A CAIS of Character
Drew Stephens

Over the past few weeks I have been engaged in an administrative project that needed some input from my colleagues at other independent schools across the country – most of them members of the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools organization (CAIS). Knowing that I would need to spend some time over the holidays sorting through my thoughts and coming to important conclusion about moving forward, I thought I would try to gather input during the week before the Christmas break.

I knew how busy my colleagues would be during that last week before the holidays with festivals, performances and end-of-term celebrations of all sorts, and that made me hesitate sending my email in the first place. In thinking about it, though, I figured that if I sent my appeal for support to thirty-six colleagues and was able to hear back from twelve of them before Christmas I would be in good shape and have enough information to work with comfortably.

So, on the Wednesday before the end of term, I circulated my plea for information. I narrowed down the scope of my inquiry and asked just four key questions about administrative structure. I was open to any and all types of responses and feedback, and each question could be answered with either a one word reply or a more detailed explanation.

I could hardly believe the response. Within forty-eight hours I had heard back from close to thirty colleagues. No one gave one word answers, and many of them phoned to have a discussion about the complexity of their own school’s situation. I was floored. And before the new term started in January, I had heard back from virtually every colleague I reached out to. Incredible!

There is much value in CAIS. Accreditation from a national body that holds member schools to high-level standards and effective practices is one such value. It helps to perpetuate continuous whole-school improvement. Excellent professional development for school leaders and thoughtful research initiatives that offer critical insights into school operations and long-term strategic planning imperatives are other valuable CAIS assets.

But right up there as a valued and appreciated CAIS benefit is the support school leaders receive from their colleagues across the country; support that is sincere, thoughtful, authentic and given without an expectation of anything in return – character traits we all aspire to develop in our own students. Without a doubt, the character of CAIS schools makes me most honoured to say that my school is a proud member.

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