Our Strategic Plan in Action

December 2013

The title of our emerging Strategic Plan really does tell you all you have to know about the future of Westtown: we want to grow because we feel we have so much good to share and so much good to do for our students and, through them, our larger world.

Our strategic planning process began in the spring of 2012 when a committee of trustees, faculty and administrators, alumni, and parents surveyed our constituents on critical issues facing Westtown. Five sub-committees were formed to address the strategic imperatives which emerged from those surveys. These groups submitted their reports to the Board in May, culminating a year’s research, data collection, analysis, discernment, and visioning.

Together, their reports comprise the initial mile markers en route to a strategy for Westtown to flourish as an intellectually and spiritually dynamic, intentionally diverse, Pre-K to 12 Quaker learning community. I believe in the power of Westtown to educate leaders with the passion and skills to create a better world. As a longtime Westtown teacher puts it, “I don’t believe that any other school does a better job of teaching humanity than Westtown.” Our challenge is not merely to preserve our mission, but to be imaginative, adaptive, and faithful in fulfilling it because Westonians have something uniquely valuable to offer to the world.

Over the past several months, Board Clerk Jon Evans '73, several other trustees, colleagues, and I have convened gatherings and conversations on campus and well beyond. Again and again we have heard affirmations of how much our parents, alumni, and friends love the school. I appreciate that you want to be informed about what is happening at Westtown today, about innovations in our program and about how we are living our Quaker values and testimonies. I'm happy that you want to hear how we're re-envisioning our transformative residential program, how we're sustaining the talent and dedication of our extraordinary teachers, and how we're ensuring that we will have the resources to enroll a diverse community of students and families who appreciate and share our core values.

We've heard that you want to be engaged, to provide ideas, feedback, and perspective, to partner with us and to support Westtown because of what it has done for you and your family. We look forward to continuing these conversations about how to make sure that what an alumnus called “our beloved global community” continues to build on our foundation that provides transformative experiences for young people. We hope that this web feature provides a sense of all the exciting things that are happening at Westtown that are doing just this, and how important your support is in accomplishing these goals.

John Baird
Head of School

Imperative 1: Deepening Program Excellence and Innovation

At Westtown, we help our students to think -- not just know, to discover themselves, to brim with confidence, passion and purpose while also gaining the best preparation for success. Preparing today's students for tomorrow's challenges requires us to think boldly, which is why Imperative One includes these four crucial steps:
  1. Hiring, developing, and retaining a first-rate faculty
  2. Innovating from existing program strengths to best educate our students
  3. Emphasizing the connection between "students knowing" and "students doing" in all aspects of their education
  4. Determining the knowledge and skills students must possess at the completion of each division and then rigorously assessing mastery of them

So far, we've:

  • Launched a series of innovative programs that will prepare students to thrive as tomorrow's ethically-grounded leaders.
  • Developed The Westtown Science Institute, which is much more than a set of compelling, inspiring programs; it’s a statement. Westtown seeks to be a recognized leader in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). Our distinctive approach will put our values in action by focusing on inquiry (as it always has) as well as on application, design thinking, and creativity.

What's next:

  • The new science building (pictured here) opens on January 7 and will house and inspire creative approaches to educating today’s students and to solving tomorrow’s problems.
  • The WSI is just the start. As the months go on, administrators and teachers will continue to work through each crucial step in this initiative and to share their progress.

How you can help:

Have ideas about 21st Century Education, STEAM, design or some other fascinating educational topic? Have an area of expertise that you’d like to share? Email Margaret Haviland, Westtown's Director of Teaching and Learning.

Imperative 2: Improving Enrollment and Retention

Here's what we know: Westtown students transform into adults of conscience who make the world more peaceful, more ethical, more aware. That's why we believe that having a fully-enrolled school in all divisions is not just important for the school community, but also for the world at large.

