New York State Association of Independent Schools

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The New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), founded in 1947, is an association of 196 independent schools and organizations, ranging from nursery to high schools. NYSAIS is the second largest state association of independent schools in the United States and, in 2014, its member schools enrolled approximately 79,000 students. It was originally established, "to protect independent schools from obstructive legislation and regulation". NYSAIS accredits its member schools, provides professional development, and works with community leaders to support the needs and interests of independent schools throughout the state. NYSAIS is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) as well the NAIS Commission on Accreditation.

NYSAIS Mission Statement[edit]

The New York State Association of Independent Schools promotes the independence, well-being, and public understanding of, and respect for, New York independent schools and serves as an accrediting body chartered by the New York State Board of Regents.

To accomplish its mission, the New York State Association of Independent Schools:

  • Establishes the criteria which reflect the values and best educational practices for evaluating and accrediting member schools.
  • Promotes professional growth of teachers, administrators, and trustees through workshops, conferences, and exchanges.
  • Informs and counsels the leadership at member schools in matters of legislation and regulation.
  • Facilitates the development of cooperative projects among member schools and between member schools and public schools.
  • Fosters mutually beneficial relations with the New York State Education Department, the National Association of Independent Schools, other educational associations, and the general public.
  • Informs member schools about significant practices and developments in independent education.
  • Provides such other services as will benefit the member schools and the communities they serve.

NYSAIS Governing Body and Administration[edit]

The New York State Association of Independent Schools is governed by a Board of Trustees that meets on a regular basis, including an annual meeting at Mohonk Mountain House (www.mohonk.com) on the first Wednesday of November. The current President of the NYSAIS Board of Trustees is Dr. Scott Gaynor, who is the Head of School at the Stephen Gaynor School in New York City. Past Presidents of NYSAIS include Stephen Watters (The Green Vale School), Stephen M. Clement III (The Browning School), Rick Bryan (Nichols School), Drew Castertano (Millbrook School), Dorothy A. Hutcheson (The Nightingale-Bamford School), Charles Hertrick (Allendale-Columbia School), and Archibald A. Smith III (Trinity-Pawling School). (Peters, 2014, pgs. 193-105) The current Executive Director of NYSAIS is Dr. Mark W. Lauria who began his tenure in 2009. Past Executive Directors were Dr. Appleton Mason (1968-1976), Stephen Hinrichs (1976-1986), Fredrick Calder (1996-2007) and Elizabeth "Penny" Riegelman (2007-2009). (Peters, 2014, pg. 195) For a complete history of NYSAIS, please refer to the book, Independent by Design, by Dane Peters.

NYSAIS History[edit]

NYSAIS Early Years and Incorporation[edit]

On April 17, 1947, Paul D. Shafer, President of the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn sent out a letter to ten of his colleagues at other New York independent schools to discuss the founding of an association for New York independent schools. Those who received the letter from Paul D. Shafer included, Mrs. Harold S. Osborne (The Spence School in NYC), Miss Anne Wellington (Emma Willard School in Troy), Mr. Philip M. B. Babcock (The Nichols School in Buffalo), Mr. Charles W. Bradlee (Pebble Hill School in DeWitt), Dr. Howard I. Dillingham (Manlius School in Manlius), Mr. Morton Snyder (Rye Country Day School in Rye), Dr. Frank Hackett (Riverdale Country School in Riverdale-on-Hudson), Mr. Wilson Parkhill (Collegiate School in NYC), Mr. Harold C. Amos (Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn), and Dr. Joseph Allen (Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn). The New York State Association of Independent Schools held its first official meeting on October 8, 1947 at the Albany Academies. At the meeting on October 8, 1947, it was moved by Mr. Bradlee and seconded by Mr. Amos that they "set up the nucleus of a State organization (and) that the name be the New York State Association of Independent Schools (whose) membership...shall be limited to those elementary and secondary schools organized under a State charter as non-profit institutions." (Peters, 2014, pgs. 18-20)

