At the recent SSATB conference in Las Vegas, I heard one of the best summaries of the qualities and characteristics of great admission officers when I attended a panel hosted by Jim McManus, the Executive Director of the California Association of Independent Schools. Jim pointed out that it was high time for marketing and enrollment management professionals to rise to leadership. To help him amplify his point, he was joined by three California school heads who all had valuable reflections on the importance of the job in this time of increasing competition in the K-12 education market.
Among the three was Los Angeles' Center for Early Education Head of School Reveta Bowers. Reveta, who is retiring after 40 years at CEE, has helped build an exemplary Toddler-6th grade primary and elementary school worthy of emulation. She has received national awards too numerous to mention. I've been in awe of her for years, not only for her success, but for the fact that she is an extraordinary teacher who values professional development and the successes of others.
Reveta succinctly presented the profile of today's successful enrollment management professional:
"The overall strengths needed," she said, "include extraordinary relational and emotional intelligence, clear verbal and written communication skills, tech savviness, appreciation and respect for diversity, and advocacy around inclusion. Admission officers are the architects of the community. We rely on their strategic vision and their work as futurists."
Then she got even more specific:
For Parents: The Admission Director must be a teacher and interpreter for the family. Help them in their understanding and acceptance of the mission, their willingness to support the values of the school, their role in becoming contributing members of the community with their volunteerism, parent leadership opportunities, adherence to the contract, and donations beyond tuition.
For Students: A keen understanding of how that child will fit into the School emotionally, socially, and academically; a knowledge of developmental stages to assess where the applicant is, a knowledge about the curriculum to place the child appropriately.
For Faculty: Respect for faculty as they seek their input; understanding of the demands on teachers as they ask for their cooperation in the admission process, doing interviews, and writing impressions; flexibility and a careful look at the master and class calendars as they schedule visits and admission screenings.
Given the changes and demands on Admission Officers today: enrollment management, technology, finance and budget, public relations, executive functioning, thinking as futurists, and internal relationships, Reveta tipped her hat to Eleanor Roosevelt in a quote designed to fit the audience:
"An Admission Officer is like a tea bag. You never know how strong he or she is until they get in hot water."
The hot water is coming to a boil, folks. The competition continues to heat up. From where I sit, enrollment managers are the unofficial guardians of the quality of the school. The bridge between your prospects and your product: teaching and learning. The orchestrator of relationships that move families to enrollment.
Is your school's value connecting to those you seek to serve? Is the school delivering on its promise? How do you know?