Preparing the Manger of

Your Heart

In the rhythm of the school year, the three-week span of school between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break can be a chaotic time. In schools across the association, teachers are feeling the pressure to stay on schedule and meet their curricular goals for the semester; choral artists are preparing and rehearsing for Christmas performances and vesper services; athletes are exhausted from competing in holiday tournaments; parents are caught up in the fever rush of work, school, activities, shopping, decorating; and students are feeling the crunch as they try to balance it all. 

In the rhythm of the church, this same span of time, or season, has a special designation. Several years ago, in Kindergarten Chapel, I asked my students if they could identify the name for this season in the church. One eager young man about three rows back confidently raised his hand, and when I called on him, he proudly exclaimed that this season is known as “ADVIL!”  

Although we can certainly relate to the need for some Advil to cope with the headaches often associated with the chaos of the season, the intention is to celebrate the season of Advent in order to discover and practice the virtues of love, joy, hope, and peace through the readings, songs, and prayers of the season as we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ - both as a baby and again as our redeeming Savior. Therefore, as we embark on our own Advent journey, perhaps we should consider this Advent prayer:

This Advent, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.

Fill me with Your presence from the very start.

As I prepare for the holidays and gifts to be given,

Remind me of the gift You gave when You sent Your Son from Heaven.

The first Christmas gift, it was the greatest gift ever.

You came as a baby born in a manger.

Wrapped like the gifts I find under my tree,

Waiting to be opened, to reveal Your love to me.

Restore to me the wonder that came with Jesus' birth,

When He left the riches of Heaven and wrapped Himself in rags of earth.

Immanuel, God with us, Your presence came that night.

And angels announced, "Into your darkness, God brings His Light."

"Do not be afraid," they said, to shepherds in the field.

Speak to my heart today, Lord, and help me to yield.

Make me like those shepherd boys, obedient to Your call.

Setting distractions and worries aside, to You I surrender them all.

Surround me with Your presence, Lord, I long to hear Your voice.

Clear my mind of countless concerns and all the holiday noise.

Slow me down this Christmas, let me not be in a rush.

In the midst of parties and planning, I want to feel Your hush.

This Christmas, Jesus, come to the manger of my heart.

Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part.

Dwell within and around me, as I unwrap Your presence each day.

Keep me close to You, Lord. It's in Your wonderful Name I pray.

~Renee Swope, “The Manger of My Heart” from Proverbs 31 Ministries


Rob Devlin, Executive Director

Upcoming Webinars

Head Support and Evaluation

January 10, 2023

2:00 pm CST


Free Per Member School

$125.00 Per Non-Member School


As the sole employee of the board, the Head of School carries a huge amount of responsibility. One of the most important roles of the Board of Trustees is to support and evaluate the Head of School. This webinar offers board members tangible advice for how they make the support and evaluation process effective for everyone involved!


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Best Practices of Being a Board Member AND Parent

January 12, 2023

10:00 am CST


Free Per Member School

$125.00 Per Non-Member School


Independent school boards are filled with board members that are also parents in the school. This can create a unique tension that is felt by everyone involved. Join Rob Devlin and Mary Katherine Duffy as they welcome Michele Agostini, a board member and former parent from St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Amarillo, TX. Michele will lead us in a conversation on how to be a great board member AND parent.


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The Importance of Feedback for Faculty and Staff

January 25, 2023

4:00 pm CST


Free Per Member School

$125.00 Per Non-Member School


Evaluations are a necessary part of growth, and yet, the idea of feedback can be difficult. This webinar is specifically geared for faculty and staff to learn how feedback can help them be the best educators they can be. Join Rob Devlin and Mary Katherine Duffy as they welcome David Parks, Head of Upper School at Holland Hall. David will be focusing on helping teachers understand the "why" behind Faculty and Staff evaluations.


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Best Legal Practices for Boards

January 26, 2023

3:30 pm - 5:00 pm CST


$195.00 per member school     

$220 per non-member school


Understanding the legal aspects of running an Episcopal school is vital to the overall success of the organization. Kristin Smith of Fisher Phillips will lead this webinar and will discuss the best legal practices that heads and board members should be thinking about as they lead their school.


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“Let the sunshine in” was the literal and metaphorical message as the

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School community gathered on December 2, 2022, in front of Becker Library to celebrate the addition of solar panel arrays on five strategic locations on campus. A rousing playlist of sunny songs, including a live student performance of The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, set the stage for a joyful ceremony. The celebration included student designed t-shirts, campus-wide Science lessons on the impact of solar, a presentation from student environmental group Green Goblins as well as an official blessing of the panels by The Rt. Rev. Kai Ryan, bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and St. Stephen’s board chair. Read More


The Importance of Strategic Planning

Coming out of a pandemic, many schools are left questioning “Where do we go from here?” and “How do we ensure the future success of our school that we cherish so dearly?” Scouring websites, speaking with school leaders and board members, I am struck by how few schools have written strategic plans. Many independent school strategic plans are more operational than strategic. There is a significant difference." Read our latest blog post from John Farber:

Getting to We: Communicating in the Age of Polarization

Head of School John P.N. Austin laments this “moment in history when Americans are hungry to explore complex issues, but partisan rancor is prompting schools to limit the discussion. “I’ve seen lots of school heads and campuses torn asunder by polarization,” Austin says. “We all want our kids to flourish. Conflict [in the community] can take away from that.”

For School Leaders, Empathy Isn't Optional

“In my postgraduate classes and educator workshops, I ask teachers to write an adjective or two that describes a principal they respect and who has helped them grow. Not surprisingly, teachers’ responses fall into three categories: instructional leadership, managerial skills, and interpersonal relationships. What is surprising is that the ability to build interpersonal relationships is by far the most frequently cited quality in a good leader.”  Dr. Thomas Hoerr

“If You Have One Happy Teacher, You Have 100 Happy Kids”

From the after-effects of the pandemic to nationwide staff shortages, educators face significant challenges heading into the school year. We spoke to nine about what they’re seeing in classrooms, how they’re rising to the occasion, and what keeps them eager to teach and serve.

“4 Questions to Measure – and Boost – Customer Trust” 

by Ashley Reichheld and Amelia Dunlop

in Harvard Business Review, November 1, 2022

Many of our core institutions, including schools, are facing a crisis of trust and loyalty. 

In this Harvard Business Review article, Ashley Reichheld and Amelia Dunlop

(Deloitte Digital) say that loyalty and trust in an organization is built on people’s sense of its positive intent and overall competence. Moving beyond NPS, the authors describe a rigorous process that has identified the foundational elements of intent and competence:

  • Humanity – The organization demonstrates empathy and kindness toward me and treats everyone with fairness.

  • Transparency – It openly shares information, motives, and choices in straightforward and plain language.

  • Capability – The organization creates quality services, experiences, or products for people like me.

  • Reliability – The organization consistently and dependably delivers on the promises it makes.

A key finding: when an organization scores high on these indicators, people are more loyal, talk it up among friends, stick with it (if they’re employed there), and are more forgiving when it makes mistakes.


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