According to the book Independent by Design (Peters, 2014), the first Annual Meeting of NYSAIS was held on January 18, 1949 at the Emma Willard School in Troy. The first officers were Paul Shafer (President), Anne Wellington (Vice-President), and Harry E. P. Meislahn (Secretary-Treasurer). The first guest at a NYSAIS meeting was Dr. Henry V. Gilson, New York's Associate Commissioner of Education. (Peters, 2014, pg. 23)

On October 25, 1968, NYSAIS was incorporated under a Provisional Charter granted by the New York State Board of Regents. The Provisional Charter required that NYSAIS draft a constitution and that a Board of Trustees be established. This was accomplished at the 20th Annual Meeting which was held on November 12, 1968 at Schrafft's Motor Inn in Albany. At this meeting, President Walter Clark announced the appointment of the first Executive Director, Appleton A. Mason, Jr. who had previously served as the Headmaster of the Lake Forest Country Day School in Lake Forest, Illinois. The first official office for NYSAIS was at Appleton Mason's home in Loudonville, New York. (Peters, 2014, pg. 60)

NYSAIS Executive Directors[edit]

Appleton A. Mason, Jr. was the first Executive Director of the New York State Association of Independent Schools serving the Association from 1968 to 1976. Important issues to NYSAIS and its member schools during this era included accreditation, the relationship of NYSAIS with the New York State Athletic Council, the formation of the Independent Educational Services non-profit organization, financial sustainability, and the relationship between independent schools and government funding. There also was a recognition that NYSAIS and the Catholic Education Association shared much in common. Of significance in 1969 was the requirement that elementary schools which apply for membership in NYSAIS must be accredited. (Peters, 2014, pgs. 59-62)

Stephen Hinrichs served as the second Executive Director from 1976 to 1986. The appointment of Stephen Hinrichs, former Headmaster at The Harley School in Rochester, as the NYSAIS Executive Director was announced by the NYSAIS President Richard Barter at the 28th Annual Meeting which was held at the Hilton Inn in Tarrytown. it was during Stephen Hinrichs' tenure that the NYSAIS Annual Meeting was moved to Mohonk Mountain House with the 30th Annual Meeting on November 2–3, 1978. At this meeting, eighty member schools were in attendance. At the March 1, 1979 Board of Trustees meeting, it was recognized that there was considerable merit in holding a single evaluation for an entire school rather than a NYSAIS evaluation of the elementary school and a Middle States Association evaluation of the secondary level. Throughout Stephen Hinrichs' tenure accreditation and the NYSAIS relationship with the Middle States Association remained an important topic of discussion. During the summer of 1981 the NYSAIS offices were moved to Canandaigua. (Peters, 2014, pgs. 81-83)

Frederick Calder, the Headmaster of Germantown Friends School, was selected to serve as the NYSAIS Executive Director beginning on July 1, 1986 and served as Executive Director until June 2007. At the Board of Trustees meeting on April 16, 1987, Frederick Calder announced that the NYSAIS office would be moved to the campus of the Emma Willard School in Troy. According the book Independent by Design, "this proximity to the Capitol offices made it easier to keep an eye on legislation...(and) also made it easier for the Executive Director to visit more member schools." Under Frederick Calder, NYSAIS continued to monitor legislation, coordinate the annual conference and a variety of developing conferences and workshop, and improve the accreditation process. Additionally, during this era, the NYSAIS fiscal year was moved from August 31 to June 30. Additionally, it became increasingly important for NYSAIS to strengthen its ties with other nonpublic schools through the New York State Coalition for Nonpublic Education. By 1993, there were 112 schools in NYSAIS that were either already accredited or scheduled for accreditation. In 1993, NYSAIS invited the Heads of School from the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) to participate in the Heads of School Annual Meeting at Mohonk Mountain House. During the mid-1990s the use of volunteers to run committees was institutionalized and in 1996 NYSAIS established its first website (www.nysais.org) which was funded by a matching grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation. In January 2006, Frederick Calder announced his retirement from NYSAIS to be effective on June 30, 2007.

