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RISING UP How Three Schools Met Unexpected Challenges With Creative Resilience Reducing Student Anxiety Making the Case for Early Childhood and Lower School Enrollment





June 25-28 | Clearwater Beach, FL


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contents SAIS Magazine | Spring 2019


14 2 6 8 10 6


2 13 14 18 20

In Brief Reducing Student Anxiety Single Give Day Boosts Alumni Participation Investment for a Lifetime Early Childhood and Lower School Enrollment

Student Ambassadors Rising Up Three Schools Meet Unexpected Challenges

SAIS Summer Institutes A Farewell Message from SAIS President Kirk Walker


The mission of SAIS is to strengthen member schools by providing high-quality accreditation processes, comprehensive professional growth opportunities, and visionary leadership development programs. The SAIS magazine is published twice annually. Contact media@sais.org with comments or submissions. SAIS | 6050 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 240-199 | Norcross, GA 30092 | www.sais.org

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IN BRIEF Priority Seating

Page Turners BY CHRISTINA MIMMS Two comments from parents at Stratford Academy in Macon, GA, in the past year prompted school leaders to consider a new program. In a survey last year, parents expressed a desire to interact with parents from other divisions. Pre-K parents wanted to meet upper school parents, for example. And this past fall, a parent suggested starting a book club on campus. After reading Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, Middle School Principal Logan Bowlds found the ideal launchpad for a parent book club: its content about the lack of empathy among young people is of great concern to many parents. By inviting the whole community, Stratford satisfied the desire to mix parents of children from different grades and divisions. Bowlds sent the invitation for the February 5 morning book club meeting to all parents, expecting perhaps a dozen responses. “I wasn’t sure if there would be enough attendance to back up the interest,” he said. To his surprise, nearly 60 people attended and all participated in an enthusiastic discussion of the book. Because of the organization of the book’s chapters and discussion guides, the book club will examine a section at a time at monthly meetings to be held through early May. If interest continues, Bowlds plans to host another series of book club meetings next spring.


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“Come in and sit wherever you like” is not the typical invitation most elementary school teachers offer their young charges as the day begins. More often, classrooms can be constrained environments with desks and chairs in one size, arranged in a specific way, that must fit every student’s shape, size, and learning preference. At the Bolles School’s lower school campus in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, students in all grades are encouraged to choose from a variety of seating or standing options to help increase their ability to pay attention and deepen learning. “Just like you have a favorite pen or coffee mug, students can make decisions based on how they feel that day,” said Lower School Head Peggy Campbell-Rush. “Learning is active and involved and fully embraces the brain-body connection.” The science of proprioceptive input or vestibular stimulation tells us the body needs to move to keep the brain active. When children sit longer than their age plus two minutes, their brains become less active, resulting in less engagement with the lesson and teacher. Campbell-Rush has introduced a wide selection of move-tolearn seating in every classroom on the lower school campus. There are small movement cushions and standing desks plus couches, pod rockers, floor rockers, Oodle stools, Hokki stools, balls, and more. New seating options also have been introduced on Bolles’ lower school Whitehurst Campus. The result? Better learning outcomes and fewer discipline interventions. “Students are engaged, and teachers are getting the most out of all their students,” Campbell-Rush said. “It gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘move it or lose it.’”


2018 SAIS Distinguished Service Awards


t the SAIS Annual Conference last fall, the SAIS Board of Trustees presented the Distinguished Service Award to three recipients for their outstanding contributions to independent education and service to SAIS.

Created in 2012, the award is inspired by the life and work of Dale Regan, who devoted 34 years of her life to the Episcopal School of Jacksonville, and who, posthumously, was the award’s first recipient.


Summit School, Winston-Salem, NC Sandra Adams began her career in 1967 teaching Latin at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC. In 1990, she was named head of school and over the next 18 years, she led Summit in raising more than $22 million to fund a library, athletics center, dining room, lower school building, and playground. Adams served on the SAIS Board of Trustees from 1994-2006, including appointments as treasurer, secretary, vice chair, and chair. She chaired 12 accreditation visits and was the first female member of the Southern Headmasters Association. She served on the boards of NAIS and NCAIS. In 2008, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Adams upon her retirement from Summit School in recognition of her 41 years of service.


Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC Bob Shirley served as head of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, SC, from 1978-2000. From 20002012, he was the director of the National Center for Independent School Renewal. During that tenure, he also served as interim head of Gaston Day School in Gastonia, NC, and Bimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, MA. In 2003-2004, Shirley took a departure from education as the interim executive director at the Columbia Museum

of Art. Next he served as head of Charleston Collegiate School in Charleston, SC, from 2005-2011, and then as interim head at Woodlawn School in Davidson, NC, from 2014-2016. Shirley served on the SAIS Board of Trustees from 1994-2000 and holds the record for chairing the most accreditation visits with 26.


McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN Kirk Walker served as head of McCallie School in Chattanooga, TN, from 1999-2014. He led the school through a great period of growth that included the construction on two new dorms and a new dining facility, enhancements to the campus chapel, and a 30% increase in enrollment. In 2015, Walker was named president of SAIS after many years of deep engagement with the association, serving the SAIS Board of Trustees as secretary, treasurer, accreditation committee chair, and board chair. He helped launch the initial SAIS accreditation program and has participated on 12 SAIS accreditation visits. Additionally, he chaired the board of the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools (TAIS). He served as a supervisor of instruction in Ft. Campbell, KY, as head of Bright School in Chattanooga, TN (1982-90) and as head of Ensworth School in Nashville, TN (1990-99). Walker will retire from SAIS on June 30, 2019. In addition to receiving the award, Walker was honored with a video tribute, available at: youtube.com/saistalks SPR ING 2 0 1 9 │ SA I S.ORG



