An AAIE global Panel Discussion: High Performing Boards & School Heads in Time of Crisis

The latest AAIE (Association for the Advancement of International Education) offered a panel of board chairs and school directors talking about their experience of this pandemic. Schools included The Graded School of Sao Paolo, Vietnne International School of Laos, ICS Addis Abba of Ethiopia and the American School of Paris.

What changes in board policy or protocols that you wish you had?

  • We had to increase communication to parents and used video. The board also needed to meet more often and used Whats App to communicate internally.
  • The board needed to frame the discussion that the director wanted to take. Sometimes a sounding board, sometimes the board needs to make a decision. The board served as an advisory body, and the lines between operation were not “blurred” because the discussion was framed as such.
  • It was very useful to keep the school’s mission and it helped frame decision making. The board needed to form a task force, a small, focused group on the situation. The board also needed to move to Zoom meetings. One school decided to keep the leaving board members to support the head of school and use their input until the crisis can be managed by the incoming, new board members.
  • Weekly Zoom meetings helped because parents could give feedback and it helped where the school needed to be extremely clear in their communication.
  • The school risk management policies were not pulled together.

What was the most difficult challenge?

  • The speed of decision-making with limited data.
  • The line was blurred between operations and governance. This is necessary in a crisis and the frequent communication helped. Many schools used Whats app conversations.
  • Families that stayed in-country were upset that the school did not come back to campus.
  • The school in Laos had to deal with Covid-19 cases increasing in neighboring countries and caused a lot of emotional drama because people were doubting information from the government. (sounds familiar)
  • A school in Brazil had to deal with competitor schools dropping tuition 30% and another school closed sooner than them. “Never be in a hurry to make a bad decision” – Do not be reactive and make decisions that will really hurt the school in the future. Being the first mover is not always the best move.

What lessons have you learned? what would you have done differently? What is your next move?

  • The shift to online learning comes easier if the learning targets match with online pedagogy, assessment and support for students. This crisis shows schools that they need to get their act together and tighten up the educational practices.
  • The board needs to look ahead while the head of school and senior leadership team is dealing with daily and weekly challenges.
  • Schools that had online teaching and learning as part of their regular operations, were better prepared for the switch to 100% online learning.
  • Allowing room for conversations during a board meeting with the idea that the board and head of school are in a trusting relationship and together in moving through the pandemic.

Other things I learned…

  • The Graded School has over 500 students signed up for their summer program. (course catalog)
  • The international school is incredibly valuable to the international community in the city.
  • The moderator introduced the Stockdale Paradox. The idea is to confront the worst case scenario of any crisis head on.
  • In the chat, leaders discussed the McKinsey nine-box matrix.

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