The next few weeks of articles will touch on one aspect of advancement per week, and not come back to that aspect until all other aspects have been covered. Last week, we took a look at asset management relative to budget creation. This week, a look at enrollment. To follow the pattern, next week’s entry will either be on retention, marketing or development. Once the pattern is established, the five will rotate on through the cycle – but not in any particular order.

I’m hearing from and visiting schools which are beginning their “registration” process for the coming 23-24 school year. It would be helpful to take a lesson from the Greek tradition and “say what we mean,” especially when we talk about the enrollment process for our schools. There is also a Chinese proverb that says, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”

The term “registration” implies that “all will be accepted,” which is especially significant for faith-based schools.  Many times, we have seen signs outside of places of worship that state, “All Are Welcome!” Indeed, all are welcome – to worship.  Unfortunately, as a school, “welcoming all” means you must make the decision that your school will provide accommodation to all.

Perhaps your school has a placement test requirement to ensure the student is able to handle its rigorous curriculum.  If you have one as part of your school’s “application” process, this may help to understand the importance of an “application” process rather than “registration.”

But suppose the school you lead markets the school with a message to “register now,” and your school building encompasses two floors with two flights of stairs at each end of the school.  If it’s a faith-based school, you may contend that your current building does not have to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and you cannot install an elevator due to the astronomical cost.

You begin to “register” students through the winter, spring and summer, and, on the first day of school, a student shows up in a wheelchair.  Since you have a “registration” process that implies that all will be accepted, you are now in the position to make reasonable accommodation for this child.  Is it possible?  It may certainly be.  You may need to switch classroom locations, and ensure that all classes and resources for this student be on the same level.  You may also need to ensure that restroom accommodations are made as well.

It’s not a matter of whether your school can afford to make those accommodations, or if you will be able to provide those improvements in a timely manner.  You are obligated to, since the student has been “registered” to attend your school.  “Application,” however, allows the opportunity to provide disclosure for any considerations which must be evaluated before the student can be “accepted” or “enrolled” in your school.  As for the ADA, it’s been ruled that even a school’s Web site, as well as publicly accessible areas of the school, such as auditoriums and gymnasiums, need to comply with ADA precisely because they’re publicly accessible and not “private.”

Can your school provide accommodations for children that may need special assistance?  Perhaps you certainly can.  It provides a great opportunity for students to act as a community to support and care for one another.  And that’s something that you can’t find in a textbook or measure on a standardized test.

Such a practice to call processes by their correct names may be prudent in these times when economic considerations are scrutinized in all areas of the school’s budget, yet may be interpreted to be discriminatory, and further, need to be balanced with the desire to reach out and minister to all those who desire the education your school has to offer their children.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2023