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Dear Friends of Storm King,
Season’s greetings to you all! The campus is oddly quiet today; the students having just departed for their winter vacation. And as I write this letter from my office overlooking the now-empty campus, I am again struck by the suddenness with which this School—any school—“deflates” when the kids are gone. It’s a bit like the brief pause after a deep exhalation. One hears one’s own heartbeat for the first time in what seems like ages. Quiet afternoons like these are a luxury, of course, and they never last very long. Good. It’s good to take a breath—to have a moment to recall and to process. But it’s also good that in two short weeks our community will be together again. All over the campus I’ll once again hear the kids’ banter and laughter, see the bustle and the horseplay and be in the company of kids being kids. It’s good. It’s energizing. It’s what we do.
These few hours of quiet have afforded me the opportunity to reflect upon all that we have accomplished these past months. In particular, following up on the strategic planning retreat of which I wrote in my last newsletter, much work has been done to finalize our new Strategic Plan. In this edition of “From the Head’s Desk" I will outline the new Plan and explain some of the thinking that went into its creation.
As the name implies, strategic planning is a process that looks at the institution from a long-range, macro perspective. In a typical process, the participants—stakeholders that include trustees, alumni, faculty, parents, students, and administrators:
Once drafted, the strategic plan and its attendant funding initiatives are approved by the Board of Trustees and the plan is launched. Monitored by the school’s administration and the strategic planning committee of the board of trustees, the plan remains a living document, driving decision making and being evaluated constantly against benchmarked progress indicators. It’s rare for a good strategic plan to find its way to completion without some revision; successful plans are robust yet adaptable. After all, who can predict five years ahead with absolute certainty? But a long-range focus is essential to deliver any plan to completion. One needs to know where one is going to chart the best course.
Mission and Core Beliefs:
As the SKS planning weekend began, participants discussed the longstanding mission statement as well as beliefs and values that underpin that statement. Much of the conversation affirmed the statements, but the mission statement was revised slightly to better reflect current thinking.
The Storm King School inspires students toward academic strength and confidence with a caring faculty in a community that embraces character, balance, and trust.
The statement of core beliefs was similarly discussed and reaffirmed.
Over the course of the weekend, much praise was heard for the School’s various educational programs, among them the Mountain Center, The Learning Center, the International Program, the Advanced Placement Program, the Theatre Program, the Creative Arts Center, the Visual Arts Department, the ESL Program, the Behavioral Intervention Program, and the Student Leadership Program. For a school of its size, SKS has developed an inordinately large number of discrete programs over the years to serve the varying and evolving needs of the students.
Acknowledging the incongruity between such a complex organizational structure and Storm King’s small size, many questions and concerns surfaced about inefficiencies and the School’s lack of a readily apparent central organizing principle. What ties all of these programs together? Might it be Storm King’s highly individualized approach, which provides a semi-custom educational experience for every student? This is indeed the glue that binds together so many apparently disparate components and is the core of the SKS identity.
Much consideration was given to the question of the School’s image in the marketplace—its “brand.” And, as conversation continued about this topic, a strong consensus emerged around the following “value proposition,” which has subsequently been adopted by the Board of Trustees:
Today, The Storm King School is a small college prep boarding school dedicated to the success of each student. Blending the best of traditional educational methods with new and emerging technologies, SKS tailors highly individualized programs to meet the varying needs of each student. At Storm King, students are helped to dream big, work hard, and achieve success, each in his or her own way.
This statement captures the essence of what makes Storm King unique, special, and consistent with its heritage. It focuses upon that which is held in common school-wide, rather than emphasizing individual programs within the School, some of which have been misunderstood as inconsistent with the School’s mission. The value proposition statement reflects the School’s historic commitment to help kids from a wide variety of backgrounds and ability levels to achieve academic success within a safe, supportive, and values-oriented community. Many alumni from different generations and eras have told me that this was the very nature of their experience at SKS. Our school remains focused today on the success of individual students, encouraging them to dream big, helping them to translate those dreams into goals, and guiding them along the path to achievement. The faces may have changed over the years, but the center of our school remains unchanged.
A Vision for the Future:
In 2017, The Storm King School will celebrate its 150th birthday—its sesquicentennial. Looking ahead to that important celebration, the School’s leadership has united around an inspiring and challenging vision of what SKS will become during the intervening years.
In 2017, The Storm King School will be a vibrant and energetic community of 150 thoughtful and inquisitive students, benefiting from a talented faculty and a spacious, well-equipped campus facility. The program will balance the best aspects of the School’s traditional, college-preparatory heritage with emerging educational imperatives and innovations made possible by new technologies. Storm King will have solidified its reputation as a school of student-centered excellence—one that focuses upon fulfilling the individual potential of each student. Character development will remain at the center of each student’s experience. In a supportive, caring community students will develop the skills, values, and habits of mind to enable them to assume positions of responsible leadership in a global, 21st century society.
This Vision Statement speaks of a school working hard to realize its ultimate potential. It is itself a very real analogue for the SKS educational process that guides students to become their “best selves.”
Strategic Goals and Tactical Initiatives:
To achieve this remarkable Vision, the following overarching strategic goals have been drafted, as well as the specific tactical initiatives that address priority needs in several areas.
Strategic goal: Enhance and develop campus buildings and grounds so that they meet the current and emerging needs of the School and also mirror the beauty of our surrounding landscape in the Hudson Highlands.
Business and operations
Strategic goal: Improve business and operations to generate a sustainable and secure future for the School.
Strategic goal: Develop a self-sustaining, strategic, and forward-looking Board of Trustees.
Strategic goal: Define and improve The Storm King School’s program so all aspects are marked by a clear focus on mission, unity of purpose, and a student-centered pursuit of excellence.
Branding and Marketing
Strategic goal: Create and disseminate a focused brand and identity.
Strategic goal: Grow and stabilize enrollment with mission appropriate domestic and international students, and maximize the number of students in our population for whom Storm King is the first choice.
Alumni and Development
Strategic goal: To provide adequate ongoing support for the School, its mission, and its programs, establish new links and revitalize existing links to alumni and other constituent groups.
The 2012 Strategic Plan, outlined above, was adopted by the Storm King Board of Trustees at its November meeting. The product of a large core group of SKS stakeholders, led by the Board’s own Strategic Planning Committee, this Plan represents the group’s best thinking, hundreds of hours of research and discussion, and a considerable amount of follow-up work by Committee members. It boldly looks ahead to five years of ambitious, coordinated efforts, with a clear vision of the end result—a Storm King of which we can all be proud.
Much work has already been done to bring this Strategic Plan to life, and going forward I am confident in our collective success. To that end, I invite every member of the extended Storm King community to consider the ramifications of this ambitious plan and to imagine how you might become personally involved in the good work ahead. Our success will come in direct proportion to our ability to attract new investment in our vision. I encourage your intellectual and philanthropic investment in this vision for an enduringly great school… your school, our school.
With warmest regards for the holidays,
Head of School