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.
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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 November 09, 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 |
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? Starting any enterprise is a daunting project. Yet many parents and teachers are the impetus behind the dozen or so new private schools which appear on the scene each fall. Some schools begin modestly with a grade or two and grow by adding one grade a year. Other schools have much more elaborate plans. Why do these brave parents and teachers start a school? The main reason seems to be that they are passionate about teaching a certain way or adhering to a certain philosophy. Sometimes they do it simply because they 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, although there are many ingredients. Staring a school requires equal parts persistence, business acumen and vast amounts of 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.

This video offers an overview of starting a nonprofit organization like your school.

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.
 
36 months before your projected opening date
 
Most school academic years begin in the fall.
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Updated May 26, 2016 |
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. 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 private 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 at a struggling school before you sign on. Here are eight keys to a successful business turnaround.

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. Things have unfortunately gotten to the point that either the school gets turned around or it closes its doors for good.
 
Let's look at some of the reasons why a school finds itself facing difficult times.
 
Its business model is flawed.
 
A flawed business model usually is the result of the trustees and administration implementing programs and structures which do not
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Updated April 19, 2016 |
Dealing with Bad Press
Nobody likes bad press. Not the head of school. Not the parents. Not the teachers and staff.
"Popular teacher murdered"
"Accusations of sex abuse at prestigious private school"
"Lavish expenditures on headmaster's house renovations"
 
I am not making these up. These are examples of incidents which have actually taken place at private schools. In the course of running any business things happen which can generate negative and unwanted publicity. A private school is a business. How you handle a crisis will have a huge impact on the future of your school.
 
It's a head of school's worst nightmare to read a story about something which happened at his school.
 
It's a parent's worst nightmare to read a story about something which happened in the school her children are attending.
 
It's a teacher's worst nightmare to be in the midst of the maelstrom which is the evolving story with all its investigations.
 
The Head of School
 
21st century heads of school know that they cannot simply circle the wagons and deny the existence of the story. A couple of decades ago when social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube email and blogs did not exist, the fortress mentality was how many heads handled tough situations. You expelled a few students, fired some staff and hopefully the matter was put to rest permanently. Not any more. Unfortunately smartphones flash photos, comments and opinions around the world in seconds. Your story better deal with all those reports. Effectively. Professionally.
 
Now when bad press appears, it takes on a life of its own. It is bad enough to see a column or two in a respected national journal such
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