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Timely Take-Aways

Over the last two days, Carol Ann Millington, our Director of Finance; Scott Davidson, our incoming Chair of the Board and I have been attending the annual Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) Head’s, Chairs’ and Business Officers’ Conference. The theme this year was Sustainability and Strategy- very apt as St. Clement’s School plans, both at the strategic and operational level, to ensure its existence for years and years to come.

The conference began with a moderated panel of experts discussing economic realities and how they affect our independent schools and the families who attend them, and continued over the next two days with many thought-provoking presentations. It was an exceptional line up of people and sessions and specific people’s work left me with takeaways upon which to reflect. They are especially timely as St. Clement’s begins the implementation of its strategic plan, and so I would like to share them with our community.

  • Dieter Jentsch, Executive Vice President, Latin America, Bank of Nova Scotia: Businesses are becoming increasingly global and thus curriculum content and how people think and reflect must go beyond Canada.
  • Fred Dust, a partner at IDEO, speaking about leadership, change and unlocking potential innovation: Spotting the future before it happens is vital. The best way to do this is not to be afraid to ‘try’ your future / prototype your ways. Dust called this prototyping for provocation.
  • Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman School of Management, speaking about how strategy really works: At the heart of strategy is determining where one plays and how one will win. Martin argues that strategy is very simple as long as you can determine your niche and ensure that it is clear to others.
  • Chris Bart, professor at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster and an expert on strategic market leadership, on the role of a board in strategy: The three c’s of being a board director: Competence, curiosity and courage. Bart indicates that these three areas allow a board member to be strategic and effective.
  • Susan Wright, consultant of Wright Management on national survey feedback from Heads, Chairs and Business Officer: If you push everything an inch and nothing a mile, you won’t see sustainable change. It is important that we not be afraid to commit to key areas and move forward with confidence and strength.
  • Kendra O’Donnell, Past President of the Board at Emma Willard School for Girls and Past Principal at Phillips Exeter Academy: speaking about fundraising as a varsity sport. O’Donnell says that you must display a passion and knowledge in fundraising and that it is important to bring expertise along for any “ask” as “there is no reason to go undefended into the field”.

With such an unknown future ahead, our mission and our strategic plan are guides for us at St. Clement’s School. Having said that, research, reading and access to experts such as those we heard over the last two days afford us much assistance as we take our exciting path towards that future.

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