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Communicating with Gen Z, Their Parents & Grandparents

Communicating with Gen Z, Their Parents & Grandparents

This article about the decline of Facebook use among students age 13-17 and the increased popularity of Facebook with the 55+ crowd has got me thinking: How can I lead an institution specific conversation about social media and its use in strategic marketing and communications? How do we continue to evolve our thinking on the use of social media for teaching and learning outcomes?

Understanding the communication practices of those born after 1995 continue to intrigue and challenge me.  Also, I think the way their parents – those from Generation X and Millennials – chose to obtain information and make decisions is very different from many Baby Boomers. Figuring out where social media fits into this communication continuum is something many organizations struggle to address. For me I think about this in terms of making decisions about where one will go to school and where one will give of their volunteer time and philanthropic treasure to support a cause.

I think many independent schools will need to make dramatic changes in their communications process and products in order to meet the needs and/or expectations of potential students and their parents. It will be important to balance the needs of younger generations with those from other generations who may (but not necessarily so) need a traditional approach to communication. Where does Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blogger, etc fit into this continuum? How do we support the professional development of our faculty and staff about these message vehicles and help them design strategies for using them in teaching, learning, and marketing? What is it that our communities (and there are many communities within one institutional community) need from us – the institution – in terms of social media messaging?

Once families have decided which school community they – both parents and their child – will choose in Fall 2014, school leaders should want to learn more about the role social media played in the decision process. We should want to know how it supports or does not support internal marketing to current families and retention practices.

As I think about strategies that can help inform how GPS tells its story, I look forward to learning from students, faculty, staff, parents, alumnae, and friends of GPS. I know there is great wisdom within this community and together we will redefine what effective school communication must be to be educationally relevant now and into the 2020’s.


Boards as Bridges – NPQ – Nonprofit Quarterly

Boards as Bridges – NPQ – Nonprofit Quarterly.

This article advocates for a mapping exercise that could help boards leverage the different connections around the table in a far more efficient and strategic manner. Too often executive directors don’t have a tangible grasp on the connections board members could make that could create partnerships that could enhance program, further the mission and provide some financial sustainability for either a specific program or the organization as a whole. This could be a great way to engage new trustees or those who don’t seem as engaged as they once were. I think this is an exercise I will try in my next leadership post if the board has not already done so.

What can we learn from the Met “unbuttoning”?

What can we learn from the Met “unbuttoning”?

Today, I learned that the Met is making two major shifts in its visitor experience. First, it will be open on Mondays! This is a very significant change for the Met, since NYC museums are usually closed on Mondays. No longer is there a day to “recover” for the staff and the facilities. The Met will now be available 7-days a week. Sadly, this exciting change was overshadowed by a NY Times article in today’s paper. Instead of celebrating more opportunities to enjoy the great artifacts and works of art from every continent and all people, the focus was about the admission buttons going away.

I will admit I like those buttons. It’s a public announcement once you descend those majestic stairs to 5th Avenue that you engaged with a sophisticated art collection that day. It’s sort of like the horse head on my Jordache jeans in 6th grade; a subtle sign to everyone that you are culturally/socially in. This may seem ridiculous, but the article speaks to this type of label identification or simply put – showing off. And several of the comments posted about the article speak to this as well.

What drove me to post this article is not the lack of social symbol I will no longer have when I enjoy a fabulous costume exhibit and sip a glass of champagne from the rooftop with friends. Or the sense of pride the third graders I took the Met this winter had when they showed off these buttons to the younger kids who did not join us on the field trip to see Warhol’s works first hand. Instead, what grabbed me were the small-minded – or shall I say small-budgeted – comments some readers posted. Many raised outraged that the cost of the buttons is only 3 cents and that giving these buttons is the least that the Met can do for the $25 suggested admission price. WOW! What people failed to do was a little math. The Met will save about $200,000 a year. I realize this may seem like small potatoes, especially since a quick Guidestar search shows the annual budget is approaching a half-billion dollars. But, what some people don’t realize is that $200K could be two junior hires – salary and benefits. It could be adding more educational programs for the children of NYC whose schools often don’t have fully-staffed art programs. It could mean three more people who work the coat check on Saturday’s and Sundays. When you have to wait 10-15 minutes to check your coat. Trust me – you start asking yourself why there are not more people working.