Photo credit: Scott Coggins, HIES

Episcopal Student Interviews Presiding Bishop for Georgia Radio Service BY PEGGY SHAW, EPISCOPAL NEWS SERVICE


he Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, impressed millions last May 19 with his rousing royal wedding sermon on the power of love. This past November, he visited Atlanta for the National Association of Episcopal Schools biannual conference, where he served as celebrant and preacher at the conference, but also took time out of his busy schedule to meet with 15-year-old Rebekah Glover, a student at Atlanta’s Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. The enterprising sophomore wrote Curry in late October requesting an interview for the Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS), where she volunteers. GaRRS provides broadcasts to those who are visually impaired or have difficulty with the printed word. Glover told Curry in her warm missive — sent to Curry’s public email address — that she was raised in a non-denominational faith, that her mother is from North Carolina (Curry has longtime ties to North Carolina), and that she enjoys visiting her 88-year-old grandmother. “I often read the Word and sing hymns — it brings so much

joy to Grandma!” she wrote. “Bishop, I know you’re an extremely busy man, but I’m asking, should you ever come to the Atlanta area, Sir, please allow me to interview you. I volunteer my services at GaRRS — Georgia Radio Reading Services. I would love for this audience to hear from you!” And to Glover’s surprise, the trailblazing bishop quickly agreed to come. They met for an interview on the Holy Innocents’ campus on November 8, and then Curry took part in an all-school Eucharistic Convocation. “You don’t really expect to be a 15-yearold and have a person as big as Michael Curry respond to you,” noted Glover, who added that Curry had been an inspiration to her long before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. “I love his contagious energy when he speaks, and his love for Jesus of Nazareth. And when I hear his

powerful messages, it makes my spirit leap.” Glover’s mother arranged to have a GaRRS producer record the interview, and Glover prepared questions for Curry about the Jesus Movement, the bishop’s experience with people with disabilities, and his new book The Power of Love. “I was so happy to converse with him one-on-one,” she said. The mission of GaRRS, where Glover volunteers as a reader, is to improve the quality of life for every Georgian who is blind, visually impaired, or has difficulty with the printed word. The nonprofit offers an expansive library and streams hundreds of programs on its broadcasts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Patrons access the service through a special radio, an online webstream, a phone, or a mobile app. Glover plans to major in film and TV production in college. Article reprinted by permission.

Welcome, Debra! Debra Wilson will join SAIS as president on July 1. She has served as general counsel for the National Association of Independent Schools since 2000. In accepting the appointment, Wilson said, “I am extremely excited and honored to be asked to work more closely with and on behalf of SAIS member schools. SAIS has such a firm commitment to providing quality services and accreditation to its schools. I look forward to collaborating with the talented SAIS team to continue great service to member schools.” In addition to her role as chief legal officer at NAIS, she has presented to school leaders around the country and abroad. Wilson is committed to helping schools prevent and mitigate risks before they become crises and is heavily involved in initiatives addressing many of the most pressing issues facing schools today, including promoting good governance, ensuring student safety, fostering equitable communities, and improving student mental health. She has authored articles and chapters on the legal, governance, and student well-being issues impacting independent schools.


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he state of Florida serves as a classroom unto itself. With climate change, red tide, the potential for tropical storms and hurricanes, plus hundreds of types of plants and trees, the campus of Palmer Trinity in Miami presents myriad opportunities for student discovery. Students in Robert Moore’s scientific inquiry class often meet outdoors to study their surroundings. “This class is a great way to talk about what South Florida offers in an academic elective,” Moore says. Recently, his 7th and 8th graders worked to label more than 70 species of trees on the 60-acre Palmer Trinity campus. The project continued a collaboration between Dr. Leo Llinas, the school’s director of environmental stewardship, Moore, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in nearby Coral Gables to locate, map, and describe the different species. Those findings were collected and published in the book, The Trees of Palmer Trinity School. Last fall, Moore’s students linked the descriptions in the book to quick response (QR) codes, creating Google docs with a picture of each tree species, a short description, and a map link. They printed the QR codes on birchwood signs using the laser printer in the school’s Innovation Station. The students sanded, lacquered,

and sealed the signs before attaching them to posts with a red pin on top, similar to a Google map pin. The signs were installed in January. Visitors can scan the QR codes with their smartphones to access online details about the trees. Sixth graders at Palmer Trinity were among the first to explore the new markers in a class scavenger hunt and the admission office is primed to include the area on tours. “We want kids to appreciate the outdoors and the unique species of trees on our campus,” Moore says. “We hope more students will enjoy having classes outdoors and be more environmentally conscious.”

Students Turn Trauma Specialists in Hospital Immersion Activity



ospital visits are far from exciting for most, but students in Tampa Preparatory School’s Medical Explorers Club in Tampa, FL, might argue otherwise. Last December, 27 students from the club were immersed in the fast-paced world of first responders and trauma specialists as medical professionals at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) guided them through a mock emergency. The exercise began with TGH’s Aeromed Flight Crew arriving on the scene of an “accident” involving a bicyclist. As they treated the patient, they explained the process and medical procedure to students. Students then gathered in smaller groups to practice elements of the emergency response that were demonstrated, such as securing the patient to a stretcher and intubation. Trauma Performance Improvement Coordinator Brooke Bull, one of the TGH staff members guiding students, was happy to field tons of questions from the aspiring medical professionals. “I can see a lot of interest here, which just makes me excited,” she said. After a successful response and helicopter transport, students reunited with the patient in the hospital’s trauma bay. TGH staff again acted out the appropriate next steps, explaining details to students who then worked through the procedures in small groups.

