Running a Private School

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Updated October 11, 2016 |
Understanding Enrollment Agreements
Attorney Sara Goldsmith Schwartz answers my questions and provides some general guidance regarding best practices for enrollment agreements.

Editor's note: 

I asked Attorney Sara Goldsmith Schwartz, whose "practice is focused on the critical issues facing school administrators and leadership," to answer my questions and provide some general guidance regarding best practices for enrollment agreements. This article is intended for the information of owners, administrators, and trustees of small to medium size private schools. ~ Rob Kennedy

The relationship between parents, students and the school is determined by contract law. Can you tell us what that means?
The relationship between parents, students, and the school is based on a lot of documents, including the student/parent handbook, the code of conduct, the enrollment agreement and more.  The enrollment agreement, however, is the only legal contract, and it memorializes the relationship between the parents, students, and the school, binding the parties to the terms and conditions laid out in the agreement.  The agreement assists schools in collecting tuition and fees in cases of non-payment and in assessing late fees in cases of late payment. However, a comprehensive agreement addresses far more than tuition and fees.

This short clip explains why contracts are important legal documents.


How can a professionally written enrollment agreement prevent litigation in the future?
A properly drafted enrollment agreement is a cornerstone of a school’s risk management strategy.  For instance, it can help deter parents from bringing claims against the school, as well as help the school prevail on such claims.
An enrollment agreement that comports with best practices and applicable

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Updated August 17, 2016 |
The E.E. Ford Foundation: An Inspiration For 21st Century Benefactors
We take a look at the enormous impact a private foundation can have on education.

Editor's Note: I asked John Gulla, the Executive Director of the E.E. Ford Foundation to answer some questions about the Foundation's work specifically, and independent school philanthropy in general. I am grateful to him for his thoughtful responses.  Rob Kennedy

John Gulla, Executive Director, E.E. Ford Foundation


JG: One does not have to read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, though I do strongly recommend it, to understand the challenges of late-stage capitalism and the concentration of wealth.  Half of the world's wealth is now controlled by less than 1% of the population.  Put another way, the wealth of the top 1% equals the wealth of the other 99%.  Viewed slightly differently, fewer than 100 individuals own as much as the poorest half of the world's population.   This is not the place for a discussion of how this has come about or the challenges it represents, but I think that the data provide a prima facie case for the increasing role of Private Foundations in the years ahead.  

RK: What was Edward E. Ford hoping to accomplish by establishing his foundation? 

JG: The current mission of the Foundation is to "strengthen and support independent secondary schools and to challenge and inspire them to leverage their unique talents, expertise and resources to advance teaching and learning throughout this country by supporting and disseminating best practice, by supporting efforts to develop and implement models of sustainability, and by

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Updated May 26, 2016 |
Interviewing the Over-prepared Teacher Applicant
Some applicants can fool you when they interview. Here is some advice on how to prevent that while at the same time keeping the interview process simple and efficient.
I have been interviewing applicants for employment for many years now. I used to be fooled by a certain type of applicant who presented extremely well at the interview. Unfortunately a few months after hiring the applicant, things did not go as well as we had hoped. With my experiences in mind and knowing that many of you are operating your schools with very small staffs and also knowing that you do not do many teacher interviews in any given year, let's look at a couple of simple ways which will protect you from hiring a teacher who is not a good fit.
How not to be fooled
"First impressions matter. Experts say we size up new people in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes." Elliott Abrams
I agree wholeheartedly with Elliott Abrams. You and I are accustomed to sizing people up in a very short time. Essentially we are using the same skill set which we use in the classroom. As we teach, we are constantly assessing how our students are absorbing and understanding the material, right? We have honed that skill set very finely. So bring it into play when you first meet an applicant.
Trust your instincts
You have to trust your instincts and your experience when you are interviewing teachers for your school. I put that at the top of my list for interviewing anybody, but even more so when interviewing teachers. Something on a resume or an answer to one of your questions might trigger a doubt
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Updated April 20, 2016 |
How sustainable is your school and its business model? We examine some of the elements of a sustainable school.
How sustainable is your school? This article is written with small to medium-sized schools in mind. Larger schools are able to plan and use professional resources of all kinds in order to ensure their sustainability for the future. On the other hand small schools typically have limited resources to begin with. So with this in mind I want to look at three aspects of how your school runs and offer some suggestions as to how we can make sure it will be running for many years to come. In other words let’s make sure that your school is sustainable and will continue to be sustainable for many more years.
We are going to look at two types of day schools: for profit schools and not for profit schools. A large number of primary schools are what we would describe as for profit schools. These are the kinds of schools which a well-intentioned, visionary educator has established because she believes in a certain style of teaching and wants to reach certain kind of clientele in her local area. I use the description of well-intentioned advisedly because many of these wonderful people have great pedagogical ideas but lack the business experience to make their school become an ongoing reality. Here are some practical steps that the owner of a small primary school to take to make sure that her school stays viable.
Develop a business plan
When you started your school, you knew that it was not enough to simply think that you could
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Updated May 26, 2016 |
Facebook Page Essentials
Small private schools often feel that they cannot afford to market their schools. Facebook is free. Here is how to use it effectively.
This article originally started out as an overview of the top private school Facebook pages. However, as I began my research, I discovered that the Facebook private school landscape was in worse shape than I had first thought. What am I getting at? Simply that apparently many private schools are not implementing the measures necessary to create an effective Facebook presence. That is a shame because creating an effective Facebook presence is something which can scale to match your resources of both time and money. Put another way I literally cannot think of one good reason why even the smallest private school shouldn't be taking advantage of all that Facebook can do to help market your school.
Build brand awareness
Am I beginning to sound like a marketing professor? If so, I will plead guilty on the one count: my thrust is very definitely marketing. But, no, I am not a professor nor have I ever been. The closest I ever got to that august title in academia was Adjunct Instructor. But I digress. This short video gives you an idea of what is involved.
Marketing is critical for any small business. Every school has to pay attention to marketing. Marketing comes in many forms. Which ones you use depends largely on your and your budget. Marketing informs current and future parents of your existence.
Marketing drives your future intake of students. For many private schools even five or ten empty seats can have a huge impact on
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Running a Private School


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.


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.