In order to help kick-start your year, I compiled a list of the top 26 can’t miss independent school conferences and gatherings in 2020.

As a school leader, administrator, or educator, life gets and stays busy very quickly. However, in the midst of the crazy, it’s still important to find time to take a step back, learn, and collaborate with others in your field. The information gained and connections made at conferences can help you stay on top of industry changes and trends so that you can make strategic and informed decisions to propel your school forward in the new year. 

There are hundreds of conferences and events each year, which makes searching for the best ones to attend as an independent or private school leader or professional overwhelming and time consuming. To help you, I’ve gathered a list of 26 of the top conferences for independent schools, many of which our team attends each year. Take a look and see if any of these conferences would be valuable to your school in 2020. 

January 2020

1. ISANNE Business Officers Conference 

Dates: January 6-8 

Location: Portsmouth, NH

The Independent Schools Association of Northern New England (ISANNE) is hosting a conference specifically focused on business officers and their role and particular pain points. The conference includes sessions on financial trends, measures of financial health in successful schools, education choices affecting independent schools, and strategies for leadership teams to position themselves in a market of rising competition. Think your school could benefit from these sessions? For more information, visit ISAANE’s conference event page


2. SAIS Academic Support Conference 

Dates: January 26-28

Location: Atlanta, GA

The Southern Association of Independent Schools, (SAIS), is hosting a professional development opportunity designed for those who offer academic support in an independent school. Teachers, learning specialists, and directors of academic support are invited to learn together about the latest research, curriculum, instructional strategies, and best practices for supporting all learners in an independent school. Interested in networking with others in your field to discover practical solutions and strategies to foster student success? Learn more about the Academic Support Conference on the SAIS event page. 


3. MISBO 2020 Facilities Conference 

Dates: January 26-28

Locations: Atlanta, GA

The 2020 Mid-South Independent School Business Officers (MISBO) conference is designed specifically for independent school facilities directors and the administrators they work with. If you’re a facilities director, manager, support staff, business officer, or administrator involved in your facilities departments, this may be the event for you. MISBO’s goal is to provide you with helpful information so that you can perform daily tasks critical to your school’s smooth and successful operation. Session topics include energy management, athletic facilities safety, risk management, and building controls and security. You’ll also leave with new friends and connections to call when you need ideas or perspective. To learn more, visit MISBO’s event page


4. MISBO and SAIS Operational Leadership Conference 

Dates: Jan 26-28 

Location: Atlanta, GA

This 2020 Conference is hosted by both MISBO and SAIS with the hope of getting an inside look at the what and how of leading a school. The sessions will focus on making sense of the business and operational aspects of a school’s life cycle. Session topics include internal dashboards, addressing enrollment issues, balancing budget and program, the intersection of leadership styles, and shaping school culture. Senior administrators and emerging leaders may be interested in learning more on MISBO’s event page


5. The 2020 Educating Girls Symposium, Leading Schools, Leading Girls: Preparing for the Future  

Dates: January 27

Location: Dallas, TX

The National Coalition of Girl’s Schools (NCGS), an organization that seeks to connect and collaborate in order to educate and empower girls to lead with courage, competence, and empathy, is hosting a symposium this year to bring like-minded school administrators together. In this symposium, educators will address some essential questions, like “What are the competencies today’s world demands from leaders?” and “How are schools deliberately cultivating leadership skills such as confidence and endurance among girls and women?” To learn more, visit the NCGS event page.


6. The Essential Partnership: Heads of School and Board Chairs

Dates: January 30

Location: Portsmouth, NH

This short one day event is facilitated by Doug Cummings, Partner at Educators’ Collaborative and former Executive director of ISAANE. The session will include an overview of best practices for Head of School and Board Chair relationships and time to reflect on aspects of the school’s board culture and practices. If you are looking for an opportunity to engage in conversation with other Heads and Board Chairs, this is a great opportunity to learn together and enhance your capacity to work together to lead your school. For more information, visit ISANNE’s conference event page


7. 2020 Heads Conference: An Annual Exploration of School Leadership

Dates: Jan 30-31

Location: Chicago, IL 

The Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) is hosting the 2020 Heads Conference, “an annual exploration of school leadership.” Keynote presenters for this year include Tom Cook, professor of philosophy at Rollins College, and Brook Vuckovic, a coach and educator focused on helping executives define their purpose and presence as leaders. Session titles include deconstructing “gravitas,” protecting students from predators, weathering a storm: sustaining a strong head-board chair partnership in challenging times, beyond the data: enrollment and marketing through human connection, building a culture of dialogue in an age of contentious elections and other sources of conflict, hot legal issues, and changing the admissions and financial aid focus from student headcount to net tuition revenue. Learn more about the conference on ISACS website

February 2020

8. NAES Leaders for the Future Conference

Date: February 5

Location: Dallas Fort Worth, TX

In 2020, the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES) is hosting an event targeted at leaders or school heads of Episcopal schools. However, they welcome leaders from any denomination. If you’re considering a career as an Episcopal School Head or you’re wondering what a school head does, this event might be for you. Learn more on the NAES event page


9. AISNE Teaching and Learning Conference

Dates: February 13

Location: Waltham, MA

The Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE) hosts annual signature conferences. Their slogan, “inspiring progress advancing excellence”, is what their conference topics are all about. The teaching and learning conference will be led by three keynote speakers; Jessica Lahey, author of the New York Times bestseller The Gift of Failure, Afrika Afeni Mills, manager of culturally responsive teaching and learning and an instructional coach with BetterLesson, she works with teachers and administrators to transform instructional practices and empower students to thrive, and Marc Brackett, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and lead developer of RULER, an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning that many k-12 schools have adopted. Learn more about the Teaching and Learning Conference on the AISNE website.