Students also suited up in full scrubs to get a sneak peek of the emergency operating facilities, practiced CPR compressions, and got an up-close look at TGH’s emergency response helicopter. Upper School Director Carl Carlson gave credit to the students in the Medical Explorers Club for their initiative and enthusiasm in organizing the day. “We let the kids try to own this as much as we can,” he said, noting the club’s success. Designed specifically for Tampa Prep students, the Medical Immersion Day of Learning was the first time TGH has hosted high school students in such a context, with plans to continue the event in the future. SPR ING 2 0 1 9 │ SA I S.ORG





he headlines grab our attention: “How Anxiety Became an Epidemic for Young People” ... “Teen Anxiety Epidemic” ... “Epidemic of Anxiety Among Today’s Students” ... Anxiety? Epidemic? To some, this might seem overly dramatic. But many educators are all too aware of the pervasive reality behind the headlines, as schools across America – independent and public, urban and rural – face a torrent of anxiety cases within their student populations. Today’s children are living through a socio-emotional crisis. The National Institute of Mental Health reported in 2015 that as many as 31.9% of adolescents ages 13-18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. That is three out of every ten children. Even students who do not experience anxiety symptoms themselves are likely to be impacted by their many classmates who do. What has caused this epidemic? In some


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cases, biological or hereditary factors are in play. Researchers hypothesize that the adolescent brain may naturally undergo changes that makes it vulnerable to anxiety disorders. With student anxiety cases, there are almost certainly environmental factors to consider. Some theorize that our very culture is a major culprit, that the current generation of students is a product of a coddled existence where mobile technology and instant gratification rule the day, everyone receives a trophy, and parents tend to try to “fix it” before their child experiences the pain of failure. Regardless of the root cause, the result is clear. Too many children are ill-equipped to cope with the responsibilities of school. While many scientific researchers and medical practitioners work to identify and address the causes of child anxiety, educators must deal with this crisis in the here and now. So, what can schools do to

decrease anxiety? Aside from traditional measures like school counselors, advisory groups, mental health support clubs, and social skills classes, what can we do today to make a difference in students’ lives? It all starts with conversations: • among faculty and staff, to develop empathy, educating them on a child’s daily struggle when dealing with anxiety; • with students, to understand their perspectives and how they deal with


the demands of the school environment; • between students, so they understand they are not alone in facing these challenges; and • with parents, to educate them on the dangers when children are constantly plugged in, overscheduled, and face expectations that may be too high.

If those conversations have not already started, now is the time to organize diverse voices in your community to brainstorm ways to address this national problem in your school. Topics for discussion might include: • course options that promote self-awareness and relaxation • how to monitor and limit the number of assessments given in a school day • how to coordinate homework loads across course schedules to ensure quality over quantity • how to educate faculty/staff/stakeholders on the importance of downtime • how to create down time in student schedules • professional development to staff/faculty for awareness and educational strategies to mitigate anxiety

Parent information sessions could also help promote strategies for raising independent and resilient children and creating healthier habits at home.

At Atlanta Academy, we have started the conversation. We are talking with parents, students, and faculty and have implemented a number of measures. We now use a department calendar to track and limit the number of assessments given each day. Our school offers a series of Parent University seminars that address student anxiety. From a curriculum perspective, we have inserted a rotating study hall into weekly student schedules. We have also introduced relaxation courses such as Zen art, walking, and yoga as enrichment electives. To our surprise, these classes have achieved our highest enrichment enrollments! Many of the soft skills required to be future-ready are anxietyinducing. If we do not get a handle on how to help students navigate today’s turbulent waters, we will be in danger of putting a large percentage of the current generation of students into the workforce without the ability to communicate, collaborate, take risks, or learn from failure. There is no easy, universal answer to this challenge and anxiety reduction measures that work in one school may look different in another. One thing we know with certainty: we must start talking about it now. We owe it to our school communities to tackle this issue. These conversations will reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and give us the best opportunity to steer an entire generation of learners toward a healthier course.

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approach for Woodberry and began publicizing our give day about a month in advance. Alumni who graduated at least 40 years ago received hard copy letters and invitations to participate by mailing in a check before the give day if they were not comfortable giving online. This strategy made sure we did not overlook anyone and allowed the development officers to get comfortable answering questions about the day. Other alumni received emails in the three weeks leading up to the give day, and we posted frequent “coming soon” messages on social media.



oodberry Forest School benefits from a mature annual fund and strong alumni support, both in total dollars raised and in the percentage of alumni who give. For many years, participation by alumni had hovered around 50%. As an all-boys, all-boarding high school, our annual fund, known as the Amici Fund, is similar to that of a small college. It provides 11% of Woodberry’s operating budget each year, with alumni gifts contributing about 75% of dollars raised. Current parents provide about 15% of the fund, with the remainder coming from past parents, friends, foundations, and other sources. In the fall 2016, Amici Fund Director Douglas Gabbert pitched the idea of a “give day” with the goal of launching in March 2017. We repeated the event in 2018 and are currently planning OneWoodberry 2019. A spring giving event — usually in March — has been a part of Woodberry’s program for nearly a decade, with a focus on driving participation. In 2016, we simplified our program and launched A Week


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for Woodberry, a one-week blitz that challenged at least 900 alumni to increase their gift by 5% or more to trigger a $150,000 challenge grant. The event was a huge success, with more than 1,800 alumni meeting the threshold. Overall alumni participation in 2016 reached 60%, raising a record $3.46 million and easily surpassing the prior year’s record of $3.2 million. A Week for Woodberry was successful, but it was complicated. In advance, we contacted all alumni who had given the year before to let them know how much they would need to contribute to count toward the match. This was a daunting exercise in data segmentation and printing. Our team was inspired by a pair of give days held by Washington and Lee University that focused on driving high participation rather than tracking the size of gifts. We visited W&L about six months ahead of our own give day and received excellent counsel from their director of annual giving. While W&L launched surprise give days, we decided this was not the best

A key part of our give days was carrying over the idea of a challenge gift that we used previously. Gabbert secured a lead gift from a member of the board of trustees and supplemented that with gifts from seven other alumni, creating an overall challenge of $150,000. We set a goal of 1,000 gifts for the day. Every member of the alumni/development office pitched in, ensuring each class received strong communication from a team member they knew well. The team held conference calls with the volunteers for every alumni class. By spending the winter months on the phone and ensuring volunteers were excited, Gabbert and his team eased the burden they would shoulder on the big day. We partnered with GiveCampus for gift processing. Their software made it easy for alumni to track overall progress and see how each class compared. A final piece of our plan was a series of live broadcasts by students with WFSPN, the school’s online streaming service for sports and campus events. The boys interviewed long-serving faculty members, visited classes, and broadcast from athletic practices to give alumni around the world a window into campus. This gave students a stake in the day and added a great sense of energy.


