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Mission, Market, and Stewardship in the 21st Century

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

On my third day on the job, near the end of a get-to-know-you meeting, a frequent occurrence in these early months, a colleague asked if I planned to change Waterford’s mission. As you know, mission statements serve to articulate an organization’s fundamental reason to exist. Ideally, a mission statement informs, inspires and guides decision-making.

Waterford’s aspirational mission centers on inspiring students to embrace “learning to learn,” and because learning is communal, to accept the notion of indebtedness and the responsibility to enrich the lives of others as we pursue the nobility of a well-lived life.

Each day, in all divisions of the School, we work to intentionally “operationalize” the aims of our mission through the delivery of curriculum and program that meets the needs of all children.

Therefore, if mission shift is considered, it must be an inclusive, collaborative discussion that incorporates input from all school constituents and done within a greater framework of long-term strategy.

As you might imagine, I reassured that curious coworker that there were no immediate plans to alter the mission. Instead, I reframed the conversation around the opportunity to collectively write an exciting next chapter here at Waterford School through a comprehensive strategic planning process.

As has been outlined in my Charge, this is a year of discovery (for me) at Waterford. An opportunity to listen, learn and deeply understand the people and the program. Presently, we are interviewing facilitators, who will guide a planning process, likely to begin in the late spring. This effort will involve faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, board members and community members and will last six to nine months. Engaged information gathering through surveying, focus groups, and analysis of the competitive landscape will be a vital to our progression. Following data collection, a steering committee will synthesize information and guide the examination of the mission, and formulation of a vision and set of core values.

They will then articulate 3-5 goals to guide our activity over the next several years. Subcommittees will be utilized to build action plans, with requisite resources to ensure proper execution of the plan.

As we travel the planning path, we will pay close attention to the intersection between mission and market as we work to honor the galvanizing tenets of our mission and consider market forces that will ensure a healthy Waterford School in the years ahead.

This year’s guiding theme, A Responsible Life, is essential to our mission. In very real ways it frames a universal life-time pursuit – what does it mean to live conscientiously? Stewardship frames our work ahead as we reverently consider our past and eagerly shape the future.

In partnership, I look forward to the journey ahead!