Dear SMUS Community,
On behalf of the Board of Governors I would like to wish you and your families the very best for the New Year.
The past year tested our entire community on many different fronts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It certainly was not business as usual and everyone was forced to adapt and make the most of the situation. I want to extend my sincere thanks on behalf of the Board to our students, parents, teachers and staff for successfully rising to the challenges in 2020. While we are still very much on our guard to stay healthy and safe, there is light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel and reason for cautious optimism for a gradual return to normalcy beginning this year.
Your Board of Governors was also busy in 2020 adapting and responding to the new reality. In addition to the five regularly scheduled Board meetings in the year, we met monthly throughout the summer with special Zoom meetings to ensure that our Head of School, Mark Turner, and his team were supported and guided in their COVID-19 response planning.
A major focus of the Board was on assessing the financial risks posed by the pandemic. This led to several initiatives including the creation of a special Financial Aid Relief Fund to ensure that no student would need to leave the school due to COVID-19, and directing management to develop a new three-year financial sustainability plan to help chart a smooth course through the economic uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Both these initiatives and others were successfully implemented and will benefit our entire community.
The Board was also determined not to back off on achieving the initial objectives for the year under our 10-year strategic plan, Floreat. Most notable among those achievements in 2020 was the approval of a comprehensive new Campus Master Plan to ensure that our campus meets the evolving needs of our students over the coming decades, the adoption of a detailed peer-reviewed Enterprise Risk Management Plan to support the best possible risk reduction strategies and measures for the safety and security of our school community and our operations, and the creation of a new Sustainability Committee of the Board to support our goal of being one of the world’s leading schools in its commitment to environmental sustainability.
The Board has set its priorities and plans for this year as part of its 2021 meeting calendar. As you would expect, topping the list is the Board’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that the Head of School has the support and guidance he and his team needs to successfully lead the school through the COVID-19 shoals, including regular monitoring of the three-year financial sustainability plan and its implications for our budgets and financial stability. Other major strategic initiatives in the year tied to Floreat include Board oversight and support for:
- a new Advancement Plan tied to the opportunities in the Campus Master Plan;
- the creation of a whole-school Admissions Development Plan to strengthen the linkages and synergies among our three schools;
- a comprehensive review of the goals, policies and administration of our current financial aid program to ensure it is meeting our current and future needs;
- the creation and work of the Sustainability Committee of the Board to guide our efforts in being a leader in environmental sustainability; and
- establishing the SMUS community-based Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Committee to enhance and broaden our understanding of EDI and its importance to all aspects of school life, consistent with our core values.
In pursuing its agenda, the Board will rely heavily on the work of our Board committees, comprised of both board members and volunteers from the SMUS community and from the many contributions of the Senior Leadership Team. These committees do much of the “heavy lifting” to prepare the Board for its discussions and deliberations throughout the year. I encourage any of you who are interested in contributing at the Board or committee level to please visit the Governance section of the school’s website for further information.
Under the strong leadership of our Head of School and with the support from so many within the SMUS community, the school is well positioned to continue to deliver an outstanding educational experience for our students this year and in the years ahead.
In conclusion, and on a personal note, this will be my sixth and final year as a member of the Board of Governors, including two years as Chair, when my current term expires in October 2021. It has been and continues to be a great honour to serve the school on the Board, and I am very much looking forward to a successful and productive 2021!
Tim McGee, QC