When our schools are so deeply rooted in that which makes us, us, the mere prospect of change can be a scary endeavor. In order to seek a vision for our future, we must honestly assess our present, acknowledging that which is core to our being and that which must evolve. This is the good, hard work we are doing right now as a community.
Throughout Proctor’s current Strategic Visioning process, we have sought feedback through surveys and focus groups from more than 700 different stakeholders: students, parents, employees, alumni, and members of the Board of Trustee. We have gathered, sorted, and coded thousands of data points, looking for trends, identifying strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and the resources necessary to make progress toward our goals. On Monday, we gathered as a group of more than 65 employees and Board members to dig deeply into our identity as a school and the “immovables” of our community.
While this process for some institutions can get messy (with so many competing priorities and different perspectives on mission), the alignment around who we are and why we do what we do as a school proved powerful on Monday. Proctor has evolved repeatedly throughout its 174 year history, but strong throughlines persist: a community that embraces and supports diverse learners, a community that utilizes experiential learning to unlock a student’s self-worth, and a community that values individuals through mutual respect among students, faculty, and staff. It is on this foundation the Proctor of today was built, and it is on this foundation the Proctor of tomorrow will continue to thrive.
As today’s stewards of Proctor, our responsibility is to look out not just 2-5 years, but 10-20 years at the global trends that will impact Proctor (both positively and negatively) in the future. How can we assure we are positioned to handle the impacts of climate change? Evolutions in virtual learning? Economic downturns and political instability? A shifting workforce? Changing expectations of parents and students? Underlying vulnerabilities in independent school financial models?
Too often schools shorten the time horizon of their planning to that which is comfortable. Reactive solutions are necessary to keep our institutions running, but are far from strategic. Proctor’s goal during this process is to extend our visioning horizon to that which is truly strategic, to look outward at the shifting landscape and evolving world around us. We are working on having the “undiscussable” conversations that are easy to ignore when a short-term solution can provide immediate relief to the budget, to enrollment pressures, or to hiring challenges, but compromises the long-term sustainability of the institution.
Yesterday was an important step in the visioning process, but our work has just begun. We are incredibly grateful to all of the different members of the community who have stepped into this process and who view themselves as owners of Proctor’s culture and Proctor’s educational model. It is because of this ownership mindset that we are confident in our school’s future.