Finding Your Strategic Partner: Insights from the 2023-24 NBOA Leadership Academy

School leaders explored how conducting a self-assessment and embracing innovation can set schools on the path for successful partnerships.

Apr 23, 2024

partnership concept

The following is a summary of the 2024 NBOA Leadership Academy executive report, “Finding Your Strategic Partner: Schools Aligning To Ensure Prosperity and Growth,” which was authored by Elizabeth Budzinski, Tami Gavaletz, Tanya Kellar, Anne Marie Schettini Lynch and Clarence Zachery. Alex Heiberger of The Madeira School served as the group mentor.

Can partnerships help schools maintain a strong financial standing? Are schools collaborating with innovation in mind? How can schools be proactive – rather than reactive – when examining solutions for partnerships? These questions and more drove a year-long inquiry aimed at uncovering strategies for successful school partnerships. 

Keys to Success

Despite significant variations in geographic location, structure and culture, schools with successful partnership programs demonstrate strong commonalities in their approaches to enhancing educational quality, sharing resources, and fostering a sense of community. The report classifies potential partnerships into three main categories: programming, administrative and resources. The report breaks down the key tenants of each category, including the advantages and disadvantages.

To implement successful partnerships, the authors suggest the following steps:

  • Conduct a comprehensive assessment: Begin with a thorough evaluation of the school's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. To help with this, the cohort created a decision tree based on insights from "The Partnering Initiative," a nonprofit in England and Wales. The decision tree provides a structured approach to defining partnership goals, finding compatible partners, checking resources, setting expectations and managing the partnership effectively.
  • Explore collaborative initiatives: Actively seek and engage in partnerships or consortiums with neighboring schools, educational institutions across regions or countries, and potentially even industries beyond education.
  • Prioritize strategic partnerships: Focus efforts on establishing strategic partnerships that align with the school's mission and values.
  • Embrace innovation: Encourage a culture of innovation within the school community. Invest in digital transformation, modern educational models and technology.
  • Act on early warning signs: Recognize warning signs such as demographic shifts, rising operational costs or changing parental expectations. Take proactive “health-checks” to adapt to evolving circumstances.
  • Engage stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders, including faculty, parents, students and the broader community in discussions and decision-making processes. Top of Form

“By implementing these strategies, a school can have an immediate path forward toward addressing immediate challenges while also establishing a framework for long-term sustainability and growth within the independent school sector,” the report concludes.

The report lists key resources, such as guidance from educational consultants, insights from professional networks and case studies.


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