NEASC
Commission on Independent Schools - CIS

APRIL 2017

From the CIS Director, Jay Stroud

In this issue:

 

NEASC Names Jay Stroud Director of Commission on Independent Schools

At their February Meeting, the Commission on Independent Schools voted unanimously to recommend to NEASC President Cam Staples that Jay Stroud be named to the Director’s position. President Staples accepted their recommendation and so appointed Mr. Stroud to this position.

Jay Stroud was Headmaster of Tabor Academy for 24 years and, during that period, served two terms on the Commission on Independent Schools as well as a decade on the NEASC Board of Trustees, which included a term as Board Chair in 2010 – 2011.

Mr. Stroud expressed his gratitude to the President, and particularly to the CIS Deputy Director Jim Mooney, to the Associate Directors Ann Scott and Beth Hamilton, and to the Commission’s exceptional staff, Nancy Kerrigan, Arlene Onorato, Cheryl O’Connell, Barbara Simione, and Carol Dyson. He looks forward to working with the membership in upcoming years.

Beyond Wealth, Wisdom and Work: Four Gifts from an Effective Board

Confidence  |  Perspective  |  Support  |  Inspiration

Jay S. Stroud 
Director, CIS

Most trustees likely know by heart the ancient advice to share their “time, talent and treasure” or, phrased with an altered alliterative admonition, to bring to their school “work, wisdom and wealth.” In a rough-hewn way, such phrases sometimes actually help boards balance their membership and assess their strengths.

The NEASC/CIS Governance Standard, not as pithy but considerably more thorough, aims to assure that boards “remains true to mission” and possesses the “necessary resources to support present and prospective operations.” Through careful planning, supportive relationships with the Head of School, manifest integrity, clear communication and thoughtful internal organization, a Board of Trustees forges an effective alliance with its school. And, when they do, the gifts of an effective board of trustees extend far beyond their time, their talent and their treasure.

In our work with schools, we find effective boards bestow four strengths on their school: confidence, perspective, support and inspiration.
 

Confidence

Functioning boards – boards that meet regularly, plan thoughtfully, talk openly, support the faculty, the school head and the administration in word and deed and who are very clear about their responsibilities and their limits and about the school’s opportunities – provide confidence to their school community. A board clear about its role to set direction not meddle in daily operation, steadfast in its commitment to the school’s fundamental values not swayed by an intense personal school dynamic, a board holding broadly inclusive discussion when called for and circumspect about decisions when necessary helps every person in the community, younger and older, understand and abide by the respect, high standards and care at the heart of a great school.

Confidence, in short, enables the school to be honest and principled, knowing both that good decisions will find support and error will be treated wisely. Genuine confidence sets a school free to create, to experiment, to stand thoughtfully by their values, to assure parents, students and faculty that the school truly believes in their mission and does, in fact, live out that belief. Importantly, genuine confidence empowers humility. It is the truly confident person – and school - who can put others first.
 

Perspective

Good boards provide perspective. They possess a sense of history – both the school’s and the bigger world – distinguishing between what is likely lasting and what short-lived. They are neither swayed too much by events of the day – a victory or a defeat, an individual faculty member’s coming or leaving – nor too blasé to miss the joy of spontaneity or humor. A board is educated enough in the school’s traditions to recognize something original and experienced enough with school life to appreciate something – or someone – steadfast. A good board constantly researches trends and possibilities and has enough context to exercise good judgment. A good board understands both “school” issues – those faced by many schools over time – and local concerns.

A good board almost reflexively seeks context, broader landscapes and information but is not paralyzed by an impossible desire to predict every nuance of the future. As one wise board member commented: “It is not necessary to know the final destination to take a step in the right direction.”
 

Support

Financial support – the wealth part – is terrific and many boards provide crucial resources to their schools. But good Boards support their schools by listening, by embracing the joys and sorrows of school life, by simply “being there” for a school head and school community. The board supports their school by encouraging, by cheering, by celebrating the accomplishments of faculty and students, by, regularly, showing up. When the acapella groups sings at a board meeting, when the art teacher guides a group of trustees through a student show, when the plant director brings the operations committee to a newly renovated space, when a board asks the admissions director thoughtful questions about demographics and marketing – the board imbues these events with importance and value. It isn’t interference for the school to know the trustees are genuinely interested and care about what goes on.

Working with the school’s head, trustees can further faculty careers and professional development by working together on curriculum and planning committees, by asking for faculty presentations and by their respect for the often remarkable accomplishments of faculty and students. Being sure, over time, to pay attention to every department in the school, the board helps insure the essential sense that “my work and my life are valued” for every person in the community. Knowing “the board cares about this” is a potent force in school life and, used judiciously, can be enormously helpful.
 

