Why the 50 Year NAIS Governance Experiment is Over | Part 1 | Sanje Ratnavale | 14 Min Read


There is a fast-developing problem for independent schools. It is more systemic than alleged racism and more disruptive than pandemic-induced protocols. Independent schools are becoming ungovernable.

A 1970’s Management Ideology 

Organizations such as the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and its accreditation partners have perpetuated a narrative that governance is all about “mission” without any specific accountability to students and their families. According to NAIS Principle 1 of Good Practice, “The head works in partnership with the board of trustees to establish and refine the school’s mission; articulates the mission to all constituencies — students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni/ae, and the community; and supports the mission in working with all constituencies.”

Then the accreditation connection is, for example, “… self-study, a thorough self-examination seen through the lens of the school’s mission…” (per NYSAIS policy). Even in a space where rigorous outcomes could be used, the standards used to assess and accredit schools adhere to the vague promise of mission, and include a body of standards that covers the spectrum of school services from admissions to finance to advancement. For student learning and programs, “the standards require schools to conduct a thoughtful…

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Sanje Ratnavale

Sanje founded OESIS in 2012 and serves as the President of what has grown to become the leading network for innovation at independent schools: the acronym OESIS grew from the initial focus on Online Education Strategies for Independent Schools. He has held senior administrative positions at independent schools including Associate Head of School at a K-12 school for seven years, High School Principal for three years, and CFO for seven years. Prior to making a switch to education, Sanje spent 15 years in venture capital, investment banking, and senior C-level (CEO, COO, CFO) management. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford University (B.A. and M.A. in Law/Jurisprudence). Sanje is based out of Santa Monica.