Pride and Promise
I love August!
There is a wonderful spirit of pride and promise that fills the air as we welcome students back to campus for a new school year–and as we enter into a new year of our school’s five-year strategic plan.
Before we launch fully into a new year of strategic goal work, though, I thought it might be helpful to share with the CA community a brief overview of our progress to date. What were we able to accomplish in the first “official” year of our current plan, and where are we headed next?
Goal Area 1: Authentic Engagement
Our Year 1 work in this goal area focused largely on strengthening our capacity to support the social-emotional wellbeing of students and expanding opportunities for experiential learning outside the classroom. Key components of that work included:
- formalizing a new Student Support Services department that brings together all personnel and programming involving student support services and student health and wellness across grades 6-12.
- adding a new student support position to coordinate SEL programming for grades 6-12, as well as transition programming for students moving from 8th to 9th grade.
- creating a lead advisor role in each Middle School grade to focus specifically on development of the SEL curriculum at that grade level.
- launching X-Day as a school-wide structure designed to break down barriers of time and space and open new possibilities for exploratory and expeditionary learning.
In Year 2, we look forward to seeing our Student Support Services department become the unifying driver of our collective efforts to help students develop healthy identities, build collaborative and trusting relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. We will also introduce a number of enhancements to our X-Day programming, streamlining the schedule, engaging students more effectively as co-designers, and grounding all activities more fully in the experiential learning cycle.
Goal Area 2: Institutional Flexibility
Our Year 1 efforts in this goal area centered on implementation of a new daily schedule featuring a later start to the school day, fewer class meetings/transitions per day, a longer Middle School lunch break, and a flexible Wednesday. We also shifted to a semester system in the Upper School to reduce grade focus and anxiety through fewer reporting periods.
Year 2 will bring another refinement to our daily schedule–the alignment of class periods and advisory periods between Middle and Upper School. This change not only makes it much easier for faculty and students to collaborate across divisions, but also creates new opportunities for Middle School students to be grouped with Upper School students for certain classes, particularly in world languages and math. Year 2 will also see implementation of a new academic calendar, made possible by the Middle School joining the Upper School in the shift to a semester system. Some advantages of our new semester-based calendar include a better distribution of faculty workdays and professional development days across the school year and the addition of a weeklong break in April that is more in line with spring break periods at other schools.
Goal Area 3: Strong Connections
Some major highlights of our Year 1 accomplishments in this goal area include:
- celebrating 25 years of Cary Academy through anniversary events and storytelling.
- expanding the use of Groups and Resource Boards in Blackbaud as ways for employees and the PTAA to share information.
- utilizing the Hub (café and store) as a means to build new internal community connections.
- introducing Almabase as our platform for alumni networking.
- creating a new leadership program for students in grades 8-10.
- conducting a student-led visual art audit in the Upper School and purchasing the art pieces recommended by the students.
In Year 2, we will continue to build upon the work above while also tackling some new projects, such as reconceptualizing our admissions viewbook as a digital/interactive experience for prospective families, relaunching the Parent Ambassador Program, and hosting the national ISEEN (Independent Schools Experiential Education Network) Winter Institute.
Goal Area 4: Appropriate resources
Year 1 saw a great deal of transformative work in this goal area, including:
- completing the renovations to the Upper School building.
- developing a strategic framework for ongoing DEI work with our employee base.
- drafting a financial aid strategic plan and revising financial aid policies to address generational wealth in the financial aid process.
- launching a community-wide Giving Day and initiating the Thrive for 25 Campaign in support of capital funds.
- forming a new Campus Operations division that unites the facilities, landscape and grounds, safety and security, housekeeping operations, campus logistics and facilities rentals, and transportation departments into a single cohesive team to promote better communication, collaboration and efficiency.
- preparing to introduce three new technology solutions aimed at improving the community experience (Pixevety for photo management, Incident IQ for Helpdesk ticketing, and Adobe sign for internal workflows and external signatures).
Much of our Year 2 focus in this goal area will be on the continuation and finetuning of the work started in Year 1. In addition, we will begin planning for renovations to our Middle School building.
As you can see, we have much good work to celebrate in our strategic efforts to date, and much more good work still ahead of us. Pride and promise abound!
I wish you all a happy and healthy new school year filled with discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence, and I look forward to the next stage of our strategic journey together.