Visioning Day Yields Big Ideas for Shore

On Shore Visioning Day, February 1, 2020, some 100 members of the community came together to collaboratively develop the vision and goals that will define the school’s new strategic plan, Our Future in Focus. Participants, who ranged from alumni to parents of current and former students to teachers and members of the Board of Trustees, all shared an equal voice in the day’s inclusive proceedings as they worked together to envision bold ideas that will shape Shore’s future over the next five years. “We are fortunate to have such a great turnout from all segments of the Shore community,” said the President of the Board of Trustees, Rayna Lesser Hannaway, in kicking off the day of visioning.

The all-day proceedings began in Shore’s Dining Hall with breakfast and remarks from Hannaway and Head of School Clair Ward. “Today is an important stop along a journey that began more than two years ago,” said Hannaway, “when our administration, faculty, and staff began a very deep examination of Shore for its re-accreditation.” Today, she said, the school has a detailed understanding not only of its own strengths and weaknesses, but also of the challenges facing the independent school market as a whole. “The market dynamics across the independent school landscape require us to challenge the status quo in everything that we do. We need an aspirational vision that is well aligned with the desires and needs of our community. We need to reimagine the Shore experience, embrace innovation, and continuously find better ways to serve our teachers, our students, and our families. And we need to do all of these things in a way that’s financially sustainable.”

Head of School Clair Ward was next to speak. “When I see this many people in a room together all focused on the same thing,” Ward said, “I feel so humbled by the gift of your time and your energy.” She continued, “The reason we are here is the children. We are all interested in raising incredibly creative, incredibly motivated kids. And their joy and exuberance for learning, their connection to the caring adults on this campus, and their ability to see this campus as their home—these are our real inspiration here today. This is our chance to think big, and these times are going to require transformational thinking.”

Ward then introduced Shore’s strategic planning consultant, Christina Drouin, of the Center for Strategic Planning. Speaker, author, and strategy consultant, Drouin works with independent schools all over the world to advise trustees, heads, and leadership teams on building sustainable schools with local and global impact. “You have a lot of good and fun work in front of you today,” Drouin told the audience. She then explained the process participants would use to generate vision statements for the school, and dismissed the audience to join the small groups to which they’d been assigned during registration.

Around Harkness tables throughout Shore’s Upper School, the 12 small groups of participants introduced themselves and quickly got down to the work of debating strategic priorities based on three main drivers identified by the school’s Strategic Planning Task Force, made up of trustees, teachers, administrators, and parents. The drivers—reimagining the Shore experience, working on breakthrough innovation, and ensuring Shore’s financial sustainability—sparked lively discussions of topics such as diversity and inclusion, technological innovation, global citizenship, expansion of programs, and alternative sources of revenue. According to one participant, “It didn’t matter whether you were a trustee or an employee around the table, all ideas were heard.” Gradually, each group narrowed its focus and worked together to craft a single vision statement describing Shore in the year 2025.

When the groups reconvened in the Dining Hall, 12 individual vision statements were displayed on the wall, and participants used colored dots to vote for their favorites. During the lunch break, votes were tallied, and the top ideas were revealed.

Christina Drouin then gave participants their next task: to develop goals that support one of the top vision statements. Small groups again discussed and debated, then returned to the Dining Hall to display their work and vote. At the end of the second round of voting, it was time to bring Visioning Day to a close. Drouin asked participants to share their reflections on the day. “I was grateful to be included,” one said. “It was inspiring to be in a room with people who were all focused on the future of our school,” said another.

The final vision and goals of Shore's strategic plan will be announced in spring 2020.
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