10. NBOA Annual Meeting: Envisioning the Future

Dates: February 23-26 

Location: Orlando, FL

This year, the National Business Officers Association (NBOA) is focusing on “envisioning the future.” The event is designed for CFOs, controllers, human resources professionals, and other business and operational leaders in k-12 education. This meeting will help you get ahead of the challenges facing your independent school. Daily challenges sometimes obscure the bigger picture. The landscape is shifting. Changes include industry innovation, marketplace pressures, compliance and regulations, staffing and budgeting models, and long-term planning. In order for your school to stay ahead of the changes and thrive long term, school leaders have to anticipate change and envision the future. Sign up for this event to learn more about independent school leadership, finance, enrollment, risk management, facilities, technology, governance, compliance, fundraising, and more on the NBOA event page.


11. 2020 NAIS Annual Conference: Your School, Your Legacy

Date: February 26-28

Location: Philadelphia, PA

 The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) conference topic of focus this year is “your school, your legacy.” School professionals are invited to gain insight and inspiration so you can build your school’s story. In addition, meeting with fellow independent school leaders can help you strengthen your school and make connections within the independent school community. Hash out your school story and your legacy to make real and impactful changes.  NAIS invites you to rediscover why you do what you do so you can return full of energy and ready to solve hard problems. See more at the NAIS annual conference home page. 

 March 2020

12. IBSC-CIRCLE Character Education Regional Conferences (USA)

Dates: March 2-3

Location: Haverford, PA 

IBSC and the Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity, and Leadership in Education (CIRCLE), are presenting a conference designed to equip school leaders with the knowledge and competency to build robust schools for boys. This years’ topic is “The Pathway to Excellence: Becoming a Good Man.” School leaders at every level can benefit from this conference. They are also hosting conferences in Canada, Australia, and the UK. Learn more about what this event entails on the IBSC-CIRCLE conference page.


13. The Montessori Event 2020

Dates: March 12-15

Location: Dallas, TX 

This year, the American Montessori Schools (AMS) is hosting an event with the slogan ““where extraordinary professional development happens.” Join the AMS and Montessori colleagues from countries worldwide for four days of exploration, discovery, friendships, and adventures. Keynote speakers Include Rachel Ignotofsky speaking on“fearless women in science throughout history,” Erin Brockovich focusing on how “everyone can make a difference,” and Derreck Kayongo on “harnessing your power to create change.” Learn more on the AMS conference page.  


14. COSN 2020: Breakthrough Mindsets

Dates: March 16-18

Location: Washington, DC 

The Consortium for School Networking (COSN) is hosting a 2020 conference focusing on breakthrough mindsets. Things continue to rapidly change with AI and technology providing new opportunities to learn. How can schools embrace mindsets to lead during these changes? Learn how to move from break/fix support to implementing a strategic vision. Explore transformational technology leadership to positively change the path of your students and impact learning. COSN is focused on a team-oriented approach and invites your school to bring the whole team. Find out more on the COSN conference home page    


 April 2020

15. NCEA 2020 Convention & Expo

Dates: April 14-16

Location: Baltimore, MD 

Th National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) 2020 Convention and Expo is the largest private education association gathering in the nation. This is a time to celebrate and acquire new knowledge and renew your spirit. Those participating represent all aspects of Catholic and faith-based education from preschool, elementary, secondary, adult education, colleges and universities to local parish pastors, priests, parish volunteers and more. Enjoy more than 200 professional development sessions, beautiful liturgies, and special events. Be sure to save time to visit the Expo Hall to get the latest in educational technology, products, and services.


16. ISAS Admission & Enrollment Management Conference

Dates: April 27-28

Location: San Antonio, TX

The Independent School Association of the Southwest (ISAS) is hosting an Admissions and Enrollment Management Conference this year. They hope to encourage admissions advancement professionals, teachers, board chairs, business managers, division heads, and technology directors at each conference. If you’re interested in learning more, you can reach out to one of their conference organizers or visit the ISAS events page.

May 2020 

17. AISNE Health and Wellness Conference

Dates: May 5

Location: Norwood, MA

The Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE) aims to inspire progress and advance excellence in schools by promoting health and wellness. Keynote speakers include Hakeem Rahim, a mental health speaker and trainer, and David Epstein, author of the #1 New York Times best-seller: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World and bestseller of The Sports Gene. Learn more on AISNE’s event page about the keynote speakers and events for the Health and Wellness Conference


June 2020

18. ISM Mastering Enrollment Workshop 

Dates: June 22-25 

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Join other school leaders and professionals at the Independent School Management (ISM) Mastering Enrollment Management workshop to dive into enrollment topics. Does your school’s declining enrollment keep you up at night? Sign up to hear about the causes and factors of declining enrollment in private and independent schools and learn how to counteract this decline and figure out a practical approach and steps to take at your school. This workshop is designed to help you establish a three-year enrollment management plan specific to your school.