Inspiration

Schools are endeavors of the heart and soul, however these forces might be defined, and good boards recognize the importance of lifting spirits. When a board publically honors a long-time faculty member, or, working with the Head, helps bring a musical event or speaker or program to campus or encourages student performance, they infuse a necessary vitality into the school’s life. Kids and faculty who experience together the human words of someone who has overcome – or just learned to live with – tragedy, or enjoy people who accomplish truly amazing things, or who see a soaring performance realize what inspired people can do. Good boards encourage their schools to seek out inspiration and to do so as frequently as possible. Boards who recognize that exceptional expressions of joy are the lifeblood of great schools find their own boardrooms more rewarding places to serve.

The Standards for Governance are something like instructions for putting together a stirring orchestra: hire a great conductor, audition fine musicians, provide excellent acoustics, market the program. But good boards know, too, the real point of it all is the music. And that making music is their true gift.

Read Standard 2 (Governance) in full at cie.neasc.org

A MISSION for Faculty: A Best Practice

NEASC/CIS Standard 9 requires schools to engage a "sufficient number of faculty to carry out the mission..."and, also, to "follow a comprehensive and defined program of professional development... ."

The Standard establishes a vital benchmark. But if a school were to approach the Standard as a point of departure rather than a destination, it might consider creating not a "program" but a Mission for its faculty – and staff. School Missions often – though not always - implicitly include faculty and staff or, as is sometimes stated, "the community," in its goals and core values.

But, for the most part, this implied intent remains just that – implicit rather than explicit. A Mission specific to the aspirations and realities of adults in school – and the discussions and planning both to understand it and to achieve it should raise distinctions between student and adult development. And focus the school clearly on the stages – and challenges and opportunities - in adult life.

One could perhaps even assert that building a Mission for faculty and staff might best precede a mission for students. If faculty are charged to "carry out the mission," it should be a mission permeating their own lives and work.

Creating a "Mission for Faculty" requires a school to question fundamental assumptions about the adults in the community and recognize that adults fall along a very broad spectrum in their own journeys, perceptions, abilities and maturity. Missions carried out appropriately with students are founded on a recognition of age appropriate programs. Out of the gate, kids' present reasonably clear distinctions. The three years' difference between third graders and sixth graders or sophomores and seniors couldn't be more profound. But one might equally note as profound a distinction between a first-year and a fourth-year faculty. Or between a four and a ten year veteran. Or the distinctions among those faculty who do, in fact, evolve thoughtfully and those who may not.

Of course, psychological literature from Erikson to Jung to Levenson, details stages in adult development. And perhaps every serious novel or film in some way touches growth and change. A Mission for Faculty might inspire a school to include literary themes and insights in faculty meetings.

Here are a dozen approaches, programs and considerations a Mission for Faculty and Staff might create:

  1. A mentor program for first and second year faculty - one that pared an experienced with a novice faculty, requiring regular class visits and conferences
     
  2. An increased retirement payment for faculty in their first five years - relatively "short money" for schools with retirement plans but the long-term reality of compound interest builds an exceptional benefit young people almost universally do not understand
     
  3. A genuine "master teacher" program laying out recognized stages in a faculty member's development appropriate to the school - a challenge to create, but a school-wide effort intending to recognize better approaches is invaluable
     
  4. A detailed faculty-wide evaluation program - many models for faculty evaluation exist; they always require genuine commitment from administration and faculty
     
  5. A program respecting the child-care realities of families – ranging from part-time assignments to on-campus day care.
     
  6. Summer-study grants - even small amounts of money allowing faculty to study or travel provide enormous opportunities for faculty and schools
     
  7. School-visit program - NEASC encourages schools to promote the three-day Visiting Team participation, but simply spending a day at a sister school – one perhaps similar in mission but contrasting in approaches or history – can provide perspective on useful – or unimagined - techniques
     
  8. In-school "job trading" days - faculty at the secondary level often have unused expertise in areas outside their "usual" disciplines; faculty at the elementary level may have experience at a variety of grade levels
     
  9. Faculty Code of Conduct - a serious discussion – and written statement - of boundaries, responsibilities and behavioral expectations for adults working with students. A school that only "assumes" faculty understand these necessities risks all members of the community
     
  10. Programs inviting faculty creativity - form a "creativity group" charged to encourage and reward faculty creative endeavors; they will find unlimited opportunity if "the creative spirit" is part of a school's expectation for its faculty
     
  11. Clarity about school realities - demonstrated respect for faculty through clear discussion about financial, enrollment, program, facility, expectations and jobs to be done. Schools that respect their faculty through reasonably open discussion promote honesty
     
  12. Programs of recognition - faculty reaching milestones – finishing a first year, a fifth or a twenty-fifth should be recognized; reasonably elaborate school-wide recognition of retiring faculty or faculty who have done notable things – finished a marathon, published a poem, completed a college degree – infuse a school with a celebration of accomplishment.

