SAIS MAGAZINE │ SPRING 2 0 2 0
Lifelong Learning at SAIS • Transitioning to Headship • Fostering Well-Being in School Communities • Email Protocols That Build Teamwork
moments 2020 SAIS WINTER CONFERENCE
CONTENTS 02 From the SAIS President by Debra Wilson 04 T ransitioning to Headship by David Padilla 06 F ostering Well-Being in School Communities by Nina Kumar and Dr. Suniya Luthar
08 Email Protocols That Build Teamwork by Dr. Brent E. Betit
10 The Fletcher School: Email and Mobile Phone Communication Protocols for the Senior Leadership Team
12 2019 Accredited Schools & New Members 13 Moments from the SAIS Annual Conference
SA IS MAG AZ I N E
I SP RI N G 2020
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or submissions. SAIS | 6050 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 240-199 | Norcross, GA 30092 | www.sais.org SPRFA ING L L 2 0 21 09 â”‚ SA I S.ORG
From the SAIS President by Debra Wilson Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to
participate in a professional development event
offered by the Palmetto Association of Independent
Schools in Charleston, SC. Unbeknownst to me until a week before the event, a good friend’s
daughter was scheduled to participate on the PAIS student panel.
This young woman is everything we all strive for in an independent school graduate. She is kind, thoughtful, articulate, capable, discerning,
curious, and loyal. She seeks out and engages in exciting opportunities
and strives to always do her best. And yet, she has also experienced the
hazards of being a teenager today. She experiences anxiety and worry, stress and self-doubt. Her world on paper and the world in her head
do not always align. While this has always been the case for teenagers,
the mental health profiles we have of students today tell us that their
experience is much more intense than what most of us managed. Indeed,
watching my son in his junior year tackling AP physics homework makes me wonder what I was doing with my time in the ‘80s.
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This young friend wanted to stay for my talk on student
When you purposefully transition, as I have done and
high school — around a table and around a fire pit —
have often not chosen that path but are in it with you,
health and wellness at PAIS. She has heard me talk about
this issue many times while helping her think about but never in full color with visuals. So, she stayed.
Afterwards, her mom shared with me what concerned her most about my presentation was not the data on
students in our schools, but the data on the lives of high-
achieving parents today. The idea that as she gets older,
the stress and anxiety continue and might actually get
worse was daunting and perhaps tainted the rosy glow beyond college.
That insight made me reflect on my year thus far and
this issue of the SAIS magazine. As I have transitioned into the role of SAIS president and the staff have been working
hard to absorb me into the culture and stream of all things
SAIS, we have tried to be deliberate in thinking about and talking about change and the stress and anxiety it can
cause. As someone who can move a bit quickly, regularly
recognizing this reality has been a good regulator for me.
as David Padilla writes about on page 4, you are
deliberately choosing discomfort. Those around you
nonetheless. For some, that shift is exciting and an
exploratory journey; for others, it is less than welcome.
When I think about our students, like my friend on the
panel or the ones Nina Kumar and Suniya Luthar write about on page 6, it strikes me that our adolescents live
change constantly, and most of it is thrust upon them as
they grow in our schools. It never fails to amaze me how
often many of them throw themselves deeper into brave scenarios — such as participating in a panel in front of
a room of educators — when almost every day is already
teeming with demands and confrontations of confidence.
I write this note to remind us all, as we head into spring,
the 100 days of May, and the seasonal transitions in staff, students, and parents, that this season is often filled
with high emotions related to the changes ahead. As you confront the challenges that these charged interactions can cause, remember to take a moment to embed your
response with empathy for that person’s shifting sands and to take the time for your own transitions.
