Incoming Strategic Plan Focuses On Inclusion, Innovation and Empathy

The Board of Trustees met in New York City on Sunday and unanimously endorsed the Strategic Plan, “Connecting Our Strengths: The Andover Endeavor,” wrote Head of School John Palfrey in an email sent to the entire Andover community. With the support of the Trustees, implementation working groups will convene on October 3, 2014. Members of the community should expect multiple ways to get involved by providing feedback or participating, Palfrey wrote. Over a year in the making and with the combined effort of over 2,000 members of the Andover community, the Strategic Plan encompasses Andover’s vision for the next three to five years, centered on three main themes: Equity & Inclusion, Creativity & Innovation and Empathy & Balance. “The [Strategic] Plan is really a student-centered plan. We were looking at ways to enhance ‘connection’ at school — student-to-student and student-to-faculty [interactions] as well as amongst the faculty — to promote collaboration,” said Rachel Skiffer, Dean of Policy and Strategic Planning, at a special luncheon hosted to seek student input on the implementation of the Strategic Plan on Wednesday. The 2014 Strategic Plan has the overarching goal of maximizing the resources at and realizing the potential of Andover. “What has happened with previous strategic shifts with Andover is that first, we’ve taken two fantastic schools, Abbot Academy and Phillips Academy Andover, and merged them. We then committed to need-blind admission, so we’ve created diversity of every kind on campus. What we really need to focus on now is how [to] connect our strengths. How [could] we take the different ideas and experiences that people bring to this community and use those to create a better form of excellence?” said Corinne Field ’83, member of the Strategic Planning Task Force. The faculty will brainstorm possible ways of implementation of the Strategic Plan during the faculty meeting today, according to Skiffer. “The purpose of [the Strategic Plan] is to set a series of questions regarding school priorities. So now [that] we’ve defined the priorities — the areas that the school needs to address — we need to put resources to answering those questions,” said Field. Skiffer said, “The implementation will take place over that three to five year span. So it’s not going to be that, on Monday, you will all be attending a whole new school all of a sudden. This way we will also be able to get more feedback from the students throughout the process.” Two of the most immediate and visible changes brought upon by the Strategic Plan are a new daily class schedule and yearly calendar, according to Catherine Carter, Strategic Planning Task Force Co-Chair and Instructor in Classics. A copy of the finalized plan was sent to the Andover community, and the website is currently being updated accordingly. For each of the three themes highlighted in the Strategic Plan, several more specific initiatives were proposed to further guide the advancement and incorporation of these strategic priorities into the Andover community.? The specific initiatives, taken from the 2014 Strategic Plan website, are listed below. ?? Equity & Inclusion – Create and strengthen support structures so that all students may access the highest levels of our curriculum. – Integrate our advising, house counseling and college counseling programs. – Embed intellectual inquiry related to race, ethnicity, class, gender, faith and sexual orientation in our curriculum and other programming. – Hire and retain diverse, highly qualified faculty, administrators and staff committed to upholding our core values. Christopher Jones, member of the Strategic Planning Task Force and Instructor in History and Social Science, said, “Communities like ours can be limited because of the residues of inequality that existed back in history of the school when women and people of certain color and class were not allowed. So we should make certain that we are looking at these elements that can present inequalities to certain population of students here.”??Creativity & Innovation – Launch the Andover Institute, a collaborative space to assess and share teaching methods and learning tools. – Devote professional development to the exchange of effective pedagogical practices. – Develop more experiential, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary courses. – Support teachers in integrating appropriate technologies as part of their classroom practice. Robert Campbell ’66, Strategic Planning Task Force Co-Chair, said, “With the Andover Institute, I expect it will trickle into a large petri dish of innovation for not only teaching practices, but for learning practices as well. I think it’s going to be a period of very great excitement and change within the Andover community building on what we already think is a great school.” Empathy & Balance – Further incorporate social-emotional learning into our educational program. – Open the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center for health care and education. – Create a comprehensive, multi-year health curriculum. – Update the scope and philosophy of our athletic program. – Provide an opportunity for every student to study off campus and experience a different culture. Fields said, “I think there’s general agreement that Andover students and faculty try to do too much, and that we’d like to focus more on depth than on quantity. That this is going to be questions of tough trade-off, that we’re going to have to encourage those students and faculty to set priorities, to define what each individual thinks is most important to him or her.”