No school could likely practice all of these, though some, like genuine faculty evaluation and clear codes of conduct, are necessary for every school. While discovering another dozen or more might be easy, manifestations of a Mission for Faculty in any school should simply illustrate a commitment to the goal. That's the best practice. A school committed to creating a Mission for its adult community as valued as the mission for its students takes a crucial step toward its highest aspirations.

Read Standard 9 (Faculty) in full at cie.neasc.org

Accreditation:
A Headmaster's Perspective

Thomas Lovett
Headmaster, St. Johnsbury Academy
Member-at-Large, NEASC Board of Trustees
from the March 18, 2017 Caledonian Record Opinion Column

Some of the most powerful and satisfying professional development experiences I have had in over 35 years in education have come as the result of my work with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation process.

"Whether as a Visiting Committee member, an Assistant Chair, a Chair, or as a Commissioner on the Association’s Commission on Independent Schools, I have learned (and adopted) some of the best practices in education and met some of the finest educators in the world."

Read the full column in the Caledonian Record »

Welcome to our Newest CIS Members

Following their initial Self-Studies and Visiting Team reviews, three schools were unanimously approved by the Commission on Independent Schools for full membership in the New England Association of Schools and Colleges at the February CIS meeting. These schools each bring a distinctive approach to education and serve a population of young people by providing an environment particularly suited to develop their gifts and potential. 

Help us in celebrating not only the initial accreditation, but the commitment and the dedication to improvement demonstrated by the following schools:
Links Academy
Initial NEASC Accreditation 2017

 
Links Academy, located in Stamford, CT is a school of individualized instruction which offers open enrollment for student-specific short and long-term academic and support programs. Links Academy’s mission is to provide an outstanding 1:1 school experience in a nurturing, empowering and collaborative community which honors the academic diversity of all learners. The Academy strives to “foster relationships and challenge all students to create a successful and meaningful academic opportunity, while building a confident and sound foundation that will enable them to navigate their future endeavors."

view profile »
Waterville Valley Academy
Initial NEASC Accreditation 2017

Waterville Valley Academy is a snow sports and academic academy located in New Hampshire. It is designed for full-time student athletes in grades 6-12 who are dedicated to pursuing the highest level of performance in alpine racing, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding in parallel with an individualized academic program. With students from many states as well as several countries, WVA works to integrate athletic training and competition with academic achievement.

view profile »
The Pinnacle School
Initial NEASC Accreditation 2017

The Pinnacle School is a special education day school for college-bound students in grades 2 – 12, particularly those children who have been diagnosed with ASD, Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD), Auditory Processing Disorders, and/or ADHD. By recognizing each child as a unique individual with their own strengths, interests and talents,  the Pinnacle School’s goal is to help each of their students become “resilient learners and active, engaged participants in the world around them.”

view profile »

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES / STAFF PICKS

Recommended Reading:

Principles of Good Practice

We are pleased to announce that Skip Kotkins, one of the original authors of the NAIS Principles of Good Practice, has been added to the roster of speakers for the 2017 NEASC Annual Meeting and Conference!
In his former role as NAIS Board Member, Skip Kotkins helped to write the NAIS Principles of Good Practice (PGPs). The PGPs define high standards and ethical behavior in key areas of school operations to guide schools in becoming the best education communities they can be. Though the PGPs are intended for NAIS members, as a long-time partner of NAIS, the staff at CIS can whole-heartedly recommend this as valuable reading for NEASC members as well.

The PGPs are regularly updated. To read the most current version, go to www.nais.org.

SAVE THE DATES: DECEMBER 13-15, 2017
 

Join us to hear Skip Kotkins and other distinguished leaders in education at the 132nd NEASC Annual Meeting and Conference.

Learn more online: www.neasc.org/annual-meeting
FAQ FOCUS

How can I get information about a school’s accreditation status and/or copies of its accreditation reports?

A school’s accreditation status is listed in the CIS Directory of Schools, along with the year the school was first accredited and the year of the last full accreditation review. Schools are in good standing, unless there is a notation that they are on Probation. Accreditation reports and correspondence are the property of the school and are released by the school at its discretion.

If you have a question you would like to see featured in an upcoming newsletter, please email news@neasc.org.

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