"What is the Magic?"

There’s no denying it – independent school tuition is expensive.  As tuition steadily rises, a significant percentage of families who have historically been able to afford it are now applying for financial aid.  This afternoon, we spend a chunk of time discussing school finances – budgets, deferred maintenance, revenue models and the rise in tuition.  Amid the numbers and the financial jargon, Sarah Daigneault asked us to think about what happens at our schools, what is “the magic” that makes us unique?  As I sit and reflect upon the day, I am well aware that it is the “magic” that leads families to want to make the financial investment and choose an independent school education for their child(ren).

As an admissions director, how do I define the magic? How do I articulate it when speaking with prospective students, families and consultants?  Can they feel it by stepping onto campus?  Does it hit them on the tour? In the dining hall? While observing a math class or a soccer game?  For those students who can’t visit campus, how do I convey the magic in a Skype interview?  Knowing how to do this is an essential skill in my role as a school leader.

This afternoon’s session certainly intended to address the “business” aspects of school leadership, but Sarah’s comment has me focused on the magic at my school – the intangible quality that hangs over the students as they play Frisbee in the quad after class, ring the bell in Bearce Hall to celebrate a victory on the playing field, and excitedly return to campus as alumni to reconnect with teachers. Without the magic, students wouldn’t want to be here. And without the students…there wouldn’t be a school (or business) at all.