As a school professional in a continued digital and hybrid world, you’ll likely be attending more virtual conferences this year. And though different than the traditional in-person events, they still provide ample opportunity to continue to learn, grow, and innovate. Attending the right conferences will help you stay on top of industry trends, connect with fellow school leaders, and gain valuable insights to help you navigate the year ahead. But where do you begin? Hundreds of conferences and events are hosted each year, which makes searching for the best ones potentially a very lengthy and time-consuming task. To help make your search brief and maximize your time, I’ve rounded up a list of the must-attend conferences for independent schools this year. 

Must-Attend Conferences in 2021 for Private School Professionals

1. AISNE 2021 Heads Retreat: Emerge Stronger

January 26-27 | Virtual

The Association of Independent Schools in the North East (AISNE) retreat is designed for heads of schools to take a step away from day-to-day tasks to collaborate and learn with other heads of schools. Sessions include topics entitled, “Lead Through the Lens of Inclusion”, “Collaborate for the Greater Good”, and “Heads Anti-Racism Working Groups.” With plenty of time to mingle and recharge, you’ll feel ready to take on 2021 and start your spring off strong. Learn more and register

2. 2021 CASE-NAIS Independent Schools Conference: Thrive

 January 26-28 | Virtual

Fire up some fresh ideas this January at the 50th annual Council for Advancement and Support of Education and National Association of Independent Schools (CASE-NAIS) event for independent schools and advancement professionals. They’re offering sessions focused on DEI, storytelling, and community building in a virtual world, successful branding, fundraising, and leadership. It’s one you won’t want to miss. Learn more and register.

3. ISACS 2021 Heads Conference

 January 28-29 | Virtual

The Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) is hosting a virtual meet up specifically designed for heads of schools. They invite heads to this professional development opportunity to prepare for the challenges this year brings. This two-day experience is a chance for you to engage, connect, and recharge. With sessions on managing a board, sustaining faculty morale, and being culturally responsive as leaders, this conference promises timely and relevant topics to fuel your year. Learn more.

4. NBOA Annual Meeting: “Innovation State of Mind”

Feb 22-24 | Virtual 

If you’re a business officer, head of school, HR professional, business partner, controller, trustee, or independent school leader of any kind, you’ll want to attend the National Business Officer Association (NBOA) Annual Meeting. With the theme of “innovation state of mind,” this won’t just be another Zoom meeting. The conference offers helpful content on topics of finance, accounting, business operations, leadership, governance, HR, risk management, and more. There’s also a customized learning track for Heads of school and trustees. Guest speakers include Duncan Wardle, Founder & head of innovation at Disney, and Cynthia Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. Plus, goldmine sessions are back and SchoolAdmin’s very own Elyn Roberts, VP of strategy is giving one on Retention that you won’t want to miss. Find out more.

5. 2021 NAIS Online Annual Conference

February 24-26 | Virtual 

Register for the National Association of Independent School (NAIS) annual conference that’s been reimagined this year. The focus “Beyond These Doors: Activating Our Communities” is a timely subject that will help you transform your school’s interaction with your community. Find out how to embrace a global community and open up new opportunities for innovation and invention. Build community with other educators and leaders, get resources to help, and form lasting relationships. Register now.

6. COSN Annual Conference: Bold & Brave

March 2-4 | Virtual 

Attend one of the biggest EdTech conferences for independent schools this year hosted by the Consortium for School Networking (COSN). Participate in interactive breakout sessions, LIVE keynotes, unique networking opportunities, and more. With a variety of big-name keynote speakers and sessions on topics ranging from cybersecurity to leveraging technology and diversity and equity practices, you’ll not only learn a ton but you’ll also get to meet school professionals like you. Learn more.

7. The Montessori Event

March 5-6 | Virtual 

You won’t want to miss the largest Montessori event in the world “where extraordinary professional development happens…virtually.” This virtual conference features live workshops and discussion groups, on-demand content, an interactive exhibit hall, keynotes, and more. Meet with other school professionals and leaders like you. Learn more.

