Council History

The International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA) was convened originally as a Commission of the NAIS Board in 2002 in response to a request from independent school accrediting associations to address emerging national and state accreditation issues. The first meeting was in San Francisco, California, on February 26, 2002. At the time, there was a perceived growing challenge to peer-driven accreditation and calls within the public domain for school accountability rooted in student achievement and high stakes testing. As with the NAIS Advocacy Initiative, a change in public perception and a positive identification with independent schools and our process of school accountability was a desired outcome.

Initially, known as the Commission on Accreditation, NAIS provided significant financial and staff assistance to help support the Commission's mission and work. NAIS leaders, including past Presidents Pat Bassett and John Chubb, President Donna Orem, and Senior Vice President Jefferson Burnett, were instrumental in the Commission's success, and its eventual transition to ICAISA. Both NAIS and the Commission's accreditation associations aspired to accomplish several goals: to strengthen NAIS’ position and that of the Commission in the national conversation on student learning outcomes and school accountability; to improve the independent school accreditation process; and to seek national recognition of the Commission and independent school accreditation.  The Commission developed many core accreditation foundational documents, including Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices and Model Core Standards.

The Commission was sunset by the NAIS Board in June 2018 and ICAISA launched as a nonprofit organization on July 2, 2018.  The first meeting of ICAISA convened at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, on September 10-12, 2018. Jefferson Burnett, NAIS Senior Vice President joined Rhonda Durham, ICAISA founding Chair, as she toasted the history and auspicious future of ICAISA at an evening reception for members on the Lake Porch (pictured below).  In July 2019 ICAISA welcomed its first Executive Director, Bonnie J. Ricci. Having previously served as an association assistant director and former member of the Commission on Accreditation, Bonnie brings a wealth of accreditation expertise to the new organization.

Two Decades of Advancement and Key Accomplishments

From 2002 to present, many important initiatives have been accomplished in fifteen years, including the following:

  • Adopted Mission and Purpose Statements and organizational governing documents;
  • Established Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices and Model Core Standards that are reviewed and enhanced regularly;
  • Organized a comprehensive review process and systematically led all Council member associations to formal accreditation recognition originally by NAIS and currently by ICAISA;
  • Developed a shared Statement of Core Values and Principles of Good Practice;
  • Established Guidelines for Association Accreditation Review;
  • Implemented the goals and objectives of two Strategic Plans;
  • Engaged in dedicated commitment and service by member associations to share and elevate accreditation programs and to define mission, effective governance, and strategic evolution of the organization;
  • Maintained two-way, NAIS-Commission communication by appointed representatives;
  • Self-funded with dues contributed by each member association; and
  • Incorporated, with the full support of the NAIS Board of Trustees in order to better address issues concerning the future of accredited schools and the role accreditation serves as partners with NAIS, bringing to the table equal and sometimes different expertise.  


Barbara Hodges (FCIS) and Rhonda Durham (Chair) offer Mark Lauria (NYSAIS) and Jefferson Burnett (NAIS) the chance to blow out the first ICAISA Birthday candle!


Founding representatives

Peter Baily, Association of Independent Maryland & DC Schools
Phil Bossert, Hawaii Association of Independent Schools
Jefferson Burnett, National Association of Independent Schools
Mo Copeland, Head of Oregon Episcopal School
Claudia Daggett, Independent Schools Association of the Central States
Rhonda Durham, Independent Schools Association of the Southwest
Carole Everett, New Jersey Association of Independent Schools
Barbara Hodges, Florida Council of Independent Schools
Betsy Johnson, Virginia Association of Independent Schools
Siri Akal Khalsa, Northwest Association of Independent Schools
Jane Larsson, Council of International Schools
Mark Lauria, New York State Association of Independent Schools
Claire Leheny, Association of Independent Schools of New England
Doug Lyons, Connecticut Association of Independent Schools
David Madison, Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools
Patti McDonald, Canadian Association of Independent Schools
Jim McManus, California Association of Independent Schools
Linda Phelps, Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools
Lee Quinby, Association of Colorado Independent Schools
Judy Sheridan, NYSAIS Director of Accreditation
Cameron Staples, New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Eric Temple, Head of Lick-Wilmerding School
Kirk Walker, Southern Association of Independent Schools


Dr. Barbara Hodges, Chair
ICAISA, 2019-Present
Executive Director, FCIS

Jefferson Burnett, NAIS Staff Representative 2004-Present
NAIS Senior VP


Past Chairs

Sally Boese, Founding Chair,
NAIS Commission on Accreditation, 2002-2008
Executive Director VAIS, retired  

Robert Witt, Chair,
NAIS Commission on Accreditation, 2008-2011
Executive Director HAIS, retired

Jean Orvis, Chair,
NAIS Commission on Accreditation, 2011 -2015
Member-at-Large NWAIS,
Head of Seattle Academy, retired

Rhonda Durham, Founding Chair, ICAISA, 2018-2019
NAIS Commission on Accreditation Chair, 2015-2018
Executive Director, ISAS, retired