2022 SAIS Annual Conference Recap: Learning and Networking in Nashville

The 2022 SAIS Annual Conference brought together more than 320 school leaders from across the region. Held at the Franklin Marriott just outside of Nashville, attendees spent three days networking and learning from each other and experts in the field.

Before the first session, several attended preconference workshops for accreditation coordinators and trustees. Joanne Andruscavage, SAIS director of accreditation, led school representatives through the self-study and visit process and shared how they can best prepare for their next accreditation visit. Ross Peters of Explo Elevate challenged heads and their boards to create meaningful relationships and think strategically through governance best practices. 

The opening keynote was given by Mike Flanagan of the Mastery Transcript Consortium. Mike shared insights on the future of education and how we might value durable skills like leadership, collaboration, critical thinking, and a growth mindset.

Monday morning was kicked off with breakfast roundtables, giving participants the opportunity to meet others in similar roles or school types. An inspirational message from Reggie Ford on the importance of mental health awareness and an appreciation for what our students may bring to our communities set the stage for a day of varied learning opportunities.

After a round of breakout sessions on topics covering leadership, advancement, assessment, and legal concerns, attendees gathered for the presentation of two distinguished service awards. Rachel Deems and Jack Hall were honored for their many years of service in education and SAIS schools.

Debra Wilson provided the SAIS President’s Update and detailed the many accomplishments of the association over the past year. SAIS now boasts 392 member schools in 14 states and three countries. The association will conduct a record 85 accreditation visits this year with the help of many volunteer team members from SAIS schools. New professional learning opportunities offered in 2021-22 included the Fundamentals Conference, First Time Heads Cohort, and Trustee Education Series. Looking ahead, the association will be developing additional resources for accreditation and working to support those in the school leadership pipeline. The lunch hour concluded with a surprise presentation to SAIS executive director Lori Spear, honoring her 19 years of service to the organization.

Monday afternoon sessions covered areas of student well-being, working with parents, head of school transitions, discipline, capital campaigns, crisis management, and more. The day was capped off with a networking reception that included tasty treats and an opportunity to visit with a variety of exhibitors offering information on financial and fundraising solutions, dining services, web design, professional development, uniforms, student travel excursions, and more.

The smell of crispy bacon lured attendees back to the ballroom Tuesday morning as Carla Iliescu shared the work of Brené Brown and Dare to Lead. Carla challenged the audience to remove the barriers to courageous leadership and bravely live into their values.

The conference wrapped up with a final round of breakout sessions on social-emotional learning, inclusive hiring, managing risk, and others.

Here’s what attendees are saying:

“I really enjoyed the roundtable breakfast opportunity. It was nice to talk with schools like mine.”

“The sessions were informative and engaging. I left with a lot of takeaways – and I can’t say that about every conference I attend. I think the topics were relevant and timely.”

“All of the keynotes were fantastic and gave me a lot to consider. They each provided a shift in perspective.”

“This was my first SAIS meeting and it really delivered! The session topics were pertinent, and everyone was so welcoming! I quickly felt like a member of the community.”

After the conference, The Winkler Group, a conference exhibitor, shared their Six Takeaways from the SAIS Annual Conference, which include putting students front and center, the reminder that buildings are not a magic pill, and ways to think big when it comes to donor cultivation.

Mark your calendars and make plans to attend the 2023 Annual Conference October 22-23 in Atlanta!