Running a Private School

Get help and guidance on running a private school. Find guidance and resources related to administration, fundraising and marketing. Explore strategic plan development, creative fundraising ideas and the latest technology uses in marketing.
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Pulished |
From the School's Perspective: Is Accreditation Necessary?
Becoming accredited involves a rigorous process of internal self-evaluation and external review. Is it worth it?
I believe that accreditation is necessary for any educational institution. Simply put, accreditation is to a school or college what an academic diploma or degree is to an individual. That objective stamp of approval is earned by meeting a prescribed set of standards. The assessment of whether the school has met those standards is made by independent members of the accrediting organization. 

Why is accreditation necessary for a school? Because it confirms that the school is committed to obtaining the best possible outcomes for its students. Parents want to know that they are making the right decision in choosing a private school for their children. Accreditation reassures parents that the school's programs have been evaluated and have met the standards required for accreditation.

Accreditation is typically administered by regional associations which have specific areas of the country under their purview.
 
 
Here is a list of the associations together with the states and areas which they cover:
Covers: MSA: Washington DC, Delaware,  Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Overseas
Covers: Utah, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Montana and Costa Rica
Covers: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming
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Pulished |
 Marketing the Small Private School
Some marketing resources and tips for small private schools with limited marketing budgets.
Most small schools do not have room in their budget for a full-time marketing person. So marketing tasks such as they are are rolled into somebody else's portfolio. This article is aimed at those incredibly multi-faceted professionals who have to juggle dozens of deadlines every day and still do a superlative job.
 
What kinds of resources do you need to help you market your school effectively? Let's begin with consultants, books, blogs and affinity groups. We shall look at each resource and see how it fits into your school's budget and your schedule.
 

Consultants
Having an expert review your marketing strategy is like going to the doctor.  It will cost you some money, perhaps even a lot of money, but you will have the benefit of years of professional experience and expertise when the consultant makes her recommendations. As a rule, hiring a consultant is not going to be as expensive as hiring an additional member of staff. You contract for specific services up front so you know in advance what will be done and how much it will cost.
 
How do you determine which organization to hire? As with any other decision, do your due diligence. Send RFPs (Requests for Proposal) to at least 3 firms. Interview each one via phone, or better yet, Skype. In most cases you won't need anybody to come on site to do the work you need done, so cast your net widely.
 

Books
There are dozens of books devoted to marketing non-profits and schools. If your school is...
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Pulished |
Using Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest to Promote Your School
Social media is an effective marketing tool for your school. Here are some suggestion for using Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.
I remember when many schools raised their collective eyebrows at social media a few years ago. You could almost hearing them saying under their breath "Over my dead body!" That was probably because few people understood social media and what to do with it.
 
Decades ago your beautiful school brochures and catalogs were the way you got the word out. They were expensive and time-consuming to produce. But that's all we had. Then along came the Internet. Schools built Web sites. Pretty basic ones at first. But as the technology advanced and professional graphic designers got their hands on those school Web sites, the result was a product just as elegant and compelling as those brochures and catalogs we used to have lithographed. In truth most schools still produce brochures and catalogs but now do them in house in most cases.
 
It seemed that you had barely got your Web site tweaked to dazzling perfection, replete with online applications, inquiries, video tours and all the bells and whistles 21st century Web designers could cram into them, when along came Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. Social media was suddenly socially acceptable.
 
Let's look at social media and see how best to use it to promote your school and its mission.
 
Facebook
A picture is worth a thousand words. Essentially you need to post pictures to grab your readers' interest. Remember: absorbing information from the Internet is like drinking from a fire hydrant these days. There's just so much of it. We scan. We only read in...
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Pulished |
Starting a Private School
Thinking about starting your own school? Here's an outline of what's involved.
Who in their right mind starts a private school? Parents and teachers do. Why do they start a school? Because they are passionate about teaching a certain way or adhering to a certain philosophy or sometimes because they simply want to run their own school and do things their way.

No matter what the genesis of the idea might be, the recipe for bringing a school into existence is straight-forward enough. It requires equal parts persistence, business acumen and patience. To those basic ingredients you add huge lashings of money. Mix thoroughly. As you do, you discover that you will have to add more money regularly as the other ingredients soak up gobs of money.

Here is a template for planning and opening your own school. Good luck! I did it. Lived through the experience. I still recall it as one of the best things I ever did.

24 months before your projected opening date
Most school academic years begin in September or thereabouts. So you want to start the project at least 2 years out. You may need an extra year or two. The size and scope of the project and the funding resources at your disposal will determine how early you should start.

Determine what kind of school the local market needs. You may know what you want. But does the market affirm your vision of the kind of school you are planning?

18-24 months
Form a small steering committee of talented supporters to begin the preliminary work. Include parents with financial, legal and...
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Pulished |
Taking over the Struggling School: Before You Sign On
First of a series of articles on managing struggling schools. In this article we discuss what you need to do before you sign on.
Most of us like to start a project and see it through from start to finish. Signing on to run a going concern is a pretty safe bet too. But what about tackling something which is going to make enormous demands on your abilities, energy and experience but which has a lot of risk? Such as taking over a struggling school?

Actually, taking over anything which is struggling entails a lot of risk. Anyway, you have talent and experience. So let's examine what's involved in investigating a head of school position in a struggling school before you sign on.

First of all, let's agree to define the struggling school as a school which is having financial difficulties. Once you understand that you are going to have to do some very heavy lifting raising money, that will help you focus on what has to be done. The truth is that most struggling schools didn't arrive in their present condition overnight. This is train wreck which the previous head of school and the board saw coming for several years before now.

Let's look at some of the reasons why a school finds itself facing difficult times.

  1. Its business model is flawed.
  2. It didn't market itself effectively.
  3. It wasn't managed properly.
  4. It didn't invest in the future.

These four reasons cover most of the more common situations. But there are others.

When you interview for the position, be sure to ask tough questions of the board. Was it a matter of the previous head of school staying on after his sell...
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Running a Private School

Administrative

Here you’ll find information on the administrative side of running a private school. We’ll cover strategic plan development, state regulations, human resources and school safety. Learn more about the obstacles of taking over a struggling school, get tips on hiring a headmaster, and receive expert advice on dealing with bad press.

Fund-raising

Private schools often need to be creative when it comes to funding. This section provides tools, tips and resources on fundraising. Learn more about supporting your school, how to handle major gifts, and why keeping in touch with graduates can benefit your budget.

Marketing and Technology

Advances in technology have changed the way businesses market themselves. This section provides tips on social media marketing, information on the latest technology being used and SEO basics for private schools.