Student Engagement = Increased Enrollment

As the school year winds down, families will provide school leaders with their intent to enroll for next year. When a family leaves your school, it can be a huge let down. Some families leave for good reasons – childcare, employment or relocation. Others leave because of dissatisfaction with your school’s education environment. Families who desire a highly enriching academic surroundings will move along to another suitable institution. To stem this tide, here five things I believe school leaders can do:

Encourage Classroom Involvement /// Provide your faculty with regular professional development opportunities on how to increase student engagement. When instructors use classroom discussions, project-based methods and other active learning strategies, students are able to interact with the team and not feel lonely in the learning process. The students feel like they belong in your school, the less likely they will leave.

Fight Boredom /// Students desire learning that is interesting and meaningful. If material is seen as irrelevant to their current or future lives, they will become disengaged. Teachers can make sure their students’ coursework connects to the real world through project-based learning, internships, case studies and similar activities. Students who are engaged in the learning process will make a more emotional and physical availability to connect to learning. They are more likely to stay at your school until graduation.

Positive Phone Calls Home /// Encourage each teacher to call each students’ parents at home/work, and have them give positive praise about each student. This technique allows teachers to build trusting relationships with each parents and students. Administrators can use this technique to break the ice with incoming families.

Offer Support Services /// Students who struggle with socially and academically will be the first ones to leave. Create peer tutoring programs, study centers and push-in/pull-out support for students who need extra assistance in academic areas. Develop character building programs to prevent bullying, teasing and hurt feelings among students, and identify those young people who feel left out of the social situations of your school. Match these students up with supportive peers who may become fast friends.

Create a Vision /// Empower your lower level students with who they can be in the upper grades. For example, a high school with an agricultural program used “FFA week” to reach out to their feeder elementary and middle school students. The high school students set up a petting zoo at their high school, and invited the elementary and middle students to it. Not only did the young students learn about farm animals, the younger students learned about how they could become an FFA member if they stayed in district’s high school.

Connect with Alumni For A Brighter Future

Alumni connections are important for marketing and fundraising purposes. Alumni know the quality of your school from programs to faculty to students. They can speak well to prospective families who are worried about their return on investment. Also, alumni can become donors who support their passions.

Ask Them To Serve /// Create a list of volunteer opportunities for alumni, i.e. tutor students, serve as science fair judges or take tickets at athletic competitions, and post it on your school’s website. Encourage alumni to volunteer a minimum of one hour per quarter. Take advantage of programs, such as Junior Achievement, that can connect alumni to your students.

Host an Open House /// Invite alumni to see what is happening in your school. Host a formal or informal open house each year so alumni can reconnect with your school’s administrators, faculty, teachers, staff and students, and their former classmates.

Invite Them to Dinner /// Find an alumnus with a swanky home or find a trendy club to host dinner for a gathering of past students. You can host a dinner in the same city as your school, or a major metropolitan area where a large majority of your alumni reside.

Create an Alumni Hall of Fame /// Recognize outstanding high school alumni for their significant achievements and contributes to their career and community. Allow them to be a source of pride and distinction for your school district, and serve as role models for current and future students.

Create an Alumni Association /// Develop an alumni association to support the activities of the public school system, and strengthen the ties between the community and the school. The alumni association can work to raise money for school programs or develop student scholarship programs. Allow the alumni association to appoint one member to your school’s board of director.

How to Connect Your Alumni to Your School

Rigor is overused buzz word to describe the harshness of today’s curriculum. No matter the school type, education leaders tell parents their schools are full of academic rigor. In today’s competitive education market, test scores will only get a private or independent school so far. Innovation and creativity can set your school apart from its competitors, and can draw perspective families to your doors. Consider that AltSchool, a micro-school founded by a former Google engineer, draws families in from other schools to pay $27,000 a year. (4,000 applications were received for 200 spots!) Many families are willing to leave their lower-priced elementary schools for this unique opportunity. AltSchool was one of 41 schools in the U.S. to be named to StartUp Noodle’s list of 41 Most Innovative Schools. AltSchool and the 40 other schools on the list provide five lessons that can be infused in any Catholic school.

Think Collaboration // E3 Civic High is located inside the San Diego Public Library. No need for an expensive new building or a capital campaign to build an addition! E3 was developed inside a public place filled with multiple books, study tables, and modern technology! In the days of pricey building projects and ever limited budgets, private and independent schools can build bridges with community partners – museums, zoos, libraries, colleges – for instructional space. . There are multiple, underutilized spaces in your city or county that can serve as laces for a class or entire school.

