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Leadership Crisis in Independent Schools

I would love to help move the needle with school leaders around the country who do have the decision-making power to open 100% remotely: the independent school community. The K-12 school I founded in NYC a decade ago, The Lang School, will be opening 100% remotely until a vaccine is available and in effect for all of our staff and students. I decided this months ago and announced it a month ago; my parents are supportive. 


Based on my meetings with other NYS heads of NYSAIS accredited schools, only 6% of these independent schools are opening this way. Even two weeks ago, only 8% of NYSAIS heads of school had announced their decisions to parents. Our schools’ teachers have no union and our funding isn’t dependent on the state. These heads of school say parents are driving their decisions; they’re afraid to lose students. The decision to open 100% remotely and synchronously was easy and obvious for me, just as was the decision to go 100% remote and synchronous in mid March. 


We are all thinking right now about a crisis of leadership at the federal level, but actually what I see is a crisis of leadership at the local level and even in our schools. There is a herd mentality that I think is evolutionarily typical when there is a crisis. In this context, a story about independent schools opening 100% remotely would be such a boon, I think, for communities of learners who do have a choice. 


The greater flexibility of independent schools allow them to experiment with and implement successful distance learning, leading the way for the a successful remote education plan for larger public schools. Some independent schools like Lang — with 40% of our students coming from lower SES backgrounds — can and have shown that this 100% remote model can work for all students regardless of socio-economic background. The community of schools I’m talking about consists of 200 independent schools in New York State, 2,000 nationwide. 


Parents are taking matters into their own hands by creating pod schools due to this crisis of leadership at all levels. Right now, parents have all the power — and if they’d put pressure on the independent school leaders, they would have to go remote, too. I’d like to help make this a story, as I’m an independent school leader who just doesn’t think about peer pressure or parent pressure; I’m just leading. 

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