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Mission and Strategic Plan
Mission and Strategic Plan

California Association of Independent Schools Mission and Strategic Plan


CAIS supports schools
that strive for ambitious educational standards
within equitable and inclusive learning communities.

Approved by the Board on April 19, 2023

Strategic Plan 2023 - 2027

The California Association of Independent Schools, founded in 1941, has adapted throughout its history to meet the needs of its members.

People figures forming an arrow pointing to the right.

This strategic plan grew out of feedback from 110 board chairs and 188 heads of CAIS schools from across California, representing schools that are large and small, well-established and new, religious and secular, urban and rural, traditional and progressive, elementary, secondary, and K-12, big budgets and small budgets, large campuses and small campuses, boarding programs, special needs programs, online programs, bilingual programs, and more.

The plan is organized around five strategic goals. Three reflect focused areas of action, and two are all-encompassing goals that will infuse into everything CAIS does.

CAIS Strategic Plan Diagram

Strong School Leadership

Equip Heads of Schools and Trustees with the knowledge and skills needed to sustain and strengthen their schools and their leadership.

  1. Expand and diversify educational offerings to meet members' unique needs, e.g., type of school, size, Head's seniority.
  2. Increase opportunities for members to engage in vibrant, inclusive, and mutually supportive collaboration and problem solving.
  3. Develop new resources to help onboard new Heads, including those from traditionally underrepresented groups.
  4. Help schools build diverse and engaged boards by developing new resources to attract, retain, and support Trustees.
  5. Create and maintain an easily accessible, comprehensive online resource hub for Heads and Trustees.
  6. Explore partnering with a university to support a California-based graduate program in independent school leadership.

Future Leader PATHWAYS

Develop a robust and diverse pool of independent school leaders who are prepared to serve as Heads of Schools.

  1. Identify potential strategic partners.
  2. Identify best practices in diverse leadership.
  3. Develop a collection of resources to help recruit and prepare aspiring Heads of Schools.
  4. Enhance CAIS' online jobs board.

Advocacy and awareness

Increase visibility and understanding of the value of independent schools with CAIS accreditation.

  1. Hone CAIS' mission statement to enhance clarity and develop complementary strategic messaging for use throughout CAIS communications.
  2. Update CAIS' visual brand identity and consistently apply to all communications.
  3. Develop communications materials for schools to distribute that highlight the value of CAIS accreditation and independent school education.
  4. Continue to actively participate in collaborations, coalitions, and advocacy efforts to advance shared interests and secure support for independent schools.

inclusion, equity, and belonging

Champion and support a sustained commitment to foster respect for the diversity and dignity of humanity through inclusion, equity, and belonging in CAIS and our member schools.

  1. Sustain and advance CAIS' initiative on antiracism as a model to help inform how CAIS can develop its capacity and infrastructure to support inclusion, equity, and belonging for other aspects of identity.
  2. Help schools identify where bias currently exists within their culture, policies and practices.
  3. Update the accreditation process to include antiracism as a vehicle for inclusion, equity, and belonging efforts.
  4. Develop and curate resources to support antiracist and culturally responsive leadership for school leaders and for CAIS' board and staff.
  5. Proactively communicate the importance and advantages of advancing inclusion, equity, and belonging.
  6. Embody and institutionalize antiracism throughout CAIS systems, structures, and programs, and through our membership, staff, and Board composition.

organizational excellence

Optimize CAIS operations and align resources to support the strategic direction.

  1. Continue to strategically grow membership in ways that are mission-aligned.
  2. Significantly improve CAIS' technology, database, and communications capabilities.
  3. Strengthen CAIS' capacity to monitor and measure organizational performance.
  4. Ensure that financial management continues to reflect nonprofit best practices.
  5. Align CAIS' resources, staffing model, and skill sets with the strategic plan's priorities.
  6. Continue to foster a collaborative and healthy work environment among staff and volunteers.
  7. Create shared accountability for strategic plan implementation among the Board and staff by adopting consistent and defined processes to monitor progress and set priorities annually.