Future Search: Establishing a Five-Year Plan By Will Paradise, Board of Trustees President
As a new parent at SMWS I remember wondering why all the passionate folks with great ideas rarely got together to help move the school forward. I heard ideas at parent nights, birthday parties, at school events and in the parking lot but not often in a meeting designed to initiate change.
As soon as I became a board member I expanded on this thought and wondered why various constituency groups, faculty, staff, board members, parents, community members, business partners, donors, and students had no scheduled time together. I wanted to see us all put our heads together in a way that represents all of our interests and concerns in helping to shape the future and lead our school in a direction where tomorrow looks better than today. That’s where the idea of holding Shining Mountain Future Search was born.
In my 25 years with Whole Foods Market I participated in 5 Future Search events, each one held every five years. Participants included our board of directors, our national leadership team, store team leaders, team leaders, team members, suppliers, and customers. The goal was always: let’s make sure we have all interested stakeholder groups present to help us find ways to become a better company through inclusion.
Future Search is an amazing goal setting process centered on cooperation, honesty, and differing points of view. At Whole Foods we met or exceeded these goals on a regular basis. I’d say that the Future Search process is a big part of what makes Whole Foods successful as a company.
With the generous support of a donor, we held the first Shining Mountain Future Search on August 27th and 28th. The invitees included parents, faculty, staff, donors, the board and alumni parents who were among the founding parents of the school. We wanted to create a space where everyone had an opportunity to hear the diverse range of ideas for the future of our school.
The weekend started with participant interviews. We paired up with someone we don’t normally have a chance to spend time with. The goal was to learn more about another person and to dig deeper on why we are involved with Shining Mountain and what our hopes for the school were. In hearing people talk about their passion for Waldorf education, I realized that if we worked as one we could accomplish a lot.
Friday evening was all about each of us expressing our ideas on moving the school forward. On Saturday we started a process to align on what areas of future development that we needed to work on first. We ended up with a well-rounded set of priorities: from financial sustainability to retention, from community to diversity, and a few other key points.
There really were no surprises but I was excited by the collective energy of the group. We were vocal, collaborative, and enthusiastic. I came out of the experience with a clear vision of where, as a community, we need to take the school. It was so clear from the process that we can tackle anything and create the school we all want. It starts with us.
The next step is to widen the conversation to the whole community in the first Community Meeting. Then the Administration and the Board will use what we learned at the Future Search to define goals for the coming year.
I’m really excited about the way our community has come together and about the future of Shining Mountain. I look forward to seeing you all at the Community Meetings.