Bill Ellis is the Associate Headmaster for Enrollment and Financial Aid at The Kiski School, appointed in 2008. Educated at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bill has been in various admissions roles within private education since 1982. He currently sits on the boards of multiple associations, while serving as a counselor, adviser, and community member here at Kiski.
Kiski has just finished its’ 10 year accreditation review process which was capped by a visit from several educators from a multitude of schools from across Pennsylvania. The Visiting Team, over the course of three days, was tasked with reading our self-evaluation written over the previous twelve months, interviewing current parents, staff, students, teachers and administrators and then preparing a comprehensive document with the results. The document they produce contains commendations as well as recommendations about what they observed. The process is a very cathartic experience in so many ways as it forces Kiski to look at itself from 30,000 feet. It also allows outsiders to do the same thing.
The Visiting Team was very impressed with what they saw as evidenced by their comments and the preliminary report they gave to the faculty. One of the overwhelming themes they commended us on was that to them it was clear, Kiski understands its mission, “to prepare young men to be successful in college and in life.” They said few schools with which they were familiar had the depth of understanding of their mission and the ability to articulate it as they had seen at Kiski. This ability to articulate was not limited to the faculty and administration, but included the boys and parents as well.
In one of the meetings I attended, someone stated “you guys are doing so many things right. Your boys are going to grow up to be fantastic men!” I am not sure, but that may be possibly the best thing anyone has ever said about what we do and what we are dedicated to doing. And the beautiful thing about it was that it was an outsider looking in who said it based on what he was observing about what we are doing. And it was based on significant information about who we are, specifically what we are doing and how we are doing it. It was based on interviewing multiple constituencies.
So how do we do it? I would like to take all kinds of credit for the Admission Team’s ability to select the right students, but the truth is the momentum of good things happening at Kiski is attracting the right families to consider us. When families visit Kiski, they are often overwhelmed by what they see that it makes my job much easier. But what cannot be overlooked is the boys themselves. They have good values, good manners, and good character. They are bright and curious. They are disorganized for sure in many cases; in desperate need of some good structure, absolutely, but overall they come to us as great boys.
We have assembled a faculty that understands boys. Not only does the faculty understand our boys, but they appreciate the notion of what it takes to raise boys at a time in their life when they are changing in so many ways. The growth that takes place from the physical, emotional, social and academic perspectives from ages 14-19 is immense. The patience and expertise it takes to channel their energy into something positive astounds me as I observe them not only in the classroom, but on the fields, and in the theater and at our dining room tables.
So, what does it mean to be a fantastic man? A question that has many responses and varying opinions. However, I personally see this question getting answered through the actions of our boys. I can see how they are becoming men. Our boys are confident that they can do the right thing when no one is looking. Our boys are good sports on the field, as we value character over achievement and sportsmanship over victory. Our boys can look you in the eye and give you a firm handshake. They open doors for others and hold them until everyone has passed through. They will not sit down for a meal until all the adults at the table have seated themselves. They routinely give back to the greater community through our formalized service program offerings. They are respectful, polite and know and demonstrate good manners whether that means saying thank you or putting a napkin in their lap.
I experienced a fantastic example of this a few days ago. After my advisees had dinner with me at my home, we retired to the den for ice cream and had a thirty minute discussion about honor, lying, cheating and stealing. It was fascinating to hear how the younger sophomore boys in my group differed from the older, more mature seniors, three of whom are headed to U.S. Naval Academy. The older boys confided in me later “Boy, those guys are so young”, a priceless observation. It was a great opportunity for the younger boys to verbalize how they felt about these forms of deceit. But more importantly, it was an amazing experience for the older boys to hear this. The level of maturity in answers to the questions between the older and younger boys was noted by the older boys.
The next day, one of the Navy boys emailed me the honor code from Annapolis. He and the other guys had obviously continued the conversation after they left my house. There is a place in the Naval Academy Honor Code where they emphasize the importance of the Midshipmen confronting privately persons who have committed an offense. The intent is for the Middies to help each other. Mike said in his email to me “don’t worry Mr. Ellis, we will teach them.” Wow. Just wow!
If you really want to see something special, come out for a visit and see for yourself and hear from our students why the boarding school life is so great.