September 11, 2020

Happy Friday, All!

We know it was a short week, but it sure did not feel like it here. SAIS had a virtual board meeting on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, giving us lots of good grist for the future of this association. For those who are feeling caught closer to the weeds than SpaceX, I strongly encourage you to take the time to set up reflective and strategic conversations around what you have learned about your school over the last six months, and what the needs will be for the sectors of your community in both the short-term (around three months) and long-term. The SAIS staff learned a lot from doing this on our retreat a couple of weeks ago, and also with the board this week.

First, I had a special request for me to choose my favorite links for your “skimmers.” If you read nothing else from this email, read this new HBR piece on adaptive leadership, this McKinsey overview on learning in the hybrid environment, what Harvard Law School has done here, and this Forbes article. Alright, check out this collection, too, but there is no way you are skimming that.

Second, I am playing a bit with the formatting here so that you can jump to headers if you want some shortcuts. This is a particularly education focused email. As I mentioned last week, there is so much out there now focused on learning and teaching right now. I have tried to winnow down to things that are worthy of a read or a share and have them in bullets toward the end.


To start, I have been thinking a lot about our gains in families that our schools have seen. In many cases, these are families that under normal circumstances we would not necessarily see in our schools and would often be in public or other schools. My theory is that all schools have these families right now, including families that have seen an enrollment decrease, there are families taking a bet on your school experience this year. This may mean that we have one year to demonstrate our value and work hard to retain those families in ways we have not thought about before. Remember, many of these families may not be able to experience the traditional “kool-aid” at your school. I am looking for new opportunities and thinking around really addressing retention, particularly this year. In the meantime, check out this EMA webinar that seems on the open side of the wall (and, if you want some background on enrollment management concepts and trends, this is a good one). Are you doing anything special for these families? Share them with me! ( On this front, do set some expectations with your board here. Some of these folks are going to be “foul weather” friends who are looking for a port in a storm and you might not be able to maintain those families regardless of what you do.

The other newbies I am thinking about are our new teachers and administrators. Some schools have taken on a lot of new faculty members and other staff and their success is going to help you maintain stability over the years ahead. Do really focus on making them feel a part of your team, even if your team is limited in its ability to bond in traditional ways and work to keep them.


There is a lot of uncertainty right now and you want to be a source of calm for your people, but time is short. I like this article overall, but these four questions on the last point might help you support your people more, with insights gained in less time. This HBR overview on five guiding principles for adaptive leadership is another short piece to help you just check your leadership approach right now.  I also really like this back to school piece as a gut check for you and how your team is communicating with families and students, particularly teens. Just make sure you are hitting these bases. Also, if you are providing leadership coaching or career advice to people, are you doing it right? I loved this piece on giving and getting bad advice and how to stop it. Finally, when you want to really settle in, this McKinsey collection on what top leaders should be doing right now is excellent and had a lot of applicability to our world.


There are a lot of schools talking about dashboards, and I thought it might be helpful to see some of the ones from higher education. Many of our schools keep the ones that have already been developed behind the parent log-ins, but colleges and universities tend to keep theirs fairly open.

If you have a dashboard format or excel sheet you could share, I would love to  see it and / or share it. Schools are definitely working on ways to capture and share this data and could use a hand.

Colleges & College Counseling

Speaking of colleges… this is a nice bit of advice from GOA on college counseling this year in a new way. And, this Forbes article challenges seniors and others to flip the question we are all hearing (why now?) and identify some underlying tails and trails that may be more important. All of that being said, we know that colleges are struggling this year with the various way they have reopened. This article from the Times on “snitching” caught my attention because this is pretty close to our world. Many independent schools have already called out parents for holding various gatherings off-campus given the collective responsibility to keep the virus level within the school community down. However, more heads are reporting that parents are already putting pressure on them to loosen school operations up to the next level. Expect the heat to be turned up here quickly.

A couple of quick legal notes…

  • The EEOC updated some guidance on what you should know about labor laws during COVID. Of particular interest is that you cannot ask if other family members have COVID because of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits you from asking medical questions about family members (see A.10).
  • The IRS provided guidance around the payroll tax deferral into which employees can opt from September through December. Under this program, employees can essentially defer paying their portion of employment taxes (FICA, FUTA), although only until 2021. Read more here. Note, an employee deciding to defer these withholdings will not provide the school with the same deferral window.
  • And, the DOE Office of Civil Rights updated its decision on a string of civil rights cases involving transgender students, essentially saying that allowing transgender students to participate in sports with the gender with which they identify discriminated against the biological female student athletes. This is going to be important if your school participates in a primarily public school athletic association and / or if your school now must follow Title IX because of receipt of federal financial assistance / funds.


  • Wow, do I love this McKinsey overview on learning in the hybrid environment. It captures a lot of the decision-making that I think schools have been making intuitively, but really builds out these filters. Check it out.
  • Everyone, and I do mean everyone, should consider what Harvard Law School has done here. I won’t lie, I am not sure I have ever written anything fully subscribing to something Harvard has done. However, this one really speaks to both the necessary growth that happens in school and the lack of forgiveness in some education spaces right now. Or maybe it speaks to me because at 3:00am I can recount any number of idiotic things I have said and done in my youth, or last week. Either way, check it out.
  • This entire exercise has had us focused on the student experience more than ever before, which really does drive more of a conversation around student centered-learning. The Christensen Institute just released this report on student-centered learning traits for teachers.
  • This piece from Education Elements was interesting to me, in part because it got me thinking about how you could use some of these approaches in person as well as online. It reminded me of what Joel Rose does a bit with
  • This article and tables has some great ideas and examples on providing differentiated instruction even when students are online
  • Speaking of online… I loved these tips on engagement and more fun ways to be online, some of which you can’t really do in-person.
  • This piece got me thinking about learning to write and how often we don’t do it well, or at least thoroughly. Here is something you may not know about me: I actually did some student teaching when I was in college. There were many things I learned when I did it, but the one that shook me to my core is that there are people who do not think in sentences, or even in words. This article talks a bit about that, but also about really teaching writing.
  • We have talked a lot about athletics, but we should be thinking about band, choir, a cappella groups and other performing arts, too. Check out this piece from EdWeek on band and choir in particular. That being said, sports have not left my mind, particularly because one sports association in Minnesota had quite a dues increase this year.
  • And, for those special folks who work with middle schoolers… this is a good one.

For Those Creating Their Annual Conference Question List

You might have noticed that my alma mater, Sewanee, is represented on the schedule a couple of times. The new Vice Chancellor, Reuben Brigety, and the board of regents released this statement this week, rejecting the university’s veneration of the Confederacy and highlighting the difficult work the school has been doing through its Roberson Project. Having watched the social media swirl among alumni groups and the various write-ups out there, I suspect this will be an interesting conversation. Bring your questions!

Finally, please be safe out there, my friends. SC lost its first teacher this Monday, with the teacher having been diagnosed with COVID-19 last Friday. And, more educator deaths have been reported around the country. Schools are back on campus and we are starting to feel like we are getting the hang of this next normal a bit, but do keep an eye on maintaining your safety protocols and encouraging anyone with the virus to seek medical help. Schools may also want to start thinking about how the serious illness or death of a community member would be communicated or managed. SAIS is working on more resources on this front and welcomes anything you might add.

To close out before we head to the weekend, I love seeing the great work of our schools highlighted places. This highlight focuses on Nadia Johnson from Providence Day School and how she takes personal experiences and turns them into critical conversations with her students.  

Have a great weekend!