So far, so great. In early November we held a record-setting Open House with 145 students and their families touring the School and meeting teachers and administrators. Attendance at the Open House suggested that the word is out that Westtown offers a unique and compelling Pre-K-12 program:

  • Lower School attendance was up 40%
  • Middle School retained the same interest
  • Upper School attendance was up 57%

We have many new strategies for improving enrollment and retention, and chief among them is the new residential policy, established by the Board of Trustees in May 2013. To help map out its implementation, we’ve assembled a fantastic team of faculty and administrators, whom we’re calling “The Community Life Committee.” The lineup includes long-term faculty, alumni, Quakers, as well as current and former parents: Clerks Paul Lehmann '99, Whitney Hoffman Suttell '98 and members Spencer Gates, Linda McGuire, Shelagh Wilson '85, Jeannette Cooper, Elson Oshman Blunt, and Flor Cruz '06.

The Committee meets weekly to research, prototype and design new policies and practices that will preserve Westtown's special qualities and support all Westtown Upper School students, both boarding and day.

So far, the Committee has:

  • Reviewed and digested the work done by last year’s Residential Life Committee
  • Developed a robust list of features of our current program that we want to preserve and enhance
  • Presented their work and held brainstorming discussions with the Board of Trustees and the Upper School Faculty around four areas of Upper School community life: Shared Community Experiences, Evening Programing, Student Leadership, and Weekend Programing. In each of these meetings the group received rich feedback that will guide their work.

What's next:

  • The Committee has scheduled visits to peer schools around the country to see how they build community within their boarding and day student populations.
  • The Committee will set up meetings with various groups of students, parents, faculty and alumni to test ideas and get feedback as we progress through the year.

How you can help:

Share your perspective! Click here to lift up what you think makes Westtown so special.

Imperative 3: Expanding Parent and Alumni Engagement

Westtown leaves the front porch light on, so to speak. We love it when our alumni, parents, and friends come to campus for fun or to help. Our goal is to foster community, celebrate our bonds, and deepen the affinity and affection we feel for each other and Westtown.

So far, we've:

  • Created a truly amazing FallFest that brought parents, alumni, students, faculty and staff together. (Check out the pictures. Good news: We’re throwing another FallFest again next September).
  • Launched the Class Connectors Program, which develops and sustains a strong friend-to-friend network of alumni. The Connectors both represent the members of their class and serve as the liaisons with Westtown to enrich the alumni experience.
  • Reintroduced First Friday Coffees for all divisions to allow parents to get to know one another in a casual atmosphere and hosted receptions for parents at the Head of School’s home.
  • Continued to build connections among the Alumni & Parent Engagement Office and the Parent Councils in our three divisions and increased collaboration among all three Parent Councils.
  • Took the show on the road in a series of nine ‘Town Talks to present the emerging Strategic Plan and give the audience an opportunity to provide input on the direction of the School. Click here to listen to the Boston session, recorded in November.
  • Invited Alumni Association Board and Parent Council members to a Board of Trustees' reception to improve communication and engagement among all groups.
  • Created an alumni Facebook page. Join now if you haven’t already!
  • Launched our new website, which has loads of information and tools for engagement and connection.

What's next:

  • A re-examination of The Westonian so that it better captures Westtown’s magic.
  • The January 2014 launch of the Evertrue mobile app for alumni networking.
  • An expansion of the Westtown Ambassador Program for parents and alumni willing to help refer prospective families to us.
  • Increased engagement opportunities for parents at a distance and parents of alumni.

How You Can Help:

  • Have opinions about communications in general and The Westonian in particular? Click here to share your thoughts. (NOTE: Please don’t complete this brief survey if you’ve shared your thoughts already either online or with the paper version included in the fall Westonian).
  • Talk Westtown up! Share your love of our school with families who may be interested in exploring the benefits of a purpose-driven school. We’ve made it easy to share "The Westtown Difference" with this new piece.

Imperative 4: Strengthening Our Culture of Giving

Our small class sizes, our 600-acre campus, our excellent teachers, our commitment to Quaker principles and our diverse community are at the heart of the Westtown experience. They're also at the heart of why sustaining Westtown is so expensive and essential.

