Running a Private School
Years ago I ran a small private school with 110 students in grades 9-11. I know how many demands consume a busy administrator's attention and time. I also know firsthand how difficult it is to get the owner of a private school to spend money on even the most critical items. With that in mind, I offer the following talking points for the small private school owner and her board of trustees.
How exposed is your school?
When I asked the question which is the title of this article, I had in mind your exposure on three fronts:
- IT infrastructure
- Public relations
I am not going to scare you off with a lot of tech-speak as far as your IT infrastructure is concerned. But I will highly recommend that you hire an IT expert to review your school's IT infrastructure and make recommendations. By recommending this approach, I am being a practical business person. Let's say your IT backend crashes, and you lose all your student and business data. And you have no resumption of business plan or data backups in place. You will have a tough time making an insurance claim as well as getting your school back up and running.
An impartial IT consultant will confirm that your technology infrastructure has kept up with the times. Sadly, many organizations are still running Windows XP for which support ended in 2014. Those Windows XP computers are easy targets for hackers.
You cannot treat technology like a whiteboard.
A tragedy like Newtown or Parkland could never happen in a private school, right? I certainly hope that it never does, but there are no guarantees, are there? There are so many variables to consider in all of the mass shootings which have occurred since the Columbine attack in 1999 that it would be foolish to say that such events could not happen in a private school. Statistically, the odds of such an event are low. However, when it comes to the safety of our children, it is simply unacceptable to gamble. We as parents and school administrators must take steps to prevent disaster from occurring on our watch.
Equally unforeseen are natural disasters such as tornadoes, flooding, and earthquakes. Granted, certain regions of the country are more prone to these events than others. But you only have to read the news reports to realize that things can and do happen when and where you least expect them to.
So, against this gloomy backdrop let's look at what private schools can do to protect their communities.
As I researched this article, I was impressed by the number of organizations which my search string "emergency response policy and procedure for schools" produced. You will find plenty of relevant and useful reading when you use a search string with a narrow focus.
As Benjamin Franklin wisely noted, "A pound of prevention is worth a pound of cure." While Franklin was referring to fire prevention, his
Editor's Note: I asked Stephen Alexander of Wilson International to explain how out-sourcing a boarding program works. ~Rob Kennedy
1. Tell us about Wilson International, its history and the services it provides for schools.
Wilson International aims to be on the forefront of global trends in private preparatory school education, providing a housing solution to schools who recognize the value of increased diversity and academic caliber of their prospective students. The company was founded just this year, specifically for our first program in Roanoke, Virginia. Beyond providing a much-needed housing solution to our affiliate schools, Wilson cherishes the opportunity to help nurture thoughtful and competent global citizens, within the framework of our affiliate schools' mission statements. Here in Roanoke, Wilson provides 16 rooms and a total of 48 beds to its affiliates in a recently restored historical building in the heart of downtown. The building is completely updated with a fully secured access control program, designated fiber optic internet service, laundry facilities, and a full-time chef. In addition to room and board, Wilson provides a residential life program for its students and is also creating a recruiting branch of the company to assist day schools that need a jump-start in their international admission goals.
Both schools had engaged in specific and strategic initiatives to increase the diversity and caliber of their prospective students in the last seven years. Because
Disclaimer: I am writing this article about IT infrastructure with small private schools in mind. I am basing my suggestions on my more than thirty years working as an IT professional in private schools and selling technology equipment and services to them. It is my hope that these talking points will save you some money and give you and your staff some peace of mind so that you can focus on the important job you have, namely, teaching your students. ~Rob Kennedy, MCT, CSE
Most medium to large-sized schools will have professional IT staff on their payroll. But, while small schools need professional IT advice just as much, if not more, than the larger schools do, finding the money to pay for the needed expertise is always a major challenge in a small school. Here then are some practical, low-cost solutions to keep your important data secure.
1. Put all your applications and data in the cloud.
This is probably the least expensive way for a small school to deal with securing your important data. For purposes of this essay, I define important data as the confidential personal and academic information which your families and students have entrusted to you. Important data also includes the school's financials and business correspondence.
Ten or fifteen years ago you would have been told that you have to have a server and a complicated network infrastructure to keep everything secure. Nowadays you can keep everything secure in the cloud. Yes, literally there is an app for that.
Summer is usually a good time for the marketing team to review the year to date and plan for the year ahead. Strictly speaking, summer doesn't begin in most private schools until school is out. That can be anytime between the middle of May and middle of June, although some schools finish classes at the end of June. In any case, this is usually an excellent time to spend a couple of days reviewing your marketing initiatives. It is important to see what's working and what isn't working.
I like to think of marketing from the perspective of the home-owners I used to represent back in the 80s when I was a real estate broker in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. I would explain to them how important it was to view their home and surroundings just as a potential buyer would. Buyers see things which you are so accustomed to seeing that you don't see them. The things which you do not see objectively could well be deal breakers. The same principle is true in marketing your school. Certain things which you take for granted or think are not important could be deal-breakers for potential families looking at your school.
Against that backdrop, let's took a look at each of your marketing tools as well as your overall campaign.
1. Your website
Think of your school's website as the front door to your school. The entrance to your school is warm and inviting, isn't it? Perhaps it is impressive, even imposing. The