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Head of School Message

CDS Middle School Head Mark Minkus presents at PAIS conference
Avi Baran Munro, Ed.M., Head of School


On October 8, hundreds of educators and administrators from independent schools in Pennsylvania and Delaware came together on the campus of the Shady Side Academy Senior School for a day of learning, reflection, and sharing.

The occasion was the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools’ (PAIS) Biennial Conference. PAIS is Community Day School’s accrediting body. Our PAIS accreditation is a distinction that we share with 79 schools in Pennsylvania and Delaware, including the 13 regional independent schools that comprise the Pittsburgh Consortium of Independent Schools. All CDS faculty members and our professional leadership were in attendance. 

CDS Middle School Head Mark Minkus presents at PAIS conference

The day consisted of a morning and afternoon keynote address, as well as more than 100 sessions from which attendees were free to choose. As I settled in to my third session of the day, one of the other participants heard me say I was from CDS, and she turned to me and said, “All my sessions were offered by Community Day School staff members. They’ve been incredible. It’s pretty impressive!”

Impressive indeed! CDS educators shared their expertise in seven sessions at the conference, establishing a significant presence in a field of talented educators. More impressive is that our educators leapt at the opportunity to network with colleagues, share their passion and experience, and plan a 50-minute session designed to ignite curiosity, inspire, instruct, challenge, and heal. All that, while gearing up for the holidays and a new school year! Several of them had already presented at conferences this past summer and over the years, and I could not be more proud of their efforts. I will admit to beaming as I checked in on them and noted standing-room-only attendance at each of their sessions.

  • Elke Cedarholm: What is a good person? A 3rd Grade perspective
  • Andrea Erven-Victoria: The Use of Visual Supports in Early Childhood Classrooms
  • Leslie Frischman: You’ve Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em
  • Mark Minkus: Build Effective Relationships Through Proactive Communications; Build More Resilient Kids by Implementing Growth Mindset; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers
  • Cara Shuckett: Raising the Level of Student Writing through Tool Kits

In addition to the CDS featured sessions, there were sessions for all disciplines and various administrative functions. I attended a session for Heads of School focused on how to assess the health of our schools (we’re healthy!). We're proud that CDS parent Dr. Debi Gilboa delivered the closing keynote talk about how to harness the power of failure. Dr. Gilboa also offered a session to a standing-room-only crowd about how teachers, mentors, and coaches can talk to children about difficult topics.

CDS parent Debi Gilboa gives keynote speech at PAIS conference

This conference came together thanks to the volunteer efforts of dedicated faculty who have served on the PAISTA (Teachers’ Association) to enhance the professional opportunities available to the area’s independent school staff. We very much appreciate Amy Matthews' role representing our school as a volunteer conference planning committee member with PAISTA and now with PAIS.

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