Thursday, February 5, 2009

Where Are We Now?

It's funny how the first half of the year was spent largely assessing where we are and where we want to go. Now that we're in the other side of the year, our focus has moved to what we are going to do to get ourselves there. I presented an update at the January Board meeting to give trustees an overview of the kinds of conversations that had taken place over the fall. Now it seems appropriate to share some of those here. By January, everything had finally coalesced into a clear view of what we need to do.

Last spring we launched our new website which has begged more of the question about how we present ourselves to the rest of the world (literally!). What is the language we want to use in order to best represent ourselves? Our first committee, the Marketing Committee, was formed and has been meeting regularly. It is for all intents and purposes the Advancement Team - Director of Development and Alumnae, Director of Communications, Director of Admissions, and me. One of our main thrusts has been to convince everyone on campus that it's important to relay whatever is happening on campus to these 3 offices so that they are aware of what's happening and talk about it appropriately. As Eric Swartzentruber, Director of Admissions, said to the faculty, "There is virtually nothing you do that I don't want to know about." As a community, I think we've improved drastically here.

Looking for language has also begged the question of what new language is "out there" in current research literature. What should we be aware of, and how does it inform what we do? The Administrative Team decided some months ago to divide itself into pairs, each one of which has chosen an area pertinent to working with girls and has read at least one new book on it. Pairs have made reports to the team which has engendered some excellent discussion and key questions for consideration as we move forward. Topics brought to light so far include: competition among girls and how to foster it in healthy ways, in both athletics and the classroom; the leadership style of Eleanor Roosevelt as a model of female strength and success; and relational aggression in girls and what can be done to mitigate it.

Much of our findings here have helped us understand that work in other areas of the school this year is on the right track. We have been working on creating broader academic help access to students and have created a plan most people are excited about. Starting next year the Academic Skills program will be housed in the Library, making it more of an Academic Center. In addition, two peer tutors will be assigned to each class period so students will be able to find help any time of day. Further, we will run a four-year weekly seminar program out of this Academic Center, providing each upper school grade a focus on particular skills building and self-reflection. This aligns nicely with some of the work already being done in the middle school.

A sub-committee of the Curriculum Committee has been looking at our current schedule and how it might change to afford us the time for much-needed work. This would include advisor periods, faculty and departmetn meeting times, and a tighter class schedule. We are also in need of better alignment between the middle and upper school schedules.

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