Retention should be viewed as a whole-school initiative. When everyone plays a role, not only will your efforts go further, but you’ll also be more likely to make a big impact on families and achieve your goals. In our Retention Fireside Chat, we asked three private school leaders about the ways they get their whole school on-board and involved in retention strategies. Here’s how they communicate with and leverage three key groups at their school to lower attrition. 

Meet the Panelists

  • Kila McCann, Dean of Admission & Financial Aid, The Bolles School

Kila McCann recently joined The Bolles School in Florida after many years leading the enrollment team at Fountain Valley School. She has held admission and recruiting roles at Darlington School, Fulford Academy School of English Boarding Preparatory, and St. Lawrence College. 

  • Carrie Birchler, Director of Outreach Marketing, Damien High School

Carrie Birchler currently oversees outreach, marketing, and digital strategy for Damien High School in LaVerne, CA. She brings over two decades of organizational leadership in sales, marketing, and management of community development projects. Carrie previously served as a founding member of a charter school organization. 

  • Kristen Kaschub, Director of Admissions & Enrollment Management, The Darrow School

Kristen Kaschub attended Northfield Mount Hermon School, a boarding school in Western Massachusetts, and returned to the life of boarding school at The Darrow School after a career in New York City. She brings an extensive marketing background, as well as both domestic and international recruitment experience, with over 20 years in the field at three different boarding schools. 

Getting Your Whole School Involved In Retention Efforts

Q: How do you help your faculty understand their role and the importance of their role in retention efforts?

Carrie: As much as possible, I try to report back to faculty when I hear praise or families share their great experiences with me. I summarize everything I see on social media or hear from our community and give that feedback to our faculty. Zoom and remote learning can be really isolating and giving them a big picture perspective is always important.

When we shifted to remote learning, we sent a quick message and I encouraged our faculty members to pull out their cell phones and take quick selfie videos to talk about how we’re addressing the situation, how we’ve shifted, and what remote learning looks like. They have always been part of marketing videos, but this was very authentic. You want to help them keep connected to families and know that their efforts and work matter.

Kyla: One of the things we do at Bolles that I love is we have boarding parent chat groups. All of the girl’s parents are on the same WhatsApp chat group, and there are constantly pictures being sent and updates on things that are happening. If it’s someone’s birthday, all of the parents can chime in to wish the student a happy birthday. It’s a really wonderful tool. Parents want to know that you know their child. 

You can also put a dollar amount to the students you didn’t retain the previous year and show how that impacts the school. Doing this helps everyone understand the significant impact of each student on the overall operating budget of the school. Partner with your CFO to communicate why enrollment is so important and why maintaining those kids is so important.

Q: How can you leverage your current students to help with retention initiatives? 

Carrie: We have two distinct student leadership programs. One is wholly focused on outreach, and those are our student ambassadors. The ambassadors work to educate, host campus tours, and are the PR team for prospective families. This year, we onboarded a program called Link Crew, a national program that’s been around for over twenty years. We participated in the training and adopted their suggested steps like having a nomination process and providing an application opportunity for students. This approach helps us pull out both our traditional and non-traditional student leaders. These students are part of our onboarding team and welcome committee. 

Each Link Crew leader is assigned a group of ten incoming students. They act as the big brothers, send an initial welcome video, make the phone call before the freshmen orientation, and meet within their small groups throughout the year. Now that we’re completely remote we’ve found that the ambassadors really want to be involved in Link Crew because they’ve already created connections and want to make sure young eighth graders that are looking at high school have continuity and connection. We’re finding good success with getting the kids more involved.

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Q: How closely are you working with your marketing team on retention efforts? 

Kristen: Marketing is really a full-time job. It’s anything from an internal newsletter to managing a Tumblr account or a WhatsApp account. And then you have all of the admissions-related marketing efforts targeted at outreach and bringing people in that wouldn’t necessarily be considering your school in the past through either your platforms or social media. We have a full-time videographer and a full-time marketing person. We also have someone within the admission office that’s tag-teaming on social media efforts specifically. 

Kyla: We meet with our communications director three or four times a week to talk about ideas, results of efforts, and find what’s working. We have an open line of communication all the time. You want a strong partnership with your communications director. 

Get tips on delegating retention efforts, and learn more about specific tools and strategies you can use to boost retention and increase communication with families by watching the full on-demand webinar

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