June 11, 2021

Good afternoon, Friends!

I hope this email finds you on the beach, in the mountains, on a porch, lazing on a hammock, or some place that finds you stepping away from it all. Knowing that you are taking a break, I am going to keep this a summer short of mostly quick hits of items for you to track when you get the time and inclination.

Virus

Keep eyes and ears open for news about the “delta” variant coming out of India. It spreads 40% more easily than the variants that have come before. The beginning of the school year is still a bit off, but plans are certainly in the works. Schools will invariably be wrestling with the society split we see coming down the pike of those who are vaccinated and those who are not.  The differences in lifestyle are easily identified in the updated OSHA guidance, as well as that for higher education. The camp guidance even has a hint of some of the changes upon us. Venable pulls together some of the vagaries out there for our industry in this article. Now is a good time to make sure that we are still using our survey feedback tools and transparent communications as we prepare for the next school year. Parents have come to expect it and there are still minefields ahead (even if they are not with you in your time away).

Speaking of surveys… as you think about any online learning for next year, One Schoolhouse did a survey on what kinds of request schools are getting from families looking for flexibility to use online learning:

Malware

I’ll be honest… the gas crisis caused by the malware attack on Colonial Pipeline made me mostly reflect on gas becoming the new toilet paper. However, the attacks on the ferries in the northeast, Fujifilm, meat plants, and others started to get me a little antsy. Sure enough, there is now a special malware aimed at schools. Here is an overview on what happened at a UK independent school, as well as a summary of the malware from 9ine, a cybersecurity firm that works with schools. Wondering how to respond if you get struck by malware? This piece might help. Either way, do batten down the hatches on this front for the new school year. It’s a great training that is not COVID related to include in your back-to-school orientation this summer!

Governance Tune-Up

You have probably said good-bye to your board for the summer, but you might want to send them a little homework before you have that initial retreat this fall. NAIS has a free Trustee Table podcast and there are two good sessions that you board members can listen to as their schedules warrant. The first is on the board’s role in community engagement and the second is on the board’s role in fundraising (you can find either one on your podcast source of choice). You could also keep them in your back pocket for later this year. Finally, we are seeing 45 head of school changes that we know of for this coming academic year. This is a bit higher than the norm. If your school is heading into a search soon, this article from Jim Wickenden has some good advice on how to keep the school and its mission at the center.

For those looking for other board trainings, we will be doing a trustee tune-up to orient new board members or remind experienced one about the ins-and-outs of governance, as well as provide some insights into independent school trends. This event will be held on August 19th at 5:00 Eastern / 4:00 Central. We will let you know when the registration is open.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Honestly, it is hard to keep track of the nuances in the national debate of ideas related to diversity, equity, and inclusion concepts in both education and the national discourse, but I think it’s important to try.

As you have likely seen, there are a number of states legislating against critical race theory in schools. And there are almost as many articles released about how the phrase “critical race theory” has become a lightning rod that, with a hat tip toward the Princess Bride, doesn’t mean what some people think it means. And yet, it is almost as hard to get a balanced overview of critical race theory. This one from EdWeek is not a bad one, for those looking for something to provide some background. 

An important viewpoint that I suspect we will see emerge more over the new few weeks, is related to some of the breakdown on the left and can be found in this piece from John Torpey, a professor at CUNY, on anti-anti-racism. He attempts to get at the issues that are emerging in the ongoing debate, particularly among liberals who are starting to disagree on the direction of diversity discourse. To give you a little window:

Anti-anti-racists are troubled by the difficulty of open discussion in the anti-racist milieu, which honest progressives recognize as a real issue. Anyone reluctant to accept an unceasing preoccupation with racism as the approach to healing America’s ills — as illiberal anti-racism often seems to demand — risks being tarred as a racist. Fear of committing a gaffe that will earn condemnation makes many reluctant to speak. Academics who harbor doubts about this or that aspect of the anti-racist agenda or approach remain silent. Who wants to risk being a pariah?

There is a lot to think about here as it relates to the wider discourse that communities are having either openly or behind closed doors, and that is drastically impacting some of our schools.

Although this piece doesn’t expressly jump into the ongoing political debates, it sets out to tackle what the author sees as some of the side effects in education. The author, Greg Lukianoff, is also the author of The Coddling of the American Mind. He is an attorney and the president of FIRE, a conservative nonprofit that tends to agitate higher education when it provides representation for students and staff around free speech, due process, and other thorny legal topics. There is a back to basics feeling behind some of what is written here that I suspect we will see in action in schools before too long, particularly as schools long to stay out of the political firing range.

I encourage you to sit with both of these pieces, whatever your political leanings, as I suspect that this will all get murkier before summer is over and we will need to continue to navigate these waters.

Wow, that is some heavy reading for a Friday in June, so I encourage you to read this piece on an innovative program in girls’ education for a little lift.

If that doesn’t do it, then definitely see this McSweeney’s article on the Best STEM Toys for One Year Olds, or this ad encouraging a Viking to wear his helmet.

Have a great weekend!