What the article didn’t mention was what the savings will be used for? Has healthcare reason for one of their unionized groups and this $200K will help offset the increase. Did the City reduce one of its funding streams? It reminds me that we as school leaders and trustees must explain these kinds of decisions with more context? We need to use these moments of cuts to show how some programs and associated costs have increased. Budgets are constructed one dollar at a time and we need to do a better job finding ways to explain this to our constituencies.

I admit I will miss my brightly colored M-buttons. But, I rather the third graders at PS64 get a chance to visit the MET for free instead of me getting a metal pin that I will never wear again. Yet, these kids could remember going to the Met for a lifetime! I’ll take a lifetime impact over a day of “showing-off” any day.

Leadership & Education Philosophy Statement

“I can promise you two things:

Your child will be known.

Your child will be loved for who he is.”

A well-respected head of a boys’ school, now retired, used to end each admissions open-house talk with the above quote. To me these words capture the very essence of a great school: each child should be known and respected for who she is now and who she will become as she progresses through the school’s program. In fact, this philosophy of teaching and leading shapes my day-to-day effort to make the school in which I work a healthy one. Is each student, teacher and staff member known and truly appreciated for what he/she brings to the school? Does each member of the school community understand and strive to fulfill his/her duty to be known by and to know others in a productive manner? It is my responsibility as a leader to guide the school toward goals that will allow those questions to be answered in the affirmative.

As a teacher I tried to create a microcosm of a great school in my classroom. I made a real effort to know each child as both a student and person. I wanted my students to feel acknowledged and safe so they were comfortable taking intellectual risks. Children in my classroom learned when and how to challenge each other — and me — through thoughtful and effective communication. As each course began, I clearly articulated standards for behavior and work, and I held students accountable for both; that way, they knew precisely what to expect from me and what I expected from them. I trusted each student until I was given a reason not to trust, and if a breach of integrity arose, we worked together to repair that broken trust.

I was secure enough in myself to openly acknowledge that I was a student as well as a teacher. I brought my own curiosity and passion to each class, and I never claimed to have all of the answers. When I made a mistake, I learned from it, and I encouraged my students to do the same. I also learned about teaching, my subject matter and, most importantly, the students, from the other teachers in my department and across the grade level. I was not able to create this perfect environment every day, but I constantly strove for this type of collaborative teaching and learning. Together we built a community of learners from this foundation of trust and respect of diverse voices.

As head of school, I work with my administrative colleagues and the trustees to recreate my ideal classroom on a school-wide level. The quest is far greater, of course, because of the inherent complexity of running a school. Financial, legal and personnel challenges – as well as diverse perspectives among the community – can overshadow the real task at hand: establishing and maintaining a place for girls to learn and grow as students, individuals and community members. A good head of school recognizes this, knows how to prioritize and delegate and is always aware of the bigger picture. I understand my job is to balance the good of each individual with the overall good of the institution in order to create a healthy school.

As head of school, I surround myself with qualified, talented and passionate administrators who believe in each other, me and, most importantly, the school’s mission. It is crucial that I am able to trust the senior administration, hold them accountable, provide them with and encourage professional development and, of course, laugh with them. Together we must support the teachers in providing the best education the institution can offer each child. That support comes in the form of attracting families who believe in the school’s mission, admitting a qualified and diverse student body, developing global curricular and co-curricular programs that responsibly use technology, keeping the institution financially sound, attracting outstanding professionals who believe in the mission and continuing the school’s connection with its graduates.

If a school is only fancy buildings; a large endowment; high test scores; numerous athletic championships; and students, faculty and parents who only see it as a step to the next place, then it is only a good school, at best. But, if a school is filled with happy girls who feel safe and respected; teachers who want to teach children (not college students) and support them to produce their personal best as well as continue their own studies; administrators who are perceptive, talented and trusted; parents who support the school’s mission; and a governance board that sees itself as a strategic and supportive body for advancing it, then, and only then, will it be a great school. I want to lead a good school that wants to become great or a great school that wants to further its greatness. I want the students not only to be known, but also to know they are loved. I want to lead a community of adults not only to know each student, but also to love each girl.

The importance of an executive education

To be a good and effectual leader one must continue to build on their education. Attending LeBow’s Director Academy was an invaluable experience in furthering my own.