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  • Writer's pictureMike Vachow

Three Resolutions for Independent School Heads 2019

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

The view from the first few days of the new year is smashing, nothing but upside, rainbows and unicorns. . . . until you sit down with the budget the Board just approved in December. Isn't it a little bloated around the waistline after all? And Annual Giving is just a bit behind; surely there are scores of checks sitting among the held mail just waiting to be delivered this week. And the re-enrollment contracts and tuition rate of increase? Slow and steady again but slipping over $25,000. Is this the long-awaited cliff? If this anxiety parade hasn't yet started rolling through your mind, congratulations! It will soon. As an antidote, meditate on these 3 big picture resolutions and cast them out on your school's horizons as potential lodestars.

1. Hedgehog: What is your school really good at? What are you passionate about? Jim Collins' take on this old principle remains a powerful means to evaluate the many initiatives that roll across the Head's desk. Even if money is no object, will a maker space (organic farming program, flipped classroom strategy, etc.) add to your program or serve as a distraction, especially if it lacks faculty champions, curricular ties, mission coherence? Conversely, which initiatives would enhance the school's core strengths? How do you build ownership among key partners?

2. Shark Jump: January is a good time to start the conversation about programs, events, committees that feel ready for retirement. Kick these ideas around with a few trusted friends (your out of town heads network, for example), evaluate the cultural impact of the stick-poking much less the sun-setting, then gather relevant stakeholders for a conversation that might stretch an entire year (providing all--including yourself--with the real possibility that the program is in need of re-invigoration not retirement). Pull in relevant data like your school's yearly survey (even better if you use the ISACS Constituency Survey and have their Correlation Matrices). There's a good chance that you'll need to be deeply involved with these processes as the Head, so plan conservatively for just how many of these kinds of initiatives you can sustain.

3. Connection: Are there critical individuals or whole constituencies with whom you are under-connected? The question of how you can get connected is more likely a question of who can help you bridge these distances. Early January is a good time for a coffee date with a current trustee you know well and the long-serving past trustee whom she knows well, for example. It's also worth asking yourself how you might play the role of intermediary helping other key leaders at your school forge important relationships. A quick lunch on campus could help melt the ice between the Division Heads and the Parent Council President.

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