Monday, February 1, 2016

Attending the NCAIS Heads Conference just returned week before last from one of two annual North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS) Heads Conferences, this one in Mid Pines, North Carolina. By way of reminder, Gaston Day School belongs to four independent school associations: the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS); the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS); NCAIS; and the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA). The latter is involved strictly in athletics. The first three are independent-school member organizations dealing with curriculum, governance, financial sustainability, and just about anything else that independent schools like Gaston Day deal with. As an independent school moves from the state, to the regional, and then to the national in these associations, membership becomes more selective. There are only thirty-three NAIS schools in North Carolina. There are eighty-five NCAIS schools in North Carolina. 

NCAIS performs many functions for member schools. We have a lobbyist who watches over legislation in the North Carolina Legislature to make sure that nothing happens which harms independent schools. NCAIS provides a slew of conferences that provide continuing education for nearly every conceivable position within an independent school--from teachers to heads. I am also proud to remind you that the Executive Director of NCAIS is Linda Nelson who was Gaston Day School Head of Middle and Upper Schools before assuming her current post, which she has held now for eight or nine years. It is not an exaggeration to say that Linda is one of the most respected independent-school, state-association executive directors in the country. Her work with on-line learning and other consortium's serve as models for the rest of the nation.

So what do I do at an NCAIS Heads Conference? Since the January meeting is also open to trustees, I make a point of taking my board chair and vice chair. This year Doug Meyer-Cuno, Board Chair, and Laurie Ness, Vice Chair, went to the conference for a day. I really am grateful that they would take time from their busy schedules to do so. The first day of the conference is geared toward education trustees on matters relevant to their duties. I believe that trustees who attend the conference are better informed and prepared.

Several other important things happen at the NCAIS Conference for Heads. There are experts who present on a variety of important topics in formal sessions. This year we discussed emerging trends in independent school education, best practices for hiring administrators, and fair compensation for heads. Independent school vendors also attend the Heads Conference and advertise their services. You can learn a lot about what is cutting edge in the independent school world from new products that the vendors are touting. 

Other than the presentations, nothing is more important that interacting with other heads. We learn so much from each other. At this point in my career, I know all the veteran heads of schools well. We are friends and colleagues. The Heads Conference is a chance for us to compare notes and share tips. 

Continuing education is vital to any good educator. The Heads Conference is one of the ways in which I stay abreast of change in the independent school world. I am gone for three full days when I go to Mid Pines. It is well worth it. I return to Gaston Day School full of ideas about ways to make Gaston Day School better.