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Department Chairs Conference 2020

Date: Wednesday - January 29, 2020
Time: All Day
Location: Mohonk Mountain House

The 2020 Conference for Department Chairs

Department Chairs perform a variety of duties and their responsibilities and authority vary from school to school.

This conference is designed for new and experienced Department Chairs and aims to provide a collegial network to support the crucial work of this important role.

Through talks, discussions, and panels we will be exploring many of the following topics. 
  • Collaborating vs. leading
  • Curriculum Development
  • Leading Effective Meetings
  • Difficult Conversations
  • Leadership styles
  • Supervision and Evaluation
  • Hiring
  • Creating a culture of prof. Development
  • New department heads: the challenges of transitioning to leadership
  • Leading from the middle: the role of department chair
  • Mentorship and new faculty support
  • Work/life balance and time management
  • Gender and leadership
  • Managing group dynamics and the emotions of teams
  • Goal setting

Conference Resources

All meals will be in the Main Dining Room
Sessions in red are all together in the Parlor

Breakouts in Parlor, Mountain View, Sunset & Suite 61



Lunch Main Dining Room
Registration outside Parlor

1:30 - 2:00


  • Introduction to Mohonk- Barbara
  • Introductions:  Jennifer and Dave
  • Overview of Conference

2:00 - 3:30


Session 1:  Leading a Department  (Jennifer and Dave)

What does it mean to be a department chair? To be a leader?

We will identify and reflect upon the responsibilities of the role using personal experience and the NAIS guidelines. You will have a chance to compare your experience with colleagues at other schools and expand your thinking about ways to accomplish your goals. The facilitators will share some of their favorite tools as well.   

3:30 - 3:45


3:45 - 5:00

Session 2 -  Department Roundtables  (Dave)

In departmental/subject area groups, here is an opportunity to form a close network of colleagues. You will identify areas of shared interest and topics to be explored further during the conference.

5:00 - 5:15

Wrap-Up for the day


Cocktails  in Lake Lounge, and Dinner in Main Dining Room



Continental Breakfast available in Carriage Lounge

7:30 - 8:15

Buffet Breakfast


Meditation (optional) - Dave Mochel

8:30 - 9:45

Session 3 - Leadership as Relationship (Jennifer and Dave)

We will look at three challenges of effective leadership –

  1. conversations
  2. meetings
  3. decisions

Doing these well builds productive relationships and teams, learning communities, and healthy cultures. You will come away with specific concrete tools that will help you leverage these three challenges into strengths.   

9:45 - 11:30

Session 4 – Real-Time Evaluation  (Jennifer and Dave)

How do we give and receive the feedback that we all need to thrive and grow? We will present a model that moves away from cumbersome multi-year evaluation structures and provides an approach to feedback that reflects the way human beings function best.    

11:30 - 11:40


11:40 - 12:40

Session 5 – Concurrent Sessions  - choose one


A. Compassionate Confidence: Working Peacefully and Powerfully with Discomfort
David Mochel

How do we work with the stress, anxiety, and overwhelm that comes with being in a leadership role where you are responsible for the effectiveness of your entire team while simultaneously juggling the demands of parents and other administrators? We will look at practices for responding to yourself and others with compassion and trust.


B. Creating a Departmental Culture of Collegiality and Collaboration
Jennifer Stolper Muenz, High School History, Chair, The Dalton School

Everyone knows the benefits of collegiality and collaboration in a department, but how do you create and foster this on a daily basis?

In this workshop you will learn answers to questions such as:

  • How do you create departmental goals that reflect both the interests of the department and the mission of the school?
  • How do you encourage department members to share PD experiences?
  • How do you foster mentorship and coaching relationships among faculty in your department?
  • How do you promote fruitful and positive curriculum sharing in your department?

 Mountain View

C.  From the Ground Up
James Cifelli, Director of Performing Arts, Trinity School

Whether you are building a department from scratch or rebuilding a department that is viewed by school leadership as "less than ideal", this workshop will touch on a variety of approaches to solving real-life challenges that every department head encounters on a day to day basis.

