March 12, 2021

Happy Friday, Friends!

This was feeling like a calm week until yesterday’s stream just turned into a bizarre run of people picking on independent schools. More on that below, but I bet most of the authors don’t have access to the weather we are seeing around our region. Don’t some of us have spring breaks to get to? Yes, so read on below and get some good Vitamin D in this weekend or on your break ahead. That being said, try not to put too much pressure on your afternoon walk (love McSweeneys).

Skimmers… The vaccine has a federal rollout in all states for teachers, they even have a toolkitthis piece gives an overview of the short, middle, and long-term future of the virus, Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscenethe facts that one student at Princeton uncovered about students from high-achieving schools, a glossary one NYC school provided to staff and parents, the offline conversations and concerns of parents at schools where they feel that their school’s diversity work has gone too far, a great overview of becoming a future-ready organization, track the trends and pay attention to what you can do to retain the women in your workforce, HR should be changing for all organizations, short piece will help you get better at listening as a leader, make sure your board is not getting into the weeds, this one on whether someone is ready to serve on the board, and of a whole lot of people singing Sweet Caroline.

Virus News

The news from our roundtable on Wednesday on the vaccine front was fabulously positive in terms of getting your staff lined up for vaccines. Good for the many of you who are attaining success with getting the vaccine ball rolling! If you are seeing bumps in your community, this page gives some insight into vaccine coverage by state and county as well as the obstacles that might be hindering better delivery (and, for those of us who are just curious, it’s good for poking around). The feds have stepped into the prioritizing vaccines for teachers, so even if your staff is not authorized on the state level, there is a federal rollout in all states where they are eligible. They even have a toolkit for all things vaccine. The Department of Ed must have been feeling left out, so they released Handbook Vol 1 for school re-openings. I know we can’t wait for the second installment. The CDC also released guidance we discussed at the roundtable about the good times vaccinated people can have – small staff gatherings are definitely not too far in our future!

With all this good news, when are we leaving our mitigation steps in the rearview mirror? Not as soon as we would like, and this piece gives an overview of the short, middle, and long-term future of the virus. In short, expect waves in the future, and a lot of uncertainty this fall as we see how our immunity system fortress stands up against the virus when we all go back indoors.

Hot Articles

On the hot articles front… many of you sent me one or more of these in the last few days. Gold stars for exploring the angst triggered by the press.

The Atlantic probably wins this week’s award for the most in-depth hit job for its publication of Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene. My favorite quote takes a swipe at strife that erupted at Sidwell: “The still, small voice of God is no match for the psychic scream of Bethesda.” Favorite commentary to the head who provided: “I should act now to scrap plans for the School’s planetarium with the golden proscenium and the nuclear submarine we’ve been building for 2nd graders to do research in the Chattahoochee river…” A retired friend opined: “There is both truth and over-statement in this, diminished by the vitriol.” And a final word from a reflective friend who is always glad that he is not deep in k-12 when these things come out: “This will be an uncomfortable decade for rich people, methinks. Independent schools need to position themselves for a populist moment.”

All in all, as an industry we ignore these kinds of pieces at our collective peril. In my experience, the majority of our schools do not meet the excesses represented here, but many of them can find a glimmer of similarity in reflection. It is important to look beyond the hyperbole and avarice to some of the truths within this dog’s breakfast of innuendo and hard feelings: Like the facts that one student at Princeton uncovered around independent schools relative to competitive colleges and beyond that raise great existential questions about our schools in the greater picture of k-12.

The other two are diversity, equity, and inclusion related pieces. The first is about Grace School in NYC and a glossary they provided to staff and parents (the glossary is here). The second is about the offline conversations and concerns of parents at schools where they feel that their school’s diversity work has gone too far. Again, like the Dalton back and forth from the last few months, these are important trends to track. They serve as good insight into the tensions of diversity work, and the importance of being in touch with your broader community. My feeling is that this is particularly true as the education ecosystem can develop a language and set of movements of its own that can become totally foreign to the parent body.

I know, I know, that was a lot of dense script for so close to spring break. Giving you quicker hits in the sections below and saving some links for next time. 

