, objectives and deadlines, this is the session for you. That’s the bag of tricks this workshop offers: approaches to constructing a valid, realistic, sustainable “big picture context” for what you do and where you’re headed; ways to work on balancing ambitious goals with realistic, manageable practices.


The Coaching Teacher

Rachel Baldi & Quinn Simpson, Graydin, London, UK & New York, NY

The role of the teacher is rapidly changing and we are moving into a new stage where the most effective teachers are required to be motivating champions. We need ‘Coaching Teachers’. This workshop will explore what it means to use coaching skills as a teacher and more specifically, how to use these skills within a small school setting to strengthen the community and build deeper relationships. The Coaching Teacher is a learning architect who visualizes a learning experience and allows the learners to build it giving them a sense of ownership, responsibility and accountability.

  • The goal of this workshop is for participants to learn the basic coaching skills such as:
  • Asking questions, rather than telling and giving advice
  • Recognizing the importance of raising the learner’s awareness before helping them to shift mindsets and commit to new actions and behaviors
  • Focusing on people first, not their problems
  • Using mainly ‘what’ questions and dividing their listening into the 3 Ms – Micro, Macro and Me
  • Understanding the forms of help spectrum and differentiating coaching from all other forms

This workshop will be highly experiential using physical resources, a worksheet pack and standing exercises to learn in a fun and engaging way. At the end of the workshop, participants will have a clear understanding of how to use foundational coaching skills in one-to-one coaching settings with colleagues, as well as in small group meetings, classrooms and other areas of their lives.


Session 3


Using Music in an Interdisciplinary Setting

Bill Carbone & Christine Nick, The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, New York, NY

The TeachRock presentation will center around the interdisciplinary, multi-cultural, and analytical nature of the curriculum and, more specifically, how to use popular music as a gateway to engaging discussions about American history and culture. The session will feature hands-on activities from several lessons, and draw material from the TeachRock core curriculum, as well as special projects such as the PBS Soundbreaking and American Epic series, The Ron Howard Beatles documentary Eight Days A Week, and the Dave Grohl-produced HBO series Sonic Highways.


Power/Play: Educating Young People to be Participants in Healthy Relationships

Sara Narva, The Crefeld School, Philadelphia, PA

We live in a world where messages about sex are ubiquitous, exploitative, and confusing, and education about it is obtuse or non-existent. As progressive educators, we must provide our students access to useful information about how to navigate issues of sexuality, power, communication, abuse, affection and connection. If we believe that young people should be central to their own learning, then we can not omit this piece of content that is so central to their lives. If we want them to be able to have healthy and loving relationships, safe, empowered sexual encounters, be good communicators, partners and friends, we need to help them learn and think about how. As educators in small schools, we have the chance to really know our students and create more trusting environments to talk about challenging issues. Let us use that powerful element of our school missions to support our young people in this critical content area.

In this workshop, we will share our Power/Play curriculum, used at The Crefeld School. Our main goal is to support educators to think about how to bring meaningful, progressive sexuality education to their students. We will discuss some of the challenges, and skills needed; participants will experience some of the activities and brainstorm how to apply and adapt our curriculum at your small schools.


The Strategic Planning Process Re-Imagined: Embedding Strategic Thinking and Action into Everyday Operations

Brooke Carroll, Brooke Carroll Consulting

Small schools no longer have the time, resources, personnel, or desire to engage in traditional Strategic Planning processes that are time-consuming, disconnected, and end up with a long list of action items that sit in a binder on a shelf. However, engaging in meaningful, truly strategic, ongoing planning is critical for small schools as they navigate the current enrollment, employment, educational, and economic climate. Drawing on 9 years of experience as the Head of a small school, Brooke Carroll presents a model for strategizing and planning that is connected to current issues and needs, less time consuming and arduous for leaders, meaningful and relevant for community members, cost-effective, and becomes an embedded part of ongoing operations.

Many strategic plans result in a list of action steps to reach goals but leave out actual strategies that describe how goals will be met. We will discuss the value of developing well-considered strategies that connect with the underlying reason for the school’s stated goals and how these strategies can help connect all members of the community to the success of achieving outcomes.

The primary goal of this 60-minute workshop is to demonstrate to school leaders how, through relatively small changes in perspective, process, and action, organizations can transform any planning process into one that is truly strategic, relevant, and meaningful to all of their constituents. An overview of the process will be provided and specific actions that school leaders can immediately implement will be offered.


Session 4


Creating a Major Gifts Program at a Small School

Deborah Crocker, The Miquon School, Conshohocken, PA

Are you tired of hearing consultants at conferences talk about their major gifts officers? Does the idea of cultivating large gifts seem like an impossible dream?! In large schools, there are employees in place whose sole purpose is to conduct major gift work and cultivate donors. Most small schools only have staff in place to run annual giving programs and events. All development professionals agree that a major gifts program can create large benefits to serve an institution for the long term. Until systems and protocols are in place, however, it’s impossible to cultivate major donors correctly.

This workshop will help to distill the concerns and questions that small schools with small staffs have about major gift work. It’s all possible, but what works for a small school will be very different than what works for a large school and this workshop will address just that. This session will help small schools develop systems, identify resources and create a major gift program that fits in their school’s unique culture. The goals include:

  • Offering strategies for small schools that have limited resources to develop a feasible major gifts program.
  • Teaching development personnel how to track potential donors and how to strategize individual prospects in the pipeline.
  • Unlocking the mysteries of donor research, wealth ratings and capacity and inclination tracking.


