October 9, 2020

Hello Friends!

I won’t lie, today has been a long Friday. All great stuff, but I try not to zoom too much on Fridays and today somehow had 4.5 hours of zoom built-in. There are lots of articles on zoom fatigue (including from National Geographic, or this dark but hilarious overview on the topic), but none of them keep me from feeling like my eyes might melt out of my head. Ah, well, the weekend is a couple of hours away and we all get a zoom break. I am keeping this one sort of short as I know many of you have a well-deserved long weekend ahead.

Skimmers… check out the big business model move by a RI school that is cutting tuition, don’t miss the first of its kind a lawsuit against the state of Georgia, get deep into this piece on teacher stress, check out this insight that helps kids navigate the treacherous waters of different behaviors during a pandemic, reflect on historic crossroads in of this article, see how we can move college admissions to a positive sum game, learn a new word and healthy habit, 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).

Over the Skis

Let’s start with the big independent school news that has people’s attention. Providence Country Day School in RI (not to be confused with Providence Day School in Charlotte) made a big tuition move by cutting tuition more than 35%, while redesigning some of their overall programming (spoiler alert: that means they are now lower than some urban SAIS tuitions and Providence is not cheap). In short, people are starting to unveil their “over the skis” moves out there.  

I know, we are not all going to be so bold (and sometimes it’s good to let other folks go first in other markets just to see what that will look like), but Ian Symmonds has also outlined other opportunities of change ahead (I love reading Ian’s blog, I feel like he is just this side of wanting to write in haikus). Do start thinking about what your bold moves are going to be coming out of this year. It’s hard to move from the exhaustion of the moment to moment, but I see enough glimmer back in people’s eyes now that you will want to start thinking about how you will be bold. Want another place for inspiration but not quite ready to blow up your model? Revisit this McKinsey report from a few weeks ago, look particularly at the pyramid diagram. However much we want to be hip and cool, those basics in that report inform what we do and help us stay crisp as we reimagine. And, with enrollment down in 50% of private schools according to CATO, well, now is a good time to revisit. Want to forget over the skis and just get some reality framework? Try this one or this one.

The Law

The other story that gave me pause is out of our own region. The Georgia Educators Association brought a lawsuit against the state of Georgia, along with an anonymous teacher and student, for opening schools when they did. The lawsuit contends that opening created an unsafe work environment and a public nuisance, and violated the state’s constitution. No word yet on a response to the law suit, but the unsafe work environment caught my attention from a legal standpoint. Keep this one in your sights.

Three other quick items on the legal front. The first addresses managing the liability around the changing guidance and standards and legal exposure given the CDC’s recent release, retraction, and re-release of the aerosol nature of the virus (speaking of flipflopping, the testing guidance keeps getting updated, too). The second is this webinar for those of you looking to increase the diversity of your staff through hiring practices – legally (and how about some practical steps to a diverse faculty). Finally, DOJ is suing Yale for race discrimination. For those keeping track at home, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are all embroiled in some kind of civil rights activity with the federal government right now.

Teacher Pressure

As you all know, teachers are feeling the pressure. This Atlantic piece covers how they know kids are depending on them. However, this piece gets into the weeds of that stress reality for teachers, and I dare you to check out the accompanying padlet. There is a lot of reality that we should be thinking hard about. We had a good conversation on this topic at the associate heads’ round table this week, with a couple of schools noting that they found it helped to have a day when all students were virtual so that the whole class was together, as well as the care steps we outlined last week for all staff. These steps might also help over the next six months, but try to avoid being toxically positive (all through my teens I searched for such a phrase). Either way, I am worried about the teacher shortage really coming to bear and we should collect creative solutions.

Parents & Students

  • I was blown away by this data around parent stress and screen time (defined as the streaming of kids-centered material), but it does reinforce the need for parents to stay healthy as our students reflect their surroundings. Now, maybe more than ever, is the time for us to understand how we can alleviate that stress for parents in some of our basic models. If we were designing for the student and parent experiences, what would we change?
  • Also on the student front, I loved this insight from a friend of mine. She actually teaches sexuality education to high schoolers, making her one of the bravest people I know, but she takes the framework of consent and uses it to give students the skills to navigate the bizarre social pressures of safe pandemic practices. My daughter asked me just last night about what is “okay” to do right now, and this helped that conversation.
  • And, if you are looking for opportunities for students, NNSP has two virtual student engagement opportunities coming up. One is for middle schoolers on Entrepreneurship and Impact, the other is for middle schoolers and high schoolers on creating community engagement.  

Additional Reading / Listening

  • We as a country and a world are at a crossroads, and the signs seem to point everywhere. The breadth of this article from Fareed Zakaria (I’ll confess my nerd crush here, thanks), lays out different moments in history when other paths could have, or were taken, to a variety of ends. And who doesn’t love an article that starts with a Lawrence of Arabia reference to start?
  • Student-centered learning intrigues me and there are current signs that we are making in-roads here. I can’t help but think that my feelings about some of my education would be different if I felt that it had been designed for me.
  • From Michael Horn who will be speaking at the Annual Conference, I had to read this piece twice, but I like the notion behind making our students’ next steps a positive sum game. This might be because the college process is currently making me ill for a variety of reasons that are too long for a Friday.
  • And, finally, this Trustees Table podcast on civil discourse is a good one.

Final thoughts and notes on the SAIS front.

  • We have launched a new survey on paying substitutes and fundraising (sure they go together). It’s short and helps everyone when we participate in these.
  • Next Wednesday, October 14th, will be our annual business meeting at 4:00 Eastern / 3:00 Central at the heads’ round table time and zoom link. Please do try to join us if at all possible. We have some votes, I’ll do my President’s report, and we have an infectious disease doctor (Business meeting reminder – prizes and 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.  
  • We have added some really incredible new webinars on enrollment and retention, managing community loss, your school’s brand, and two special sessions with Paula Chu meant to be balm (and additional skills) for the school leaders’ soul.
  • Do remember to join us for the Annual Conference. I have already started grilling some of our featured speakers. What I am calling salon day with two sets of speakers (Michael Horn, Jeff Selingo, Heather Hoerle, and John Katzman) is going to be seriously entertaining and insightful.

Let’s all keep our thoughts and prayers with our colleagues along the Gulf who are experiencing yet another hurricane this week!

And, who is going to take on Atlanta Girls School in the tiktok challenge?

Time for my Friday Feierabend!

Have a great weekend and stay safe out there!

Debra