19. SAIS Division Heads Conference

Dates: June 29- July 1 

Location: Atlanta, GA

Designed for those who lead from the middle, this SAIS event offers networking, skill-building, and resources for division heads at all grade levels and years of experience. Learn together in small groups, discover new strategies, and celebrate successes around the topics of curriculum, assessment, scheduling, working with faculty, and communicating with parents. Are you ready to send your leaders to the Division Heads Conference


 July 2020

20. 2020 IBSC Annual Conference 

Dates: July 8-11 

Location: Barcelona, Spain

The International Boys School Coalition (IBSC) is an international group that hosts an annual conference and regional events to support all-boys schools. This year’s conference is centered around the theme, “Connecting the Dots: Boys, Communities, and the Future.”  IBSC seeks to prepare boys for lives of fulfillment in the evolving world. Consequently, their conference topics align with those goals. Learn more on the IBSC conference page. 


21. AISAP 2020 Annual Institute: Empower

Dates: July 19-22

Location: Chicago, IL 

The Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP) is hosting an event for independent school admissions officers to learn how to embrace the topic of “empower.” They seek to provide a place for admissions and enrollment professionals to connect, learn, and grow together. Hear from people in your shoes and gain a fresh perspective. Attending this conference will also give you time to enjoy learning and growing with new and old friends. To find out more, check out the AISAP 2020 conference page. 


September 2020

22. EMA 2020: Yield Your Best 

Date: September 22-26th

Location: Chicago, IL 

Join the Enrollment Management Association (EMA) for their infamous annual conference this year where you can focus on how to yield your best as a school. With the event a ways off, information is limited. However, our team was at EMA in 2019 and really enjoyed it. If you want to learn a little more you can check out our top 8 favorite sessions from EMA 2019  to get a feel for the kinds of topics that were covered last year. To find more information as it is made available, you can visit the EMA 2020 Conference home page.

 October 2020 

23. SAIS Annual Conference 

Dates: October 18-20

Location: Nashville, TN

SAIS’s annual conference is an informative, innovative, and comprehensive opportunity for independent school leaders to gather and discover proven strategies and emerging trends. Join SAIS and over 300 colleagues from across the Southeast to delve into hot topics and relevant issues including leadership, legal issues, diversity, equity, and inclusion, teaching and learning, marketing and communications, and admissions and development topics. Attend sessions that fill in gaps in your experience, converse with leaders from schools with a similar size and budget, and learn from top-notch speakers. Find out more on the SAIS event page.


December 2020 

24. TABS Annual Conference 

Dates: December 5-7

Location: Boston, MA

The 2019 Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) annual conference, the leading conference for administrators, just took place in Boston, MA. While next year’s dates have yet to be announced, you should plan on attending if you work at a boarding school. TABS Annual Conference focuses exclusively on boarding school issues and is regarded as THE professional development venue for heads of schools, marketing, admissions, academic, residential life, diversity, and campus health professionals. Our team was there this year and found it to be a great opportunity for schools. You can read more about the 2019 TABS conference to peak your interest in the 2020 conference.


Multiple Dates 

25. TABS Events 

Dates: Multiple (check website)

Location: Multiple (check website) 

Do you work at a boarding school? If so, the Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) events are a great chance to connect with other boarding school professionals. Not only do they have a leadership workshop from January 29-31 in Boca Raton, Florida, but they are also hosting a legal symposium with NAIS later in the year. Other events in 2020 include the TABS global symposium which focuses on the internationalization of independent boarding and day schools and bringing teachers and administrators together to explore the best practices in the globalization of schools. Additionally, be on the lookout for more information regarding the annual TABS conference (mentioned above), the leading conference for administrators, which has not yet been announced for 2020. You can always check back on their website or this article to find out more at the TABS events page

26. IBSC Regional Events

Dates: Multiple (check website) 

Location: Multiple (check website) 

In addition to the conferences listed above that are hosted by the International Boys School Coalition (IBSC) they also offer regional events and conferences that may be more accessible for your school. The location list for 2020 includes: Tennessee (Jan 31-Feb 1), New York (Feb 3), South Africa (March 12-14 and May 22-23), New Jersey (April 19), and New Zealand (Sep. 27-29). Each has a different theme and focus, some of the topics include educating boys, the culture of a boy’s school, sports and education, and many others. Check them out online to see if any stand out! 


Closing Thoughts

With all of these resources, you’re bound to learn and advance your school. I hope you’re able to attend some of the independent school conferences offered in 2020 and meet like-minded professionals to expand your network and support system along the way. These conferences all offer leaders from independent schools a chance to collaborate, grow, and learn together. We can only get better and improve, so what are you waiting for? 

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