To ensure that Westtown can continue to deliver a transformative education, we need to establish philanthropic support of Westtown as a core principle of the School. After all, Westtown is more than a school; it’s a cause. Giving to Westtown is one of the most effective and most rewarding ways to better the world. To help in that effort, we also must develop and effectively communicate compelling and exciting cases for support as well as build pride in, and recognition of, philanthropy in support of the School’s mission.

So far, we've:

  • Achieved 100% faculty and staff participation in the Westtown Fund
  • Achieved 100% Trustee Giving
  • Made good progress on The 2013-2014 Westtown Fund, running $100,000 ahead of where we were last year with many new participants and increased gifts. We’re so grateful for the commitment and sacrifices, and we’re also not done. Westtown must raise more than $1.2 million to support this year’s budget. So far, we’ve raised more than $500,000, so please contribute now if you can!
  • Developed The Alumni Class Connector Program to engage alumni and initiate more personal peer-to-peer connections
  • Created a series of Board and administration sub-committees with specific charges:
    • Developing a case for support
    • Creating a presentation to the Board to educate them more fully about philanthropy and engage them more deeply in the process of strengthening a culture of giving
    • Crafting a five-year plan for Advancement at Westtown School
    • Designing a Parent Connector Program to help educate current parents about the importance of philanthropy at Westtown and to ask for support from their peers.

What’s next:

  • We'll create messaging, stories, and narratives that resonate with various constituencies.
  • We'll communicate in written materials and social media in a forthright manner the importance of engagement and philanthropy.
  • We'll conduct appropriate internal discussions to develop understanding and "buy-in."
  • We'll develop a strategy to train and engage appropriate groups to deliver the messaging: Advancement Committee, Trustees, Head of School, Parents, Class Connectors, and the Westtown Alumni Association Board.

How you can help:

  • Let us know your stories of how Westtown had an impact on you or your child. Donors today want to know how their gifts make a difference. Send your story to alumni@westtown.edu
  • Westtown is continually seeking grants for a variety of programs and projects. It always helps to have a connection to a granting organization. Please let Meghan Sayer know if there are foundations you think may have missions that align with ours.

Imperative 5: Ensuring Westtown’s Financial Sustainability

The Strategic Plan tells a story about Westtown. Each initiative is a chapter that, when woven with the others, demonstrates how Westtown will thrive in today's and tomorrow’s world. We start with an exceptional program to attract and retain students. We work hard to ensure that parents feel connected, and alumni feel tremendous affinity and affection for the School. We ensure that our employee compensation program is progressive and competitive in the marketplace. And we partner with all our constituents so that they understand the financial model that allows Westtown to do its work.

How does the story come together at the end?

We’re entirely confident that the final chapter ends with a sustainable financial model, which will allow Westtown to achieve its immediate and long-term goals so that we're poised for continued and future consequence.

So far, we’ve

  • Created a five-year financial model for physical plant and School operations
  • Re-constituted the Personnel Policy Committee (PPC) to focus on employee pay and benefits
  • Created a Faculty Compensation Committee (FCC) to support market-rate pay for faculty
  • Completed a school-wide Technology Assessment to support our expanding use of technology
  • Refinanced the School’s bond in October 2012, saving $300,000 in annual costs
  • Improved transparency via presentations and reports to employees and Board members
  • Offered a third-party, tuition loan program to increase payment plan options for parents
  • Offered a high deductible medical plan to provide current market options for employees
  • Revitalized non-tuition revenue through Auxiliary Program offerings and rentals

What's next:

  • We'll finalize our facilities deferred maintenance study
  • We'll review tuition/fee pricing for 2014-15
  • We'll update our campus master plan
  • We'll conclude our technology audit

How you can help:

As you well know, our financial model relies on the contributions of our entire community. We're grateful that so many participate in our efforts. If you're interested in learning more about the ways you can help, click here.

If you read all the way to these final lines, it's clear that you love Westtown as much as we do. Please accept our thanks for your passion, our invitation to continue to engage in our strategic vision, and our best wishes during the holidays.

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