This story originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of School Ties.
A lot has changed in 114 years. Over the course of the school’s history, the campuses have expanded with renovated and new buildings, the curriculum has transformed to better meet the needs of learners, and the student body has grown and become more diverse.
What hasn’t changed at St. Michaels University School is the commitment to excellence, exemplified in our school values. Through evolutionary changes at our school, our values have been a constant that ensure a SMUS education prepares students for life as leaders and innovators in a rapidly changing world.
Looking to 2030 and beyond, SMUS unveiled Floreat, its new 10-year strategic plan this year. Floreat is a bold plan that builds on the best of the school’s history while ensuring we continue to evolve for the benefit of our students.
“We are protecting the strong foundations that have been laid in the past and we will be confident in those foundations, but we must also avoid being brought into a sense of complacency by all the achievements in our school’s history,” says Head of School Mark Turner. “That requires us being really intentional in looking for the specific areas to improve, to reinforce and to enhance.”
Reinforce and enhance
Floreat, which comes from the Latin for “let flourish,” is an apt word for the school. Through the entwining of our two key roots of University School and St. Michael’s School, SMUS is ready to begin a fresh period of growth from a position of great strength.
Mark describes the plan as a right balance of “ambitious and achievable,” and this growth has been thoughtfully planned out by the school’s Senior Leadership Team and Board of Governors. To deliver on the plan, however, will take effort from the community that informed it.
“I believe we all have a role to play in the delivery of this strategic plan,” Mark says. “There’s this concept of generational equity that having benefited from opportunities when you’re at school, there’s an inherent responsibility to do what you can to help future generations enjoy that same advantage.”
The plan is the result of one of the broadest consultations ever undertaken by a Canadian school. More than 600 alumni, 500 current parents, and 220 faculty and staff completed a confidential survey through independent international consultant RSAcademics, while 87% of Middle and Senior School students contributed their views alongside interviews with Junior School students. Furthermore, RSAcademics held 15 focus groups with 150 people.
RSAcademics reported back positively on many aspects of the school, while identifying areas that could bear further examination. From that work came Floreat’s four Strategic Priorities: Foundation, Preparation for Life, Sustainability and Community. These four priorities encapsulate what we will focus on to achieve excellence in all areas, with student success at the centre of everything.
Foundation is the bedrock of our school. It recognizes the importance of being confident but not complacent in who we are, as we build for the future. Preparation for Life outlines how we will strengthen each aspect of our students’ educational experiences, so they are ready for the world. Sustainability captures how we will invest in our future from both an environmental and financial perspective. Community underscores the role each of us plays in supporting our students and our school through to 2030 and beyond.
Mark says the school consistently heard that SMUS is already a great school, but one that cannot rest on its laurels. Practically speaking, delivering the strategic plan means that SMUS and a SMUS education will evolve as we strive to always be better.
Reinforcing means protecting those ties to the school’s history – through the long-standing values and traditions – but enhancing them to rightly serve the current and future generations of students.
“Every school has to evolve. SMUS has had a couple of evolutionary changes – amalgamation and co-education,” Mark says. This strategic plan will also play a key role in defining the next 10 years and, perhaps even more so, the next 50 years of our school.
Build on our history
To celebrate our shared story, which spans 114 years, during the 2021-22 school year, the school will celebrate 50 years – our Jubilee Year – since we amalgamated to become St. Michaels University School.
“Our Jubilee is a big, historic moment; it’s a moment when we will look back and see where we’ve come from and look forward to plan where we are going in the next 50 years,” Mark says. “It’s a pivotal year. And a 50th year is a fantastic opportunity for a great party!”
Another key piece of the success of the strategic plan will be a once-in-a-generation capital campaign; a fundraiser to help build new buildings and refurbish existing spaces.
Facilities such as the Wenman Pavilion, The Wilson Archives and the Junior School (the former St. Michael’s School) – key connections to our school’s history – all stand to be reinvigorated so current and future students can continue to enjoy them.
“Our school can be dramatically improved by refurbishing what we’ve got already,” Mark says. “It’s for that reason that we’ve focused on these projects. In addition, we have a vision to extend our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) curriculum and create a new purpose-built facility for STEAM learning.”
Flourish through 2030 and beyond
This plan is another important step in the evolution of our school, of which there has been a lot over the last 114 years. That will never stop, Mark says, and for good reason.
“We should all be delighted that the school’s been able to move forward and reinvent itself and thrive. If you went to your doctor and things were done exactly as they were 50 years ago or more, you wouldn’t put up with it; you’d be bitterly disappointed at the lack of progress,” he says. “Our school has been spectacularly successful in evolving to meet the needs of the new generations, and we continue to do that – adapting – to move forward, to make sure we’re serving future generations.”
Mark says he’ll occasionally hear from alumni who, on the surface, find the school unrecognizable from when they attended.
Indeed, much has changed about the school. Two schools amalgamated into one in 1971, which then became co-educational in 1978. Existing buildings have been renovated and new ones added. Course offerings reflect current realities and the boarding houses offer so much more than multiple bunk beds in one large room. These changes were made to improve the student experience and support their success.
However, it is clear some things truly have not changed and that is what Floreat was inspired by.
“The DNA of our school is what we believe in, our Mission, our Vision, our Values. I sense that those values are still consistent with the founding of both schools and the amalgamation to St. Michaels University School,” he says. “Although the school looks different, I believe that the values – preparing students for life through respect, honesty, courage and service – are the same, and they’ve benefited from reinterpretation for a modern world. The Floreat strategic plan ensures we will hand over to the next generation a school that continues to provide outstanding preparation for life.”
A community, together
If we are truly to flourish, it will take all of us joining together as a community in support of the school’s Mission. As we enact this plan over the next decade, there will be many opportunities to learn more about our priorities and get involved. A summary of the plan can be found on the following pages and regular updates on our progress can be found on the dedicated Floreat website at floreat2030.ca.
Alongside the Floreat strategic plan, the school’s Mission, Vision and Values have been updated:
Our school seeks the excellence in all of us, with passion and compassion. We are a community shaped by the pursuit of truth and goodness, providing outstanding preparation for life.
To learn, to lead, to serve.
Respect | Courage | Honesty | Service