8. NCEA 2021: Ignite, Unite, Inspire

April 6-8 | Virtual

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) conference gives you a chance to meet with other mission-driven teachers and leaders. This conference promises to help you be “ignited for transformation, united in community and inspired by faith as you connect with and learn from a nationwide group of Catholic school educators. Dive into best practices and next practices and customize the conference experience by selecting sessions or a specific track. Leadership tracks include Continuous Improvement and Accreditation and Catholic School Leadership. Learn more.


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9. ATLIS 2021 Annual Conference: UnDaunted

April 12-13 | Virtual 

The Association of Technology Leaders for Independent Schools (ATLIS) invites school professionals to attend their “extraordinary conference experience.” In a year full of creative solutions and new advancements in independent school tech, ATLIS plans to provide an “immersive recalibration experience” designed to help you network, meet with vendors, and learn more about technological advances in the school world. Topics include leadership and productivity, Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging through the lens of technology, cybersecurity, data privacy, and more. Learn more about it here

10. ISAS Admission Conference

May 3-4 | Hilton Dallas Park Cities

The Independent School Association of the Southwest (ISAS) hosts a variety of enrichment opportunities including conferences for Admissions, Advancement, Board Chairs, Division Heads, and Heads of Schools. This year their admissions conference takes place in early May. For more information, you can reach out to ISAS. Learn more.

11. 2021 MISBO Business Office Team Intensive

June 14-16 |  Virtual

Join The Making Independent Schools Be Outstanding (MISBO) business office team event focused on providing you with opportunities to collaborate with other private school business officers. This event will offer general sessions as well as chances to discuss and collaborate on key areas and concerns with other business officers. This event is designed for everyone in your business office from student billing to controllers, payroll specialists, accounts payable/receivable, and business officers. Attendees will leave not only with valuable takeaways to help them in the daily tasks that are critical to their schools’ smooth and successful operation but also with new friends to call up with questions or for collaboration down the line. Session topics may include mitigating risks, record-keeping, team building, and FLSA updates, and changes to accounting practices. They encourage the whole business office to attend if possible. Learn more.

12. SAIS Summer Conference

June 23-25 | Asheville, NC

Attend the Southern Association of Independent School (SAIS) summer conference designed for heads, assistant heads, division leaders, deans, counselors, and other school leaders. Learn more about centering your school around your students and making them feel supported, especially while virtual. Get best practices, share your experiences, and gather ideas from peers at this event. Learn more.

13. AISAP 2021 Annual Institute

July 11-14 | Chicago

Meet up with admission professionals at the Association of Independent School Admission Professional’s (AISAP) conference. With there isn’t much information out yet, you can find a few more details on their website. They are also accepting topic proposals at this time. You can watch sessions from their 2020 meet up on-demand now to learn more about the kinds of sessions typically offered. 

 14. EMA 2021

TBA

Join the Enrollment Management Association (EMA) for their annual conference this year. With the event a ways off, information is limited. However, our team was at EMA in 2019 and 2020 and really enjoyed the sessions. If you want to learn a little more you can check out our top 8 favorite sessions from EMA 2019. To find more information as it is made available, you can visit the EMA website

15. TABS 2021 Conference

November 11-13 | Boston

The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) hosts one of the most highly anticipated boarding school focused conferences every year. While they haven’t yet announced their 2021 conference, you can visit their 2020 conference schedule page to get a feel for the types of sessions they typically offer, like “The State of the Boarding School Headship: Designing for Sustainable Headship in a Time of Crisis,” and “Implicit and Unconscious Bias: Bridging the Distance Between Professed Values and Daily Behaviors.” Learn more.

 16. SAIS Annual Conference

October 17-19 | Atlanta, GA

Join SAIS for their annual conference this fall for what will be “an informative, innovative, and comprehensive opportunity for independent school leaders to gather and discover proven strategies and emerging trends.” Join independent school leaders like you from the southeast to dive into trending topics and pressing issues. Learn more.