Welcome to the New CAIS Heads – 2015

We all talk about the need for great leaders to run our great schools, and there’s so much excitement around finding the next leader.

Take a look at the bios, photos, and letters of welcome below, and you will realize that CAIS continues to be in good hands:

This is an extraordinary list of leaders. A few thoughts –

  • Four are experienced Heads (Two of whom returned to schools from retirement!)
  • Three are from outside of Canada
  • Three held senior leadership positions in CAIS schools and were mentored there (Thanks to Rory Paul, Michael Fellin, and Martha Perry)
  • Two have participated in our CAIS Leadership Institute (and will speak at our Summer LI at St. Andrew’s!)
  • One is a former Director of Admissions

Congratulations to all of our CAIS schools for recruiting this caliber of talent.

Looking forward to meeting in person in Halifax at our Heads and Chairs Conference.

And most importantly – all the best for an amazing year.

Groceries and balloons

When Jacob left for boarding school in grade nine, he didn’t write or call for eight days and I just about lost it (Read Letter to my son at boarding school for details.) My daughter, Kathleen was 12 at the time and very sensitive to her Mom’s struggle. The first few family dinners were tough for me, and when she could sense that I was missing him, she would launch into a detailed story of her day with vigour and verve.   Eventually her sensitivity turned to teasing, which was exactly the humour I needed to push through my sadness. It was beautiful the way she really took care of me two years ago.

All this to say that she knew that when it was her turn to go away to boarding school, she could not ignore her mother. She knew that all summer, just the thought of her leaving would bring tears to my eyes, so she would have to do a better job of staying in touch than her brother did. I had high expectations – she is a lovely daughter and it helps that she is competitive with her brother, so I expected that she would find joy in going to boarding school and staying connected to her mother, at the very least, just to spite him.

You can see where this is going.

I heard nothing for three days. I must have checked my phone every five minutes, just in case. During that time, I got two photos from her housemaster (So smart to connect to parents in the early days!) and a call from Sarah Milligan, Lakefield’s Director of Enrolment Management. Because Sarah worked with me as our CAIS Boarding School Project Director, she knew I would be hungry for information about both kids, particularly my baby. We didn’t have much time to talk, but she managed to get in three quick stories about her “Kathleen sightings”. When I shared them that night with my husband, Kevin, he asked for them to be repeated. Clearly he, too, was starved for updates.

Finally, she texted to report that she got her new computer. When I asked how everything was going, she wrote: “It’s good!! My roommate is really nice and everyone is really friendly.” What a relief. Since then, her communication can be characterized by snippets. She does text almost every day, but it is either purely transactional (Did you cancel my kilt shipment) or entirely bland (Good!).

Here’s the worst. On Sunday morning, she texted that she and her roommate were going shopping. I was thrilled to hear from her and I jumped to conclusions that she was reaching out to engage me. I immediately wrote back for details and she wrote nothing. Later in the evening, I wrote again, asking about her day and evening. Just give me something! She eventually texted the most vague message ever: “We bought groceries and balloons.”

This was her first weekend away, and I am a desperate mother, starving for information. I miss her. Terribly. I even tell her that I miss her and I love her on a regular basis. And all I get is groceries and balloons?

As was the case when Jacob first left home, I need daily reminders that the decision to attend boarding school is about what is best for students, not parents. When I am missing them the most, I think back to some advice a friend once gave me: our job as parents is to give our children ‘roots and wings’ and the roots are definitely the easy part.

Design Thinking, Innovation and the Future of Independent Schools

Get ready – I am starting the new year by bragging. I am so excited to share the people and programs of CAIS, that you may start to feel that my zealous-like enthusiasm has gone too far.

Here goes – In my opinion, there are three resources that everyone who is passionate about the future of education should read:

  1. “How Independent Schools Can Ward off Disruption” and “One more way…” by Michael Horn, Co-Founder of the Christensen Institute
  2. Sizing Up the Competition by Heather Hoerle, ED of SSATB
  3. The CAIS 2051 Research – This is the link to our resource page, but stay tuned… our full report will be shared at next month’s Heads and Chairs conference.

I make no apologies for including our CAIS work on this list. Here’s why.

First. Read the first two articles and you will see that our summer incubator at St Margaret’s, with our emphasis on the dual challenge of academic and business innovation, is exactly the kind of innovative thinking that is required to ensure permanent and strong independent schools.

Second. Our incubator actually began before we met. Our Advisors planned a research agenda that included a search for 25 schools outside of Canada that are actually doing something that meets the dual challenge. We all know the theory, but we also all know how hard it is to manage change. So who is actually innovating and making it work? CAIS found the schools and our 44 participants dug deep into them.

Third. Our incubator began with a session on Design Thinking by Jennifer Riel from Rotman’s. She challenged us to ask three questions:

  • What do our customers really need? (We had to make the shift – our customers are our students)
  • How might we better meet those needs?
  • How might we create sustainable advantage?

Fourth. I believe that one of the smartest aspects of Project 2051 was the engagement of our customers, our students. Why was this smart? Because they are! We got the chance to meet with hundreds of students across Canada – in individual schools, with groups of schools and at our CAIS Student Leadership Conference – and we asked just two focus group questions: tell me about your experience with technology and what’s your best advice for schools of the future. These students are brilliant and you would be smart to listen to their sage advice, and then ask your students similar questions. (See our Student Advice presentation here and watch our film this fall.) Makes me feel so proud that our CAIS students have a real stake in designing education for future CAIS students.

One last chance to brag – Our 2051 Participants were incredible! You can check them out in the photo below, and I hope you will invite them to one of your next meetings to share their findings. And if you do? You might go so far as to brag about it.

CAIS 2051 Project Group Photo