Suite 61

D.  Get More Out of Peer Observations with Lesson Studies
Beth Sullivan, Director of Curriculum, Cooke School and Institute

Have you been wanting to facilitate meaningful ways for teachers to share pedagogy, best practices, and successful teaching techniques within your department? The Lesson Study process is a practice-based form of teacher inquiry and professional development that deepens our understanding of how our instructional activities affect student learning, thinking, and behavior. The Lesson Study process allows teachers to learn from other teachers, explore problems that impede student learning, all while developing peer coaching skills. In this workshop, you'll learn about Lesson Studies and how they differ from traditional peer observations. 

12:45 - 1:30


1:45 - 3:00

Session 6 – Concurrent Sessions  - choose one


A. Leading With the Whole Self
Jennifer Bryan

Are leadership and authority the same thing? Who are the effective leaders in your school community and what makes them so? What is expected of you as a Department Chair and what kind of leader do you want to be? How can you take up your own leadership role authentically and effectively? Come explore these questions and more.

 Mountain View

B. Instructional Routines: A Protocol for Increasing Collaboration in Mathematics Instruction
Andrew Gael, Dept Chair, Math and Science, Cooke School and Institute

This workshop will provide participants the opportunity to take a deep dive into ambitious mathematics instruction by exploring instructional routines. “Instructional Routines” are specifically designed procedures which allow educators to temporarily hold some aspects of the classroom constant while highlighting others. Participants will examine and practice various instructional routines and then turn their attention to a protocol that can be implemented in mathematics department meetings to open communication and increase collaboration.

 Suite 61

C. Incorporating Assessment Data into Teacher Professional Development
Jeff Ignaszak

Overseeing a plan of teacher professional development is among the most important duties of a department chair. But where to focus? Assessment data can provide valuable hints about the most valuable areas of emphasis for curricular review, teacher development, and apportionment of time in the classroom. This workshop will focus on real assessment data gathered over time within a number of schools to illustrate how those data might be used in the collaborative dialog between department chairs and teachers.


D. How Do You Communicate?
Helen Huang, World Language Department Chair, Village Community School

In our role as department chair, we are always engaging with and giving feedback to other adults. One challenge to this work is that we (us and the people we supervise) are all very different and communicate differently. In this workshop, you will learn and practice some strategies to mitigate this challenge. We will explore the questions: How can we be ourselves and at the same time meet other people's needs? What are successful conversations and how can we foster them? How can we offer feedback and provide support?

3:00-5:00 Free Time Afternoon Options

Enjoy the excellent cross-country trails, Mohonk Spa,indoor  pool and gym (weather permitting) - . Details at Guest Services Desk

5:00 - 6:15

Session 7 - Finding A Path
Jennifer Bryan and Dave Mochel

There are many opportunities for innovation and improvement in your department - pedagogy and instruction, curriculum development, placement and grading policy, the role of technology – how do we get our group to move in the same direction when the way forward is uncertain?

Using an interactive and experiential approach, we will investigate supportive approaches to group problem-solving and solution prototyping.   

6:30 p.m.

Cocktails  in Lake Lounge, and Dinner in Main Dining Room


7:30 - 8:15

Buffet Breakfast


Meditation (optional) Dave Mochel

8:30 - 9:45

Mountain View, Sunset 1 & 2, Suite 61 & Parlor

Session 8 – Unconference
Facilitator: Barbara Swanson, NYSAIS

Participants set the agenda of topics, dilemmas, and questions of importance to the group. What keeps you up at night? What do you want to know more about? What skills/strategies can you share with your colleagues?  No topic is off the table.

9:45- 10:00




Session 9 -    Practicing, Troubleshooting, Rehearsing
Jennifer Bryan and David Mochel

We will practice working with real situations that participants have identified as needing attention. The wisdom and experience of the group and the facilitators will be drawn upon to offer insight and practical guidance.


