October 2, 2020

Hello Friends!

This is mastery of the obvious, but our region does seem to be among the most on-campus of the regions across the United States. This has been a huge lift for our schools, and we are proud of the work you have all done to get your communities to the places they are. As I listen to where schools are across the country and the issues they are facing, I have to say that while the next turn in the road may not be what we anticipate, and heavens knows it is still exhausting, it is better to be further down the road.

For the skimmers…. Wow, hard to choose this week. Get a handle on the topics most impacted by the election, keep up with the purchasing drivers of Gen Z, know that Princeton is being investigated by the Department of Education and this was largely triggered by its public statements regarding its DEI work, remember that relationships matter a lot in management, checkout this new marketing insights booklet (by role) for independent schools, and DON’T FORGET TO COME TO THE ANNUAL MEETING ON OCTOBER 14TH (and we’ll have an infectious disease doc there to talk with all of us on what he has seen and learned working with schools and through his research).

Let’s start with some legal pieces

  • As it turns out, my low-grade paranoia from last week was justified as there were further developments in Blackbaud’s security breach from this summer. These developments involve things like state attorneys general, school names, and further client data information that may have been received. This overview might be useful if you are looking for more on this one.  And, for those whose low-grade paranoia has also blossomed, check out this opportunity from SAIS and ATLIS focusing on cyber safety and security coming up in early November.
  • We have all invariably been intrigued by the potential changes on the Supreme Court, but it is also good to have a handle on the Supreme Court’s cases from this year potentially impacting religious institutions.
  • Also, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (that would be Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia) recently ruled that a school violated a student’s Title IX rights by not allowing him to use the bathroom of the gender with which he identified. This is particularly important for those schools that have taken PPP money and need to comply with Title IX requirements.
  • The Department of Labor is working to simplify the definition of an independent contractor under the law, particularly for wage and hour purposes. This might help schools out, so keep an eye on this one.
  • Finally, on this one, don’t miss the EEOC update to its frequently asked questions around all things COVID. It is a helpful go-to list around things you can and cannot do or ask as an employer.


Right along on the tails of the legal, let’s swing through the election, which just got slightly more charged – if that’s possible – with the recent COVID-19 diagnoses of the President and the First Lady. Going big picture to more every day. This interactive overview guide from Venable on all topics potentially impacted by the election, including education, healthcare, trade, and more, is really interesting stuff. Okay, maybe interesting to some of us, but check it out if you are in to that kind of thing. For something a little more “now what?” this is a nice piece on employee time off for voting the like that might be helpful. Getting a little more education oriented, this guide from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities has some great resources and concrete examples of learning opportunities during this election season. The NYT is also having a competition for teenagers, challenging them to share ways in which they are engaging in discourse through this election season.


The economy is tough to nail down right now. Today we found out that job growth has slowed, and the recovery of small businesses is uneven, although the South appears to be doing at least marginally better than other parts of the country. I have been most intrigued by what is happening with working habits, as well as whether businesses will keep up huge costs of real estate overhead despite the potential longer term downsides. These are important topics to our schools because all of it provides parents and others with the ability to flex their living models, moving to places away from their business hubs.

Along these lines, it pays to keep up with the purchasing drivers of Gen Z, the generation making its way into our parent bodies and certainly our staff.

Higher ed

You know you have been around a while when old issues are new again. A few years back, the College Board added a discipline question to the common app, causing many schools to dust of thesauruses and creatively think about how to manage disciplinary issues. The common app is now removing that discipline question, recognizing the potentially discriminatory effects of the question, given the discrimination that has been found in discipline studies. Whatever they do, we know that higher education admissions was a mess this past year and that stress is high in the admissions’ offices this year. This might be what is leading to the ongoing announcements of retirements among presidents in higher education. As much fun as it is to watch higher ed, let’s not replicate these last couple of trends, okay?

One legal trend to watch in higher ed at the moment is the investigation into Princeton. Princeton’s President, much like many other institutional leaders, put out a follow-up statement about the university’s concerns with historical racism on its campus and follow up initiatives. This led to the Department of Education opening the investigation into racist practices on campus. The letter from the DOE is one to check out. It’s hard to tell how these kinds of triggers occur, but the entire education sector should watch this one play out. Do check out what is happening with higher ed around addressing systemic racism. This communication from Jim Ryan at UVA on Thomas Jefferson and free speech really caught my attention, for example.


