The Future of Professional Development

March 5, 2021

For many of you, professional development (PD) over the last year has consisted of trying to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can about PPP loans, PPE, indoor air quality, public health strategy, viral loads, vaccines, social distancing — I could go on, but you get the drift. As we think about life with a vaccinated populace and herd immunity, it may be time to turn your attention to resuming your professional development.

Besides improving your professional practice and growing your personal and professional network, professional development programs and conferences are a great way to take a break from everyday schedules and focus on learning and improvement. One thing we know for sure -- you will engage in professional development very differently in the future.

While focused on faculty, 4 K-12 Professional Development Trends to Watch in 2021 easily applies to CFO’s and other senior leaders at your school or university. Here on some PD trends to consider for yourself and your community:

  1. PL (Professional Learning) in Pajamas
  2. Bite-sized and personalized
  3. Shifts in focus
  4. Breaking down silos

Last week’s NBOA Annual Meeting was a great example of what these trends look like in practice. Kudos to Jeff Shields and his team for pivoting to an all-virtual event that was available to participants 24/7, felt personalized, and enabled attendees to participate all day or in short chunks. The content was interesting and not always what was expected, and while the program was tracked, it was easy to move between tracks for maximum learning.

Check out the keynote speakers – Duncan Wardle and Cynt Marshall, who highlighted creativity and diversity and inclusion, respectively.

As always, PAISBOA was well-represented among the presenters:

Ann VisalliSt Andrews School presented with Shivani Singh (S&P Global Ratings) and Chris Harper (Ethical Culture Fieldston School). Alleviating Risks: How The Past Can Pave The Road Ahead. Administrators and boards at independent schools continually grapple with risks embedded in daily operations. In the live case studies presented by Ann and Chris, two school leaders at two distinguished and different institutions, participants learned how their administrations and boards rallied around profound challenges, mitigated and successfully contained core risks, utilizing dynamic risk management strategies. This session provided insights into how enterprise risks are incorporated into a holistic credit assessment.

PAISBOA Board Member Michael Dyson of Gladwyne Montessori presented with his Head of School, Carrie Kries, and Susan Guerette of Fisher Phillips. If It’s Not Broken, Why Fix It? Implementing Change When Not Everyone Thinks It’s Necessary. Even when school staff and faculty know that making a change will most certainly advance the mission of the school, many are resistant. Change can incite anger, resentment, gossip, and challenges to attrition, or alternatively lead to improved student growth, professional satisfaction, school culture, and organizational reputation, especially when change incorporates innovation. How do school leaders, and particularly those in the business office, know when it is time to initiate change? What role does school counsel play? Michael and his co-presenters dove deeply into their school’s approach, from identifying the need for change through execution and adoption by the school community.

I was also fortunate to again present with Damian Kavanagh of MISBO on Ideas to Continue School Transformation. Our recent instantaneous transition to remote teaching, learning and working has shown us we no longer have the luxury of ignoring systemic innovation in our schools. Damian and I talked about eight changes to the school business model: some you saw coming and are now curious about, and others that are radical and will change the way you think. Schools are resilient institutions because mission and purpose are genuine. A lot might change, but our purpose will not.

We hope the presenters will share their insights with the membership this spring, and we look forward to learning more from our colleagues.

Finally, congratulations to former PAISBOA Board Member, Rose Neubert, chair-elect of NBOA. Rose currently serves as Director of Finance and Operations at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, and we wish her all the best as she continues to serve the business officer community at the highest level.

If you are interested in getting more involved in PAISBOA or want to honor an outstanding business officer colleague, please consider a nomination for the PAISBOA Board of Directors and/or the John Batley Award. Both nominations are due by March 30.

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