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Online Governance Series: Crisis Leadership

Thursday, May 16, 2024
8:00 AM - 9:30 AM (EDT)


Event Details

presented by: Debra Wilson, President, National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) 

In many schools it feels like we have been jumping from crisis to crisis for many years. Is this the new normal? And, if it is, what are the evolving shifts we are seeing in governance to meet this moment, which requires boards and schools to move swiftly, thoughtfully, and with the requisite knowledge? Join this interactive session that will explore some of the current trends in independent school governance, as well as ways that schools are shifting their models and their thinking around the head of school and board partnership.

On August 7, 2023, Debra P. Wilson began her tenure as the ninth president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). From 2019 until 2023, Wilson served as president of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), where she led the organization through a period of growth and supported school leaders in her region through the COVID-19 pandemic. Her SAIS role followed 19 years at NAIS, first as assistant director of regulatory affairs and later as general counsel. In that capacity, she oversaw regulatory and advocacy work for the organization, supported schools in crises, advanced best practices in governance, and created dozens of legal advisories along with other informational resources. Before joining the NAIS staff, Debra was a tax litigator at the Department of Justice. 

In addition to serving on the boards of several schools, Debra’s board service includes The Enrollment Management Association (EMA), Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), Mid-South Independent School Business Officers (MISBO), and National Network of Schools in Partnership (NNSP).

Speaking frequently on topics such as leadership and governance, school safety and risk, and community health and well-being, Wilson is also co-author of the NAIS Trustee Handbook (10th and 11th editions). 

Wilson received a B.A. in English from Sewanee: The University of the South and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. She is a graduate of the Williams School, an independent school located on the campus of Connecticut College. She is an avid reader, photographer, and cook who loves to be outdoors.

Next Session:

Analysis and Conversation for Best (and Worst) Practices in Head and Board Evaluation

June 20, 2024 | 8:00-9:30 AM


Dena Torino, Director of Programming


ADVIS Member - $500 per school
Non-Member - $650 per school
Not sure if your school is a Member?
Check our list of ADVIS Member Schools

How to Register

Only ONE Person per School Needs to Register ONE Time for ALL Sessions

This will provide your entire Board and Head of School access to the ADVIS Governance Series. This person will become the contact person and receive additional communications from ADVIS throughout the 2023-24 year including links, important reminders, and post webinar resources. This contact person should share all details with the Head of School and Board of Trustees.
All sessions will be recorded and the link to the recordings will be shared following each session. The recordings will be available for viewing through June 30, 2024 after which the links will expire.

Sept. 21, 2023 - Trusteeship 101: Board Composition & Structure - Roles & Responsibilities
Join Marc Frankel and Judith Schectman from Triangle Associates for an enlightening conversation about governance, where we will delve into the intricacies of effective leadership and decision-making within independent educational institutions. We will use case studies to inductively build participants' understanding of good practice and the complexities of board dynamics and partnership with school administration. You will obtain valuable insights into trustees' evolving role in shaping independent schools' future. Don't miss this opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions and network with like-minded professionals dedicated to advancing the excellence of independent education.
Nov. 16, 2023 - Compass Not Map: Your Adaptive Board
It’s an understatement to say that much has changed post-COVID. Just as schools have changed, so must board governance. Today’s best boards are adaptive, not static. As they act as stewards, strategists, and sense-makers they must be more like a compass than a map. Maps worked well in known terrain, but so much now is unknown and in some cases unknowable. This interactive session will showcase a variety of ways to ensure that your board provides the adaptive leadership required for great governance today and into the future including differentiating technical issues from adaptive challenges, modifying committee structures, adapting meeting schedules and agendas, ensuring board focus and inclusive dialogue, and updating bylaws.
Jan. 18, 2024 - Strategic Thinking for Financial Sustainability
Setting tuition strategically, utilizing tuition discounting effectively, and assessing and articulating the value proposition are vital to every school’s success. Unfortunately, schools tend to underutilize data when setting tuition and settle for exploring short-term tuition possibilities without considering or even identifying their optimal long-term affordability strategy.

In this session, Nishant Mehta will offer actionable frameworks and tools to maximize the collaboration between enrollment, finance, and governance and create a stronger pricing and tuition discounting strategy that enhances your school’s perceived value in the market and competitively positions you for both short-term success and long-term sustainability.
Feb. 15, 2024 - Using Data to Track DEI Progress 
Martha Haakmat, President, Haakmat Consulting 
In the wake of the 2020 protests for racial justice and the Black@ Movement in independent schools across the country, school leaders and Boards have been grappling with defining and clarifying the work of DEI in alignment with their mission, vision and values. This work continues to expand beyond race to include gender, sexuality, religion, neurodiversity and other identifiers that make us full human beings and community members. What’s next in our work to ensure systemic change toward more diverse, equitable and inclusive schools? Join colleagues in this workshop to consider the governance level DEI landscape, to review methods for tracking and communicating progress toward DEI goals, and to build trustee muscle for analyzing data to measure DEI success. This will be an interactive workshop with small group exercises and discussions.


We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to engage fully. Please feel free to request an accommodation on the registration form. For inquiries about accessibility, please contact Membership and Outreach Manager Candyce Wilson. At least two weeks' advance notice will help us to provide seamless access.