Conference Presentations

The Debatable Propositions: Tools for Talking about Financial Sustainability
Gretchen Reed, Senior Director, Professional Development, National Business Officers Association
Financial sustainability remains a hot topic in independent education at both the K-12 and higher education levels. Virtually everyone agrees that without dramatic changes, tuition levels will continue to rise to levels that won't be sustainable. But how do schools make structural changes that can positively impact their financial futures? This session revisited and updated the two prevailing paradigms of financial sustainability: the "New Normal" (cutting expenses and adding revenue streams to slow the rate of tuition increases) and "Full Steam Ahead" (identifying a school’s "value proposition" and pricing tuition accordingly). The presenter reviewed the data about the kinds of changes that schools have discussed or implemented in this challenging economic environment--such as increasing class size or teaching loads. This session also focused on some debatable propositions to be discussed in small groups, modeling an approach to talking about financial sustainability that can generate new thinking. While this session did not provide "the answers," it did give institutional leaders some useful tools to formulate answers that fit their own school situations.

Here are the Numbers! Data and Highlights from Independent School Surveys
Gretchen Reed, Senior Director, Professional Development, National Business Officers Association, Martha Ambros, Director, Cal-ISBOA (California Independent School Business Officers Association), Mayer Riff, Chief Financial Officer, The Center for Early Education
NBOA (National Business Officers Association) and Cal-ISBOA (California Independent School Business Officers Association) collect extensive data annually covering the financial and operational aspects of hundreds of independent schools. This presentation shared comparative data on enrollment statistics, financial aid ratios, tuition levels, compensation levels, financial ratios, investment returns, and more. Two veteran business officers demonstrated how to glean very useful data from the Cal-ISBOA survey, the NBOA Financial Position Survey, the NBOA Compensation Benchmark and Staffing Study, the Commonfund Endowment Survey, and more. Overall trends revealed by these surveys will also be highlighted.

25 Factors Great Schools Have in Common
Patrick F. Bassett, President, National Association of Independent Schools
Since 2001 Pat has been the President of NAIS, and he will retire in June of 2013, making this the last of his many appreciated appearances at the CAIS Trustee/School Head Conference. Pat’s final CAIS presentation drew heavily from his reading, research, and vantage point as the leader of NAIS and focused upon those key factors that great schools have in common. He concluded his remarks with some reflections and reminiscences on his life’s journey within the independent school world, which has left a deep and positive imprint on the thinking of Boards and heads in particular.

Reasonable Accommodation of Students
Michael Blacher, Attorney, and Donna Williamson, Attorney, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore
Accommodating students with disabilities is an increasingly pressing issue for schools. Parents are making more demands—as are their attorneys. This presentation examined what schools can, and cannot, ask about student disabilities during the application process. It will lay out the legal requirements under federal and state law when it comes to accommodating student disabilities. It also examined the meaning of “reasonable accommodations” and how that applies to K-12 programs. Participants learned the law and spent time discussing best practices in this area.

Managing Risk After The Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy
Ronald C. Wanglin, Chairman of the Board, Bolton & Company, and Rick Shaw, President, Awareity
The tragic events that recently took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as those at Taft Union High School, have become a lightning rod for schools and their Boards in reevaluating their exposure to armed attacks and in determining how they can best provide a safe and secure environment for their students, faculty, and staff. This session addressed best practices for identifying potential exposures, including evaluating school policies and procedures, conducting a campus/school risk assessment, physical solutions, insurance, and risk management protocols. The presenters also explored innovative web-based platforms that have been used by K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to automate risk management best practices and avert preventable incidents, lawsuits, and tragedies.

Risk Management for Independent Schools
Denise Gutches, CEO, DKG Consulting, Inc., Ron Wanglin, Chairman of the Board, Bolton & Company
Independent schools continue to be faced with a broad variety of complex institutional and financial risks from both internal and external sources. Challenges presented by the economy, the structure of the school’s financial model and decision-making, and critical insurance and risk management issues can have a significant impact on long-term sustainability. This session provided a best-practices approach for addressing these and other key areas from both an operational and a fiduciary perspective.

Annual Legal Update for California Independent Schools
Michael Blacher, Attorney, Donna Williamson Attorney, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore
With another year of new cases, new statutes, and new challenges to examine, this workshop provided an analysis of the most significant legal developments from around the country and focussed on the practical implications for California independent schools.

Virtual Harassment--Investigating Harassment and Other Misconduct in Cyberspace
Presented by Michael Blacher, Attorney, and Pilar Morin, Attorney, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore
This session explored a topic increasingly relevant to, and problematic for, every school. Can schools discipline students and employees when they engage in misconduct on the Internet? Is it limited to campus activity, or can schools address off-campus misconduct? What type of investigation is required or permitted? What activities or speech are protected? Do schools have any responsibility to inform parents about information on students’ personal web pages? This presentation explained the current state of the law and best practices for dealing with online privacy and investigations. It also assisted schools in creating practical and enforceable policies and practices.