–Debra Wilson, SAIS President
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Transitioning to Headship by David Padilla For 25 years, I’ve been telling my students the same thing: If I wanted you to write an English
essay in one night, I would make it due tomorrow. Working for six hours the night before an essay is due is nothing like working one hour a night for six nights before the essay is due. When I accepted an appointment as head of school over a year before the actual starting date, I resolved to take my own advice:
Have a plan, start early, and pace myself in this race to the starting line. The first step was to take inventory of all the networks and supports I have developed and which have shaped me over my time in independent schools. I knew I would need to leverage the lessons from friends and colleagues who had (sometimes unwittingly) been instructing me over the past quarter century. I reached out to those who had already transitioned to headship; I contacted accreditation chairs under whom I had served; I reconnected with undergrad and graduate school contacts whose opinions I valued; and I engaged my current head and other senior administrators in a series of Q&A sessions.
David Padilla has served as the head of upper school at Baylor School in Chattanooga, TN, since 2001. Prior to that, he taught English and coached soccer at St. Alban’s School in Washington, DC. He will become the head of Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, SC, on July 1, 2020.
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In reaching out to those who had been a part of my journey thus far, I realized I needed deliberately to extend my connections by reaching out to those who would be part of my new networks as a head. These included leaders in professional organizations such as state and regional groups; executive directors of consortia or constituency groups of which my new school is a part; and heads at peer schools in the city, state, and region. I have made an effort to participate in workshops and webinars aimed specifically at newly-appointed heads and to explore working with an executive coach. Every step has been focused on relationship-building. At this stage, I have the freedom to weigh considerations raised in conversations with the understanding that any possible decisions or approaches remain in the “draft stage”; I have not reached the publishable or publish-ready stage of the process of transition. Thus, we’ve been afforded an incredible amount of freedom and transparency in our conversations. I’ve also deliberately paid close attention to the school and community in which I will be serving. Beyond studying things as I had during the search process, I’ve tried to get at the heart of how things actually operate. This step expands the ring of influence and the scope of relationships that need my attention. Of all the those I could forge, none is more important than the relationships between the board (chair and members), direct reports (and key faculty and staff), community members, and me. So in methodical fashion, I continue to reach out directly to members of all these constituencies and to set up hour-long conversations with a simple premise: Tell me honestly what you see as the greatest challenges facing the school as well as the greatest strengths left untapped or under-leveraged.
These conversations are refreshingly agenda-free on my side; I am interested in listening actively to what each person has to say. I am intentional about telling folks that no one thing they say will control my opinions about this or that; instead, I am intent on gathering as many perspectives as I can and laying the groundwork for open communication. While my efforts to build communication and knowledge have been time-intensive, they have not been particularly labor-intensive. The payoff, however, has already been considerable. With each conversation, my understanding of how people communicate, where their interests lie, and what makes them tick has expanded. Further, as that understanding has grown, Iâ€™ve both fleshed out my comprehension of the whole school environment and sharpened my focus on the broader community. The real challenge of this process has been balancing the duality of roles by continuing the hard work of my current responsibilities while simultaneously looking to the future of headship in a new environment. I remain keenly aware that there are competing interests here: I owe it to my current school and colleagues (i.e., the foundation for what got me here), as well as to my new school and colleagues, to not shortchange anyone. In order to maintain this balance, I have also made it a point to prioritize self-care. One of the first things I did after being appointed was to seek out a counselor with whom I could work over the course of the year to make
Make the most out of every stage of the prospective student journey.
sure I was being deliberate about facing the challenges of staying centered and focused, navigating the change in roles and location, and â€” most importantly â€” assuring that I was not neglecting my loved ones. This last piece cannot be overlooked. For many of us, expanding leadership roles can take a toll on our spouses, kids, and close friends. Itâ€™s more than simply the hours we have to devote to meetings, school events, and crises which pull us away. It is also the fact that work in schools is heavily relational, so making sure we have enough emotional energy to be good partners, parents, and friends is key. It is this work which I hope will do the most to assure success going forward. Less than a year ago, I would have had no reason to write this article. As I prepare formally to begin my role, however, I am struck by how having over a year to prepare has quickly become having only a year to prepare. Obviously, until Iâ€™m actually seated as the head, I wonâ€™t know if my preparation has been sufficient, but I do think that my experiences have been appropriately purposeful and intentional. While the steps I have taken and am taking to prepare are neither complete nor foolproof, perhaps they can provide ideas for others launching into a new phase of independent school leadership. Ask me in a year or two...
