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March 16, 2020

Dear All,
For a couple of days this week I am sharing some thoughts on school leadership from your fellow PAIS Heads. Here are a few for today:

...I am trying to focus my energies on deciding what are the most important priorities for us to be addressing (e.g., health of our community), making decisions with the best available information while not pushing to make decisions earlier than we need to if we don't have good information (e.g., creating a basic frame for remote learning, but not making decisions yet about how we'll grade for the term until we have a bit more sense of how long we will be in remote mode), and communicating with the entire school community with a voice that is centered in our school's mission and philosophy, provides transparency wherever possible, and communicates clearly what we already know, what we are still working on, and how we will continue to communicate. My final thought is that it is incredibly important to have your leadership team fully aligned with your approach, to be a calm presence for them, and to have clarity about how decisions are being made and communications handled. It's a great time for delegation of execution of plans, but not such a great time for delegation of decision making or communication about the larger decisions.
Macon Finley, Head of School, The Ellis School 

First, lead with the heart, then allow the head to follow. These uncertain times will certainly test our teams and our faculty, but there is also so much that we will learn from this forced exercise of virtual learning. As my dean of curricular innovation said to the faculty, "(As) we take our first step into this grand experiment,...I can't wait (for us) to be wrong on our way to getting it right. So here we go!" Calm optimism and organized planning is the leadership that we need. As HOS, we can't do it all and we need to rely on our teams to step up, and they will. Offer support, communicate often, and provide meaningful ways for people to contribute - this will strengthen our communities in the end.
Katherine Titus, Head of School, Mercersburg Academy

As a Head of School in any time of crisis it is important for the Head to be a strong, thoughtful, reliable, and consistent voice to our communities. Being prepared to answer each person's concerns in a timely, caring manner has never been more important. This challenge is simultaneously an opportunity for independent schools to clearly demonstrate the breadth of our value added by proactively and creatively tackling the difficulties through innovative approaches while demonstrating a deep and authentic level of care for each individual and each constituency. 
Rich Schellhas, Head of School, Germantown Academy 

The students of schools in our PAIS network are the lucky ones. Our Heads of School are innovative, resourceful, and some of the best leaders in the country. With that in mind, leadership and entrepreneurial solutions allow our faculty and staff to be leaders and entrepreneurial as well. We have found that the talent we have all recruited is leaning in with more commitment and determination to continue our amazing work in our community. Our parents and students depend on their education continuing which many of us have been able to provide via innovative use of technology. Our teacher training in the community is continuing via our online courses. Now is the time for us all to come together and collaborate. We all have incredible core competencies in our schools. Feel free to reach out to collaborate if you need resources for your struggling readers, writers and math students. We would be happy to share our resource lists.
Pat Roberts, Executive Director and Founder, AIM Academy 

These are such anxious times. Your colleagues and your community are looking to you for how to feel and how to respond or react. This is truly a moment to rise to great leadership!

I so appreciate Macon, Katie, Rich and Pat offering their wisdom.



Gary J. Niels
Executive Director 
Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS)
37 E. Germantown Pike Suite 302
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania 19462

Voice: 610.567.2960
Fax: 610.567.2963
Cell: 412.491.9606

Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) • 37 East Germantown Pike, Suite 302 • Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
610-567-2960 • Fax 610-567-2963


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