Board President’s Reflections

Board President’s Reflections

10/18/19—The NCGS Board of Trustees recently welcomed close to fifty leaders from New York City area member schools for an evening of conversation. The crowd represented the diversity of NCGS—public, independent, charter, and religiously-affiliated school educators gathered.

After dinner, NCGS Executive Director Megan Murphy thanked everyone on behalf of the Coalition. “A coalition,” proclaimed Megan, “is different than an association.” As is often the case, Megan’s words carried great insight. Think about how we use those words when we convert “association” and “coalition” into verbs. When I associate with something, I imply both connection and distance. I can associate and disassociate with ease.

This feels different than coalescing, which signals ownership and a sense of being “all-in.” It suggests something grand and bigger than just one person. Coalescing lays a cornerstone for community. When we coalesce, we look across a table and we say, “Let’s do this!” What brought us together is important—important enough to do it together.

For me, this is always what has distinguished the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. We rally around the fact that our over one million alumnae make their own choices and live their own lives, and we revel that the shared experience of being girls’ school alumnae creates a unique bond. At one level, our history is a shared one. Girls’ schools came to be, in part, because there weren’t equivalent places for girls elsewhere. When you graduate from a school that was founded to make things fairer for you, you are then able to do your part to make the world fairer for everyone.

The Nightingale-Bamford School’s mission is merely one case in point: we “inspire girls to go beyond barriers to advance the equity and betterment of all.” We are proud of these words and pursue them in a way that is unique to our school’s history, culture, and aspirations. We are also proud to coalesce with other girls’ schools in pursuit of our mission’s overarching ideals.

Next time you gather with girls’ school educators, take stock of it. Sense the camaraderie, the good thinking, the honest sharing. I feel it all the time when we are together at NCGS conferences and symposiums, when we make “headway” on videoconference calls, when we share research on how best to educate girls. When we gather under the banner of our Coalition, we do so with a sense that your good is also my good. And in my mind, this changes everything. I can then return to my school eager to do my part.

This year, the NCGS Board is focusing on coalescing around a strategic vision. NCGS is entering its third decade of being the leading advocate for girls’ schools, and the time is right.

We started the strategic visioning process by spending our first Board meeting of the school year pouring over your responses to the recent membership survey. Amidst a busy spring, so many of you paused to tell us what you thought. To return the favor, NCGS has put your ideas first. Megan and the Board assessed the Coalition’s current practices in light of your hopes. We will continue to do so until we coalesce around a vision that will carry us into our future.

True visioning that involves reaching towards collective destinations is not predetermined on day one. We will keep you updated as the planning proceeds. Regardless of where the strategic visioning process takes us, it’s clear we are doing it together. That is, after all, what you do when you are part of a coalition.

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