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Integrated tools to help independent schoolsâ€” and the people who run themâ€”thrive.
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Fostering Well-Being in School Communities by Nina Kumar and Dr. Suniya Luthar, Authentic Connections Students in the top schools across the country are afforded tremendous opportunities to participate in extraordinary classes and extracurricular activities. However, this privilege often brings an extreme sense of pressure to succeed.
For almost three decades, our team has been studying students at high-achieving schools, who have been recognized in national policy reports as being a group at risk for mental health difficulties. More than ever, these students are stretched thin. Gaining entrance into the top universities has become increasingly difficult over time, with a 60% decrease in admissions rates among the top ten U.S. universities. As competition for the “top” spots has grown, so have levels of stress among students as well as their families. Nearly two-thirds of parents today fear their children will not achieve a lifestyle or level of status comparable to theirs. With this ongoing stress, students become vulnerable to depression, anxiety, delinquency, and substance use.
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Given what we know about the struggles these students face, the next question, naturally, is what should we do about this? Here, it makes sense to draw upon what child development research has taught us about resilience, which is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, or stress. What does this body of work say should most be prioritized, if we are to help at-risk students to truly thrive? It turns out that even as today’s parents and educators strive diligently to help children overcome stressors, our efforts may be focused on the wrong areas. Specifically, many of the interventions, programs, and strategies that we employ in schools and at home focus on developing individual qualities within kids themselves — things like grit, self-efficacy, and perseverance. However, decades of resilience research have established that resilience rests, fundamentally, on relationships. Rather than placing emphasis on developing these individual attributes, science says that we should really be working to help improve the quality of close relationships in students’ everyday lives.
Developing these strong relationships takes work, and here again, our focus may be a bit off the mark. Many of us believe that to strengthen relationships, the task is to increase the “positive” aspects of our interactions, such as the number of encouraging or affectionate comments that we exchange. What research has shown, however, is that interactions involving criticism and harshness affect kids much more deeply than do those positive interactions. In other words, our task is to first weed out the negative, before we focus on pushing forward the positive. Authentic Connections collaborates with school communities to address these issues by providing the top areas that should be prioritized for attention, based on data from each school’s students. We show administrators how their students compare, relative to peer schools, on important mental health indicators, and provide them with a “short list” of the top modifiable aspects of students’ lives that are most strongly associated with their levels of well-being. We’ve found that this individualized, deeper level of analysis helps schools to set actionable well-being priorities.
General Findings Across Schools While every school we work with is unique, there are common trends. First, we see rampant social comparisons among students; they constantly compare themselves to one another in terms of grades, popularity, and appearance. While these comparisons have been going on for decades, social media has exacerbated the problem. At several schools, we’ve also found traditions that further magnify differences among students, such as “college t-shirt day” or the public posting of class ranks. The data clearly shows that it would be helpful for schools to identify and modify any traditions that exacerbate unhealthy comparisons among students, or create clear divides based on achievement, status, or family wealth.
A second trend we’ve seen across schools is the high significance of perceived unkindness. When students feel treated harshly by peers, teachers, or school staff, they are much more vulnerable to mental health difficulties. As we noted above, these harsh interactions affect kids much more deeply than the positive interactions. To combat these problems, schools must create, and really enforce, anti-bullying policies; implementing these policies with care is especially important for at-risk groups. Many schools have unidentified groups of students who are struggling more than others, which our data have helped to reveal. In some institutions, it’s a certain class or grade that’s struggling, while at others, it’s students of a particular ethnic minority group or gender. Closely monitoring these especially at-risk students can help reduce their vulnerability and improve well-being of the overall student body. Finally, teaching is one of the most stressful professions; in fact, it is known to be among the professions with highest risk for burnout. Students will only be well if those caring for them are also well. Increasingly, schools recognize the critical importance of ensuring the wellbeing of their faculty and are working with us to assess and monitor levels of faculty well-being. We’re extremely grateful to all the schools we’ve worked with thus far that have helped us glean a rich and evergrowing set of data-based insights. If you’d like to learn more about our work or potentially collaborate with us, please visit our website at www.authconn.com.
