Planning Committee Meets To Review School’s Priorities

The Strategic Planning Committee met for the first time earlier this month to begin its reevaluation of Phillips Academy’s overall mission and priorities for the next five years. The planning process includes the Board of Trustees, faculty members, alumni, and students, who will work together throughout the year to establish a set of directional goals for the school and community. Since “we’ve been doing this for 20 years,” according to Susan McCaslin, a Committee member and an instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, the meeting “is not a sign that there are big problems at Phillips Academy.” She continued, “The directional goals the Committee will set will influence how resources are allocated over the next five years, although the details of how the goals are implemented will be the responsibility of others.” In preparation for the first meeting, each Committee member received a packet of information about the many facets of the school with which to become familiar. Using knowledge gained from these documents to supplement their personal experiences, Committee members wrote their own description of where they would like to see the Academy in five years. Envisioned in an ideal scenario free from financial constraints of any kind, these proposals served to highlight the differences and similarities of the members’ goals for the school and to express the authors’ views on the direction the Academy should take in the near future. The Committee then considered the external and internal environmental factors that will affect the school in the next five years. Two of the factors that attracted the most attention were economic and legal ones. When the Committee last met in 1996, the economy was booming. Thus, the outlook for fundraising seemed bright, and the Committee could plan to apply the donations and solicited monies to improve the school—a process that paved the way for Campaign Andover, the most successful independent secondary school fundraiser in history. Now, although the economy’s depressed state places limitations on the school’s goals and renders large-scale projects more difficult to complete. The Committee, said Ms. McCaslin, must “try to work past external challenges and look inward for strengths and weaknesses.” The potential legal restrictions on the Academy’s growth also represent an important concern. Jeff Domina, Committee member and instructor in English, said, “The legal climate affects how the school can do what it wants for its students. When legal issues arise, it takes time away from running the school.” Mr. Domina characterized the duties of the Committee as “directional planning, not implementation,” because any recommended changes would have to go through other bodies before changes are enacted. Temba Maqubela, Committee member and instructor in Chemistry, called the group “the most democratic Strategic Planning Committee Phillips Academy has had.” The faculty elected Domina, McCaslin, and Maqubela to the Committee and the administration appointed Douglas Kuhlmann, instructor in Mathematics, and Lisa Svec, instructor in German. The Trustees on the Committee include Chair Sandra Urie ’70, Oscar Tang ’56, Molly Lasater ’56, and Dan Cunningham ’67. Though not official members of the Committee, Head of School Barbara Landis Chase, Board of Trustees President David Underwood ’54, and Chief Financial Officer Neil Cullen also attended the first meeting.