I was doing a board workshop recently when a board member asked me about all of the innovation that teachers were engaging in. I did take a minute to underscore the reality of the moment for many teachers. Given the complexity of online learning, then the incredibly challenging hybrid model in which many schools are still engaged in one form or another, and now teaching on-campus, which is both what we want but still not what anyone would consider normal, proactive innovation across all fronts has not been either the focus or outcome for many. That being said, there are windows of it that are being reported out and I am sure you can find them on your campus, you need to seek them out and hold on to them. The Christensen Institute just put out this overview of some of their new data on innovation coming out of schools right now through the Canopy project. The tool is a little clunky, but it is really interesting to see what drove the schools to change certain things and see the success they have had with particular projects.  For those of you look for innovation opportunities that are particularly brought about in this time, this is a great brain trust list of potential windows in learning.

And, yeah, for those of you with board members who have time on their hands, I like this piece from ECIS to help get and keep them engaged.

Staff and Student Support

While some things about this time seem to be improving, whether through actual resemblance to some form of normal or just adjustment to this next normal, there are ongoing concerns about burn-out and support of staff. ISM has provided their webinar from a couple of weeks ago on preventing teacher burnout as an open resource. This piece from a teacher perspective is a good one, I think, to help find permission not to use the same measuring stick this year that we have used in years past. For heads, this gem that Cobb Atkinson came across might reflect your day to day. Do take the time to understand the exhaustion that you and your staff are feeling, as well as ways to combat them. The SAIS staff has pulled together this infographic on ways that your colleagues are supporting their staff. For more, I really liked Donna’s piece for the fall Independent School Magazine around creating communities of self-care, as well as this piece on going from survival mode to wellness.

Our students also might be struggling, and the NYT wrote a piece specifically for them recently. That being said, I think they are still going to need your school counselor, so set them up for success this year. Want something with more depth for teens? Childhood psychotherapist and parent educator, Katie Hurley, just released this book on positive thinking for teens.


Yeah, all of the foregoing just rolls uphill to the leaders. Two quick pieces for you, that are actually more reminders. The first one has some great insights and data around how the quality of relationships, particularly with management, really makes a difference to the people on your team. Don’t forget that. The second one is also a reminder, but one about how people feeling connected, good, and responsible are also more motivated. These are baseline, but like boards galloping beyond the good governance lines in the sand, remember those as we continue to move through this semester.

Some bits, pieces, and presents

  • The Brown school COVID data has definitely caught the attention of many, and we should keep an eye on it. This insight from EdSurge is a good one on why it is happening.
  • Science (literally, the magazine) has declared that kids do have similar rates of infection, but they are less susceptible to showing symptoms Levels of infection, but less symptomatic
  • If your school is looking for some ways to incorporate everyday steps in your progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Greater Good Center out of Berkeley has this guidance.
  • Mike Connor is just about to release this booklet on marketing therapy for schools during COVID. I like this ebook because it goes through – by role – what part everyone within the school owns for school admissions, enrollment, retention, and marketing. It’s a great reminder of best practices here and worth checking out. If you use these steps, or have more, he would love to talk with you so that he can include specific examples from schools right now (email him at mike@connor-associates.com).
  • The Winkler group also has a guide for you, this one on strategic planning for those heading to that foray. I like this one because it has some great “dos and don’ts” reminders in the mix.  

On October 14th at 4:00 Eastern / 3:00 Central, we will have a special heads’ round table. We will be holding our Annual Meeting, when we will have our official votes on our new board member and a couple of bylaws amendments. I will also provide a president’s update. However, perhaps of most interest is that Dr. Kent Stock will be joining us for half of the time. He is a physician and infectious disease specialist here in Charleston and has been working with Porter Gaud on their plans and mitigation approaches, including testing in athletics.

Lastly, do engage in some fun activities and learning when you can. My husband and I are going to listen to a couple of the New Yorker talks next week, particularly the ones with Malcolm Gladwell and Anthony Fauci. I think we got tickets to Seinfeld, too. Want something really cheap? ASU/GSV is completely open and virtual this year (Malcolm Gladwell is speaking there, too). It has a few more days left, including next week. They are on Pacific time, so you can listen while walking the dog or whatnot. It’s a really great conference, funded largely by venture capital folks in the edtech world, so getting some brain lift on them seems like a good idea.

I usually end with some news of the weird, but somehow this week seemed weird enough on its own. Have a great weekend… go outside and enjoy the lovely fall weather!