Faculty Members See Value in Strategic Plan, Some Voice Concerns with Its Execution

Phillips Academy faculty members generally agree on the value of the Strategic Plan, while opinions diverge on whether faculty members had sufficient opportunity to voice their input. “I think there was very good faith attempt made by the administration to include as many faculty voices as possible,” said Ruth Quattlebaum, Instructor in Art and School Archivist. The recent Strategic Planning Committee included five faculty members, four trustees and three senior administrators. During the 14-month planning process, the Committee considered the inputs of faculty, staff, alumni and students before the plan was finalized and adopted. There were several separate planning sessions for faculty and staff, wrote Mr. Maqubela in an email. In the summer of 2005, one faculty member task force looked at curriculum changes due to the Strategic Plan and another explored how to support students while simultaneously challenging them. Thomas Hodgson, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies said, “[Faculty] played a role in the Strategic Plan all along, although they might not have realized it.” Dr. John Maier, Instructor in Spanish, mentioned that some faculty members are uncomfortable speaking in front of the crowd at faculty meetings. However, he mentioned that there are other outlets for discussion, such as smaller, recorded sessions and written comments. “Inevitably what happens is that if you don’t have a direct democracy then some people, to a certain extent, are going to feel unrepresented in the process,” said Maier. He added that there are advantages and disadvantages to having a “direct democracy.” Mr. Hodgson said, “If PA wants to do something, it wants to do it well. It doesn’t do it just to jump onto the bandwagon or just for a buzzword. It gets everyone on board and involved so we do it right. This sometimes makes it a frustratingly slow process, but later on we will gain momentum as we go.” Nicolas Kip, Instructor in Greek and Latin, said, “Somebody’s got to run it by the trustees and the faculty has in general been unsuccessful as a decision-making group.” Most faculty members agree on the value of the Strategic Plan, though some raised concerns about its successful implementation. Mr. Kip said, “My concern is that it is important for students, faculty, and staff to know about what’s going on…the Strategic Plan has a lot of merit. It’s a matter of executing I’m worried about.” Mr. Maqubela wrote in an email, “I cannot imagine anyone I know who would be opposed to [the Strategic Plan]. I firmly believe that the Plan is fully embraced by the vast majority of the faculty. Where we might differ is in execution, and this too is healthy in an educational institution.” Susan McCaslin, Instuctor in Philosophy and Religious Studies and Assitant Dean of Faculty, said, “As a member of the faculty, I would want the kind of students that are equally talented and greatly diverse.” Mrs. McCaslin went on to stress the importance of ensuring that the faculty are committed to the goals of the strategic plan. Dr. Maier said, “At some times, there are some faculty members that think we are constantly reinventing the wheel.” Jonathon Stableford, Instructor in English, wrote, “In English we are always thinking about the different students we meet, figuring out the best ways to teach reading and writing; so the strategic plan just formalizes something we believe we have been doing.” Mr. Stableford also wrote, “The Strategic plan has major funding implications both for program and for scholarships. I realize this means people in [the Office of Academy Resources] will need to continue to raise money; this may mean that we have to keep the Plan in our language a little more often than we might naturally be inclined to, but I think this is a small price to pay for something good.” Mrs. Quattlebaum said she doesn’t know exactly how the change in the Art requirement will impact her department. “On the surface it looks as if the Arts were being sacrificed for a greater good,” she said. “And that’s speaking as somebody who teaches in the Arts,” she added. Most faculty members agree the plan is valuable and necessary. Mr. Maqubela said, “The value of the plan is to evaluate the execution of our educational priorities to make sure that they are in line and staying true with the school’s mission in the light of the changes around us.” Mr. Stableford wrote, “The strategic plan has two important values. First of all, it reviewed and reinforced the mission of the school…The second value is to force us to figure a way to streamline a little our requirements.” Mrs. Quattlebaum said, “I think Strategic Planning is necessary and it should be done on a regular cycle and believing that, I think that that’s what they are doing. Strategic plans allow you to find out where you are and where you want to go.” Dr. Maier agreed, “The Strategic Plan is essentially a road map for where we are going.”