Nina Kumar is co-founder and chief executive officer of Authentic Connections and Dr. Suniya Luthar is co-founder and chief research officer. Authentic Connections strives to improve wellbeing across school communities using data-driven insights.
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Email Protocols That Build Teamwork by Dr. Brent E. Betit, The Fletcher School
Earlier in my career, I worked in postsecondary education where I developed skills as an organizational utility infielder. In all, I held six interim senior management roles at the same college, in addition to my ongoing responsibilities. A colleague told me it was because I didn’t know how to say “no.” However, it was one of the best learning experiences imaginable, providing some interesting insight into change processes, organizational culture, and team dynamics. Because I served in these roles on an interim basis — and made clear I was not interested in permanent positions — I benefited by not experiencing the political dynamics that often hinder interim leaders. Surely the most common challenge I encounter in both interim and permanent roles is communication. Heard that one before? Any organization with more than a single employee has a culture of communication — one that can either compromise or deliver consistently positive outcomes. Unfortunately, culture is too often unspoken and unexamined. Unless retrospection and reflection form a strong foundation of the culture, communication challenges will persist. What is the primary objective of communication in any team? A review of business literature provides context. Bjørn and Ngwenyama believe it is “shared meaning between participants.” 1 Warkentin and Beranek suggest “interpersonal communication dynamics” can be improved when organizations “require team communication training on group interactions, especially for enhancing...relational links and thereby improving communication and information exchange.” 2 Frost points to communication standards as the first principle to address communication problems in the workplace. 3
If we want to achieve meaning and high performance on teams, we should create simple team communication expectations and standards and establish consistent team-wide communication practices. Another colleague once told me that this kind of organizational epiphany is more of a “duh” moment thanan “aha” moment, and that embracing the obvious seems to be a key skill I had learned in multiple interim appointments. I’m pretty sure she meant that during my many interim roles I developed an uncanny ability to identify common team challenges. Yeah, let’s go with that.
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I am also (ahem) a mature professional, meaning I was working long before email was invented, or computers were deployed. Therefore, I have seen digital communication overtake the business world, becoming the most common medium of team interchanges across the globe — replacing those ripped shreds of paper my distinguished colleagues and I used to drop in each other’s mailboxes to set a meeting or to share information. I sometimes complain about email, but never heartily, because I know how things worked without it. Glacially. A wonderful topical history of email is found in a 2016 article in The Guardian that tracks its humble 1965 beginnings at MIT, to Darpanet (1973), BerkNet (1978), EMAIL (1979), MS Mail (1988), then Lotus’s 1989 launch of Notes, which ultimately inspired competitive mimics worldwide, and the “global epidemic” that we now know and love.4 I long ago yielded to the inevitable and now (instead of fighting email) I work to establish consistent communication protocols wherever I serve, collaborating with the senior team to tweak the protocols so they are better aligned with extant organizational culture.
Rather than build a compelling argument for how these protocols avoid conflict (Why don’t I get a response from him/her for a week?), encourage teamwork and collaboration (All he had to do was copy me so I was aware.), establish better/work life balance (weekend emails do not receive a response unless emergent), and reinforce a culture of respect, I will share the email protocols our team finalized last year on pages 10-11. Best of luck with your team-mail!