Our first give day raised nearly $1.2 million (a number that included the $150,000 challenge gift) from 2,574 gifts. We brought the initiative back in 2018 with double the challenge (a $300,000 challenge gift from nearly 30 alumni) and double the goal (2,000 gifts in a day). We raised $1.5 million from more than 2,929 gifts. In 2019, OneWoodberry will be open to the entire school community including current and past parents. Alumni and parents have again increased the challenge gift — this time to $500,000 — and we have increased our goal to 3,000 gifts, which is more than two gifts for every minute in the day.


Consider competition. Maybe it’s because we’re an all-boys school, but our alumni love to compete. After the day

ends, we recognize the class from each decade with the highest participation. The only prize is pride, but the trash talking and competition have been fierce. Engage alumni of all ages. Letting folks participate by mail (by putting “OneWoodberry” in the check memo line) ensures everyone is involved. We received a gift from a member of the class of 1931 who is more than 100 years old! This also helps open the day with some gifts “in the bag.” Volunteers are critical. We have nearly 6,000 living alumni. Our campus team could only call a fraction of them in a day so class agents do the heavy lifting. In 2018, we invited many of them to campus for the day and discovered classes with a volunteer on campus outperformed peer classes. We are hoping to get more volunteers onsite this year.


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Build on campus engagement. Using student-run broadcasts, setting up a command post in a main lecture hall, and inviting the volunteers to enjoy meals builds a sense of excitement and inspires alumni around the world. Don’t forget to follow up. We sent messages at midnight to celebrate the success of OneWoodberry and the development officers spent weeks mailing letters with gift receipts. Some high-dollar donors made a small participation gift on the big day, so before the end of the fiscal year, the development team followed up to secure a second gift that matched their usual level of participation. If you’re interested in learning more about Woodberry’s give days, contact: Jacob_Geiger@woodberry.org

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An Investment for a Lifetime

The Value of Independent Education for the Youngest Learners



t’s just kindergarten, right? Why invest in an independent school education at such an early age? From the East Coast to the West Coast, this is a question we often hear in our role as admission professionals. And it is probably the question that evokes the most emotion for us. As educators and leaders who have served in both public and private schools and as parents of children who graduated from or currently attend independent schools, we can’t think of an investment that better safeguards a child’s future. Independent school education builds a strong and positive foundation that will impact the habits of their hearts and minds for a lifetime.

IMPORTANCE OF EARLY ENTRY In early childhood and elementary school, children begin to develop their identity as learners and young leaders. They develop social and emotional skills that will strengthen their ability to communicate, connect with others, and build relationships. In these early years, they establish habits and behaviors and an overall approach to school and the learning process. It is the most important time to invest in a child’s educational journey so they come to see learning as a joyful process where their curiosity and interests are welcomed. During the preschool years (ages 3-5), children begin to form their identities. They start attaching labels to people and putting themselves and others into categories. During the elementary school years (ages 5-10), children start to assign meaning to those groups which ultimately results in assigning value and worth to characteristics inherent in themselves and others. During this stage of development, children begin to establish who they are and how they see themselves in the world. For identity to develop in the most positive and healthy manner, children must have the individual time and attention that assures them they are seen and known. School communities play an important role in this development. Children thrive in environments where student-teacher ratios are low, schedules are flexible and honor the needs of each child, and high-quality resources and mentors are


Early childhood is the most important time to invest in a child’s educational journey so they come to see learning as a joyful process where their curiosity and interests are welcomed.”

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available. Rich and robust programs that include visual and performing arts, instrumental and vocal music, science and technology, physical education, health and wellness, reading and writing, engineering and math, research and design, character education, and more allow students to explore a range of interests and issues. They are further supported when the surrounding community (students, parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, etc.) share expectations and are committed to the same mission and core values. These qualities and more define the independent school experience. Providing this support and exposure at the earliest possible age helps foster positive identity development and allows young children to appreciate their inherent value and worth, while at the same time understanding they are part of something bigger than themselves.

INSTILLING HABITS OF THE HEART For parents examining school options, their child’s health and well-being is a central consideration. The 2015 Children’s Mental Health Report from the Child Mind Institute showed an increase in diagnoses for anxiety, depression, ADHD, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other mental health concerns. Of the 74.5 million children in the United States, an estimated 17.1 million have or have had a psychiatric disorder. To best support children, it is incumbent on school communities to partner with parents to support healthy habits of the heart. Healthy habits help regulate emotions and enable empathy with others. They support interpersonal skills that impact the quality of relationships we have with ourselves and others. Habits of the heart reveal a child’s social-emotional development and take shape in the earliest years, making unlearning unproductive habits difficult. Independent schools are more likely to include health and wellness as a key curricular component, often partnering with experts and related industries to provide distinctive programs that support the student’s sense of well-being. La Jolla Country Day School is partnering with Donna Hicks, Ph.D., an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and author of Leading With Dignity: How to Create a Culture that Brings Out the Best in People. The goal is to develop a school culture that promotes


Healthy habits help regulate emotions and enable empathy with others. They support interpersonal skills that impact the quality of relationships we have with ourselves and others.”

dignity education, weaving the practice of treating one’s self and everyone on earth with dignity, into the fabric of school life. The school is also working with Rady Children’s Hospital to develop a wellness program. Ravenscroft School has partnered with the Center for Creative Leadership to co-create Lead from Here, a pioneering pre-K through grade 12 educational framework designed to foster early leadership development in children. Students have the opportunity from the earliest age to actively participate in a curriculum that will draw on and develop skills including collaboration, accountability, strategic thinking, and empathy. In many schools, faith and/or a specific religious world view shapes how the school instills the habits of the heart. For independent schools that are affiliated with (and often share property with) a church or synagogue, there is a built-in partnership. Clergy or staff may teach classes on campus or work alongside the faculty and students in service learning programs that impact the community. Each school has the freedom to set up its curriculum in a way that reflects its specific set of values. A faith-based education from the earliest years is important to many parents. A family may be members of the house of worship affiliated with that school, or they may be members of that particular faith. The school experience complements and reinforces what the family practices at home or in their house of worship. The intentional support and learning related to the habits of the heart that happen during a child’s most formative years — preschool and elementary school — provides a deep-rooted foundation that will serve the child well throughout life. In a pre-K-8 or pre-K-12 setting, it is reinforced by the middle and high school mentors who model good habits and skills. Continued on page 12

