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  • Writer's pictureMike Vachow

Parallel Paths

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

I'm emerging from the wings briefly here to give readers an update on a new addition to my professional life. Today, I begin my work as the Interim Executive Director of the Association of Independent Michigan Schools. There are almost 30 independent schools in the state, all ISACS accredited, most congregated in metro Ann Arbor and Detroit and a handful of others scattered on the west side of the state. They represent a large variety of school types: faith-based, secular, arts-focused, Montessori, Waldorf, single sex, coed, schools with origins in the mid-19th century and schools beginning to prepare for their 30 anniversaries.

It's a part time job that will help me continue to grow as an independent school leader while supporting the outstanding independent schools in my home state, and it will allow me to continue consulting for my own brand, Knuckleball Consulting, and for The Gowan Group. I'll keep writing this blog, in large part because writing is how I think and shaping my thinking into essays forces me to get my thoughts straight.

I've read the many documents that my AIMS predecessor has left me looking for the issues and opportunities that percolated through meeting minutes and plans. I've got a lot of listening left to do--starting in just a few weeks as I set out to visit each of the AIMS schools--but I'm already weaving into this learning my own experiences with client schools from my consulting life whom I have helped form strategic plans, leadership searches, enrollment and marketing reviews.

I'm convinced my work with the independent schools of Michigan will also make me a stronger consultant, particularly as it will bring about a return to the quotidienne, idiosnyncratic challenges at schools, the kind of quandaries for which it is crucial to have a network for support and counsel. I haven't been away from headship so long that I don't have fresh memories of some of these moments, and indeed I've long felt that understanding the lives of heads has been one of my most important strengths in consulting, but I worry that these recollections will fade into a handful of iconic stories. Supporting AIMS school leaders will draw me closer to daily school life. For readers of this blog, you can expect a richer context for my "structured think-alouds."

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