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An Announcement from the NAIS Board of Trustees


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Letter from the NAIS Board of Trustees

Letter from Donna Orem

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Letter from the NAIS Board of Trustees

Dear Friends,

After an extensive national search, the NAIS board of trustees has concluded that Donna Orem, current interim president, is uniquely qualified to serve as the next president of the association.

While every organization hopes to promote from within, especially to its top position, we felt obligated to conduct the most comprehensive search possible. Thus, it is a special joy for the NAIS board to have both met that obligation and found a visionary leader from within the association. Donna’s appointment is effective immediately.

The search committee and the board were impressed by Donna’s long experience of working with independent schools, her deep knowledge of the issues that our schools have faced and will face, and her significant expertise in governance and leadership. We have seen her rise to many opportunities and confront many challenges during her 18-year tenure with NAIS; we feel confident that she is well prepared to lead our association into the future. The fact that she was the most nominated candidate for the presidency — and, indeed, the most frequently nominated person ever in our search firm’s experience — proves that many NAIS members share the same view. Each nomination spoke in passionate detail about the depth of her knowledge, her forward-thinking leadership, her focus on equity and justice, and her personal kindness.

Donna served as the chief operating officer of NAIS for 11 years before becoming interim president. As COO, she directed the organization’s strategic planning, providing vision and leadership that led to the identification and development of new initiatives, products, and services. She also oversaw NAIS human resources and talent management.  

Donna joined NAIS in 1998 as the vice president for educational leadership, later becoming the vice president for strategic initiatives and research. Prior to joining NAIS, she served as the vice president for products and services development at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). In her 15 years at CASE, she also served as vice president for independent schools, managing all services for the independent school advancement community, including the annual CASE/NAIS Conference. Earlier in her career, she served as associate director for The American Association of University Women (AAUW). 

Donna is a highly sought speaker, known for her insights on trends in independent education, leadership, governance, and workforce development. She is well regarded for her ability to listen to and work with school heads, boards, and school leadership teams to identify and address their greatest challenges and opportunities. Throughout her tenure and in all the roles she has fulfilled, she has demonstrated the ability to empower independent school leaders to leverage individual and collective strengths to achieve key goals.

Many of you have worked directly with Donna, attended one of her many presentations, or met her as she visited your school. You may have run into her at an NAIS conference. She is a connector in our community, and we look forward to thriving under her leadership. Please join us in welcoming her to the role of president.


Katherine Dinh, Head, Prospect Sierra School (CA), and Chair of the NAIS Board of Trustees

Bernie Noe, Head, Lakeside School (WA), Vice Chair of the NAIS Board of Trustees, and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee


Letter from Donna Orem

Dear Colleagues,

I am honored and delighted to serve you as the next president of NAIS.

As many of you know, my relationship with independent schools began decades ago, first as a student, then an alumna, parent, and trustee. As a longtime staff member of both NAIS and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), I’ve met thousands of faculty members and administrators who work tirelessly in service of students. I am awed and humbled by their vision, commitment, and generosity.

The drive among independent school faculty and staff to build and nurture mission-driven communities is both inspiring and among our greatest strengths as an industry. We help students succeed academically and prepare them to live healthy and meaningful lives. Our schools also serve as models for other educators throughout the country and around the world. These are phenomenal assets.   

Our schools face challenges, some considerable, and there may be many more challenges on the horizon as we experience skyrocketing costs, accelerating technological change, large-scale generational shifts, and changing ideas about the roles of students and teachers. But these challenges provide us with opportunities to try new things, to take the best of our traditions and to innovate and improve.

I am confident that our schools will thrive in this new environment. I have witnessed firsthand the strength of our community. My hope is that NAIS will be both a catalyst and a partner as we embrace the future together.

The NAIS staff and I are eager to continue the work that serves you well and to launch new initiatives that will have even greater impact. Together, we will

  • test new concepts in our schools and as an industry. We will use any setbacks to improve and make us stronger.
  • honor diversity and inclusion as central to our success.
  • create opportunities for new leaders to ensure a strong future for independent education.
  • use data and research to learn from the past and plan for the future.
  • above all else, foster communities of mutual respect.

I believe in the power of community — the independent school community — to join together to create an even brighter and more equitable future for students. As educators, all of us are committed to nurturing growth in our students and ourselves. Together, we can nurture our industry as well, providing opportunity for countless students and shaping a positive future for the nation and the world.

I want to thank the board and the NAIS staff for their support over the past year as I took on the interim leadership of the organization. In particular, I salute Katherine Dinh, who effectively and courageously led the organization through a time of great change and challenge.

And above all, I thank you, NAIS members, supporters, and friends, for the tremendous journey you have afforded me thus far. I look forward to the road ahead. From where I sit, there is nothing but opportunity.


Donna Orem

President of the National Association of Independent Schools


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Article Date: 11/18/2016
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