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GOOD READ DEVELOPING HABITS OF THE MIND the unit’s objectives on the pre-assessment, the teacher has Habits of the heart paired with habits of the mind prepare the freedom to completely alter their instruction and utilize children to thrive in a complex and interdependent world. a hands-on, real-world problem-solving approach to extend Habits of the mind connect directly to children’s thinking the learning. For example: when students complained about dispositions. They help us create new ideas and solve problems, the overcrowded dining hall, the teacher took them there and they support the development of mental models that to investigate solutions to the problem. Using sticky notes, impact how we learn and grow. chart paper, and a cell phone to take pictures, the group used An independent school is uniquely equipped to develop multiplication and division to determine there were more the habits of the mind in ways that support what author tables than were actually needed. The students sent a formal and educator Tony Wagner has called the seven survival request to the director of facilities, and as a result, several skills: critical thinking, collaboration, adaptability, initiative, tables were removed. communication, curiosity, and ability to analyze information. As Students from early childhood through upper school benefit debates rage over state and national when teachers are given autonomy and standards, and performance on are empowered to make meaningful “Sending kids to lower school in a end-of-grade tests dictates curricular choices in how best to deliver pre-K–12 institution gives them a decisions, independent school curriculum and instruction. ready supply of older role models. educators have the autonomy to make SENSE OF COMMUNITY: VOICES OF My son has so many kids that he decisions about how best to meet an STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND PARENTS looks up to and who know him by individual student’s need in real time. The intentional work to support They are not bound to a prescribed name. Whether it’s Quenton on healthy habits of the heart and program, a predetermined timeline, the cello, Jake on the basketball mind starting with the youngest or a mandated standardized test. court, or bigger buddies coming learners is an important aspect of an Independent school educators down to serve in the lower school, independent school’s value proposition. have the freedom and flexibility to he has a vision of who he wants to It contributes to more joyful learning determine, “What do my students experiences and greater academic grow up to be because it’s all right need to know to best prepare them success. New research conducted by there in front of him.” for college and beyond? How am I Gallup suggests the holistic approach of Nelson Nunalee going to deliver the curriculum to tending to students’ emotional wellTeacher and Parent the specific set of students I have this being and providing strong academic Ravenscroft School year?” That might mean speeding up opportunities result in better long-term the pace of instruction or slowing it outcomes among independent school down, diving deeper and extending a concept, or altering the graduates. Access report here: bit.ly/2BdLDCm pedagogical approach. It means differentiating instruction and One final dividend that comes from investing in an having the time and resources to do it well. independent education in the earliest years: the supportive Expert educators prioritize process over product and school community. The “lifers” who enter in preschool or strategies over content. As the world continues to change kindergarten have the opportunity to learn and grow and rapidly, along with the skills our children will need to be be known within an extended school family from the very successful, independent schools are able to adapt to prepare beginning of their school journey until they are ready to go children for a lifetime of intellectual exploration, personal off into the world. Experienced parents agree that having a growth, and social responsibility. consistent partnership in a child’s upbringing is invaluable. For example, in the lower school at La Jolla Country Day School, the student-centered approach is reinforced and BECAUSE it MATTERS supported by a philosophy on standardized tests. The students inspire. educate. empower. take a standardized test called the CTP 4, so they have experience with this process and parents can have normative data on their child’s progress. The test is administered at the beginning of the school year, so it can be used as a formative assessment, and provide information to guide teachers as they make decisions about the curriculum and instruction needs for each child. In this case, standardized testing is not used to measure the students’ academic success. In third grade at Ravenscroft, the teaching team uses cross-grade-level groupings based upon a multiplication unit COLLINS COOPER CARUSI ARCHITECTS pre-assessment. When one group demonstrates mastery of


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Student Ambassadors Offer Insight, Support BY CHRISTINA MIMMS


o learn what a school is really like, just ask the students. They have the inside scoop on the most challenging teachers and classes, sports teams, the tastiest options at lunch, and the most-loved school traditions. Many schools find a formal student ambassador program not only creates a pool of trained volunteers to support the admission office and staff school events, but rewards student leaders in a unique way. At Evangelical Christian School (ECS) in Germantown, TN, 5th grade students lead in a variety of ways, according to Paula Cowart, head of lower school. They open doors in the car line to help usher younger children safely into school, raise and lower the flag each day, and have an assigned kindergarten “buddy.” They also are eligible to apply to be student ambassadors, primarily to support the admission office. “I use them as my ‘front door’ people,” Cowart says. About ten students are selected each year for the ambassador program. They lead small group tours and sit on a panel for prospective parents eager to ask questions about the school. Outside of admissions, the student ambassadors greet at special events like grandparents’ day. Cowart gives them questions about their school experience so that they can prepare answers in advance. She coaches them on good manners and making eye contact to help them become more comfortable conversing with adults. Parents sign off on the ambassador application form to ensure they will support the additional time demands and responsibility required. At Donoho School in Anniston, AL, Middle and Upper School Director Russ Connell recommends having a formal application process for ambassador programs. “Kids will sign up for anything, but this requires more of them. We want them to take pride in the role they have been entrusted with. And this is a

great training ground for college applications and interviews,” he says. Students in 9th through 12th grades who wish to participate must submit an application and be interviewed by a committee that includes Head of School David Noone, Connell, and two advancement staff members. While student government elections may seem like popularity contests, the ambassador selection process is different, taking an applicant’s personal skills and abilities into account. “Adults may recognize qualities that kids don’t,” Connell says. “We have some awesome kids who are given a chance to lead in a different way. And we get great feedback about them from visitors.” As ambassadors, students lead tours for prospective families and other visitors, host shadow days for applicant students, and greet attendees at events, many of which are held on weeknights or on weekends. At Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, FL, 8th grade student ambassadors primarily support incoming 6th graders. They lead tours of the middle school for rising 6th grade families, assist during orientation, and mentor incoming students. About 60 ambassadors are selected by faculty each year based on their citizenship and character. “They are some of our best cheerleaders for incoming students,” says Rachel Rodriguez, middle school head. An ambassador program provides a platform for students to share their experiences and grow in their own leadership development. They embody the school experience and, properly prepared and selected, bring invaluable insight to prospects, parents, and others looking to understand the heartbeat of a school community. SPR ING 2 0 1 9 │ SA IS .ORG




