Inside SFS

Spotlight on CAIS Chairship

Head of School Steve Morris

Proudly representing The San Francisco School, Head of School Steve Morris is serving as the Chair of the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) Board of Directors. 

In this role, he supports a broad range of schools and educators. Comprising 228 elementary, middle, and secondary schools and more than 90,000 students, CAIS sets standards of academic quality and ethical conduct; facilitates professional development of independent school staff and trustees; and promotes diversity and dignity of humanity while promoting collaboration and social responsibility. The Association also provides leadership and guidance to its member heads and trustees while advocating for the continual improvement of learning environments for all children and adolescents in CAIS schools and beyond. 

It couldn’t be a more interesting (and perhaps challenging) time to lead California schools, but Steve’s diverse range of experience has prepared him for this position. An educator and administrator for the past 25 years, Steve is in his thirteenth year as SFS’s Head of School. Having worked in schools and nonprofits from Pittsburgh to the Bay Area, Steve has served on various boards and learned so much during his time at SFS. Throughout his career, he has been a strong advocate for faculty professional development and provided deep support for growing educational leaders of color. 

At the midpoint of his two-year term, Steve says, “It has been an incredible professional growth opportunity and my experience on the CAIS board serves SFS in many different ways. Two major areas of focus for the CAIS board are the two pandemics facing our city, state, and country–COVID and systemic racism. To participate on a board with fifteen other heads from across California allows me to dive deeply in these two areas with a broad constituency. Not only can I learn different approaches other schools are taking, but, together, we develop best practices to share with all of our schools.”

This is Steve’s second term and seventh year on the CAIS board. He has seen independent schools in California grow and shift at a rapid pace. Now in his role as a close partner to CAIS Executive Director Deb Dowling, he advances the mission and protects the core values of the Association, promotes professional fellowship, and contemplates the strategic challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Says Deb, “Steve is passionately committed to ensuring that every student truly belongs in our independent school communities. His wisdom, insight, and open-minded analytical thinking are invaluable as we navigate the Association’s role during this extraordinary school year. I feel very lucky to have Steve working by my side.”

Though he participates in many of the board’s committees, his focus has been in the newly developed Anti-Racist Task Force which aims to improve systems and policies across schools in the interests of equity and justice. The Task Force has identified several areas of focus, including a shift in accreditation from a diversity-focused framework to one with a stronger emphasis on dismantling systemic racism; meaningful and generative professional development related to racism at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels; and addressing two of the goals of the current strategic plan: 1) to better serve underrepresented students and 2) to integrate  technology, especially with respect to systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The work with CAIS informs much of Steve’s work with the SFS Administration, Board of Trustees, and the Black/African American Affinity Group. As COVID and systemic racism continue to plague our country, Steve believes that this is the most important time to be an educator and a school leader. “At a time when we are experiencing so much loss and hurtful behavior, there is perhaps no better way to find hope and make change than by working in schools. This is our moment as educators to help define and shape the future our country needs. It is a privilege to have this opportunity, and I do not take this responsibility for granted.”

Posted August 11, 2020