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Preserving School Traditions While Still Innovating

Posted by Scott Barron on Apr 9, 2014 9:39:14 PM
Scott Barron



The innovative school leader has to guide his/her administration and board through the process of evaluating traditions, keeping the ones that are still adding value to the organization while also respectfully expiring now irrelevant traditions. Sometimes the opportunity cost of preserving outdated events simply isn’t worth the investment of time and resources.

How can you evaluate your school's traditions in light of the target market you are trying to serve, the value you are trying to create, and the relationship you are building with current and prospective families? Below are some traditions within the four core areas of school design that may stir some thoughts for your program.


Governance Traditions

Board Meetings

“We always do board meetings at 7pm on Monday nights. That’s just the way it’s always been done.”

Well, maybe it’s time for a change. Meetings are often more effective in the mornings; we’ve seen several boards move to early morning meetings because of the other commitments throughout the day and many people just function better with a more alert mind. Some boards are more often utilizing online meetings. Consider what innovations can be made in board practices to build greater cohesion and effectiveness on the board.

Trustee Selection

Some schools rotate trustees every few years, causing the school to lose valuable institutional knowledge. Be intentional about capturing that wisdom, integrating dialogue with current and past trustees into the schedule in order to learn from your history so that some decisions aren't repeated. One of the traditions you should absolutely keep is learning from the lessons of the past.

Performance Evaluation

How can your board be the best governing body for whom to work? School boards are accustomed to the tradition of holding their chief administrator and faculty accountable, but sometimes are not used to being top performers themselves! Set clear trustee goals and maintain a tradition of accountability for excellence in the boardroom.

Operations Traditions

Tuition Management

Innovation in this area may include using companies like SMART Tuition Management for fees collection, or finding a way to work with your school association to negotiate better vendor pricing. Often you can hire a service to handle this much cheaper than you’re able to do internally. Don’t let tradition (including traditional roles) get in the way of innovative cost savings and efficiencies.

Brand Development

Sustainably growing fundraising and enrollment requires building the school brand through innovative strategies that include traditional media, social media, and special events that position the school as a thought leader and influencer throughout the community. This means looking beyond the traditions of viewbooks and predictable school web sites to using a multimedia content strategy that creates valuable conversation.

Administrative Traditions

Master Schedule

Much of the business model you have now is directly dictated by your master schedule. Reconsider the traditions of your schedule to be more economically and academically effective. Changes the class schedule strategy can be disruptive, but if your faculty and parents understand the why behind the changes you’re making you can lead them confidently through the transition.

Faculty Coaching & Student Discipline

Every school has room for improvement in the way they coach and develop their faculty. Consider how you might innovate in this area, establishing consistency classroom to classroom in how learning, practicing, application, and assessment is planned and delivered. Investing in the professional development of your people is the best path to a growing school.

Learning Traditions


Just because that newsletter has been printed for the past 100 years doesn't mean it should continue for the next century. How can you utilize communication methods and tools that are now common in the businesses in which your parents work? Perhaps a parent meeting can be hosted online via Google Hangout or GotoMeeting rather than requiring an on-campus gathering where the same parents always show up.

Personalized Instruction

Technonlogy and communication tools are enabling school innovators to design a learning experience that is centered around and tailored to each student. How far could you and your faculty go to provide a personalized learning experience for each and every student in your school?

Breaking traditions isn't always easy, but communication to build trust and collaboration will help you create a shared vision with plans to move forward in a purposeful way. Respect the traditions that are still adding value to the school community and look for new ways to establish organizational habits that lead to success.

Topics: Communication, Administration

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