Strategic plans should reflect the vision of a school community. Most do not. Most plans are the result of relatively shallow input from some school stakeholders, followed by a rapid synthesis by a small committee of board and senior administrators. As I have shouted for years, most school strategic plans are a re-statement of “this is what we have been doing for years, and this is how we are going to do it a bit better”.
At Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, S.C. this year, we are taking a VERY different approach that is radically inclusive, public, transparent, aspirational, and yes, a bit messy. And we are truly unwrapping just what this broad community of stakeholders believes and wants for the future.
After a full day in August with about 300 teachers, administrators, trustees, alumni, and about 60 high school students (check out the video), we synthesized four big, evolving themes for the future. Then we sent out a survey to the entire community to find out if those themes were on target or not, or if we had missed something completely. The more than 400 responses we received, along with open, narrative comments confirmed the four themes and added a good deal of flavor to the evolving vision.
Last week we had a VERY long day-and-a-half of feedback sessions, including two packed parent workshops and one with the faculty. But the highlight had to be the 90 minute session in the gym with all 400 high school students! Working in small groups of eight students, four from each grade level, the students selected one of the four themes to focus on; rapid prototyped a new project, program, or process that would move the school ahead in that area of focus; and pitched their plan to their peers in a 45-second shark tank that was recorded on video for further data analysis.
We have gathered and collated thousands of data points about where this school wants to be in the future. When the plan is written we know it will represent a broad, inclusive set of viewpoints. Not everyone will agree with every part of the plan, but we will know it has been built on a broad and strong foundation of community support.