How Three Schools Met Unexpected Challenges With Creative Resilience BY CHRISTINA MIMMS


xperienced school leaders know to expect the unexpected. Something will, in the course of a day, catapult onto their desk and require swift attention. Most days, it is minor – a meeting rescheduled, a sick teacher, a bus ferrying students from a field trip delayed in traffic. But what about when large-scale disaster strikes? The best leaders prepare for the unforeseen far in advance with effective crisis planning. Three SAIS schools share how they grew through challenging circumstances.

Down Came the Rain: Episcopal School of Baton Rouge

In late summer 2016, catastrophic floods engulfed Baton Rouge and surrounding cities in Louisiana. Days and days of rainfall overwhelmed the state with three times as much water as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. At Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, the homes of onethird of the students and 40 faculty and staff members flooded. On campus, the lower school took the biggest hit. The interiors of two gymnasiums were destroyed, the floors partially afloat in the muck. The football field and tennis courts held several inches of water, while the contents of the locker rooms and storage sheds were ruined. School buses were totaled. Head of School Hugh McIntosh and his leadership team sprang into action, both at home and on campus, which could be traversed only by boat in the first days following the flood. McIntosh, whose home escaped the high water, hosted two division heads and their families (including


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pets) for ten days. Their close quarters simplified the team’s crisis meetings, several of which were held at the McIntosh family dining table. The leadership team posted online video updates nearly every day, first from the home meetings and later, from inside damaged structures on campus. “I wanted to personalize the message and show we’re here and what we’re doing,” McIntosh explained. As McIntosh’s team worked through the recovery process, students joined the city’s first responders, including the Cajun Navy, to rescue residents by boat from their flooded homes. Once the water receded, students formed cleanup crews by sports teams and by clubs and helped with cleanup on campus and at homes in nearby neighborhoods. “Very little adult leadership was needed,” McIntosh said. “The way the students organized themselves was inspirational to me.” Because mold grows quickly in wet areas, the prompt removal of carpets, furniture, fabric items, and insulation allowed many structures to dry out and be salvaged. The school quickly established two funds, knowing that insurance claims take time to process. The Campus BounceBack Fund of $500,000 was used to: • replace teacher supplies and IT equipment; • replace athletic equipment and team supplies; • repair the pool and athletic fields; • repair buses used by athletic teams; and • replace maintenance equipment and machinery for buildings and grounds.


The KNIGHTS of Compassion Fund of $100,000 provided short-term emergency support for faculty and staff members who were personally impacted by flood waters. “Contributions came in an extremely nice way,” McIntosh said. “That was very gratifying for us.” Help arrived in other forms as well. Nearby schools, both independent and public, offered to host Episcopal teams on their fields and in their gyms. Teachers and students showed flexibility and resiliency as lower school classes were relocated to the school’s visual and performing arts center. Ten days after the flood, school reopened with its new, improvised normalcy. “It was imperative for us to get back to school because other schools were not flooded and we did not want to lose any students. We had to maintain our enrollment and our financial security,” McIntosh said. “We also made a pledge that we were not going to let the flood steal a year from our students. By September and October, the adults were standing in awe of the role models the students were for us. They were amazing.” In the weeks and months after the flood, neighbors near campus wrote to McIntosh and stopped by to visit to express their gratitude for all the Episcopal students had done to aid the recovery. From cleanup to trash removal to food delivery, students had stepped in and stepped up. School leaders now remember the 2016-17 school year as one of Episcopal’s most accomplished – academically, athletically, and in terms of the generous service offered to the community.

You have to be there and you have to be ready to present yourself as the paragon of the school’s values. Gather people around you. You have to plan quickly and make decisions quickly. Hand off things to other people – trust and delegate” Hugh McIntosh, Head of School SPR ING 2 0 1 9 │ SA IS .ORG


Oaks Christian School


Fire and Ash: Oaks Christian School The images of the California fires in November 2018 dominated the news for days. Residents recorded narrow escapes on their phones and posted photos of the ashes their homes had become on social media. School leaders at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, CA, witnessed the devastation first hand. More than 70% of their school families and staff were displaced from their homes and the homes of ten families burned to the ground. The school’s facilities were not directly damaged by fire but the 25-acre campus was shrouded in ash and smoke. As soon as the fires were extinguished, school leaders brought in an environmental company to evaluate the property and establish a recovery plan. A 150-person crew of environmental cleaning experts scrubbed every inch of the campus, from the rooftops to the desks to the HVAC systems. The school shared a video detailing the clean-up process. Access video here: bit.ly/2X2MIpa Because of the hazards and the special nature of fire recovery, non-professionals (such as faculty and students) were not permitted to take part in the cleanup. However, many students participated in a local program to help fill sandbags to reduce the spread of fire. They also unloaded truckloads of supplies to neighbors in need. The national effort “Giving Tuesday” fell during the fire. Oaks Christian designated donations from that day and from their next football game to a fund for fire victims and to a memorial fund for Ventura County Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in the November 7 Thousand Oaks bar shooting. The campus remained closed from November 8 through 23, including Thanksgiving break. In total, eight academic days were lost. School leaders debated holding online learning but abandoned that idea given that so many families


