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Reaching Back, Looking Forward

September 7, 2018

How well do you remember 2004? Britney Spears married Kevin Federline. Janet Jackson suffered a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. Friends aired its final episode. And all but a few current Gardner students had yet to be born!

2004 also is the last time The Gardner School started work on a strategic plan. A lot has changed since then, hasn’t it? The population of Clark County has grown by nearly 100,000 residents, and with it a dramatic increase in educational options—including online schools, unheard of in 2004!—available to our current and future students. Where does Gardner fit in this landscape? What shall be our unique contribution to our community in the next decade?

The time is right for Gardner to take stock of its strengths, assess its challenges, and plan its future as a destination school in SW Washington and Portland. This is why the Board of Trustees has elected to complete a Strategic Plan during the 2018-19 school year. Strategic planning enables independent schools to evaluate their vision and mission within the competitive landscape. Through this process, we will identify those facets of Gardner most essential to our excellence and that truly set us apart from other schools in our region. We will emerge from this process with a unified and compelling narrative about who we are, what we do, and where we are going.

As part of our Strategic Plan process, we will identify Big Questions around those substantive challenges and opportunities that will influence Gardner’s long-term success. For example, a Big Question might be “How do we maintain affordable tuition levels while also providing competitive salaries for teachers and staff?” At the end of this endeavor, we will determine those priorities requiring immediate attention while establishing other strategic priorities to be addressed in due time. In addition, we will construct our Strategy Screen during this process. The Strategy Screen is a tool used to evaluate decisions against important and meaningful criteria. Using this Strategy Screen, current and future school leaders can assess not only the fiscal and strategic reasonableness of future actions but also ensure they are aligned with and supportive of Gardner’s mission, values, culture, community, and heritage.

Heritage and tradition are important components of this process. We cannot look forward without reaching back to what has made Gardner what it is today. Nor can we look forward without engaging with our present community, including alumni. In collaboration with our Strategic Planning consultant, Alexa Carver, we have crafted a process that ensures participation from key populations in our community.

During our August In-Service Week, our consultant spent an entire day working together with our Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff. A strategic planning committee–comprised of two staff members (Jared and Jackie), two parents (Rebecca Kendrick, Tahoma; David Wilhoyte, Loowit), and two Trustees (Maida Sussman, Cody Goldberg)–will continue to work throughout the fall and early winter on major components of the strategic plan. On December 5 (early evening) and December 6 (morning), Alexa will moderate parent focus groups in which you are invited to participatealumni also are invited.

Our goal is to publish our Strategic Plan this spring. Between now and then, we will continue to communicate about the value of strategic planning and the nature of our Gardner-specific process. The participation of our community is vital to this work and we look forward to your contributions.



Scott Kerman, Head of School & Gretchen Grey-Hatton, Board Chair
Categories: strategic planning
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