Leadership in the Small Independent School: A Conversation with Head of School Greg Bamford

April 5, 2017 Peter Baron

What do you think of when you hear ‘independent school’? Chances are you might imagine a small community with remarkable teachers and engaged learners. In many ways the small school environment is optimal for learning: it’s easier to have great relationships with teachers in a family environment. Small schools can also be nimble. When faced with challenges or opportunities a small school can quickly adapt or add a new program.

But small schools also face challenges. Sometimes it's hard to compete with a larger school that might have a more extensive facility, broader program offerings, or more competitive athletics.

In this episode of Blackbaud K-12’s Get Connected Podcast, Greg Bamford, Head of School, Watershed School, joins us to talk about his free e-book, Small, Fast, and Warm-Blooded: Leadership in the Small Independent School, and the problems and opportunities with scale and embracing the advantages of being small.

Give a listen and let us know what you think! Have a question? Let us know in the comments and we'll even answer it in the next episode!

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Episode Questions:

  1. Tell us about yourself & Watershed School.

  2. You recently wrote the ebook, “Small, Fast, and Warm-Blooded: Leadership in the Small Independent School” for Blackbaud K-12. I love the title! Why did you think this was important to dive into for heads of small private schools? How have your experiences at Watershed impacted your thinking around small school leadership?

  3. What benefits come with being small? How does it free the mind in some ways to compete against larger private schools, charter schools, and public schools?

  4. You wrote that “Leaders of small independent schools need a  fierce, focused vision of what they believe in and who they serve.” You also went on to lay out a series of questions that  small schools “need to consider to own their niche in the ecosystem.” What are some of the most important issues to think about?

  5. One thing I see schools struggle with is knowing who they serve? Maybe it’s a fear of missing out on an excellent prospective student & family? Regardless, why is this so important for schools, especially those that are smaller in size?

  6. From a financial side, you write about the importance of staying lean & hungry. Talk about this and why it’s so critical.

  7. I’m guessing any leader of a smalls school may have to wear more than a few hats. What’s the craziest thing you’ve had to do as a small school head?

  8. A small school might find it easier to create culture but might struggle with offering a wider array of programs. The reverse might be true in a larger school. How do you balance that?

  9. Let’s offer some advice – for a person about to assume the HoS position at a small school, what’s the first thing you’d encourage them to embrace as they head into their new role?

About the Author

Peter Baron

Peter Baron is the Chief Member Relations Officer at the Enrollment Management Association. Prior to joining EMA, Peter served as a senior product marketing manager, for Blackbaud K-12. Peter is the founder of edSocialMedia, a community-driven site dedicated to exploring the role of social media in education. He regularly contributes to various online communities and education conferences like NAIS, CASE/NAIS & SSATB to explain the importance of providing modern, user-friendly experiences for school constituents. Peter also serves as a trustee for Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School and is an Executive Committee member of TABS’ North American Boarding School Initiative.

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