Chosen because St. Johns Country Day School conceived of a new Trustee Day that got board members excited, energized and engaged and amplified the school's word-of-mouth in one day.
Head of School Ed Ellison told InspirED all about this wildly successful event in his own words.
Our Board President and I were wracking our brains trying to find a way to get our Board of Trustees more engaged in our annual Trustee Day event. Trustees had complained that they wanted something more structured as opposed to our traditional day in which we handed them a schedule and sent them off to visit any class they wished.
Key People Keep Trustees Informed
We decided to link Trustee Day with an already scheduled Board meeting so that Trustees would not have to leave work on multiple days. Beginning at noon with a lunch in our lecture hall, Trustees heard short, 10-minute roundups from the following key school people.
- Director of Curriculum and Instruction
- Director of Guidance Services
- Librarian and Information Specialist
- Director of Technology and Innovation
- Director of College Counseling
- Lower, Middle, and Upper School Division Heads who discussed Faculty Professional Growth and Development and the Portrait of a Graduate
6 Admins Lead 6 Tours of 6 Classes
We completed the first four of these presentations by 1:00 p.m. when we then began a guided tour of classrooms. Trustees picked numbers from a hat to learn which of six groups they would travel with. Six senior administrators led the trustees on a pre-planned tour that included visits to six classes in twenty-minute segments over three class periods. Trustees were glad to be guided so that they wasted no time trying to find classrooms and so that they didn't have to worry about offending teachers by arriving or leaving in the middle of a class.
We made sure each group had a balanced sampling of Lower, Middle and Upper School classes, as well as a mix of academic, artistic, and physical education classes. Each tour made a stop at our new Maker Space and 3D Printing Lab. For obvious reasons, our teachers loved knowing that Trustees would be visiting and when that would take place. They and their students were well-prepared and very proud to show off new technology and engaging lessons.
At the final bell, we reconvened in our lecture hall and completed the remaining presentations. A lengthy Q&A followed that helped to drill down even further for many Trustees.
Excited, Energized and Engaged
The Trustees were ecstatic about the day, declaring it a home run. During the ensuing Board meeting, they continued to rave about what they had observed. The following day the Board President doubled his gift to the annual fund. He couldn't believe that he had been on the Board, had three children in the school, and still had little idea about all that the school does for his children. One Board Member suggested that we invite parents to see this presentation. We knew this would boost internal marketing as we have been telling parents to send us "more kids like your kids."
The next week at our monthly Parent Teacher League meeting, we announced that we would be offering parents a chance to see "Highlights of the St. Johns Academic Program." We followed this up with an email invitation to the whole parent community, making sure that our Admissions and Annual Fund Parent Ambassadors knew about this event. We decided to limit attendance to the first 50 parents to sign up. We had 40 parents register within 24 hours.
The "Highlights of the St. Johns Academic Program" event for parents will take place on January 15 and we are very excited about it. Our administrators will practice their presentations at our next full faculty meeting, just to make sure they are crisp and to reinforce the messages with our faculty and staff.
We are considering a similar format for our alumni on the Friday of Alumni weekend in the spring.
Since the new Trustee Day, buzz about St. Johns internally has been amplified. We expect this to explode after the parent event and extend to external audiences such as prospective families and the local community. Our original goal was to create a better Trustee Day. The happy outcome will be all of our constituencies talking more clearly, deeply, and accurately about the school, creating positive word-of-mouth that is priceless.
Edward M. Ellison is Head of School at St. Johns Country Day School in Orange Park, FL.
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