ISA Welcomes First-Ever Summer Intern


Ian Symmonds & Associates is pleased to welcome our first-ever summer intern.  Evan Harrison is joining the Ian Symmonds & Associates team for the summer beginning June 1st. He is currently heading into his senior year at Gonzaga University where he is studying marketing and public relations. He is looking to gain some real world marketing experience and is excited to contribute to the team in whatever ways he can.
While Evan spends most of his time in Spokane at Gonzaga University, he enjoys returning to his hometown of Portland, Oregon for the summer. In his free time you can find him snowboarding, cheering on the Gonzaga basketball team, and exploring the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.  Evan will be working on project management, conducting some research in the form of demographic and qualitative data gathering, and participating in the outset of some strategic sessions with our steering committees via video conference. 

Edison High School Names President

Edison High Schhol in Portland, Oregon has completed a year long search for a new president. After completing the strategic plan for Edison, ISA is pleased to announce that our search led to the selection of Dr. Sean Preston as Edison High School's new President.


Dr. Preston served as the founding head of school for the John Crosland School, a K-13 institution that serves students with learning disabilities and differences in Charlotte, NC. He has also served as head of school at Cypress Heights Academy, the accreditation team chair for the Southern Association of Independent Schools, and a faculty member at University of North Carolina.

Dr. Preston is a true servant leader and a lifelong educator with a passionate zeal for working with students with learning differences. He brings an immediate sense of vision, collaboration, synergy, organization, and fundraising skills to Edison High School. Congratulations to both Edison and Dr. Preston on this new collaboration.

Pacific Ridge School Selects ISA


Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, California has selected Ian Symmonds & Associates for research and strategic planning services.  Our work will commence in the summer and continue throughout the upcoming school year.  Pacific Ridge joins a small number of independent schools in the greater San Diego region that we have served over the course of our practice.  We welcome Pacific Ridge to our client community.  

Pacific Ridge School inspires curious young minds to be thoughtful, collaborative, and globally-minded by integrating a multitude of intercurricular opportunities with a robust academic schedule. Through an inclusive and innovative approach to acquiring and applying knowledge, students gain confidence and self-awareness—developing into young adults with advanced communication skills who are prepared to drive and design their success in the 21st century.  Pacific Ridge School was founded in 2007 and enrolls just under 600 students in grades 7 through 12.  The teaching style is seminar-style learning, designed to feed an integrated academic program to allow students to address over-arching ethical questions, and to unite content across thematic touchpoints.

Structural Barriers to Innovation and Change

Why is the education industry so immune to significant change?  Our experience and research indicates that the private education industry, specifically, struggles to change in major ways in an effort to keep up with rapidly evolving markets, consumers, and tools.  Why is that and how do we address it?  


Welcome to an age-old question that educational strategists have been attempting to address for decades.  It turns out that we have a lot of structural barriers - or limitations - that we have either self-imposed or have been imposed upon us.  These barriers are numerous and result in choking the innovation and change that we see present in so many industries.  Here’s a list of just some of these long-standing barriers:

  1. Class size - Educators have historically believed that only small classes results in strong learning, driving costs up.
  2. Calendar - The industry followed an agricultural calendar giving summers off, limiting the seasons in which we can deliver education. 
  3. Accreditation - The industry follows accreditation centric rules to good management, creating some unusual practices and policies. 
  4. Tenure - Few industries award jobs for life but colleges still do.  
  5. Business Model - In private education, we have adopted a low volume/high price/selective admission model yet wonder why we have enrollment and accessibility woes. 
  6. Assessment - Arbitrary methods of assessing both student learning and teacher effectiveness still plague our industry.  
  7. Goverance - Our schools and colleges are governed by a model of accountability and responsibility engineered for non-profits over a century ago and has not been revisited or recalibrated.  

So, why don’t we change very quickly?  This is just a small list of the major structural barriers to innovation and change in private education.  There are many others so numerous to list. 

Significant change will not occur in our industry until these barriers are broken down completely allowing new capacity to flow into our models. Most schools and colleges today create plans and manage change on the edges or incrementally. However, there are some innovators in the landscape that are committed to breaking down the barriers and impediments to growth, innovation, and change.   

Pilgrim School Selects ISA

Pilgrim School in Los Angeles has selected Ian Symmonds & Asssociates for research and strategy services.  We are excited to welcome this innovative school in Southern California to our client community.  Our work will commence in May and continue through the summer.


Pilgrim School, founded in 1958, is an independent, co-educational, college preparatory day school for students in Preschool through Grade 12.  The school is in a safe haven cradled in Wilshire Center, 10 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, and attracts a student body as varied as the city's population.  Pilgrim is a city schoool, where individual talents, contributions and skills yield a richer and more dynamic community; where academic skills are applied to real-world challenges and opportunities. Los Angeles is their city. The California Science Center, Disney Music Hall, The Getty, LACMA, Chinatown, the Natural History Museum, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, MoCA, Venice Beach and art galleries, the Endeavour, the Museum of Tolerance, Skirball Center, the Los Angeles Zoo, the Grammy Museum — these are a few of their classrooms.

Kent School Selects ISA


Kent School in Chestertown, Maryland has selected Ian Symmonds & Associates for research and strategy services.  Our work will commence in May and continue throughout the summer.  

Kent School's mission is to guide students in realizing their potential for academic, artistic, athletic, and moral excellence. The school’s family-oriented, supportive, student-centered environment fosters the growth of honorable, responsible citizens for our country and our diverse world.  Kent School is a regional, independent day school serving students from Pre-Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. They accomplish their by setting high academic and personal standards; by having a devoted and highly skilled faculty; and by actively living their community values of integrity, respect, responsibility and friendship.

We are excited to welcome this innovative school to our ISA client family. This project will also serve to reunite our firm with head of school Nancy Mugele, who served at Roland Park in Baltimore, also an ISA client family member.