January 21, 2021

It is hard to believe how much time has elapsed since I started with NYSAIS in July of 2009. When I was offered, and accepted, the position of NYSAIS Executive Director by Board President Rick Bryant, and Search Chair Steve Clement, I only knew one Head of School in New York. I agreed to a 3-year contract thinking that would be a good amount of time to serve as the NYSAIS Executive Director. That was 12 years ago. Since that time, I have interacted with hundreds of colleagues making countless friends along the way. I consider myself blessed to have been able to work with some of the finest education professionals in the country. I also have been fortunate to hire and work alongside what can only be described as an association “A-team.” None of this would have been possible without the incredible support from each of my Board Chairs and the respective Boards that worked with them. Again, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity. A bonus has been working with a very thoughtful Commission on Accreditation chaired by extremely talented NYSAIS Heads of School.

While much has changed in NYSAIS since I started in 2009, the strong bond within the community, that had already been woven by earlier generations of NYSAIS leaders, has continued to grow and strengthen. This has been so apparent by the way in which everyone in the NYSAIS community has worked to support each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am grateful for being able to participate in this incredible effort on behalf of the NYSAIS students and their families. The NYSAIS staff and I would not have been able to create the types of professional learning opportunities, accreditation support, and advocacy without the strength of the NYSAIS community behind us. Over the last 12 years, NYSAIS has become a leader in the “virtual office” affording us the opportunity to hire a staff geographically reflective of the state. During this time we created a variety of institutes such as the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI), the Justice Equity, and Diversity Institute (JEDI), and the Division Heads Institutes (DHI). In addition, over the last decade, we created NYSAIS-Now (livestreams, interviews, podcasts, etc.), Regional Meetings, and a strong advocacy program in Albany. While our advocacy around “substantial equivalence” continues, we have made significant progress educating the legislature and leadership at the New York State Education Department regarding the importance and value of diverse educational approaches within the independent school world. Through the establishment of NYSAIS Operations, Inc., we have created a healthcare consortium saving member schools hundreds of thousands of dollars. During the pandemic, we were able to support member schools by purchasing Zoom licenses at greatly reduced prices. In addition, the use of technology, especially through our listserves and NYSAIS-developed database, has greatly contributed to our ability to better serve our member schools. Of course, organizing and celebrating the NYSAIS 70th Anniversary will remain a very fond memory. Indeed, the work of the entire NYSAIS team has been nothing short of exceptional! I am honored to have worked with them.

By now, you have probably figured out that this letter has been written to announce my retirement from NYSAIS which will take place at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 school year. While this decision has weighed on my mind for some time, it feels right. I now understand what many of my colleagues and friends have gone through as they contemplate the next chapter of their lives. Of certainty is that I will deeply miss serving the NYSAIS community and the regular interaction with NYSAIS educators. I am confident that NYSAIS is in an extremely strong position on every dimension and that my successor will be well-positioned to take NYSAIS to the next level of sophistication as an association. For me, NYSAIS will always represent an important and happy chapter in my life. Even though there is a year and a half before my actual departure, I want to say thank you to each of you. You have truly enriched my life and I hope that, in some small way, the NYSAIS team and I have done the same for you.

Warmest regards,

Mark W. Lauria, Ph.D.

NYSAIS Executive Director

Buckley Country Day School Logo

January 21, 2021

Dear Members of the NYSAIS Community:

Sitting next to Mark Lauria for dinner at Mohonk is not simply the guarantee of lively conversations about political intrigues in Albany, his family, or southern California; Mark will most certainly take you, vicariously, on one of his adventurous trips to distant destinations around the globe, including, most recently, an expedition to Antarctica. Mark wants to continue to see the world, and for that, he needs time - time only retirement can provide.

Earlier this month, Mark informed the Board of Trustees of his decision to make the 2021-2022 school year his last at the helm of the New York State Association of Independent Schools, thus concluding thirteen years of remarkable leadership as Executive Director. Mark being the thoughtful and deliberate person that he is, it was clear that asking him to consider giving NYSAIS a few more years would be in vain.

Mark’s tenure as Executive Director of NYSAIS since 2009 has been nothing short of transformational. Simply put, he has brought our association into the twenty-first century. Utilizing highly-effective communication strategies and inspirational thought leadership, he has managed to engage all of us in the critical work of NYSAIS, be it through accreditation, professional learning, or advocacy. Mark has led the development of best practices that serve as guiding principles to our schools and have made NYSAIS a model for other state and regional associations.

New York is a vast state, geographically and culturally, and Mark has worked hard to make certain that NYSAIS represents and meets the needs of each region. His listening and informational regional tours have ensured that NYSAIS serves all of our schools, big or small, urban or rural, well resourced or not. Mark has also shared generously of his wisdom and expertise with individual schools across the state and has become in the process a trusted friend to many. The support NYSAIS has provided to our schools as we navigate the current pandemic crisis is but one example of how critical Mark’s work has been. As individual and unique as we would like our schools to be, we need a voice to represent our collective interests in Albany. Mark has been that forthright voice, most notably as he led NYSAIS’s response to the concerns we expressed over the interpretation of substantial equivalency.

As only a great leader would, Mark has built a superb team of professionals that will ensure continuity and make this leadership transition easier. Over the next several months, the Board of Trustees will create a transparent and inclusive process designed to appoint the next Executive Director to lead NYSAIS and do the critical work that our schools have come to rely on.

The good news is that Mark will be with us for another year and a half. During that time, we will find many opportunities to thank him and honor him with the proper pomp and circumstance for the visionary leader and outstanding educator that he is.

I trust that you will join me in wishing Mark and his wife, Chris, the very best, as they prepare to write their next chapter and, no doubt, start planning their next trip.


JMJ Signature

Jean-Marc Juhel, Ed.D.

President, NYSAIS

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