September 25, 2020

Happy Friday, All!

It’s hard to believe that next week is OCTOBER. This time of year usually goes by quickly, but this fall has seemed unusually quick. And, I am not one who thinks of zoom as a time accelerator, so I bet it’s the decision-making lode we are all carrying (see this interesting article on decision-making fatigue and suggestions on how to combat it).  

As someone who has hit some fatigue this week, I am getting this out early to get some down time this afternoon. It’s an overcast and soon to be rainy day here in the greater Charleston area, so I see some baking in my near future. Unlike everyone who created the yeast shortage of 2020 early in the pandemic, I have done limited bread baking so far. However, I have special requests for chocolate babkas and fresh pretzels (it is almost October), and maybe some donuts. In short, baking therapy for me, and caloric therapy for those I live with who all have the metabolism of caffeinated hummingbirds.

Speaking of hummingbirds, let’s start with you skimmers: On the future front, this one, on the budget front this one, boards and DEI this one, and problem-solving mindsets. Actually, read this one, too, as parents and others are scrutinizing schools more than ever before.

Budget Season: What will the next fiscal year look like?

This week had us doing a lot of looking to the year ahead and doing some planning. For us, this means getting our house in order for our fiscal year that starts January 1, but we also know that many schools are starting to at least think about budgeting for next year, as many boards tend to vote on these budgets before winter break. I know, I know, we just got over the wall to really start this school year, but this budget season is going to be no less complex and it will be worth taking the time to prepare for a lot of different potential budgetary adventures. I shared some links last week on what is coming, but this article really got my attention about the next 12 months in particular. Combined with economic forecasts (Deloitte does one every two weeks for you economy wonks, I like this overview from Brookings, which dives into some specifics, but hits top trends, and I revisited the link I shared last week on the various kinds of recovery possibilities), as well as more insights on the vaccine development and delivery challenges, we are all going to be (once again) creating a few different interpretive budget dances for the next fiscal year. Feel like you want to start working out your brain on this one? Check this piece out on the new budgeting for 2021 (spoiler alert: we are all going to spending lots of time together figuring this out).

Election & DEI Work

In case you missed the news, the political pressure was ratcheted up with the passing of Justice Ginsburg last Friday. Now is the time to make sure that you are ready for this election season. Do talk with your boards about the importance of the diversity, equity, and inclusion lens being brought to how the school responds to and thinks about campus discourse, the ramp-up to the election, and the eventual election results. As one speaker said in our election series this week, a lack of statement, acknowledgement, or engagement can also say volumes and impact your community. If you are wrestling with employee political speech, this article might be helpful. Also, if you are looking to work with your board on inclusion generally, I like this Deloitte insight. And, if your HR people need more ideas around increasing diversity, this one might help.


Can I tell you something I have not been worried about thus far, but has been coming up more often in my 3am musings? Cybersecurity. And, not the zoom bombers and whatnot, which the Gen X side of my head finds kind of entertaining and gives me hope for this generation. Real cybersecurity issues around true data breaches, seizing of money, using the school’s name to secure funds, etc., which independent schools have generally been very lucky on so far. With everyone moving everything on line, school districts have been a prime target.   If you have been letting this slide a bit, make sure you are on it. This Schwartz Hannum piece might be helpful to get you started (lessons learned from Blackbaud’s bit of excitement), and Venable is doing a webinar for nonprofits next week on the topic. This article about boards and their interest here is a good series of questions and insights to help you double-check the school’s work. And, I like this quick one that wraps up a lot of the recommended basic steps (good reminder article to share with staff). Seriously, let’s not be blind-sided by this one. Particularly as parents are apparently a bit concerned on the privacy front.

Okay, enough of the in-depth… Some quick hits:

  • US News and World Reports released its updated best of lists for higher ed recently. However, know that they have also been reaching to people within the independent school world to figure out how they can capitalize on a “best of independent schools” approach. They have been trying to crack this nut for years and the amount of movement of families around the country has undoubtedly triggered this new fascination. Good throw-back article here from Malcolm Gladwell for thoughts on how much depth US News tends to bring to the education conversation.
  • Giving is on a lot of people’s minds as we move towards the timing for traditional fundraising pushes. Apparently, bets are on those who already had a lot of money before to carry the day on giving. Harvard Business Review (for a K shaped recovery) released a piece on it, but the more entertaining one might be from Nonprofit Quarterly reviewing that piece (who knew that such acerbic wit existed in giving publications?). At any rate, HBR is not wrong, as the second article points out with this quote from the Institute for Policy Studies: “Half a year into a paralyzing pandemic that has cost millions of Americans their livelihoods and lives, the nation’s 643 billionaires have racked up $845 billion in collective wealth gains, a 29 percent leap since March 18. America’s billionaires reached this startling milestone of wealth accumulation even as special federal relief was drying up for millions of unemployed workers and for hard-pressed state and local governments struggling to provide vital services.”
  • Two more quick governance notes. I liked this short one from RG165 about the dance of the head and board chair. I do think that governance and school leadership is a dance, where the lead can switch fairly regularly. I hesitate to guess what kind of dance we are all doing at the moment. Some of you are definitely waltzing, others are probably thinking it is time to call in the dance teachers again. On a deeper note, here is how your board can help you plan for more disasters no one wants to think about (that will keep them busy). This article is written for for-profit boards, but I think some of the concepts carry-over.
  • Two leadership pieces to either dive into or roll your eyes at as you move on to education just below. One on helping your people grow through trauma. The other on problem-solving mindsets. Want a look into a leadership study in our world? Check this one out from Southern Teachers (multipart, you might want to check back periodically.
  • Next week at the heads’ round table (Wednesday, 4:00 Eastern / 3:00 Central) we will be talking about retention, but I thought this dive into retention in higher education might also be instructive.
  • On the COVID front, the CDC put up and took down guidance around whether COVID-19 is airborne. Either way, scientists seem pretty hot on the idea.
  • And, finally, some quick education and staff care notes:
  • The must read is this short one from Education Next. This time is going to change how parents, students, colleges, and hopefully schools think about what education is, what does it look like, what should it look like, and how do we know. This article takes an early swipe at what parents saw in terms of their students’ assignments and the school’s expectations.
  • The importance of relationship mapping in schools right now, particularly right now, and how to do it (really, this one is pretty good, for Harvard).
  • The strange and growing battle over patriotic education and, I would add, what is happening on some college campuses around words that sound like they should give offense.
  • Supporting teens in a pandemic as well as nurturing their growth mindsets through protest and pandemic
  • Knowing psychological first aid for yourself and those around you
  • Manage anxiety in four simple ways
  • Fun visuals for often confusing words
  • And, this one just because it reminds you how good students really can be. 

We really can’t wrap up a pandemic week without news of the weird. Martha Stewart’s gourmet gummies and CBD oil were already a little weird, but this article where she mentions eating 20 of them, well, that’s what the kids call “extra.” And, no, they don’t deliver to South Carolina. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!