Elizabeth "Penney" Riegelman was offered the position of Executive Director on June 28, 2006 to begin her tenure on July 1, 2007 and served until June 30, 2009. Penney Riegelman had been the Head of School at the Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey. It was under the leadership of Penney Riegelman that the NYSAIS Charter was amended to include the accreditation of preschools and the initial work to develop a multi-year strategic plan was undertaken.

NYSAIS Membership[edit]

NYSAIS has four (4) membership categories which include Full Membership, Provisional Membership, Associate Membership, and Association Membership.

Full Membership

A Full Member is an independent nursery/kindergarten, elementary, or secondary school that is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that has served as a Provisional Member prior to becoming a Full Member. Prior to becoming a Full Member, the school must have been operating as an independent nursery/kindergarten,elementary, or secondary school for at least five (5) years, must adhere to NYSAIS criteria of non-discrimination in hiring and admissions; and must be accredited by the NYSAIS Commission on Accreditation.

Provisional Membership

A Provisional Member is an independent nursery/kindergarten, elementary, or secondary school elected as such by the Board of Trustees and which is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation and is willing and able to meet the standards for full membership and accreditation within five (5) years of its election as a Provisional Member. Provisional Members must adhere to NYSAIS criteria of non-discrimination in hiring and admissions.

Associate Membership

An Associate Member is an independent educational organization that is not an incorporated not-for-profit, such as a proprietary school, whose standards are neither accredited nor endorsed by NYSAIS, but is located in the State of New York and is accredited by an accrediting body acceptable to the NYSAIS Trustees. Associate Member schools must adhere to the NYSAIS criteria of non-discrimination in hiring and admissions and be operated for five (5) consecutive years under the same ownership.

Association Member

An Association Member is a nonprofit association concerned with independent school education elected as such by the NYSAIS Board of Trustees. Association Members are not entitled to vote and are not provided with legislative services. Association members of NYSAIS include The Parents League of New York, Prep for Prep, Early Steps, Oliver Scholars and Education Collaborative of WNY.

NYSAIS Accreditation[edit]

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According to the New York State Association of Independent Schools Charter, issued on February 25, 1984, NYSAIS has "authority to evaluate and accredit schools in the State of New York (which) is conferred by charter from the Regents of the University of New York." All good schools continually evaluate their performance by means of their own devising. Without evaluation, an institution ossifies and, in a changing world, it loses its meaning for society. But the view a school takes of itself needs periodically to be supplemented by an external view, one that brings a perspective the school cannot command.

Formal evaluation combines self-scrutiny with external review by a committee of peers, both processes being guided by the NYSAIS Manual for Evaluation and Accreditation. The Manual gives structure, direction, and scope to the undertaking that goes beyond that which a school might ordinarily elect. The external review brings observations, comments, and suggestions possible only for those who are not immersed in the daily concerns of a school’s life.

The object in evaluation is to assist the school in better realizing its objectives, to support rather than to inspect, to enhance the school’s unique character rather than to impose a common design. Thus, a school is evaluated in terms of its own purposes and objectives, not those of some remote authority. This is fundamental.

The accreditation of the NYSAIS schools is overseen by the NYSAIS Commission on Accreditation which is chaired by William G. Morris, Jr. (Friends Academy) and co-chaired by Kate Turley (City and Country School) and Robert D. Vitalo (The Berkeley Carroll School). The NYSAIS Associate Directors who oversee NYSAIS Accreditation are Dr. Judith Sheridan and George Swain.

NYSAIS is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Commission on Accreditation.

NYSAIS Professional Development[edit]

Mohonk Mountain House in the fall

NYSAIS organizes conferences, workshops, and residential institutes for teachers, school heads, trustees, assistant and division heads, business and financial managers, and administrators. A complete list of these, along with details and online registration, can be found in the NYSAIS Calendar of NYSAIS Events. Most of the residential conferences are held at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz or the Carey Center for Global Good in Rensselaerville.