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and faculty were displaced and internet in the area was unreliable. The school communicated with families through email and social media. The spiritual life staff also called those families most severely affected. On November 23, the school sent a detailed letter to the school community to outline the plans for the return to school on November 26. They outlined the remaining days in the semester, which included the cancellation of exams, casual dress for students, and minimal homework. Teachers adjusted their lesson plans while college counselors worked with seniors, families, and universities on current applications. Many colleges contacted Oaks Christian to offer extended deadlines. “We limped to the Christmas break finish line,” said Dee Dee Mayer, associate head of school for spiritual life. In the remaining weeks of the semester, the school also offered counselors and therapy dogs to support students, many of whom were coping not only with the fire’s aftermath but the loss of Noel Sparks, a 21-year-old youth pastor at nearby Calvary Community Church, which many students attend. Sparks, who had personal relationships with many Oaks Christian students, was among the victims in the Thousand Oaks bar shooting. “We were able to get through this because we have a strong community and our faith sustained us,” said Dr. Matthew Northrup, associate head of school for academics. “We had to name and claim what we went through.” There were bright spots amid the devastation, according to Northrup and Mayer: • While active community service has long been part of the school’s mission, the fire presented opportunities for the students to serve others immediately in their own

Skyuka Hall


• • •

community through empathy and hands-on work. Faculty showed incredible flexibility and creativity in recrafting academic plans. Parents supported other parents by helping find temporary housing for displaced families, locating household items, and befriending them in new ways. Students modeled the tenets of the character education taught during their years at Oaks Christian: resiliency, grit, and faith.

“Hearing our students reflect on the words we speak and put them into action meant so much,” Mayer said. “They showed the consistency between who we say we are and what we do.”

Water, Water Everywhere: Skyuka Hall

Schools in coastal states like South Carolina and Florida expect a certain number of tropical storms and hurricanes in a given year. But what happens when a school in an inland state experiences a hurricane equivalent? That is exactly what happened to Skyuka Hall in Chattanooga, TN, when a water main beneath the school parking lot burst and dumped highly-pressurized water onto the building for four hours on July 17, 2018. The roof collapsed and water inundated classrooms and their contents. City officials condemned the building. Head of School Dr. Josh Yother pledged to move forward as school families and community supporters rallied around the school, which employs 26 faculty and serves approximately 100 K-12 students with learning differences. On August 2, Yother announced that his team secured a lease at a vacant property formerly occupied by Chattanooga Charter School for Excellence. The 27,000-square-foot campus included ample classroom space, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, and a playground, none of which Skyuka’s former

campus provided. “It was a literal miracle that the charter school was available,” Yother said. “All things are possible for those who believe.” Financial donations as well as gifts of furniture, books, and other supplies poured in from neighbors, friends, and school families. A local book store held a fundraiser and book signing with author Lester Aradi and gave all proceeds to the school, along with books for teachers’ libraries. Teachers scrambled to sort through supplies and prepare their classrooms for opening day as parents and students pitched in. Yother himself mowed the grass on the new campus as part of preparations. On August 23, Skyuka leaders, bursting with pride, welcomed families to their new campus. “You don’t know how much love you have until you get tested,” Yother said. “We have seen the power of love, community, character, and mission. This building was a Christ-like figure in the depths of desperation. It is our daily reminder of integrity, love, faith, and grace.” And perhaps due in part to the fact that students helped set up the new building, many have a changed attitude toward school. “Students have taken ownership here. They walk around campus with a different sense of pride,” Yother said. Admission requests have increased significantly in the past few months, so much so that the school is starting a capital campaign and will relocate to a new property that was gifted to them. The goal is to open there in August 2021. SAIS schools have proven time and again that not even natural disasters can derail their missions to serve the students entrusted to them. They can even serve as rallying points to help communities overcome sudden challenges. Their setbacks are minor compared with comebacks fueled by qualities such as resilience, optimism, and creativity. SPR ING 2 0 1 9 │ SA IS .ORG







Independent School Counselors Conference June 10-11 | www.sais.org/ISCC

Discuss the latest research and learn practical tips, best practices, and proven strategies.

Institute for New Heads

June 12-14 | www.sais.org/INH

An informative program preparing administrators for a successful transition to new headship.

Institute for Strategic Leadership June 12-14 | www.sais.org/ISL

Examine the nature of strategic leadership and explore a path for continual growth.

Administrative Leadership Institute June 19-21 | www.sais.org/ALI

Develop your leadership style and expand your management skills. Led by Rob Evans and Michael Thompson.

Dean of Students Symposium June 19-21 | www.sais.org/DSS

Develop a network of peers, discuss best practices on current issues, and gather practical ideas from colleagues.

Division Heads Conference

June 19-21 | www.sais.org/DHC

Networking, skill building, and resources for division heads at all grade levels and years of experience.

Institute for Administrative Assistants June 19-21 | www.sais.org/IAA

Learn practical strategies for handling the types of issues related to supporting a school administrator.

Institute for Heads

June 25-28 | www.sais.org/IH

An energizing and nurturing retreat for heads of school and their spouses. Led by Rob Evans and Michael Thompson.


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Schools Accredited in 2018

In 2018, SAIS accredited and re-accredited 61 member schools. Thank you to the visiting team chairs and hundreds of team members who volunteered their time and service to this important process. Academe of the Oaks, Decatur, GA

