February 27th-March 1st, Search Associates joined 5,500 participants from national and international schools for the annual conference for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) in Long Beach, California. Senior Associate Julie Ryan and Marketing Coordinator Tiffany Young Yannelli enjoyed the event, whose theme was Reimagining Independent Schools: Tearing DownWalls, Building Capacity, and Designing Our Future. NAIS posted about a delightful conference surprise on Facebook:
"We were so honored to have Academy Award winner Viola Davis as our opening speaker for the 2019 NAIS Annual Conference today. ‘The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are,’ she said. Thank you, Viola Davis, for being who you are and for sharing your wisdom."
Some of the sessions focused on recognizing, mentoring, and promoting talented employees within our schools—especially women, people of color, and others with non-traditional profiles. In the same vein, Thursday afternoon’s speaker, Frans Johansson inspired educators to be creative with the message, “Diversity drives innovation.” Among other sessions were some focusing on disaster preparedness and response, preparing for Head of School positions, and supporting minority students, who are often under-represented in independent schools. One way to do this is to staff the school with educators representing the student population. A striking example Julie learned from a presented study: With just one black teacher in elementary school, a black student is 29% more likely to graduate from high school and to go on to higher education.
Tiffany attended an interesting session on applying concepts of traditional corporate marketing to a school. Facilitator Nija Meyer, Vice President for Admissions and Communications at Woodward Academy, emphasized innovation, customer service, and operational excellence as essential in marketing a school. One should never underestimate the value of existing customers—a.k.a community members—in attracting new families.
With the understanding that marketing and sales should match what is in the best interest of the entire school, Woodward Academy launched Town Hall Meetings and an “I Wonder” portal where questions and concerns could be addressed. They also focused on digital communications by funneling email marketing from open house to enrollment, and by using visit surveys to gain insights that would guide key decisions about school improvement.
NAIS hosted a tropical Under the Sea reception on Thursday that featured a band and food trucks and drinks. A nice lunch was provided each day as well.
During the course of the conference, Julie and Tiffany spoke with potential candidates as well as representatives of independent schools interested in joining Search Associates as member schools. Julie also took pleasure in reconnecting with former colleagues and friends from her recent experience as a principal in London. It remains a pleasure and a privilege for Search Associates to attend each annual NAIS conference.