04/11/2013 by Jonathan Ball |

Why We REALLY Host Hiring Conferences

Friday, April 5th marked the end of CS&A’s most aggressive conference season in its 36 year history.

side by side of presenters and audience at conference

By adding our brand new FORUM/LA on February 8th, this year we hosted a total of seven recruitment conferences in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York City andWashington, DC.  The calm after the proverbial storm has given me the opportunity to reflect on why I truly enjoyed the 2013 recruitment conference season—and why we at CS&A believe so strongly in the value of our hiring conferences.

As the son of a Headmaster, I was born and raised in the independent school community. As a young child, I built lifelong friendships with many of my father’s colleagues in our family’s living room.  The independent school community is a small (albeit growing) and tight-knit one, and many of those fixtures of my childhood are my own colleagues and clients today.  For me, our conferences are an opportunity to celebrate those longstanding relationships and to reconnect with old friends and respected leaders.  At our LINK@NAIS conference In Philadelphia, for example, I was able to congratulate Peter Shepley, Associate Headmaster of Tampa Preparatory School, on his coming retirement. Peter has known me since he was the Director of Admission at the Albany Academy, where I was a very young cadet. I was also able to connect with Don Berger and congratulate him on his new headship at Cape Fear Academy. Previously, Don had served as the Head of School at Cary Academy and, before his first headship, he was a colleague of my father’s—and my high school Dean of Students/Faculty at the Manlius Pebble Hill School.

After our FORUM/Boston, I had the privilege of dining with Maria Reade, who will be retiring from her Dean of Faculty post at the Trinity-Pawling School, and her brother Steve Buteux, the Director of Studies at the Solebury School.  The LINK@NAIS this year also gave me the dual opportunity to congratulate Tom Hudnut on his retirement as President of Harvard-Westlake School—and to bust his chops about joining a competitor of CS&A’s. I have the utmost professional respect and admiration for Tom and owe a great deal of gratitude to him for taking a keen interest in my own professional development over the years.  Tom, if you’re reading this, thank you. I look forward to seeing you along the independent school trail, even if you are wearing a different jersey, or should I say turquoise hat…


In all my conversations during the 2013 recruitment conference season, the following statement by Philip Spears, Head of Middle School at St. Christopher’s School, seems to sum up my reflections best. In this age of technology, when you can easily watch a video lesson or conduct aSkype interview with a candidate, there is still nothing that comes close to shaking a person’s hand, looking her in the eye, and having a face-to-face conversation. At bottom, that’s what our conferences are about: creating meaningful, personal connections that can endure throughout an educator’s career.  Candidates and hiring contacts come to fill jobs, yes, but the relationships they forge are also invaluable on a macro level.  In the close community of independent education, your career will be about the people with whom you surround yourself.  It’s all about building lasting relationships—one handshake, one conversation, one CS&A conference at a time.

Thank you to all the fantastic independent school educators who helped shape my life and to all who continue to impact students daily. I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones during the 2014 CS&A conference season—or sooner.

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