This past week, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) hosted its annual conference and launched its inaugural Heads Summit. The theme was Remembering Our Why: Finding Joy and Inspiration in Our Work. A number of Shorecrest faculty and administrators attended the virtual NAIS conference and I was lucky to participate in the Heads Summit in person. Shorecrest is a proud member of NAIS, a non-profit membership association founded in 1962 that provides services to more than 1,600 independent private K-12 schools in the United States.
Independent schools are non-profit private schools that are independent in philosophy; each is driven by a unique mission. They differ from public and other private schools in the way in which they are managed and financed. Every NAIS school is governed by an independent board of trustees and primarily supported through tuition payments and charitable contributions. They are accountable to their communities and are accredited by state-approved accrediting bodies.
Currently there are 1,629 NAIS member schools with a total enrollment of 696,122 students. According to statistics from the Department of Education, there are 130,930 K-12 schools in the United States with 53.8 million school-age students. In terms of the national educational picture, NAIS students make up 1.3% of the nation’s school-age population. Shorecrest enrolls 1,010 of those 696,122 NAIS students.
The NAIS annual conference is the premier professional development and networking event for administrators, trustees, and teachers at independent schools. This year it attracted more than 5,000 participants over the course of three days. The theme of this year’s conference and Heads Summit called on educators to remember why they work in independent schools and to find renewed joy and inspiration in that work.
Keynote speakers included Dr. Jamil Zaki, psychologist and professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, who is the author of “The War for Kindness and Leading with Empathy in Turbulent Times.” In an increasingly divided world, empathy is needed now more than ever. Dr. Zaki’s research explores how empathy works, why it matters, and what we can do to empathize more effectively through deliberate practice. He presented data on how schools can improve the practice of empathy and reframe it as a way to bridge differences within our community and as a skill to develop for lifelong use.
Beyond the inspiring sessions, the NAIS annual conference and Head Summit provided a sense of connectedness and community among independent school teachers, staff and administrators who attend. I most appreciated the opportunity to leverage the experience and knowledge of colleagues. Particularly this year, the reminder of the deep purpose with which we engage with our work as educators was very powerful.
After a wonderful conference, it was great to return home to St. Petersburg. Looking ahead, as members of the Shorecrest community head off on spring vacation this weekend, I hope that everyone will enjoy a restful and relaxing time with family and friends.
All the best,