I am writing to share with you some initial thoughts about our upcoming Strategic Planning process. This memo is meant as a next step in our ongoing discussions about the future of Phillips Academy.
- Be bold and aspirational: set in place a vision for where we aspire to take Phillips Academy over the next decade;
- Set realistic financial boundaries: frame our vision within the bounds of fiscal responsibility, as we seek to improve our financial model, reduce our endowment draw below its current budgeted level of nearly 6%, and curb tuition increases that outstrip inflation;
- Think beyond Andover: consider the reach of Phillips Academy and also about how we bring in new ideas from outside of our own community;
- Include the community in the process: draw on the good ideas of our faculty, alumni, and others and create a sense of ownership that will lead to success in implementing the plan.
- Build in dynamism: build dynamism into the planning process and the execution, such that we are not locked in to any single direction for long period; and,
- Maintain transparency: communicate to the community regularly throughout the process.
Work to date, 2012 – 2013 school year:
- Peter Currie and John Palfrey have been in a pre-Strategic Plan listening mode and ramping up.
- Initial messaging from the Head of School to the community has emphasized this listening period and inviting input into the process design and topics to be discussed.
- The faculty elected Catherine Carter and Stephanie Curci for the Strategic Planning Committee.
- Rachel Skiffer accepted our offer to join PA as Dean of Policy and Strategic Planning.
- The Board of Trustees will be represented on the Strategic Planning Committee by Bob Campbell, Louis Elson, and Cori Field.
- Engage the faculty in an initial conversation about strategic planning process and topics (4/15).
- Finalize the membership of a strategic planning committee (target date: by April 30, 2013).
- Research, for consideration, best practices from other institutions (ongoing, Spring 2013).
- Finalize a timeline and work plan for the committee (target date: summer 2013).
- Consider the possibility of hiring a facilitator to keep the process on track and support the committee in producing written materials (target date: summer 2013).
- Begin to determine ad hoc groups to explore specific issues in depth (by summer 2013).
- Strategic planning process underway in earnest by June, 2013. The initial meetings are set for June 19 and 20, 2013 in Andover, MA.
- Take advantage of the June lull after commencement and before summer session to convene early discussions with faculty and others on campus.
- We will convene one additional in-person session before the school year begins in fall, if we can get schedules to mesh.
Academic year 2013-2014:
- Primary strategic planning work conducted, with a draft report expected by June, 2014.
III. PEOPLE AND INVOLVEMENT:
- The strategic plan will be developed through a collaborative process that involves the faculty, staff, administration, trustees, alumni, parents and students. The trustees, who are ultimately responsible for the academy’s direction, will guide the strategic planning process, with the President, Head of School, and new Dean for Policy and Strategic Planning engaged in leadership roles. The role of the Trustees is to participate through their representatives and must determine that the plan is aspirational enough; that it is well enough described that we can track its actual progress; and that it do-able from a financial point of view.
- The strategic planning committee will include a combination of important constituencies. The likely model for the Strategic Planning committee will be approximately four faculty members, four administrators, three Trustees, plus potentially a non-Trustee alumnus and/or a non-trustee parent.
- Rachel Skiffer, the new Dean for Policy and Strategic Planning, will lead the process overall (once she begins officially in summer, 2013).
- Several people will serve ex officio on the Strategic Planning committee. The President of the Board (Peter Currie) and the Head of School (John Palfrey) will serve ex officio on the committee. Several other administrators will be involved ex officio and will be included in all meetings relevant to their area of leadership at the school.
- The strategic planning committee will seek substantial input from all constituencies. Faculty will be especially engaged in matters relating to the curriculum and other areas of faculty expertise.
- The strategic planning committee will seek input across the community, from all stakeholders (Trustees, faculty, administrators, staff, students, alumni, parents, and friends).
- The committee will seek feedback across the community using various modes: in person discussions, focus groups, other structured meetings, online engagement, surveys, etc.
- Data needs will become apparent as issues are framed. Data collection will begin in Spring, 2013, as the themes come into view.
- The strategic planning process will begin with a reflection upon the values of Andover and ongoing commitments that guide our work, including the need blind admissions policy, our access to success work, and other ongoing priority initiatives.
- Possible meta-themes to guide the planning could include:
- A “Private School with a Public Purpose”: define what that means for 21st c. Andover.
- Emphasis on the science of learning: improving pedagogy by engaging with the science of learning; traditions of critical thinking, debate, and engagement; and new forms of assessment.
- Establishing a culture of innovation while respecting tradition. Create mechanisms to support great innovations when they are proven successes.
- Scaling and impact, especially with respect to outreach activities. What do these terms mean and how do we make them meaningful in guiding our work and investments? Find the balance between meeting Andover’s needs and those of the world beyond.
- Articulate what defines an “Andover education”:
- Based on shared core values
- An intentionally diverse community of teachers and learners
- The advantage of residential education
- Tools to lead in a changing world, in which the twin factors of 1) globalization and 2) technology are taking on greater and greater force. What does it mean for us to be educating global citizens? How can we use technology to improve our teaching and learning process at Andover?
V. FINANCES AND OTHER CONNECTION POINTS:
- The process of strategic planning should not be driven by funding discussions, but must be informed by financial realities.
- We need to look concurrently, as part of the process, at a redefinition of our revenue and spending models, and consider new and different sources of funds.
- We are currently analyzing our cost structure and should build this learning into the process.
- We must define what should be reduced or eliminated to make room for new initiatives, or at least create a process to do so.
- This process dovetails also with the OAR process underway to determine the post-campaign priorities and modes of activity. We seek to understand the contemporary paradigm of philanthropy and seek to expand supporter base and engagement. Big ideas can lead to big money to make them happen.
- Our communications team will be engaged throughout the process. As we plan, we will be refining the Phillips Academy message and getting it out there, emphasizing communications beyond Andover, MA.
VI. NEXT STEPS:
- Frame overall plan for the committee.
- We have decided not to hire a consulting firm to guide our process. We are extremely fortunate that Rachel Skiffer will be joining us to lead our strategic planning work. We still need to consider whether to hire a facilitator for meetings or to facilitate internally.
- Begin data gathering based upon the big buckets that we will be exploring.
- Get going.