Leadership

  • Are you a future ready company? I know, that smacks of the Office and it makes you want to “circle back, once you have touched base with the other players and double clicked on the concepts to explore further” (insert collective groan), but this article has a great overview of what is happening out there in the broader future-ready world and we are not immune to these trends. There are useful insights to fold into your thinking as you mold your approach to the future for your school, but also how you think about the world your graduates will face.
  • We were all impacted by the pandemic, but women have particularly taken it on the chin and there is a huge concern about women leaving the workforce. It is always a slog being a working parent, it’s generally a bigger slog being a working mom/primary caregiver. Do track the trends and pay attention to what you can do to retain the women in your workforce. Women make great leaders, and we need more of them leading our schools.
  • Have you changed your management style? Should you? I love this McKinsey piece that talks about the shift in management roles and styles. It is much more complimentary to life in a school and is more and more important in the talent management for our schools.
  • Need help managing the talent in your school? Here is how HR should be changing for all organizations to help us better plan for the future. I think this is one is particularly helpful to schools and how we are thinking about strategic hiring for the future to change our cultures and develop our future graduates. It doesn’t matter if you have a fulltime HR person, we are all deep in human resources.
  • Share this one out. Leaders listen, particularly in schools. Are you and your people listening well? This short piece will help you get better.
  • And, executive training is about to get a lot cheaper. Scott Galloway (of higher ed apocalypse spreadsheet fame) is raising a LOT of money.

Legal

The Biden administration has pushed through a $1.9 trillion relieve bill that was signed Wednesday. Track the educational priorities of this administration because it looks likely to drive fast and skid far, at least in these first two years where they are likely to hold onto the majority. This bill did have another bucket of cash ($2.75 billion) for private schools going to the states for distribution, but this time the funds will not allow for reimbursement of expenses. More will come for guidance on that one.

I was happy to see a couple of “normal” legal writings this week. This one on managing bad behavior when there might be a disability issue is on target and a frequent question that comes up in many schools. It’s great insight into thinking proactively on the front end for later risk.

This other one to encourage your board not to get into the weeds, for their own sakes, is worth sharing. You might tag it with this one on whether someone is ready to serve on the board, particularly as you are likely in board recruitment mode right now. 

Higher Ed

Higher ed has the pressure on as admission decisions have been delayed and the season has been feast or famine when it comes to number of applicants schools have received. Most students are not submitting their scores, waitlists are going to be long and drawn out as historic yield models are no help, and the parents and advisors are just sick of the whole thing – enough to get this very real look at admissions contradictions out into mix.

This university president gets an honorable mention for moving into a dorm to live the isolation experience. Worth a human interest read…

Special Parent Section

Yeah, yeah, I like I really need to add a special section. But, look at these if you want to add in some parent interest stories to your communications.

Yes, we are ready to get the pandemic behind us. But, it has taught families to slow down and given them more time together. That has actually

been a good thing and maybe something to encourage families to hold onto as family togetherness makes for happier kids (maybe not my senior in high school whose favorite phrase is “oh, Mom.”

Speaking of that 17 year-old, when they do revert to one phrase and are slipping away, a reset might be in order. This short article has some great suggestions. As does this one on just communicating with tweens and teens. And, I worry about our college kids out there, particularly those in freshman year. This piece on identifying and intervening in depression in college students is good for current college parents as well as parents of future college kids.

Learning & Teaching

Some quick hits here:

  • We talk a lot about centering education around the student. What does that look like and why is it important? Nice overview as you dig deeper.
  • I spent some quality time with accreditation colleagues this week talking about critical inquiry, what it is and how it overlaps with diversity, equity, and inclusion work. This article provided some good parameters.
  • Central to critical inquiry is being able to move away from where you started with your intrinsic understandings and view. Here is how to teach students how and when to change their minds.
  • Focus on the positive to get it more often, particularly with grades. 
  • Great sadness in the canine loving ranks (including me)… therapy dogs probably don’t really reduce anxiety in teens. I bet they still reduce it in adults. 
  • And, Charleston is launching an International African American Museum. It is going to be exceptional. They have a website, and they just released an online learning piece on the Seashore Farmer’s Lodge, an early African American community on a barrier island. Neat classroom learning resource.

Cool Tools

I am lousy at Excel. I don’t have the interest to remember all the shortcuts and I know just enough to be dangerous creating graphics in there. Happily, there are tools coming in fast and furious to replace it so more of us can be geek-chic. Speaking of data templates, here is a freebie for tracking fundraising metrics.

So, it’s time to get out there and enjoy the weekend. End on a high note –  like this video of a whole lot of people singing Sweet Caroline, often with Neil Diamond. This video, and ones like it, make me tear up every time. Why? Because experiencing joy (or pain) in a group is so powerful and I miss that!

We wrap up our Avengers’ watching binge this weekend. Do you ever wonder why certain things work better in movies? A lot of people have been putting thoughts together on that one – good for a chuckle.

Have a great weekend!!

Debra