Mount Pisgah Christian School, Alpharetta, GA

Admiral Farragut Academy, St. Petersburg, FL

New Garden Friends School, Greensboro, NC

Asheville School, Asheville, NC

Notre Dame Academy, Duluth, GA

Ashley Hall, Charleston, SC

Omni Montessori School, Charlotte, NC

The Bedford School, Fairburn, GA

Pope John Paul II High School, Hendersonville, TN

The Burlington School, Burlington, NC

Porter-Gaud School, Charleston, SC

Bodine School, Germantown, TN

Riverside School, North Chesterfield, VA*

Brainerd Baptist School, Chattanooga, TN

Robert Toombs Christian Academy, Lyons, GA

Brookhaven Academy, Brookhaven, MS

Rock Springs Christian Academy, Milner, GA

Brookwood School, Thomasville, GA

Ron Clark Academy, Atlanta, GA*

Cape Fear Academy, Wilmington, NC

Saint Patrick Catholic School, Norfolk, VA

The Carmel School, Ruther Glen, VA

Sea Pines Montessori Academy, Hilton Head Island, SC

Charleston Day School, Charleston, SC

Seacrest Country Day School, Naples, FL

Charlotte Christian School, Charlotte, NC*

St. Luke School, Columbus, GA*

Chattanooga Christian School, Chattanooga, TN

St. Mary’s Episcopal Day School, Tampa, FL*

The Children’s School, Atlanta, GA

St. Paul Christian Academy, Nashville, TN

Community Christian School, Stockbridge, GA

The Steward School, Richmond, VA

Currey Ingram Academy, Brentwood, TN

Triangle Day School, Durham, NC

Edmund Burke Academy, Waynesboro, GA

Valwood School, Hahira, GA

Episcopal Day School, Augusta, GA

The Waldorf School of Atlanta, Decatur, GA

Episcopal Day School, Pensacola, FL

The Walker School, Marietta, GA

Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL Father Ryan High School, Nashville, TN First Presbyterian Day School, Macon, GA The Fletcher School, Charlotte, NC The Fugees Academy, Scottdale, GA Gatewood Schools, Eatonton, GA George Walton Academy, Monroe, GA Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal School, Memphis, TN Greater Atlanta Christian School, Norcross, GA Hilton Head Preparatory School, Hilton Head Island, SC Holy Comforter Episcopal School, Tallahassee, FL The Howard School, Atlanta, GA IMG Academy, Bradenton, FL John Milledge Academy, Milledgeville, GA Lakeview Academy, Gainesville, GA Legacy Christian Academy, Frisco, TX* The Lionheart School, Alpharetta, GA Mason Preparatory School, Charleston, SC Montverde Academy, Montverde, FL


2018 New SAIS Members Atlanta Youth Academy, Atlanta, GA Benedictine Military Academy, Savannah, GA Fayette Academy, Somerville, TN The Global Village School, Decatur, GA Live Oak Classical, Waco, TX Oak Hall School, Gainesville, FL Oakbrook Preparatory, Spartanburg, SC Pulaski Academy, Little Rock, AR Trinity Academy of Raleigh, Raleigh, NC Veritas Christian Academy, Houston, TX Westminster Academy, Memphis, TN

*Received initial SAIS accreditation in 2018. SPR ING 2 0 1 9 │ SA IS .ORG



A Farewell Message KIRK WALKER


“I have been repeatedly inspired by the great work you do. As I prepare to pass the baton, I do so with the firm belief that the best is yet to come.” Kirk Walker SAIS President


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ince joining SAIS as president in 2015, I have had the opportunity to visit many of our schools. The range of missions, markets, programs, and resources is dramatic. But what binds us together is a common concern for students, an emphasis on learning, and a focus on character development. Seeing these three elements manifested in so many different settings reinforces my belief that society needs our schools. As I have said before, in a world that can feel full of fear, our schools provide a sense of security. In a society that can feel aimless, they offer direction. And in a nation that can feel broken, they encourage healing. It is an obvious statement that the demands on schools are great … and growing greater. As tuitions rise, so do student and parent expectations. The demands on administrators seem to grow exponentially. At various times you are called upon to be crisis managers, cheerleaders, budget balancers, grief counselors, innovators, mediators, marketers, legal acrobats, financial forecasters, strategic planners, and successful fundraisers. You do all this in an atmosphere that has changed dramatically in the last ten years. The number of educational options has expanded: charters, home schools, hybrids, and online. The competition for students and for funds has never been greater. Despite these challenges, I am very optimistic about the future of our schools. In my travels, I have seen clear evidence of schools looking beyond the present and preparing themselves for a healthy and sustainable future. I have seen schools that actively discuss size and its relation to long-term costs, schools that are developing financial models and plans that account for the vacillations of the economy. I have seen boards of trustees recognize that they need to have a fuller understanding of good governance practices now and that they have a responsibility to put structures in place that will ensure a healthy and knowledgeable board years from now. I have seen schools look inward to determine whether their mission is truly infused in every aspect of their program. They are doing the hard work of rediscovering what they do well and how to make that even better. And I have seen schools focus more intentionally on culture and community, schools that recognize that their greatest assets are not tangible but rather the culture that binds the community together. They recognize that schools are “learning communities” and that they work better when they are “learning” to be better “communities.” I have been repeatedly inspired by the great work you do. As I prepare to pass the baton, I do so with the firm belief that the best is yet to come.

CAREER CENTER free job postings free and unlimited job postings for SAIS member schools

easy to use post, manage, and edit jobs right from your desktop

INSTITUTE FOR NEW TEACHERS This interactive experience will equip new teachers with the skills and understanding to guide and support their early years.

Institutes for New Teachers

July 8-10 | St. Martin's Episcopal School | Atlanta, GA July 17-19 | Providence Day School | Charlotte, NC July 22-24 | Currey Ingram Academy | Nashville, TN

Public-to-Private July 15-16 | Charleston, SC Topics include the unique culture of an independent school, working and communicating within the school community, navigating HR/legal issues, and balancing new responsibilities with a healthy home life. This program is being offered in conjunction with PAIS.



ANNUAL CONFERENCE October 27-29 | Crowne Plaza Ravinia | Atlanta, GA


Join over 300 colleagues from the Southeast to discover proven strategies, delve into hot topics, and discuss emerging trends. Attend sessions that fill in gaps in your experience, converse with leaders from like-size schools, and learn from top-notch speakers.

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6050 Peachtree Pkwy, Ste 240-199 Norcross, GA 30092 www.sais.org

SURVEY CENTER ACCREDITATION WORKSHOPS sais value narrative Designed to help schools understand the relationship between the value stakeholders place on a variety of characteristics and the perceived performance of the school at delivering on the characteristics.

board governance Measures the board and the head’s commitment to the five domains of governance. The survey results include a custom report that shows the current benchmarks.


SAIS offers accreditation workshops online, around the region, or on your campus. Schools going through re-accreditation can attend a regional workshop or host a virtual session. For schools new to SAIS accreditation, we will come to you and host a workshop on your campus.

upcoming regional workshops: April 8 | Magnolia Heights School | Senatobia, MS October 27 | Crowne Plaza Ravinia | Atlanta, GA


Profile for SAISnews

SAIS Spring 2019 Magazine  

SAIS Spring 2019 Magazine  

Profile for saisnews