Cultivating Teacher Leadership in Small Schools

Rebekah Jordan, Indian Mountain School, Lakeville, CT & EJ Albin, The Advent School, Boston, MA

It can be incredibly challenging to find authentic opportunities to develop leaders in small schools, particularly when mid-level administrative positions are few and far between. Teachers who may be considering career growth don’t always have clear spaces in which to try out leadership roles. Likewise, administrators can have a hard time helping teachers grow their leadership capacity, which can lead to increased turnover.

One way to address this opportunity gap is through a Faculty Committee model. Faculty Committees can be transformative for teachers, result in increased faculty investment in the school community, and provide budget-friendly professional development. Teacher-leaders gain a deeper understanding of the administrative process, and administrators gain crucial support with high-impact projects.

In this workshop, we will explore the implementation of Faculty Committees in diverse school settings, giving participants concrete tools to take back and use in their own communities. Some of the issues addressed will include:

  • Preparation and project identification
  • Implementation (finding the time!)
  • Facilitation techniques
  • Coaching for teacher-leaders
  • Follow-through

As presenters, our own work has been transformed through the process of faculty committees, and we are excited to come to the table offering both a teaching and administrative perspective. We will examine specific examples from two diverse schools, focusing on project management, communication, and troubleshooting challenges. Both teachers and administrators will identify specific work they can undertake in the upcoming school year and will leave with a set of resources to assist them as they embark on their journey.


In2Out: Holding Space For Students & Ourselves to Explore Social Responsibility, Intelligence, Justice & Culture

Nica Fleming, The Crefeld School, Philadelphia, PA

Using In2Out Personalization Cards in a supportive space, this interactive workshop will include written reflection (In), in pairs (2) and whole group sharing (Out). Originally developed for teachers to share with students, questions will be selected with educators in mind. Topics will explore social responsibility, intelligence, justice, and culture.


Session 5


Meaningful Equity, Justice and Diversity Work When Your Budget Does Not Support A Diversity Coordinator Position

Jen Cort, Jen Cort Educational Consulting

Small schools are often unable to hire a person appointed to focus on equity, justice and diversity and therefore are uncertain how to incorporate the work into their school day. Large schools often are able to hire a diversity coordinator and yet are uncertain how to engage all members of the faculty and staff to be active participants in this important work. This workshop will help schools identify their strengths, examine their gaps and create a plan for engaging all constituent groups in living out their mission statement as it relates to equity, justice and diversity.


Everyone an Advisor: Building Intentional Communities of Care

Timothy Boyle, Hilary Hamilton & Sharlean Pillay, Science Leadership Academy Middle School, Philadelphia, PA

Central to the SLA-model is the ethic of care. We teach students before content and center our curriculum and pedagogy with students at the center. One of the the benefits of a small school is the ability for teachers to really get to know students and build meaningful relationships. Wrapping up our founding year of SLA-MS and planning to double our student body in the fall, we’re asking: how can we leverage our small size in order to build meaningful relationships with students that grow with them over the course of their middle school career?

Thinking outside the traditional classroom, in this session we’ll be discussing advisory models. Why is advisory important? What is the role of the advisor, and other advisory group members, in a student’s experience at school? What are the challenges to advisory - both on an individual and school wide scale?

This session will be an interactive conversation where we will work together to learn about different advisory models: SLA-MS and the other schools represented in the room. What does advisory time look like? How is the work of advisory interwoven throughout the day? How can we leverage relationships built with students along with the other ‘work’ of advisory to help students grow on a multi-year scale?


Stress Reduction for School Adults

Dave Mullen, The Nora School, Silver Spring, MD

Being a teacher or administrator is a stressful profession, even more so in a small school where you may (probably) wear many hats. This one-hour experiential workshop will provide an overview of mindfulness stress reduction practices, along with a brief description of how The Nora School incorporates mindfulness into daily school life as well as into professional development.


Session 6


The Power of School Culture     

Christ Bright, CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts, Van Nuys, CA & Betsy McKenna, Exponential Returns, LLC

School is a social construct, defined by the identity of the community in which it operates. With increased importance placed on the value of human connection, we must be vigilant about cultivating a collaborative and participatory educational environment that considers and values inclusivity and multiple perspectives. We believe that a deep sense of belonging - being valued and known - is at the heart of this endeavor.
This workshop is designed for administrator and teacher leaders in their quest to cultivate a thriving, joyful and vibrant school community. During our time together, we will examine how mission defines school community and how culture informs how we teach and learn.


The Power and Perils of Parent Volunteers

Liz Dover Baker & Laura Marsico, The GreenMount School, Baltimore, MD

The GreenMount School was founded on the principal of a parent partnership. The Parent Cooperative actually ran the school in its early years and while the role has changed, it remains an important part of our sustainability. Each parent at The GreenMount School contractually agrees to 40 hours of service to the school through the CO-OP. This is great...BUT, how do we ensure that we are utilizing this resource to its fullest? And, how do we make sure stuff gets done? Laura Marsico, CO-OP Manager, and Liz Baker, Head of School, will share strategies and solutions for harnessing the power of parents in your community.