A recent National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) report on U.S. enrollment trends, “The State of K-12 Enrollment 2021-2022,“ found that most independent schools saw a decrease in enrollment early in the pandemic.
Though some schools have begun the road to recovery, leadership at many private schools are left grappling with some prominent issues:
Or maybe they just need help with administrative services like HR and payroll.
Yes, unfortunately, the pandemic has forced many private schools to do more with less.
But luckily there is a solution: hire a school consultant. Let’s learn more about what you should look for in choosing the right consultant for your school.
Your time is always valuable, but probably even more than ever these days. School consultants can help with issues that may be time or knowledge-intensive in ways school leadership can’t currently meet.
A good consultant will help you with many school issues. They’ll identify your real goals, separating wants from needs. Help with planning and strategy. They’ll problem-solve to create more efficient processes and solutions. At times they even may help with staffing concerns or administrative tasks. They’ll be an important addition(s) to your solution process.
So, here are a few things you should look for when hiring school consultants.
A good school consultant can assist you better once you’ve communicated with them what issue(s) you’re looking to solve. Before your hiring search, brainstorm with other school executives to create a concise, detailed accounting of your current situation and needs.
Have a checklist of “must haves” and goals for your project.
Of course, communication is a two-way street. During the selection process, look for school consultants who are effective communicators. Someone who doesn’t waste your time. A consulting firm that quickly, professionally responds to quote requests, returns phone calls and emails–even before you have signed a contract. You will want to see this early in the decision-making process since this is a good indication of the methods (and timeliness) they’ll use to communicate with you in the future
The best school consultants will have a staff with years, or even decades of experience collaborating with private schools to create various outcomes. Look for consultants who can provide multiple references, case studies. Consultants who’ve worked on a wide range of projects of different scales and types—especially those similar to your current consulting needs.
Ideally, they’ve worked with private schools of varied sizes, geographic locations, and demographic makeups, making them better equipped to handle the unique needs of today’s shifting school populations and concerns.
NOTE: It especially helps if they have experience working in your region since some rules for private schools vary from state to state.
We all know the past few years have been challenging for many school budgets. But that doesn’t need to be a reason to prevent your school from getting the help that you need.
Often, experienced school consultants will work within your budget, offering a pricing structure that can be adapted to your needs. They love working with schools, and their special expertise helps them look at school projects from different angles, finding savings where others could not. Likely, they’ve already worked on project(s) similar to yours. Having already encountered some of the issues or roadblocks you’re trying to solve, they may already have found a low-cost version of the very solution you seek–or know how to find one quickly.
FYI: To ensure your school budget is protected, before entering a contract, get an itemized estimate of the services they will be providing to you. This should include a breakdown/description of services provided, as well as any additional fees you may incur. Only then should you sign a contract, which also should include this itemization.
Currently, privacy laws are about more than just signing a confidentiality agreement or NDA. In today’s climate, you may need to hire school consultants who strictly adhere to privacy concerns of all types, guaranteeing that information of students or staff is kept secure.
Look for consultants who implement safe recordkeeping practices, processes, and tech ensuring the privacy of the school. In addition to providing the standard confidentiality clause, good consultants must sign contracts regarding data protections, as well as the use of secure, updated technology that prevents hacking, data leaks.
Also, if necessary, they should adhere to HIPAA and other privacy contracts. Steps like these help you ensure your privacy, as well as that of school staff, students, and parents is protected.
One problem is avoiding the hiring of a consultant who doesn’t really understand the key characteristics of your project: your school, mission, culture, leadership preferences, and more. It’s important they understand these and other notable issues before working on your project.
Talk with prospective consultants in detail about your school, your project, and your needs a few times before making your final decision.
Listen closely to how prospective consultants respond to questions to determine if they truly understand your goals. Some consultants” go into a project with preconceived ideas of how “they” want to solve your problem. Instead, hire someone who wants to “work with you” to create solutions your private school can realistically implement.
Once it gets down to the last few candidates, it’s time to see what else they offer, and what differentiates them. If you’re lucky, you may find more than one firm that suits your needs. So, get more for your money, and take a moment to look at any extras they may offer:
There’s no time like the present. JAG Consulting offers a number of services to private schools looking for solutions to some of their most urgent needs.
Click here to learn how we can help you with management issues, administrative tasks like HR and payroll, operations, and more.