After spending the last several weeks studying the weather forecast and incoming Memphis weather, I am reminded of the value of leading an independent school. The three weeks preceding Spring Break seemed to bring one “chance” of wintry precipitation after another, and in Memphis that brings lots of questions: are we going to have school tomorrow, are we going to get out of school early, are we canceling after school activities? These questions regularly filled my cell phone and email inbox and I must say that I sure am glad to see Spring!
Each independent school makes its own decision on what warrants a school closing, early dismissal, etc., and there were a couple of days during the most recent wintry weather that some schools were closed and some were open, some closed early and some did not, and some canceled after school activities and others did not. As I watched the school closings, openings, and after school cancellations scroll through the local news stations, I was reminded that in an independent school we are free to make decisions that are best for our students and families, and are not bound by the overarching decisions necessarily made for a general population of students whose travel to and from school might vary widely.
As I thought more deeply about my three-week career as a meteorologist, I realized that although it was time consuming, it was actually a blessing. As a head of school, being able to make a decision that is best for your school is invaluable for the families you serve. I related this independent decision making autonomy to my 2K-8 school. The individualized teaching practices our teachers have used, curricular decisions that have been made to benefit our students, extracurricular programs that have been added or eliminated for our students and these “students first” decisions would have never been possible if it we weren’t for our independence. In a 2K-8 independent school you have freedom from the constraints of outside influences, bureaucratic delays, and older student schedules. The bottom line is that we can be intentional to the students we serve and make decisions based on the specific needs of our students.
As a member of the Tennessee Association of Independent School’s (TAIS) Board of Directors and the President of the Memphis Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) I have seen this freedom applied effectively not only in my school but in other independent schools of Memphis and Tennessee to continually look for more effective ways to serve students. Independent schools are typically at the cutting edge of new and innovative curriculum, educational technologies, and teaching and learning strategies due to the freedom that exists on their campuses. After nearly a decade and a half in an independent school, I am continually amazed by how each school fulfills its unique mission, with policies, curriculum, programs, and teaching practices that best serve their unique student populations.