School Profile: International School of the Peninsula (CA)

September 16, 2019
School Profile: International School of the Peninsula (CA)

School Overview:
Palo Alto, California
Enrollment: 545
Type of school:
Coed, pre-Kindergarten to grade 8 day school providing French and Chinese language immersion.

Maile, when did you start working at the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP)? What brought you to ISTP? 

I joined the International School of the Peninsula in 2002. Prior to joining ISTP, I was an IT consultant for a Big 5 consulting firm. I came to realize that it wasn’t the right environment or career path for me, so I left the consulting world and searched for opportunities with a different pace and focus. In college, I worked in development, so it felt like a natural fit to join ISTP’s development department. I then became the director of communications. Now, I serve as the director of admission.

I think that the better question to ask is not what brought me to ISTP, but what has kept me here for 15 years! ISTP has a strong, experienced, tight-knit senior administrative team of which I am proud to be a part. It is a privilege to work with a skilled team that is open minded and willing to reflect on itself as a team, the school, and the student and family experience, and to adjust, change, and evolve as necessary. The school has definitely evolved over my 15 years here. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come—who we were, who we are now, and who we hope to be. Everyone works in tandem with each other to propel our school forward and to serve our students and families as best we can.

What are the biggest challenges/advantages as an office of two?
First off, Ninva, my colleague in the admission office, is amazing. She has been with the school longer than I, and also worked for the previous director of admission. Therefore, she carries with her a lot of history and knowledge, which I admire and respect. I trust her innately and respect the responsibilities that she has.I think the largest challenge that we face is the ability to do everything that we want to do with the amount of manpower we have. We have a clear line of responsibilities, and have it divided pretty well. However, as technology changes, as the needs of the parents change, our jobs and the expectation of what we should be doing continues to evolve.

Is there an area of your work that you wished specific professional development training was available?
The ways marketing admission has evolved over the years is mind boggling. Today, we focus a lot on inbound marketing, how to widen our funnel, and the balance between personalization and automation. There is so much information out there about inbound marketing— it’s a lot of noise you have to filter through to find the nuggets of information that are going to be useful in our arena. Honestly, I wish there were more trainings available about this, specifically for private school admission. The game is the same, but how we play is changing—and it would be helpful to have some great coaching!

Which key metrics do you refer to on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to best assess your enrollment strategies? How do you gather this data and with whom do you share it?
When our admission season begins, the head of school and I monitor our funnel very closely. Inquiry metrics can be tricky, since a parent may or may not actually fill out an inquiry form. Therefore, I’m monitoring how our online advertising is doing, as well as the hits we have to our promo landing pages. I then analyze the interest—how Meet The Team Maile Uohara Director of Admissions and Variable Tuition After years of working in the private sector, Maile began her career at the International School of the Peninsula in 2002, in the office of advancement. In 2007, she became ISTP’s director of admissions and variable tuition. Maile is originally from the aloha state of Hawaii and although she misses her family and hometown, she enjoys everything the Bay Area has to offer. Ninva Simono Assistant to the Director of Admissions and Variable Tuition Ninva graduated from the University of Bordeaux II with a degree in social anthropology. She has been with ISTP since 1995. In addition to answering prospective parent questions, Ninva is responsible for maintaining the prospect database, coordinating admission events, and ensuring that the admission office is running smoothly. Continued on page 37 International School of the Peninsula (continued) The Yield + Spring/Summer 2018 37 many people are signing up for tours, information, etc. and pay attention to the conversion from that into applications and enrollment. We also have comparisons through our BADA (Bay Area Admission Directors) group that have been incredibly helpful as well.

Do you present data directly to the board, or do you give the information to your head of school to share with them?
I update my head of school on a monthly basis, and he shares that with our board. Every spring I present an admission report to the board. I also participate on the board’s finance committee, which has been extremely valuable because it means I can participate in conversations related to enrollment management.

What are some of the unique challenges to enrolling a bilingual immersion day school? How does this influence the way you recruit new students/families?
I think the biggest challenge is communicating to families the value of a bilingual school. The truth is that a bilingual education is about so much more than language—it provides cognitive benefits and cultural literacy, it helps children think and see in different ways and find multiple solutions to problems, and it helps them be more open minded, better communicators, with an international mindset. This is a lot to explain to a family when they are looking at schools.

What we’ve done is to have very small, personalized tours that give our prospective families the time to visit our classrooms, to see what happens, to ask questions, to be a part of an in-depth discovery of the end result of a bilingual education. It’s definitely a lot of work to give such personalized attention, but it’s worth it if prospective families are able to understand how transformative an ISTP education is.

As you look to the future of enrollment, what excites or concerns you the most?
Similar to many schools in our local area, the rising cost of living is one of the greatest concerns for us. In the Bay Area, we are finding that mortgages are our largest competitor, not other schools.

Have you employed any new marketing strategies or tactics to effectively recruit and/or retain students? How have they varied based on your recruitment levels/enrollment needs?
Last year, I started to plan a transition to an inbound and content marketing strategy. I worked closely with my IT director and my director of communications, as I knew I would not be able to execute a robust marketing effort without their assistance. I work on the plan, but the content is developed by the director of communications and her assistant.

How do you show the unique value of your school during family visits?
Our classroom visits are perhaps the most illuminating for our families. We have two bilingual programs (Mandarin and French), and seeing this in action speaks volumes. It’s definitely a selling point to tell them that we are the longestrunning bilingual immersion school in Silicon Valley—we have close to 40 years of experience. We are also a candidate to become an IB (International Baccalaureate) World School, and we educate our parents on the IB learner profile and its inquiry-based methods, in combination with our outstanding bilingual program during visits.

What is BADA, and what is your role in it?
The Bay Area Directors of Admission (BADA) is the local consortium for (mainly) PreK-8th grade schools. We serve schools from Marin/Sonoma to San Jose. Fifteen years ago, BADA was started as a collegial grassroots organization by a few San Francisco admission directors who wanted to ease the independent school admission process for families. In 2014, BADA formally established itself as a nonprofit to better meet and serve the needs of its members. BADA currently has 70+ member schools, holds an annual professional development symposium, and spearheads the Bay Area-wide spring admission survey to better inform area independent schools with timely and relevant admission data. In May 2017, I was elected president of the organization and I am currently working with the board on formalizing a three-year strategic plan. My vision for the organization is that we remain true to BADA’s roots, and remain a highly collegial organization whose mission is to educate and assist families with the admission process.

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