A Letter to Parents (May 2019)

Mark Turner

Dear Parents,

I write as the school year is building toward a final crescendo. Exam candidates are in the thick of testing, graduation ceremonies and closing celebrations are being planned, and the final pieces are being placed in the staffing jigsaw for the next academic year. I thought I would bring you up-to-date with our progress on the construction of our new strategic plan and several other news items.

Student shadowing – A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to shadow a Grade 7 student through the routine and rhythm of his busy day. As we think strategically about the future, I felt it important to experience first-hand the nuances and cadence of the daily timetable from a student’s perspective. The day proved to be extremely enjoyable and informative! I learned that our students are certainly busy, however the close support from faculty and the stimulating lessons meant that time flew past. I was particularly impressed with the quality of independent learning that was achieved. I plan to repeat this successful experiment with students from other grades in the future.

Strategic Plan – It is important for a Head of School to devote time not only to the detail of the daily timetable, but also to the broader vision for the school as an institution, and the community as a whole as we look to the future. Over the course of the last week or so, we hosted Caroline Wood, from independent consultancy RSAcademics. Caroline was able to report back on the key findings from what is possibly the broadest ever survey conducted by an independent school in Canada. To date, we have formally surveyed all members of the Board of Governors, our faculty and staff, parents, students and approximately 3000 members of our alumni community. As you might expect, this has given us a vast amount of data. We now have the important task of analyzing the data to give us the themes that will become the pillars on which our new strategic plan is built. We are in effect transitioning from a ‘consultation phase’ – to the next all-important ‘construction phase’. I am pleased that we are on track to deliver a draft plan to the Board of Governors, early next school year. It is our intention, to then approve this and communicate it to all members of our community during the Fall. It is still our goal that the new strategic vision will be effective from January 1, 2020.

Admissions – The school currently finds itself in a strong position. We are experiencing record levels of enrolment with strong wait lists at key points of entry. This year has also seen the best retention figures for some time. The credit for this must go to Paul Leslie, Director of Admissions and the team he has built up. At the recent dinner hosted by the Board of Governors to show appreciation to our faculty and staff, I was informed about the long list of Paul’s achievements. One of these is the transfer to continuous enrolment which will be introduced in the next school year.

Paul Leslie has made the decision to retire from SMUS and will leave a team with notable delegated authority. I am delighted to be able to announce that Paul’s lieutenant of five years, Alexis Lang Lunn, has been appointed as our new Director of Admissions. After a competitive broad-reaching, country-wide search, Alexis’ professional expertise shone through. Alexis will also bring her direct experience as a mother of two successful SMUS alum from the point of first contact through to graduation. I know that Alexis will be keen to reach out to many of you in the coming weeks and months.

Staffing – I would also like to inform you of two other key appointments. Lynne Cordy moves from our Admissions team to the position of Boarding Services Coordinator. I have also been delighted to welcome my new Executive Assistant, Sally Green. Sally has many years of experience in this role as the Executive Assistant to three Heads of School at St. Margaret’s School. I know that she will want to reach out to many of you as she starts the daunting process of getting to know our extended community.

On Wednesday, I enjoyed attending the Junior and Middle School Choral Concert. If anyone needs further evidence of the general quality of a SMUS education, it was there clearly audible and visible on the stage of McPherson Theatre. I applaud Duncan Frater, Junior and Middle School Choir Teacher, for encouraging our students to such a pitch-perfect peak of performance! What was notable in my view was the ‘effervescence’ of the evening. Our students were not just seen, they were engaged in the experience – giving their all and demonstrating ‘joie de vivre’.

I will be writing to you again, at the end of term to sign off the academic year, but for now as we go through what looks set to be a busy and productive period, I wish you well and thank you for your continued support.


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