Dear SMUS community,
Last week, I wrote to you as our Board of Governors anticipated their two-day annual retreat, with the important aim of reaching agreement regarding the 2020-2030 St. Michaels University School strategic plan. I am delighted to report that the plan was debated and unanimously approved.
For me, this strong endorsement represents a great opportunity for us to build momentum behind the progress of our school, as we look forward to the challenges and opportunities of the next decade. This decision is the result of 18 months of planning and preparation, together with a year of Looking, Listening and Learning. You may recall that last year we launched one of the broadest ever consultation exercises undertaken by a Canadian school, that reached almost 5,000 members of our extended community. The detailed and helpful comments made by so many, were then summarized into broad themes, which have been influential in the construction of the new plan. I would like to extend thanks to those of you who took part to give us such a strong foundation of evidence, on which we have been able to build.
We are now working on a communications plan to ensure that everybody who contributed has the opportunity to hear first-hand about the main priorities. As we move into the new year, we hope to hold a number of information evenings which will include question and answer sessions, to give you a chance to hear about the route ahead. We will also produce written material and dedicate space on the website, with the aim of ensuring as many people as possible are aware of our intentions.
At this stage, I wanted to brief you on some broad themes. The consultation exercise revealed a strong sense of community and appreciation of much of what SMUS stands for. Our plan therefore will be, ‘evolutionary, not revolutionary’. We have tried to build on the best of the past, with an innovative and forward-looking approach to the next 10 years. We were told that SMUS has built up a strong reputation over more than a century, as one of the leading independent schools in Canada. This being the case, we will aim to reinforce and enhance that reputation. At the same time as adopting a confident approach to the future, we have identified a series of measures designed to avoid complacency. While the plan will be appropriately ambitious, we have also made sure that it will be achievable, with specific goals as targets.
After extensive debate, and strong endorsement, very little is changing regarding our Vision and Mission. It was felt that the Vision could be abbreviated for more impact, so from January 1, 2020, it will appear in the shortened form, ‘To learn, to lead, to serve’.
The plan is built on four main pillars which have been identified as Foundation, Preparation for Life, Sustainability and Community. The section on Foundation involves confirmation of decisions around our identity. We have confirmed that the school will remain a community of approximately 1,000 students. After a decade of rapid growth, there is no intention to expand it further.
It was felt that the blend of boarding and day students gives SMUS a unique advantage, in that it enhances diversity and provides numerous benefits for both local and international students. We also confirmed that we will be operating as a ‘whole-school’ retaining the existing structure of Junior, Middle and Senior Schools, which allows specialist staff to meet the needs of different grades, with age specific teaching methods.
Within the section on Sustainability will be numerous measures to ensure that the governance of the school, our financial foundations and our approach to the broader environment, are as sustainable as possible into the future.
The Community section will aim to reinforce the School’s already strong reputation, and the bonds that bind us all together. Every one of us counts as we actively strengthen our culture of philanthropy in support of all students. Ambitious reforms, necessary refurbishments and rebuilding, as well as increasing our ability to offer Financial Aid will all be the focus of a once in a generation Advancement campaign.
It is our hope that the strength of our community will again be demonstrated in support for a major capital campaign in the months and years ahead. Indeed, the preparation has already begun through the key message of our Annual Appeal: Participation. Adrienne Davidson, our new Director of Advancement, and her team, are now reaching out to encourage everyone to participate under the banner ‘Every One Of Us.’ If you are not already, please climb aboard and help us build further momentum for our school and its students for the 2020-2030 decade.
I hope from this brief summary, you will sense my enthusiasm for the future. There is so much potential that I am excited about. It will be important that a communications plan ensures that all the key constituent parts of our community are informed in a coordinated way. We will be in touch with details.
I very much look forward to the chance to brief you further over the next few months and into 2020.