A Letter to Parents (Start of Term 3 2018-19)

Mark Turner

Dear Parents and Guardians,

At the start of the new term, refreshed from Spring Break and with Mamma Mia! and Seussical tunes slowly receding into the subconscious, I thought I would write to welcome you back and to bring you up to date with several recent developments.

I look forward to catching up with stories from the trips and expeditions that headed off to all points of the compass – to assist with animal conservation and other activities in Costa Rica, to enjoy the cultural and musical heritage of medieval European cities, and to work towards the improvement of quality of life in Tanzania. These trips provide extraordinary, literally life-changing opportunities for SMUS students to develop confidence, broaden horizons and test their potential leadership.

We should not forget those who, closer to home, used the break to maximum advantage. The rowers were in action preparing for the competition ahead in a preseason rowing camp and I know that a lot of exam revision will have been taking place as well.

I must also give special mention to two alumni, Mike Fuailefau ’10 and Luke McCloskey ’10, who were selected to represent Canada in rugby sevens. I enjoyed attending the World Rugby Sevens Series in Vancouver right before Spring Break, where both made significant contributions on the world stage. It was great to have the bragging rights as the only school with two former students represented. I hope that Mike and Luke will serve to inspire the next generation of SMUS boys and girls as the rugby season kicks off next week.

Looking backwards, you may recall that over the first 10 days in March, we welcomed Caroline Wood, consultant from RSAcademics, to lead us through the next stage in our information gathering as part of the process for developing our new 2020-2030 Strategic Plan. We have now received the results of the parents’ survey, with excellent levels of response from the Junior School, and good responses from the Middle and Senior Schools. We have also conducted a student survey with an 87% participation rate across the Middle and Senior Schools. Caroline Wood has completed numerous focus groups with governors, faculty, staff, students and parents selected to be representative of the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools.

As you will appreciate, this comprehensive consultation gives us a huge amount of data and, as expected, there are a myriad of views expressed on almost every subject. This serves to underscore the challenge of identifying clear priorities and principles to which we all subscribe. It also emphasizes in my mind the need for clear leadership. We will not be able to do “everything for everyone,” so priorities will need to be identified and difficult decisions made. That said, I am greatly encouraged that there are also many areas of consensus which gives me optimism that we will be able to construct a plan to allow our school to move from good to great over the course of the next 10 years.

There is so much that is positive. The vast majority of respondents clearly cherish our school, its values and our extended community. I am most grateful for the views, observations, suggestions and constructive criticisms that have been provided in rich abundance.

Given that so many of you have contributed helpfully and thoughtfully to the process, I thought I would set out a rough guide to how we hope to proceed from here:

    • March: Alumni Survey results completed. This has been made accessible to the 3,600 members of our alumni community for whom we have relevant contact details. This will ensure all the key constituent stakeholders in our community – students, faculty, parents and governors – have been given the chance to contribute.
    • April: Further analysis of the Student Survey to be completed.
    • May: Alumni Weekend with feedback from RSAcademics to alumni and to the Board of Governors.
    • Summer Break: Head of School, Senior Leadership Team and SMUS Strategic Planning Committee to work up a draft plan for 2020-2030.
    • October: Board of Governors Strategic Retreat to review, revise and approve 2020-2030 Strategic Plan.
    • November/December to January: Events to communicate broad structure of the new Strategic Plan and feedback on the consultation process.
    • January 1, 2020: New plan to become “active.” This will complete what we believe to be one of the broadest consultations of its type ever undertaken by a Canadian independent school. We aim to be both ambitious and realistic, and to preserve the best of what has evolved over the last century with a bold and innovative embrace of the future.

The survey results show a clear endorsement of our strength as a community and a strong call that we should avoid complacency in the future.

I will keep you regularly informed on progress as we move through 2019 toward exciting times ahead.


  1. Thank you, Mr. Turner, for keeping us well informed. We are sending off our daughter for the last term of this outstanding school year. It’s has been a wonderful journey, we can’t believe it’s almost over. Nevertheless, we are beyond grateful for every single learning opportunity she has had, and the unique experience that SMUS has brought to her and our family has changed us forever. It’s been such a positive impact on every aspect of our lives.

    Thank you.


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