CAIS Independent School Leadership Next Step Program

Developing Leaders for Canada's Best Independent Schools


The Next Step Program is a limited enrolment leadership development experience that involves two summer programs at the CAIS Leadership Institute.

The CAIS Next Step Program is designed for current School Leaders who aspire to be senior leaders or Heads of School. Successful applicants to the program will have completed at least three years in a school leadership role, have the support of their Head of School and have demonstrated a continuing commitment to professional learning. *Participants commit to attending two summer sessions, engaging in a supported Change Project and further exploring their growth in personal leadership dispositions and competencies throughout the school year in between.


  • Acceptance into the program requires support of the Head of School and the submission of an application package.. 

  • Participants commit to attend two CAIS Leadership Institutes and on-going engagement, including a school-based Change Project.



  • Deepen awareness of themselves as leaders (including self-assessment of strengths and areas for growth), competencies and dispositions
  • Understand how to anticipate, identify and strategically manage risk 
  • Explore why strategy in vital for schools and methods for setting strategic priorities and translating them into tactics
  • Learn approaches for leading change (identify organizational needs within their school and strategically lead a school-based Change Project)
  • Understand strategies for leading people and building a engaging school climate and culture
  • Understand how to lead whole school improvement 



  • Acceptance into the Next Step program requires confirmation of at least three years in a school leadership role, support from the current Head of School, a demonstrated commitment to professional learning (i.e., completion of the CAIS Diploma in Independent School Leadership) and completion of the CAIS Human Resources LI module (this module can be completed during the program)

  • Applicants must provide a summary for a proposed Change Project that addresses a need in their school that is also supported by their Head of School 

  • Priority is given to applications from CAIS member and candidate Schools

  • Participants commit to participating and paying fees for both summer 2023 and 2024

  • Space is limited. 




Val Cambre, President & CEO Teal & Co Inc.  

David Hadden, retired Head, Lakefield College School 

David Robertson, Head, Queen Margaret’s School

Barry Wright, Associate Professor, Goodman School of Business and current CEO, Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games




"I think there are four areas where Next Steps adds great value. The first is an overview of the various aspects that independent school administrators face. As many emerging leaders come from the academic world, an introduction to finance, advancement, HR, operations, risk management, etc can be enlightening. The second, are insights into the broader topic of effective leadership in changing times. The third was the opportunity to dig into a meaningful change project, with the support of mentors and peers. Having a support team as we work through the highs and lows was incredibly valuable. The last area, is the Next Steps community itself. The program accepts a diverse group of individuals with varying formal leadership positions who all share a passion for education, a commitment to personal group and a belief in the work of independent schools in Canada. We shared our professional successes and failures, pushed each other to dig a bit deeper and even enjoyed a little bread and wine together.

Finally a word on our mentors/instructors... CAIS pulled together a wonderfully diverse group of facilitators, who brought passion and knowledge from both within the independent world and beyond. These facilitators clearly cared about our growth journey and went above and beyond to support us for the two years - what a team! "

Neil Piller, St. George’s School, Vancouver

I found the most valuable take away were the relationships built, particularly during year 2 of the program, over the final summer session. I found the group opened up during that second summer session, and members were willing to be vulnerable. It taught me how much having a network of peers – even a few key people – who have shared experiences and are willing to talk about their successes and total mess ups. It made leadership feel a lot less lonely. To top it off, I now have genuine relationships within this network that I can rely on – more so than any amount of “surface” networking at a conference or professional networking event could ever provide. That has most definitely been the greatest takeaway from the Next Step programme."

Katrina Sampson, Appleby College


Next Step Program Cohorts

Our Next Step Program Graduates are listed here



2018-2019 Next Step Cohort - Summer LI - Shawnigan Lake School

2017-2018 Next Step Cohort - Summer LI - King's-Edgehill School

2015-2016 Next Step Cohort - Summer LI - St. Andrew's College

2013-2014 Next Step Cohort - Summer LI - Ridley College

2011-2012 Next Step Cohort - Summer LI - Shawnigan Lake School