Board President’s Reflections

Board President’s Reflections

2/7/20—Executive Director Megan Murphy stood last week before the largest audience ever gathered at an NCGS Educating Girls Symposium to thank our generous host, The Hockaday School, recognize our talented partners at the Young Women’s Preparatory Network, and welcome the opening keynote speaker, Michelle Kinder. As is typical, Megan’s comments focused on the work of others—our host school, our strategic partner and sponsors, the keynote speaker.

Dropped in the midst of her generosity, Megan humbly issued a bold claim, “In the landscape of schools, I believe that ours have always been the most strategic. We’ve had to be. Each of our schools was established by a trailblazer with the singular purpose to advance the lives of girls.”

There you have it. Our charge was clear. The NCGS Board had arrived in Dallas, Texas, and it was time to think big. It was our moment to coalesce around a shared vision: to begin in earnest a process of strategic planning that reflects the best thinking of our schools and strives to match our schools’ aspirations with the Coalition’s assets. This is no small task.

We commence our work with the knowledge that our Coalition is operating from an unprecedented position of strength: the 2019-2020 membership roster includes greater diversity and more schools than ever before; attendance at NCGS conferences and symposiums and enrollment in online professional development offerings continues to surge; newly sponsored and recently released research informs our practice and advocacy efforts; and new ventures are on the horizon with our first cohort of Global Action Research Fellows hard at work.

And yet, still, it somehow seems like we are just getting started. There is such good and important work ahead for all of us.

Nearly thirty years ago, NCGS co-founders, Meg Moulton and Whitty Ransome, recognized that together our schools can do more.

NCGS members rise and fall on the collective coalition-wide belief that our schools do better for girls. NCGS, as an organization, takes our inspiration from our membership and believes that if we do better for our schools, then they can do better for girls. And if our schools do better for their girls, then those girls can in turn do better for their world. Our alumnae stand one million strong. That is a lot of better for our world.

Make no mistake that when we come together in shared vision, it matters. Only then can we have what Danielle Heard, Head of Nashoba Brooks School and Vice President of the NCGS Board, calls a “cascading effect where all benefit—students, teachers, parents, and alumnae.”

So how will we arrive at a shared vision for a Coalition of over 250 schools and our 115,000 students? We start with you.

In October, before we began the formal strategic planning, we poured over your thoughts as represented in last spring’s membership survey. According to our schools, we dove deeply into areas such as: Where does NCGS add the greatest value? What resources are most valuable to membership? What gives your school the best chance of reaching its own strategic goals? Where is the strength in numbers?

Beyond the member survey, the Board asked our own questions regarding the four NCGS pillars—advocacy, research, professional development, and networking. Does one lead to another? When creating new programming, what takes priority? What are the core issues that unite an exceptionally diverse set of girls’ schools? How can we lead nationally and contribute internationally when there are seemingly real regional differences? How can we create a meaningful 2020 vision that is inclusive of all of our schools despite their differences in access to resources? Finally, how can we assure that all of our voices are given equal weight? We are, after all, united in our belief that elevating girls’ voices is at our core.

Michelle Kinder picked up where Megan left off. She combined scholarship with narrative to share insights into leadership “from the inside out.” Per Michelle, “People who can navigate the inside will be superheroes because the outside world is so challenging. When we are trapped by stress, ego, and fear we do things that are small.” One of her recommendations? “Zoom out and illuminate something that interests you.”

Therein lies the task before the NCGS Board, for now at least. We zoom out, illuminate, and strategically plan for this most promising of ventures: girls who will change our world.

Paul Burke, President of the NCGS Board of Trustees and Head of The Nightingale-Bamford School