The NYSAIS Council for Professional Learning and Collaboration (CPLC) works with the Associate Director of Accreditation on programs that include Beginning Teachers Institutes (BTI), Experienced Teachers Institutes (ETI), Emerging Leaders Institutes (ELI), as well as many workshops and conferences for teachers and administrators. Various collaborative efforts with neighboring state associations of independent schools add depth to the program. The CPLC works to interpret the needs of NYSAIS professionals, providing timely opportunities for education and networking. NYSAIS Professional Development is directed by Associate Director Barbara Swanson.

NYSAIS Experienced Leaders Advising Schools (ELAS)[edit]

The NYSAIS ELAS Program is a mission-driven initiative to help independent schools succeed in today’s complex and ever-changing world. Established in 2012 to meet a growing need from member schools, ELAS provides high-impact, low-cost advising and mentoring in areas such as governance, leadership, and long-term planning. ELAS advisors, referred to as ELAS Ed-visors, include retired heads of school and senior administrators with significant experience and expertise in independent schools. ELAS Ed-visors have extensive experience in independent school management and assist NYSAIS schools in finance and investment, fundraising, strategic planning, board structure, governance, succession planning, school leadership, and accreditation. ELAS, where appropriate, utilizes a team-based approach, providing schools with the skills, talents, and experience best suited to meet their needs. As in the best independent schools, ELAS does not use a boilerplate, one-size-fits-all approach. Built upon a solid foundation of best practices combined with current research, each Ed-visement will be custom-designed to meet the specific needs of your educational community. The ELAS program is directed by retired NYSAIS Head of School Dane Peters. More information about ELAS can be found on the NYSAIS website at www.nysais.org.

NYSAIS Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI)[edit]

In 2010, participants at the NYSAIS Think Tank identified the need to create a professional development program for emerging leaders in NYSAIS schools. In 2011, NYSAIS launched the NYSAIS Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) with 16 cohort members. The program is directed by George Swain, Associate Director for Evaluation and Accreditation at NYSAIS and Marcy Mann, the Associate Head of School at the Professional Children’s School. The 2013-2015 cohort includes 19 participants from a diverse range of backgrounds and independent schools across New York State. Admission to the program is competitive and must include the strong endorsement of one’s current Head of School.

Successful completion of this hybrid learning program involves full participation in residential conferences, one-day workshops and online seminars in addition to independent work throughout the two-year cohort experience. Major program components include:

  • Three residential Summer Leadership Retreats
  • Attendance at the three-day Associate Heads/Division Heads Conference in Year One
  • A three-day residential conference of choice in Year Two.

Options include:

  • * Admissions
  • * Advancement
  • * Business Affairs
  • * Education and Information Technology
  • * Diversity Practitioners
  • * Learning and the Brain

In addition to residential conferences, ELI members participate in:

  • The NYSAIS Trustee Governance Workshop
  • Monthly online seminars
  • Service on a NYSAIS accreditation visiting committee
  • A mentor relationship
  • An independent leadership project in one’s school

More about the NYSAIS Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) can be found on the NYSAIS website

NYSAIS Now[edit]

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NYSAIS-Now is a resource for online professional development and school improvement resources. Designed specifically for independent school leaders, NYSAIS-Now provides timely and valuable information to busy professionals within our association and beyond. Content covers a broad range of themes and topics with leadership and governance of independent schools as a particular focus. NYSAIS-Now features Webinars, Interviews, LiveStreaming, and Talks. To learn more about NYSAIS Now, please refer to the NYSAIS Now page on the NYSAIS website.

NYSAIS Athletic Association[edit]

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Under the NYSAIS umbrella, the New York State Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association (NYSAISAA) is a sports league for independent schools in New York State. It is overseen by the Athletic Executive Committee (AEC) as well as the NYSAIS Board of Trustees.

References[edit]

Independent by Design: A History of the New York State Association of Independent Schools, Dane L. Peters, 2014 (ISBN 978-0-578-14542-6) NYSAIS

External links[edit]