April 3, 2014

Our Mission, Should We Choose To Accept It

Greetings! You won’t see me around for the first three days of next week because I’ll be on a little jaunt up to Steamboat Springs.  Instead of packing my skis and poles, I’ll be traveling with briefcase, laptop and a pile of documents.

As a school head within the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS), it is my honor and privilege to spend a few days helping a fellow school along on their journey of self-improvement.

Each of ACIS’ 32 schools, Friends’ School included, commits to a seven year cycle of evaluation for accreditation. ACIS is a non-profit organization dedicated to the continuous improvement of member schools by providing accreditation, professional development, and advocacy services. It is affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).

A seven year evaluation cycle holds schools accountable for complying with ACIS’ high accreditation standards. The evaluation cycle begins with two years of preparatory work, including reviewing the school’s mission followed by a rigorous self-study process in which the school community conducts an honest and comprehensive analysis of its strengths and challenges in every area of the school.
In year three of the cycle, ACIS appoints an evaluation team that spends four days on campus to conduct interviews and classroom observations, review documents, and develop their own assessment of the school’s strengths and challenges in response to the school community’s self-evaluation. During the school visit, the team evaluates the school’s compliance with government regulations and the NAIS Principles of Good Practice. I will be chairing that evaluation team next week at Emerald Mountain School in Steamboat.

At Friends, we are in the first year of our seven year cycle – the year in which we examine and review our school’s mission. This is our third cycle since the school was first accredited in 1999.

Friends’ mission currently states:

“Friends’ School is a supportive, dynamic community committed to educating the whole child — head, hand, and heart. Our students acquire a strong academic foundation while developing creative expression,
social responsibility, and respect for diversity and the individual. We challenge students and teachers to reach their full potential as engaged, lifelong learners.”

A dedicated team of teachers, staff, parents, and Board members is actively engaged in a process to review our mission.  The process includes a careful assessment of each word in the mission and how it reflects our current practice and beliefs.  Our Board of Trustees holds their annual retreat tomorrow (Saturday) and review of our mission will be part of the day.

Friends’ School’s mission is our “north star”.  It is the lens through which we view our programs and make decisions on what is best for the children in our care.  We are not anticipating that our mission will change dramatically. It is still what we believe about our school community and how our students and Teacher Candidates learn. However, mission review is an essential process for an organization to engage in from time to time.

We welcome feedback from parents and all our constituents on our mission review process.  If you would like to share any of your own thoughts with me to pass along to the review team and the Board, please send me a note.

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