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Friday, October 1, 2010
Here is a question and an especially eloquent response extracted from the NAIS Head of School Listserve. I post this because it is a leadership question trustees and heads inevitably have to grapple with at some point in the life of a school.
THE QUESTION (Posed by the President of NAIS, Pat Bassett)
We’ve had the query below from a school head: Any responses would be appreciated.
I am the head of a PS - Grade 8 school in an area where our independent secondary schools begin at a variety of grades including before grade 8. Our graduates typically do well in any of the schools they choose whether they start in grade nine or earlier. I am wondering if those of you in similar situations have any expectations set for trustees, faculty, or administration whereby their children complete the program at your school and begin secondary schools in grade 9. Thank you for your input.
THE RESPONSE (Posed by a head of school)
This had been an item at our school for many years. We are Prek-12 and over time there have been board members who have taken their children out after 8th grade for a variety of reasons: they want a bigger pond, need more athletics, want more rigor and the list goes on and on. This invariably caused hurt feelings on the part of school people. Teachers felt that we had made a huge investment in the child and then another school would reap the benefit and our Upper School teachers felt slighted. From my perspective, I want trustees who bleed burgundy and white (our school colors) and I made it an issue with my board chair. I felt that we needed trustees who would commit to our mission as a Prek-12 school. The fact that I pressed the point did bring about some trustees resigning and others expressing deep resentment. The matter was ultimately handed over to the Committee on Trustees and the group came up with a standard, which was not a rule that trustees had to keep their children in the school to graduation, but more of a query to each individual asking them if they were good ambassadors for the school. Asking the question that way relieved the stigma and much of the tension. Now when asked on their annual board evaluations if they are good ambassadors for the school, individuals have had to admit that if they don’t experience the complete range of our program, it does not put them in the best position to advocate for our school and without hard feelings those folks have decided to move on.