At the end of April, the St. Stephen’s community gathered to celebrate the launch of the school’s new five-year strategic plan, Spark 2023. The event marked the culmination of a yearlong process of envisioning the many ways that St. Stephen’s can continue to reach new levels of excellence across all areas of campus and student life in the next five years.
“Throughout this past year, members of our community have engaged in a collaborative process of revisiting our history, redefining our core values and mission, and recommitting to our founding principles,” Head of School Chris Gunnin said at the event. “We also have joined together to dream boldly about our school’s future and to imagine ways that our institution can continue to grow and even more meaningfully fulfill our mission to prepare Spartans to live lives of meaning and service.”
Guided by Christina Drouin, founder and executive director of the Center for Strategic Planning, the comprehensive strategic planning process ensured that a wide range of participants — students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni and trustees — were able to participate in the creation of the plan. The number of contributors was impressive: 178 people attended the core value sessions in the fall, more than 1,000 people responded to the online surveys, 176 people gathered for Visioning Day in January, and more than 80 people participated in the initiative drafting sessions.
Using the school’s core values and mission as a guidepost, participants ultimately outlined three primary goals, 14 strategies and close to 60 strategic initiatives that will help us achieve our collective vision for the school without straying from the philosophical framework on which St. Stephen’s was built. The resulting goals and initiatives all branch from a single, overarching vision for the school’s future: By 2023, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School will be a vibrant and inclusive community inspiring all learners for lives of meaning and impact from The Hill to the world.
A highlight of the launch event was the presentation of this new vision and strategic goals by a group of 7th grade Spartans — members of the Class of 2023, whose senior year coincides with the final year of the plan. After Crawford Arnow read the vision statement, Shaina Schechter presented the first goal: “By 2023, the enduring mission and core values of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School will inform all policies and practices.”
Preston Miles read the second goal: “By 2023, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School will be a boarding and day community that provides a balance of joyful exploration, reflection and self-discovery, and the vigorous pursuit of excellence.”
Lexi Bielinski announced the third goal: “By 2023, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School will be an informed and innovative community that champions solutions to social, environmental and ethical issues.”
The students were followed at the podium by a number of teachers, staff and parents, who spoke about the specific plan initiative they were most excited about and felt would have the greatest impact on the school and its students. Their selections highlighted opportunities for better integrating boarding and day students into shared campus experiences, building solar capabilities to power campus operations, ensuring that all students have access to the full scope of student experiences regardless of cost, developing a dedicated design thinking lab, and creating additional internship and alumni networking opportunities for students, among others.
Gunnin brought the evening to a close with a final message of thanks to everyone who lent their time and talents to the strategic planning process. “Thanks to the full participation of so many, the nearly 60 initiatives we have committed to are ambitious, compelling and fitting to this school we love,” he said.
“Throughout the year, I have been impressed time and again by the energy and commitment with which the full community has approached this process,” he added. “Everyone involved embraced this project with healthy doses of care and consideration. Members of every constituency in our community showed up, rolled up their sleeves, explored, researched, reflected and dreamed together about ways we can become an even stronger learning and living community in the next five years. This was a full community effort. And the full community showed up and dove in.”