We are committed to...
  • encouraging diverse points of view.
  • continuous reflection and on-going improvement.
  • collegial relationships and ethical leadership.
  • independent education options for families.
  • promoting the independence of our schools.
  • quality standards without standardization.
  • assisting schools in fulfilling their missions.

Pathways to Leadership

The next cohort will begin Fall of 2020.

Applications will open in March 2020, and will be due May 2020

Pathways to Leadership is a two-year cohort-based program to support and develop female-identified senior leaders who are interested in becoming a Head of School in the next 3-5 years. As a participant, you will work with an assigned mentor and engage in a number of activities to support your professional growth. Pathways to Leadership will use the framework of the NWAIS standards to build your competencies in areas such as governance, school finance and leadership.


Now in the middle of its second round, Pathways to Leadership is looking for its next group of female-identified leaders to take on the challenge of moving into independent school headship.

Previous participants have experienced tremendous success, with 4 of the 18 of participants of the initial cohort being named to headships, and everyone emerging with stronger networks and skills, ready to take on this challenging role.

2018-2020 Faculty

NWAIS Heads of School, Briel Schmitz, Joan Beauregard, Liz Swift, Mo Copeland and Brenda Leaks mentor and support the second cohort of Pathways participants.


Pathways to Leadership will serve approximately 16 participants, applying in Spring of 2020. The program will run from August 2020-May 2022. NWAIS is seeking a diverse and inclusive cohort and encourages those from underrepresented groups to apply.

If you are not sure you are ready for the Pathways to Leadership program, consider applying for the Emerging Leaders Institute, a one-year, cohort based program for leaders looking to take the next step on their leadership journey, but not yet considering headship.

Application Components

  1. Resume
  2. Cover Letter Addressing: (no more than 500 words )
    • Why you are choosing to apply for this program
    • Your vision for your career journey in the next 3-5 years
    • How you see yourself contributing to the richness of your cohort
    • Areas you see the most potential for growth
    • Questions you hope the program will engage in around diversity and equity.
  3. Recommendation from current Head of School

To Apply

Check back for application materials


Applications for the Program will be due May 1, 2020 and selection decisions will be announced May 15, 2020. Enrollment must be confirmed by June 29, 2020.

The program will launch with a required retreat, (August 2020) and will continue through the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school year.


Over the course of the two years participants will:

  • Attend two, annual, full-day retreats (August 2020 and August 2021)
  • Work with a mentor to self assess, develop and carry out a professional growth plan for the duration of the program
  • Meet monthly via video conference
  • Attend NWAIS Conferences Including:
    • Institutional Leadership Conference for Heads and Trustees (November 2020 and 2021)
    • Fall Educators Conference (October 2020 & 2021)
    • Leadership Institute (June 2021)
    • New Trustees Workshop (September 2021)
    • Business Officers Conference (April 2021)
  • Meet with thought leaders such as: NWAIS Legal Team, CPA firms, sitting heads, trustees, and search consultants
  • Networking events
  • Serve on an accreditation team (as space allows)

The overall time investment will include monthly meetings over the course of the year, which would include experiences with mentors as well as the participation in the conferences. Some will take place in person and others digitally.


The total cost of participating in the program is $4500 ($5500 for participants from non-member schools) and is inclusive of all registration fees. It is not inclusive of housing during conferences. Conferences are required, so plan to budget an additional $1500 over the two years for hotel rooms. We recognize that this is a significant investment for individuals and schools, and would like to make it accessible by spreading out the cost over the two years.

The following is the schedule of fees:

  • Member Rate
    • August 1, 2020: $2250
    • August 1, 2021 : $2250
  • Non-Member Rate
    • August 1, 2020: $2750
    • August 1, 2021 : $2750
If you are able to pay for the entire course upon enrollment NWAIS would be happy to offer you a discount of 5% for a total of $4275 for the two year course for members, or $5225 for non-members.

Cancellation Policy

View the cancellation policy.

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Northwest Association of Independent Schools
5001 California Ave. SW, Suite 112
Seattle, Washington 98136
T: 206.323.6137 • info@nwais.org
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