During Fall Family Weekend, Head of School Tao Smith ‘90, P’23 hosted a strategic planning update and the strategic design team held parent focus groups.
Why is Gould updating the mission statement?
The mission of the school is something that should be recognizable to all generations of students, including alumni who attended 30, 40, or 50 years ago, everyone should be able to read our mission and believe it’s aligned with their own experience. We are sharpening the focus of our mission by making sure the language is relevant. There's a character and an essence of “what is Gould” that doesn't change throughout time, but the language around it changes.
How does the mission statement impact the strategic plan?
A big part of our strategic plan is looking at the changing world, the world our students are going to inherit, and how we can use our mission statement to make sure we are positioning our students to have the greatest success now and in the future. We will build alignment and ensure our mission statement reflects the core and essence of Gould, and then build a framework around the three pieces (mission, vision, and values) to guide us in our decision-making.
What’s next for the strategic plan?
The strategic design team is working with Greenwich Leadership Partners (GLP) to strategically back into a draft of our strategic plans by first writing a vision statement. The words we choose will be very important and chosen for a strategic purpose. The vision statement will lead to the refinement of our values and mission, and then the team and GLP will work together to build a strategic framework around it. Expect to hear from the Stratgic design Team as we socialize our work and iterate based on your feedback.
What is expanding, and what will Gould be removing?
Mr. Smith explained there are so many wonderful programs at Gould, and there are so many great things we do, so this process has to be thought about as an evolution, not a revolution. The purpose of the process is not to throw everything out and start anew, but to be thoughtful about the 75 or 85% of what we do today that's going to remain unchanged. What do we need to reduce or eliminate to make space amplify our signature programs and unique strengths? We have to take away 10, 15, or 20% of what we currently do, or modify it in a way that will create efficiencies. We have to figure out how to focus on delivering an exceptional educational experience, supporting social-emotional learning, being present for the students, and creating strong relationships. These are the strengths of our school and pairing them to program experiences is essential. Gould’s senior leadership team is also analyzing programming parallel to the strategic design team’s work. One topic that has come from the analysis is whether we should use trimesters or semesters. It’s looking very likely we're going to change our structure from trimesters to semesters, or some version thereof. There are a couple of great reasons why this makes sense for Gould. First, with trimesters, there are six marking periods of the year that are time-intensive for teachers to write comments and deliver report cards. With semesters, six periods would be reduced to four.
Second, with trimesters, the biggest pain points of the year for our community are at the end of the fall trimester and the end of the winter trimester. At the end of the fall trimester, the days get darker, the first snowflakes fall, then Sunday River opens, and most of our students are involved in activities on snow in some shape or form. This excitement and distraction happens at the same time as our two-week fall trimester finals preparation and exams. It disrupts the natural flow of what students are trying to do, and this creates tension between coaches, teachers, and students, so we're working against our own self-interest. The same thing happens at the end of the winter trimester at the end of February. Teachers are working hard to calculate grades and write comments, while at the same time also heading out in the field for Gould’s signature Four Point program, which is also the same time of year that our main marquee winter athletics have their championship events. We are working against our own self-interest in these moments.
What does Gould hope to have accomplished by the end of the year?
Gould engaged with Greenwich Leadership Partners in early 2022 and initially, we were hopeful we would have our first draft of the plan by the end of December 2022. That timeline has been pushed out from December to maybe April, the strategic design team will continue to work through the winter and present something to the board at our spring meeting. There could be a final draft for the board to review at this point, if so, it would be a point of adoption, and then release and publication.
What is the overall timeline?
The next step of the process is for the strategic design team to start writing and revising a draft of the vision statement and plan, which they will bring to our constituent groups for feedback and revisions. Reviewing drafts with constituents achieves two things: One is that it improves the language and clarifies the vision. The other thing it does is it starts to build alignment around the message because anyone who's been involved in the process will have already seen it in draft form. GLP is not doing the work for us, but they're keeping us on a timeline and guiding us with structure and logistics about how to form our committees, what to do next, and helping us understand the stages of the process.