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National Leaders Conference

The 2019 National Leaders Post Conference Call for Workshop Proposals are open until December 7. Apply here.

Strengthen Your School Leadership

CAIS values the constant and deliberate quest for excellence, and we recognize the vital leadership role that governors play, in partnership with Heads, in the success of our schools. We want all of our schools to have strong Heads who focus on supporting the students of the present, but we also want strong Boards that focus on supporting the students of the future.

The Governance Guide include new learning on a number of areas, including Human Resources, Risk Management, Head Transitions, and Consent Agendas.

CAIS members and non-members can purchase a hard copy here. And CAIS members can also view the full PDF in CAIS Connect here.


CAIS Top 12 - Archived

#1: Vision, Mission, Values & Strategy


Managing When the Future Is Unclear

In this Harvard Business Review article, Lisa Lai writes, "There are three things you can do today that will put you in a better position to manage strategic ambiguity: Take pragmatic action, cultivate emotional steadiness, and tap into others' expertise." In the article, Lai provides several ways to do each of these things.


#2: Co-Curriculum & Learning Environments


Supporting a Gay-Straight Alliance in Middle School

According to this Edutopia article, a GSA club in middle school can provide a safe, supportive space for students at a critical point in their lives. The article elaborates on the following four points to consider before starting a club at your school:

  1. Understand how a GSA is different from other clubs or organizations.
  2. Know your role as a protector of privacy.
  3. Guide students to write a mission statement.
  4. Utilize the high school GSA for mentorship and advice.

Also worth a read: Universities, colleges to host mental health events ahead of Bell Let's Talk Day


#3: Academic Program


Bringing Controversial Books into the Classroom

While it might be easier to keep controversial books out of your curriculum, this Usable Knowledge article cautions that by doing so you may miss powerful learning opportunities. The article elaborates on the following suggestions from Boston University Assistant Professor Christina Dobbs and Harvard Graduate School of Education Senior Lecturer Pamela Mason on how to introduce culturally responsive or challenging literature into the classroom:
  • Choose carefully.
  • Make your case.
  • Create a safe space.
  • Be prepared for blowback.
  • Teach the whole book.

Also worth a read: 6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2019


#4: School Leadership


How Leaders Can Get Honest, Productive Feedback

Jennifer Porter is the Managing Partner of The Boda Group, a leadership and team development firm. In this Harvard Business Review article, she details these steps that leaders can take to get feedback to help improve their leadership:

  • Build and maintain a psychologically safe environment.
  • Ask for feedback skillfully.
  • Request both positive and negative data.
  • When receiving feedback, give your full attention and listen carefully.
  • Don't debate or defend.
  • Own your reactions.
  • Demonstrate gratitude.
  • Reflect and evaluate.
  • Make a plan and take action.
  • Sustain progress and share updates.

Also worth a read: Three Social Media Tips for School Heads and Managing Angry Parents


#5: Human Resources


The 5-15 is an easy technique to improve communication at your company

The author of this Quartz article recommends the "5-15" tool as a strategy for good communication. Thought up by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, the tool works like this: "Each week, everyone on a team spends 15 minutes writing feedback in a templated report sent to the team's manager. The manager takes five minutes to read and respond to each report, and 15 minutes to collate their own feedback for their manager. This continues up the chain. Done right, it provides those at the very top of even the most complex company a weekly snapshot of what's going well and badly from the point of view of all their employees."

A Webinar from Ceridian: Cannabis and Impairment at Work: Best Practices for Employers


#6: School & Community


7 ways to rethink school/family partnerships

This eSchool News article offers seven ways to ensure robust partnerships with families, a few of which are: examine every possible barrier to communication; be intentional about giving families access to all support services; find new roles for parent involvement; and, communicate with the tools parents use.

Also worth a read: The Big Benefits of a Marketing Strategy for Small Schools


#7: Enrolment Management


A Strategic Partnership to Drive Enrollment

Meghan D. Hodgin is director of marketing and communications at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child. In this NAIS article, she writes that it is an absolute necessity for the admissions and marketing and communications offices to be strategically aligned to drive enrolment. At Oak Knoll, the team embraced shared goals and worked together on content creation including a video, ebooks and a blog. The school was able to track conversions from the blog and content offers to see the significant impact; the school saw a 48 percent increase in lower and upper school applications, year over year.


#8: Governance


Crisis Communications Strategies for an Always-On Media Environment

"The window of time in which schools have to react to a crisis has decreased dramatically, in large part because of social media," writes Jan Abernathy, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Elisabeth Morrow School. In this NAIS article, Abernathy details the takeaways from a crisis she dealt with as the Board Chair of a school in 2013.

  • Plan before the crisis
  • Leave emotions at the door
  • The clock is ticking
  • "No comment" is no good
  • Know when to seek professional help
  • It's never the crime, it's the cover-up


#9: Finance


An Executive Director's Guide to Financial Leadership

This article in the Nonprofit Quarterly stresses the importance of "developing and maintaining a business model that produces exceptional mission impact and sustained financial health," and provides a summary of these eight key business principles that should guide financial leadership practice:

  • Activate Your Annual Budget
  • Income Diversification...or Not
  • Make Cash Flow Your Priority
  • Don't Wish for Reserves - Plan Them
  • Rethink Restricted Funding
  • Staff Your Finance Function
  • Help Your Board to Help You
  • Manage the Right Risks


#10: Physical Plant, Health & Safety


Effective school energy conservation programs require teacher, staff buy-in

This Education Dive article provides suggestions to school leaders looking to conserve energy and control energy costs, especially as the use of technology in schools demands more energy consumption, which includes continually promoting initiatives and keeping faculty and staff informed of their success and the costs being saved as a result and monitor classrooms and workspaces for compliance.


#11: Commitment to School Improvement


Using Your Students' Evaluations

While written for a post-secondary audience, this article provides several good ideas on how to best use students' evaluations, while at the same time acknowledging that evaluations are inherently flawed. The article elaborates on the following ideas:

  • Prime your students to give you meaningful feedback.
  • When you get that feedback, don't take it personally.
  • Separate criticism of the material from criticism of you.
  • Focus on opportunities for feasible, tangible improvements.
  • Finally, save your evaluations.


#12: Boarding Program


Living-learning communities connect like-minded students in residence

This University Affairs article is about themed living communities, which are a growing trend at Canadian universities. Some benefits of these programs are that they help students to develop new friendships earlier on, to engage more with their school and to better cope with their first year away from home. Programs can be tied to a shared academic interest, lifestyle passion or identity.




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