A Big Week

Chris Agnew
3 min readSep 4, 2020


All of you accomplished a significant thing this week. Following on the heels of summer camps and wildlife tours this summer and launching the Graduate program during COVID last month, this week we stepped it up again bringing 265 students back to the classroom for modified in-person learning at Mountain Academy. This was a significant task over the last few weeks with staff across the organization pitching in extra to make it happen — teachers staying late to redesign their classrooms, property management doing endless projects and extra cleaning, the Mountain Academy Leadership Team (MALT) making sure all the spinning pieces would actually fit together, enrollment and registration supporting a large swell of inquiries, Operations and Executive Teams supporting testing and day one and two health screenings, IT installing significant new technology infrastructure enabling hybrid classrooms, the list keeps going. It’s more work to get school back in-person and our students are benefitting from being back on our campuses. Thank you!

Remember “Seeking Students!”? This was my blog from mid-February — almost seven months ago, pre-COVID, and seemingly a world away. It reads with different meaning today with about half of our in-person learning still suspended. While much has happened since then and our day-to-day looks quite different, most of the themes remain the same and/or are even more important today.

On Tuesday next week, Sandy Chio will be starting as TSS’s first-ever Chief Business Officer (CBO). Next time you “see” (either virtually or in-person), please congratulate her and welcome her to TSS and the Tetons. With this step we are hiring a leadership role at TSS. With this hire, we are onboarding a new person. Beyond an individual person, it marks a fundamental change in how we approach sales, marketing, communications, and registration (business development) at TSS. As I wrote in my prior blog post, this position is elevated to drive strong and consistent enrollment across all of our programs and is responsible for the earned income (enrollment) across all TSS programming (pre-COVID, ~$12m annually). Improved enrollment consistency leads to greater TSS financial stability enabling greater programmatic and operational stability.

The fundamental change we are investing in is a centralized and OneTSS approach to sales and marketing. With recruitment historically living within each program, summer camps and Mountain Academy might be recruiting from the same pool of people, but we were doing it from different locations in the organization. Similarly, residential field education programming and Place Network were both recruiting K-12 schools aligned with our mission, but doing it from entirely different places within the organization. Some changes are structural — John Morgan, the Director of Enrollment Management for Mountain Academy will now report to Sandy as the CBO. We’ll also need to develop many new processes that better leverage Salesforce, are scalable to higher volumes, and utilize the expertise of an entire department dedicated to the marketing, communications, sales, and registration of TSS programming.

With expertise and accountability centered in one department, we can approach our goals from a learner(customer)-centered perspective.

  • Summer camps or Mountain Academy, we can focus on recruiting PreK-12 students.
  • Residential programming or Place Network, we can focus on how best to recruit K-12 schools.
  • Our Graduate Program or in-service professional development, we can focus on recruiting educators.
  • Day wildlife tours or multi-day programs, we can focus on recruiting adults and families.

While all of our programming is modified and some of our in-person programming is suspended, there will come a day when visiting schools return to TSS campuses. The foundations we lay now will set us up to better launch to our next normal post-COVID with solid enrollment and stronger financials.

Congratulations and thank you for what you all accomplished with modified in-person learning in week one at Mountain Academy. Next week, please welcome Sandy to TSS and let’s get ready for centralizing our recruitment and retention process.