Corporate Partnerships /// From current scholarships to future careers, schools like Cristo Rey and P-TECH have teamed up with corporations to ensure students have the ability to prepare today and get ahead tomorrow. In the world of limited funds, corporate partnerships can provide funding solutions and educational opportunities to today’s students.
Green is In /// Environmentally-friendly schools are the wave of the future. From organic farming to solar lighting, green schools provide students with numerous learning opportunities from where food comes from to how energy is produced. Green education lends itself to more hands-on, innovative and creative education opportunities that can lead to an increase in enrollment, retention, and funding.

Self-Learning /// Self-directed learning transfers the primary responsibility, planning and execution of learning to the student. The pupil is given an opportunity to study passions, gain independence and take risks. Self-learning is the heart of homeschool movement! Parents often customize the curriculum to fit the needs of their child(ren). Within the Catholic school classroom, self-learning can take place through independent projects, self-pace courses, and outside internships.
Deep Bonds /// Innovative schools allow students to form deep bonds with their peers, faculty and others. These bonds allow for collaboration and communication in and out of the school. The coolness of your school – technology, project-based learning, and programs – will bring today’s families to your doors, the relationships with students’ peers and faculty will keep them in your building.

5 Ingredients for a Strong School Environment

Why do some private or independent schools grow, and some others decline over time? The issue is in the quality and commitment of the leadership. Even if schools increase enrollment and raise funds, underlying problems can force a school to rapidly decline and even close. Educational leaders must maintain five key elements for a strong environment and healthy tomorrow.

Strong Vision /// School leaders must know their educational product and environment today, and where they the school community to be in the next five years. They have an action plan that will lead them to success in terms of student enrollment, donor giving, academic programs and extracurricular activities. The vision is shared by board members, administrators, faculty, parents, students, alumni and other stakeholders.

Ethical Leadership /// School leaders do what is right and just. They must practice integrity, honesty, and fairness. They avoid conflicts of interest and steer clear of moral wrongs. It is imperative that school leaders are held accountable to both educational and nonprofit standards. Ethical leaders are responsible for their actions and put the greater good ahead of their own.

Approachable Leadership /// Everyone from the office secretary to school leader is approachable. All individuals make the school environment inviting, visitors feel welcomed. All team members have strong customer service skills – a helpful attitude and willingness to solve problems. Remember the first contact in your school’s building makes the first, and maybe last, impression.

Professional Development /// Small classes with mediocre teachers may not lead to modern day success. Parents desire administrators, teachers and others must constantly hone their craft. Private and independent schools must promote faculty growth and encourage faculty and staff members to pursuit informal and professional opportunities.

Open Door Policy /// Parents, both prospective and current, should not be limited to visits during specific times. Prospective parents are able to get a complete picture and observe instructional practices and talk with individuals without a scripted tour. Current parents are encouraged to volunteer in the classroom and common areas. Simple, the ability for current and prospective parents to walk in and out of the building encourages problems to be resolved quickly.

Too Much Financial Aid Can Harm Your School and How to Fix It

Many families may desire to attend your school, but they simply can’t afford it. Although there might be temptation to methods such as indexed-tuition and flexible-tuition and award a higher amount of funds out of the general budget, this should be avoided. An East Coast school, recently used this method to increase enrollment and took the funds from their annual budget. According to IRS records, the amount of tuition this school has collected has decreased by over $1,000,000 in two years, leaving their the books in the red with little chance of reversal and survival.

Scholarship Cap /// Take your school’s total annual expenses and divide by number of students to achieve the amount of tuition (ex. $2,000,000/200 = $10,000). For every full-pay student’s tuition add 10 – 15% (Tuition on the above amount would equate to $11,000 – $12,500). Your school’s administrators will use the percentage extra goes toward scholarships for students in need. To avoid such a situation, I suggest schools use these tried and true methods.

Work Study Program /// Students work a certain number of hours each week for a local company or nonprofit organization. The student’s wages are donated back to the school for tuition.

Hybrid Program /// Students attend courses 2 or 3 days per week, and complete work from home the other days. This helps lower the cost for families, and decrease the number of scholarships a school must supply.

Guardian Angel /// Guardian angels (individuals, families, foundations, organizations or corporations) commit to ease the financial burdens of deserving students by covering full or a portion of tuition costs for a predetermined amount of time.

