By Jay Rainey, Head of School
If you were on campus in 2015, you might have noticed, for several weeks, some large green signs on campus exhorting parents to “Take the survey!” Why?
Because the survey was going to help us determine strategic priorities for the School. We really wanted to know what was on the minds of our parents: what they value about Randolph, why their children are here, and what their hopes are for our future.
We really wanted to know what was on the minds of our parents: what they value about Randolph, why their children are here, and what their hopes are for our future.
The survey received a terrific response, with 71% of our parents taking part. In addition, business and civic leaders from the greater Huntsville community participated in one-on-one interviews with our consultants, and we sought the opinions of families with school-age children outside the Randolph community as well. In all, thanks to the combination of these efforts, we now have a more precise understanding of what our community needs and values. This heightened awareness makes our current strategic planning work more accurately
focused on how we can best strengthen and develop our program.
Randolph’s last strategic plan, hatched in 2011, identified priorities for continued advancement of the School’s mission, offering an ambitious and aspirational road map to ensure relevant and strengthened programming, greater integration with the wider community, ongoing commitments to professional growth and leadership development, and financial sustainability for a fully enrolled school. Dedicated teachers, administrators, and trustees have worked tirelessly to implement new programs and strategies to ensure a student-centered program that best meets the needs of the students of today and tomorrow.
Randolph has benefited notably from many of the initiatives set forth in the 2011 Strategic Plan. Among these are:
- A revised daily schedule in the Middle and Upper schools to support program needs, reflect the School’s commitment to relationships, allow for collaboration, and promote student engagement in all areas of the School’s mission.
- A renewed emphasis on student-centered programming, through assessment of participation expectations across academics, arts and athletics, as well as opportunities to encourage student initiative throughout school life.
- Creation of dedicated weekly time for faculty professional development and collaboration.
- Implementation of a parent ambassador program, which includes academics, arts, athletics, admissions, and development.
- Growth of the School’s endowment to $15 million, strengthening the School’s financial position and providing for long-term sustainability.
After a period of significant enrollment increases, the School’s growth rate began to level off – a trend mirrored in enrollment patterns at other independent schools across the country – and this shift led us to question whether our growth-oriented Strategic Plan continued to be well suited to our “new normal.” In a community with strong public school options, and on the heels of an economic downturn, Randolph found itself with outstanding faculty, programs, and facilities, but with a need to reassess its understanding of the School’s value proposition to families.
Our interest in better comprehending the unique aspects of our market and ensuring that Randolph is optimally positioned to meet those needs for promising students was identified and acted on by the School’s leadership in 2014.
In the fall of 2015, the Randolph Board of Trustees received a report from a year-long demographic and market study conducted by Art & Science Group, a highly respected firm that offers data-driven strategic market research and recommendations to some of the finest independent schools, colleges, and universities in the country. This study was commissioned prior to my arrival at Randolph, and I am grateful for the proactive work of Dr. Hulsey and the Board of Trustees in laying the groundwork for our efforts to ensure that Randolph will continue to strengthen its position as the preeminent school in our region.
Over the last several months, the entire faculty and staff have participated in a process to imagine future directions that the School might take as we write our next chapter. In collaboration with the Board of Trustees, we have drafted the School’s 2016 Strategic Plan, a plan designed to highlight unique and differentiating initiatives that will enhance the value of a Randolph education for our stakeholders.
A Randolph education is expensive, and we recognize the significant investment that our families make to ensure that we are a national class school providing outstanding teachers, learning experiences, and opportunities to our students. It is with this spirit that we embarked on a thorough examination of current and future initiatives that will provide the greatest long-term investment value to our families. Our 2016 Strategic Plan has been informed by the Art & Science study findings, the work of the 2011 Strategic Plan, and input from faculty, staff, and the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee. We have adopted a “2020 Vision,” which guides our work: To provide individualized, unique, and challenging learning experiences that maximize opportunity for students and lifelong value for families.
This vision statement headlines a strategic planning framework that puts us in the best position to identify, implement, and be accountable to forward-looking initiatives. The Board of Trustees has guided our efforts, and the resulting objectives, affirmed at the May 2016 Board meeting, are intended to further differentiate the value of a Randolph education.
Objective 1: Establish signature initiatives to enhance the learning needs of all students.
Objective 2: Prepare students to address real-world challenges and opportunities through innovation, creativity, and design thinking.
Objective 3: Articulate and communicate the value of a Randolph education to internal and external constituencies.
Objective 4: Establish, enhance, and improve campus facilities in support of strategic initiatives and ongoing school programs.
Exceptional learning opportunities occur every day at Randolph, and these strategic objectives reflect, to a great extent, the efforts that are already underway in many areas of the School’s program. But we know we can do more, with greater coordination, integration, and cohesion. We look forward to the challenge of ensuring that the students in our care are provided with learning opportunities that only Randolph can offer in our market.
We have articulated specific goals pursuant to each of our strategic objectives, and this spring our faculty and staff working groups drafted strategies and measures to help us achieve these goals. The School’s executive leadership team in tandem with the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee is presently engaged in finalizing the strategies and measures that will round out the 2016 Strategic Plan.
While our strategic initiatives are being developed and implemented, Randolph will continue to invest in a set of “non-negotiable” commitments that define our students’ and families’ experiences at school each day.
- Character formation and education
- Community outreach and support
- Cost-sensitivity and tuition control
- Education of the whole child
- Educational excellence and challenge
- Faculty growth and development
- Love of learning
- Research-based curricula
- Student safety and security
- Student-centered decision-making
It is an exciting time to be a Raider! We concluded an extraordinarily strong and promising school year, and we have an opportunity to embody the principal watchwords of our 2020 Vision (individualized – challenging – valuable) as we look forward to the future.
Randolph’s tradition of academic excellence continues, and we are committed to ensuring that the depth and breadth of experiences offered at Randolph will continue to instill in our students the intellectual curiosity, problem-solving skills, and emotional intelligence needed to find success and fulfillment in a rapidly changing world.
This article was the cover story in the Spring 2016 issue of the Randolph magazine. We will keep you updated on the progress and impact of the Strategic Plan as it evolves. Watch for future posts or subscribe to this blog and to the Head of School's blog to receive new posts via email. Magazine cover shows a detail of art by Mariam Hassoun '16.