Dr. Brent Betit has served as head of The Fletcher School in Charlotte, NC, since July 2016. Prior to that, he spent nearly three decades at Landmark College, the world’s first college for students with diagnosed learning differences, and also served as the deputy executive director for educational affairs at the King Salman Center for Disability Research in Saudi Arabia.
P. and Ngwenyama, O. (2009), Virtual team collaboration: building shared meaning, resolving breakdowns and creating translucence. Information Systems Journal, 19: 227-253. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2575.2007.00281.x
M. and Beranek, P. M. (1999), Training to improve virtual team communication. Information Systems Journal, 9: 271-289. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2575.1999.00065.x
Shelley. “Top Ten Communication Problems in the Workplace” bizfluent.com, 4 November 2019. https://bizfluent.com/info-12099516-top-ten-communicationproblems-workplace.html.
parents trust and students love landsend.com/schooladmin | 800-741-6311
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The Fletcher School: Email and Mobile Phone
Communication Protocols for the Senior Leadership Team Before you begin, always consider the best communication method to use. Email is a useful asynchronous method to communicate complex information to multiple recipients or to document important decisions or discussions. It should not replace in-person or telephone check-ins for simple matters or direct communication between two individual team members. Text messaging can be used for a range of purposes, but in business should be limited to discrete uses described within this framework.
EMAIL TRIAGE Use a clear Subject line that immediately identifies your topic. To manage the volume of email effectively and to establish consistent response patterns, always use one of these three subject line introductions to support your team in prioritizing their responses:
ASAP As Soon As Practicable. Even if the requested action cannot be completed ASAP, the recipient must acknowledge the request on the day it is received, then reply with an expected completion date.
DNB xx/xx Date Needed By xx/xx. Use when a response and action are needed by a particular date. Provide the date or deadline in the subject header and repeat it in the body of the email, including a concise and clear description of the requested action. INFO Information Only. Review these emails at your leisure; no reply expected.
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An email without an identifying subject line is considered a standard email. Reply to such email messages within 24 hours. Weekends do not count as business days; do not send urgent emails with deadlines or changes on Friday afternoon, over the weekend, or during the evening unless you are managing an emergent or wholly unexpected challenge. Hold weekend emails until Monday. Hold evening emails until morning. If a team member is on vacation, do not request — and do not expect — a reply until they return from vacation. If an issue IS emergent, protocols do not apply. Use your best professional judgement concerning when and how to communicate.
TO and CC FIELDS
TO Use the TO field for the person or people who need to respond to the email or whom you are requesting to take a particular action.
CC Use the CC field when you want others to be aware,
but you do not expect them to reply or act. If you are copied in the CC field, do not respond unless you have relevant information that it is important for the sender to know.
MOBILE PHONE USE
1. Respect organizational structure when communicating with individuals or constituent groups. Example: Communication with faculty should come from or include division heads or relate to an issue that they know about.
Senior managers must be accessible for emergent issues. Mobile phones are critical to team accessibility and may be used to connect with other senior leaders, by text messaging or calling, or to provide a quick update on an individual member’s location and availability. Mobile phones are also used during critical incidents via the PunchAlert app.
2. Practice consistent respect in every interaction. Assume good intentions are motivating your colleague’s efforts and communication. Always consider the tone and potential impact of your words. Written communication lacks the context of body language and other vital factors. 3. Leadership teams should never use the BCC field when communicating within the team. If you feel the need to BCC someone, work out the underlying issue face-to-face. Please talk to the HOS if you need support. 4. When emailing outside the team to individuals, avoid the use of the BCC field (except in item #5, below). Either CC or FW the email after it is sent to the team member. This keeps communication channels clear and avoids inadvertent responses from a BCC recipient, which can be awkward and breaches necessary trust. 5. BCC can be used when emailing to a group outside the team (for example, the board of trustees, or parent council). This keeps “reply all” responses from cluttering inboxes and protects the privacy of email addresses.