Work Credit Program /// Families who may need assistance with their tuition may participate in a Work Credit Program. The program allows parents the option of paying of combination of tuition and service time by performing specific jobs. Example, instead of your school hiring cafeteria staff, the Work Credit Program allows families to perform those duties and defray tuition costs. The Work Credit Program is considered taxable income and must be reported at the end of each calendar year.

5 Ways to Thank Donors

November is the season of thankfulness! It’s a great month to thank your school’s donors. Here are five simple ways your school’s leadership can express appreciation to those individuals, families, businesses and organizations who provide financial donations and in-kind resources.

Send a Note of Thanks /// During this month, your school’s advancement team may express their thankfulness and send a note of thanksgiving to your major donors. A simple handwritten note that says “thank you” to the donor is significant.

Phone Call /// Your school’s board president should call recent or major donors with a brief message of thanks. Make sure the board president keeps the phone call short and to the point.

An Invitation /// Did your school’s donor provide funds or resources for a specific program at your school? Send a brief thank you with an invite them to the corresponding event – an athletic event, an arts celebration or a rewards night. If your donor is a corporation or organization send them a packet of tickets.

Lunch with a Student /// Did your donor provide scholarship funds? Invite the donor to have lunch with one or more students. Allow the student(s) to share their positive experiences with the donor.

Fingerprint Tree /// Does your school have a donor who loves art? Give them the gift of a painting. Gather a group of your school’s students and have them dip their fingertips in paint and press them onto a canvas. Frame it and give to the donor. Attach a handwritten note of thanks to the painting.

#LetDeanGrowYourSchool

Giving Tuesday and Getting Help

November is the season of thankfulness! It’s a great month to thank your school’s donors. Here are five simple ways your school’s leadership can express appreciation to those individuals, families, businesses and organizations who provide financial and in-kind donations.

Send a Note of Thanks /// During this month, your school’s advancement team may express their thankfulness and send a note of thanksgiving to your major donors. A simple handwritten note that says “thank you” to the donor is significant.

Phone Call /// Your school’s board president should call recent or major donors with a brief message of thanks. Make sure the board president keeps the phone call short and to the point.

An Invitation /// Did your school’s donor provide funds or resources for a specific program at your school? Send a brief thank you with an invite them to a corresponding event – an athletic event, an arts celebration or a rewards night. If your donor is a corporation or organization send them a packet of tickets.

Lunch with a Student /// Did your donor provide scholarship funds? Invite the donor to have lunch with one or more students. Allow the student(s) to share their positive experiences with the donor.

Fingerprint Tree /// Does your school have a donor who loves art? Give them the gift of a painting. Gather a group of your school’s students and have them dip their fingertips in paint and press them onto a canvas. Frame it and give to the donor. Attach a handwritten note of thanks to the painting.

How to Connect Your Alumni to Your School

Alumni can be powerful allies to your school!   As both storytellers and advocates, alumni can tell how your school’s faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders left a positive lifelong impact.  When I am asked about my high school experience, I proudly state “I actively participated in multiple elective classes from electricity to creative writing, which allowed me to develop my passions, learn problem-solving and explore career options.   Additionally, I was a four-year FFA member.  My FFA membership allowed me to hone networking, leadership and communication skills. My high school still provides numerous course electives and extracurricular activities.   Most importantly, many of the school’s faculty showed care and compassion for every student!  Their concern for me as an individual made me want to do better in school and in life!  Without the programs and people, I would not be in my current role.” In a matter of minutes, I can state why a parent or student should explore my former high school as an option for education.    There are five roles alumni should play at your school:
Ambassadors /// Alumni can tell powerful stories on how your school’s faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders
honed their intellect, developed their faith and shaped their views.    They can speak well of how your school’s
community prepared them for their next step in life.  Truly, they can influence the next generation to enroll in
your school.
Volunteers ///  Alumni can play a vital part in your current school community.   Their assistance can bring new
lifeblood and hands to your school!  They can tutor students, start a robotics club or serve as board/committee members. With innovative technology, alumni can serve at the school or thousands of miles away.
Connectors ///  Alumni can connect your school community to their coworker, colleagues and friends.  Powerful movers and shakers can build relationships between your school’s leaders, faculty and students and their network to move your school’s needlepoint in the right direction.
Donors /// Alumni can provide financial and in-kind resources to your school.    School leaders should ensure manage relationships with alumni.  These adults can contribute to the annual fund or leave a legacy gift.
Hosts ///  Alumni can host events from coffees to dinners for other graduates. Events will allow them to reconnect with other alumni and will prevent them from “falling off the grid.”

