Strategic Plan Unveiling and Discussion With Community, Jan. 14, 2016 | by Mark Evans, Chairman of Strategic Planning Task Force and Campus Development Committee


Last Thursday, over 75 members of the Shining Mountain community joined together in the Mary B. Winston Atrium of the Festival Hall with standing room only to hear and discuss the school’s strategic plan.

Jane Zeender, School Director, and Will Paradise, Board of Trustees President, led off with some of the history about the plan. While the school has developed several strategic plans over the years, we took a different approach with this one. First, we wanted to have a very concise and action-oriented plan―ideally 2-3 pages containing a few key bullet points that would be supported by more detailed sub-points, as many as possible with specific actions and target dates. Second, we followed a process called Future Search, whereby 40 or so community members gathered in August for a 2-day off-site meeting to develop the fundamentals underlying the plan. The group included parents, faculty, administration and alumni, including founders of the school. At that off-site gathering, the group identified issues and ideas, grouped them into themes, voted on their importance, and then developed approaches to tackling them. What a great way to truly bring together the community to develop a shared understanding of what is important and a shared vision of what we need to accomplish!

At the September all-community meeting in the Festival Hall, the community again came together to hear what the Future Search process had generated, and to participate in an abbreviated version. About 60 community members were able to contribute their own perspectives about each of the major themes, adding to the trove of ideas we can draw upon to achieve our goals.

Five major themes emerged from this process, and the Strategic Planning Task Force (Mark Evans, Will Paradise, Jane Zeender, John Marr, Michael Shaun Conaway, Mark Feigal and Debbie Brown) began the process of gathering input, refining the exact meaning and language of the themes, and defining and exploring options to accomplish the goals of each of the five areas. Knowing that the strategy we set today will guide the school’s choices for years to come, we committed to being rigorous and comprehensive, with a bias toward action. We broke out of the comfort zone and included unconventional and audacious options as possible approaches. One thing is for sure—that gets the conversation going! We met weekly for several months, developing and assessing options, redefining and refining approaches, all the while gathering input from the board, faculty, staff, parents and non-SMWS community members. The final result is a plan that truly captures the critical areas we must work on together to make Shining Mountain thrive.

Sharing the plan with the broader community was the purpose of last week’s meeting. It was great to describe the plan and how it came about. And it was wonderful to have an extensive Q&A, covering just about every aspect of the strategies. The main points are:

  • There are 5 strategic themes:
    1. Financial sustainability and physical improvements
    2. Family satisfaction and retention
    3. Marketing and community engagement (“telling our story”)
    4. Vibrant engaged community
    5. Parent education
  • Each of the strategies is actively guiding school decisions and actions, and will do so for years to come
  • Each of the strategies is owned and supported by one or more groups of people who are responsible for implementation
  • There is A LOT to do!

You may read the entire Strategic Plan here.  We hope that you will become familiar with the strategies. And more importantly, we hope you share our excitement about the direction of the school and the bright future ahead of us!

As you can imagine, this is not a stopping point. We are moving full steam ahead. If you have comments, questions, ideas or an interest in learning more or contributing, please use the forms below to contact the team members responsible for leading our collective efforts.

Contact the Board of Trustees form

SMWS Strategic Plan Feedback form

 Thank you for joining together to make the Shining Mountain community of students, families, faculty, staff, alumni and neighbors flourish!