Conclusion and Departure

Jennifer Bryan, Ph.D., 

Jennifer Bryan, PhD, is a psychologist, consultant, coach, speaker and author with over 35 years of experience working in educational and clinical settings. She earned her masters and doctorate in counseling psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, a BA in creative writing from Princeton University and studied for a year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As founder and principal of Team Finch, Inc. she specializes in helping schools and organizations create inclusive communities by understanding and addressing gender and sexuality diversity.

She began her career teaching English and coaching at The Hotchkiss School, taught briefly at Northfield Mount Hermon School and was a graduate level instructor in Group Theory, Dynamics and Practice in the Counseling Psychology department at Teachers College, Columbia University and at the Smith College School for Social Work in Northampton, MA. Because she deeply understands the dynamics of PreK-12 school life, Jennifer is at home working with all constituents. A typical school consultation includes working with the Administrative Team, providing professional development for faculty and staff, conducting a parent education workshop, advising the Board of Trustees, facilitating a conversation with middle school students and reading aloud to second graders.

In addition, Jennifer conducts workshops for Division Directors, Department Chairs, Deans, and Student Life Personnel that focus on leadership development, effective communication skills, and working with groups. She speaks at national and regional conferences, and her book From the Dress-Up Corner to the Senior Prom: Navigating Gender and Sexuality Diversity in PreK-12 Schools. (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012) is a go-to resource for educators and parents.

Jennifer also coaches individuals and groups who want to grow their leadership capacities, improve performance and deepen satisfaction in work well done. In all aspects of her work, Jennifer uses psychological and pedagogical frameworks, skilled group facilitation, and a lively sense of humor to help administrators, teachers, staff, coaches, parents, trustees and students learn and grow. This is work she loves and feels privileged to do.


David Mochel has been studying and teaching the practices and principles of mindfulness, well-being, leadership, and effective teams for more than thirty years. After a career teaching neuroscience, human development, and physics in independent schools, he founded Applied Attention Coaching and Consulting. Dave helps individuals and teams adopt research-based practices for living, working, and communicating peacefully and effectively. He has worked with CEO’s, professional athletes, and people from every walk of life. He is a lecturer in The School of Health and Human Performance at Stanford University, the author of Good Life Practice: A Quick Start Guide to Mindful Self-Regulation, a two-time cancer survivor, and the proud father of two wonderful young men. Dave has degrees in biology and geology from Williams College, a Master’s in Humanistic and Multicultural Education from SUNY New Paltz, and a clinical internship in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. 

Comments from some of last year's participants:

  • I have a lot of gratitude for the energy, intention, brainpower and heart that went into the past three days and feel grateful to have been a part of it!
  • I felt like this was a refreshing and energizing group of dynamic, caring thinkers who let me be my whole self. Thanks!
  • Sending much gratitude to all four of you. I learned so much and am feeling very inspired.
  • Thank you for a wonderful conference! I'm so glad that committed people are helping us to make our schools better at these important tasks. 
  • I learned SO MUCH! It is my second time to attend and I worried that I might be wasting resources to repeat, but that was not the case! I came home with my head full of ideas and validations for this work. I am much better equipped to support my students and faculty in supporting our dear students. Thank you for all of your wisdom, careful planning, care for us, humor, and excellence.
  • It was my first conference on identity and sexuality and it left me wanting to brainstorm new ideas and give my end of the year curriculum an overhaul. Thanks for helping me to gain some confidence in the classroom when teaching these topics.

Registration is a 2-part process. Be sure to do both. Registration will open in the Fall, 2019. 
1. Reserve your room with Mohonk using one of the following:
Click here: Mohonk Residential Reservation Form for room and all meals.
Click here: Mohonk Day Guest Reservation Form (Meals Only)
Reserve by phone: 800-772-6646
Need car service? Please give the Mohonk 24 hours notice, or call a local taxi.

2. Registration and Credit Card Payment*  
Register Here
Regular Registration Fees 
  • NYSAIS Members - $430.00
  • Non-members - $470.00
Early Discount of $40.00 will apply until 4 weeks before the event.
Late fee of $40.00 will apply within 2 days of the event.

Questions about registration? Email