Can Innovation Bring More Families to Your School?

Rigor is overused buzz word to describe the harshness of today’s curriculum.  No matter the school type, education leaders tell parents their schools are full of academic rigor.   In today’s competive education market, test scores will only get a Christian school so far.   Innovation and creativity can set your school apart from its competitors, and can draw perspective families to your doors.   Consider that AltSchool, a micro-school founded by a former Google engineer, draws families in from other schools to pay $27,000 a year.  (4,000 applications were recieved for 200 spots!) Many families are willing to leave their lower-priced elementary schools for this unique opportunity.   AltSchool was one of 41 schools in the U.S. to be named to StartUp Noodle’s list of 41 Most Innovative Schools.  AltSchool and the 40 other schools on the list provide five lessons that can be infused in any Christian school.
  • Think Collaboration // E3 Civic High is located inside the San Diego Public Library.  No need for an expensive new building or a capital campaign to build an addition! E3 was developed inside a public place filled with multiple books, study tables, and modern technology!  In the days of pricey building projects and ever limited budgets, Christian schools can build bridges with community partners – museums, zoos, libraries, colleges – for instructional space. . There are multiple, underutilized spaces in your city or county that can serve as laces for a class or entire school.
  • Corporate Partnerships /// From current scholarships to future careers, schools like Cristo Rey and P-TECH have teamed up with corporations to ensure students have the ability to prepare today and get ahead tomorrow.   In the world of limited funds, corporate partnerships can provide funding solutions and educational opportunities to today’s students.
  • Green is In /// Environmentally-friendly schools are the wave of the future.   From organic farming to solar lighting, green schools provide students with numerous learning opportunities from where food comes from to how energy is produced.   Green education lends itself to more hands-on, innovative and creative education opportunities that can lead to an increase in enrollment, retention, and funding.
  • Self-Learning /// Self-directed learning transfers the primary responsibility, planning and execution of learning to the student.  The pupil is given an opportunity to study passions, gain independence and take risks.  Self-learning is the heart of homeschool movement!  Parents often customize the curriculum to fit the needs of their child(ren).   Within the Christian school classroom, self-learning can take place through independent projects, self-pace courses, and outside internships.
  • Deep Bonds ///  Innovative schools allow students to form deep bonds with their peers, faculty and others.   These bonds allow for collaboration and communication in and out of the school.  The coolness of your school – technology, project-based learning, and programs – will bring today’s families to your doors, the relationships with students’ peers and faculty will keep them in your building.

How to Connect Your Alumni to Your School

Alumni can be powerful allies to your school! As both storytellers and advocates, alumni can tell how your school’s faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders left a positive lifelong impact. When I am asked about my high school experience, I proudly state “I actively participated in multiple elective classes from electricity to creative writing, which allowed me to develop my passions, learn problem-solving and explore career options. Additionally, I was a four-year FFA member. My FFA membership allowed me to hone networking, leadership and communication skills. My high school still provides numerous course electives and extracurricular activities. Most importantly, many of the school’s faculty showed care and compassion for every student! Their concern for me as an individual made me want to do better in school and in life! Without the programs and people, I would not be in my current role.” In a matter of minutes, I can state why a parent or student should explore my former high school as an option for education. There are five roles alumni should play at your school:

Ambassadors /// Alumni can tell powerful stories on how your school’s faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders
honed their intellect, developed their faith and shaped their views. They can speak well of how your school’s
community prepared them for their next step in life. Truly, they can influence the next generation to enroll in
your school.

Volunteers /// Alumni can play a vital part in your current school community. Their assistance can bring new
lifeblood and hands to your school! They can tutor students, start a robotics club or serve as board/committee members. With innovative technology, alumni can serve at the school or thousands of miles away.

Connectors /// Alumni can connect your school community to their coworker, colleagues and friends. Powerful movers and shakers can build relationships between your school’s leaders, faculty and students and their network to move your school’s needlepoint in the right direction.

Donors /// Alumni can provide financial and in-kind resources to your school. School leaders should ensure manage relationships with alumni. These adults can contribute to the annual fund or leave a legacy gift.

Hosts /// Alumni can host events from coffees to dinners for other graduates. Events will allow them to reconnect with other alumni and will prevent them from “falling off the grid.”