Texting between senior managers and teammates should be limited to those needs. They should not be used for substantive organizational communication. Move communication back to email, phone, or in person as soon as practicable. Use email if a written record is desired. Text messaging from senior managers to other employees, students, family members, or members of the community is discouraged except in the most emergent situations or as a simple notification/status update as described above. Senior managers who receive a text message from students, family members, or members of the community should move the conversation immediately to email so that a professional and consistent record of communication with important stakeholders is maintained.
6. Communication with board members should occur only with the prior review and approval or under the direction of the head of school, who should typically be copied.
For Over 45 Years, We’ve Worked to Help Keep Kids and School Staff Safe To learn more please contact Educational Institutions Segment Specialist Mike Centrone at 716-639-2347.
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2019 SAIS Accredited Schools In 2019, SAIS accredited and re-accredited 59 member schools. Thank you to the visiting team chairs and hundreds of team members who volunteered their time and service to this important process. Schools listed in bold received initial SAIS accreditation in 2019. Congratulations to all! Ascension Academy, Amarillo, TX The Altamont School, Birmingham, AL Atlanta Academy, Roswell, GA Atlanta International School, Atlanta, GA Augusta Preparatory Day School, Martinez, GA The Benjamin School, North Palm Beach, FL Brandon Hall School, Atlanta, GA Chatham Academy at Royce, Savannah, GA Cornerstone Christian Academy, Peachtree Corners, GA The Donoho School, Anniston, AL Ensworth School, Nashville, TN Episcopal Collegiate School, Little Rock, AR Episcopal Day School, Southern Pines, NC Fellowship Christian School, Roswell, GA Gaston Day School, Gastonia, NC Gracepoint School, Marietta, GA Greensboro Montessori School, Greensboro, NC Hancock Day School, Savannah, GA Heritage Preparatory School, Atlanta, GA High Point Friends School, High Point, NC Hilltop Montessori School, Birmingham, AL Kenston Forest School, Blackstone, VA King’s Ridge Christian School, Alpharetta, GA Lawrence Academy, Merry Hill, NC Learning Unlimited Preparatory School, Miami, FL Lee-Scott Academy, Auburn, AL The Lerner Jewish Community Day School, Durham, NC Live Oak Classical School, Waco, TX Margolin Hebrew Academy, Memphis, TN Marshall Academy, Holly Springs, MS The Master’s Academy, Oviedo, FL Middle Tennessee Christian School, Murfreesboro, TN Noble Academy, Greensboro, NC Norfolk Academy, Norfolk, VA Palmer Trinity School, Palmetto Bay, FL
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Pillow Academy, Greenwood, MS Providence Day School, Charlotte, NC Pulaski Academy, Little Rock, AR Rocky Mount Academy, Rocky Mount, NC Saint Xavier High School, Louisville, KY Salisbury Academy, Salisbury, NC The Savannah Country Day School, Savannah, GA The Schenck School, Atlanta, GA Spartanburg Day School, Spartanburg, SC St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, Sewanee, TN St. George’s Episcopal School, Milner, GA St. George’s Independent School, Collierville, TN St. Luke’s Episcopal School, Mobile, AL St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Memphis, TN Starkville Academy, Starkville, MS Stratford Academy, Macon, GA Tallulah Falls School, Tallulah Falls, GA Tiftarea Academy, Chula, GA Trinity Academy, Raleigh, NC UMS-Wright Preparatory School, Mobile, AL University School of Nashville, Nashville, TN Veritas Christian Academy of Houston, Bellaire, TX The Weber School, Atlanta, GA Westminster Academy, Memphis, TN
2019 New SAIS Members • Academy High Champaign, IL • Briarwood Academy Warrenton, GA • Church Hill Academy Richmond, VA • Cornerstone Christian Schools San Antonio, TX • Episcopal School of Nashville Nashville, TN • H ampton Road International Montessori Newport News, VA • Montessori School of Columbia Columbia, SC • Providence Academy Leesburg, VA
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