Embracing Childhood: An Update to the Strategic Planning Process

Since May 2015, we have been engaged in a grand process. Called Vision 2021: Playing to Our Passions, Grounded in Our Purpose, over 60 members of our community spanning the breadth and depth of our Board, faculty, staff, parents, and students in grades 5 and 6, have met in various forums – mixed and unmixed – over several months to debate and discuss the future of The Children’s School.

To quote one member, we now stand at an inflection point in our history. The choices we make today will impact current and future generations of TCS families and faculty for the next decade. So far, our conversations have stretched into our distant past to our founding in 1970, as well as into the future needs of children as indicated by our broader culture. We have examined questions related to our identity as a progressive school, our brand as an elementary school, wondered about the continued efficacy of our current end point in sixth grade, and immersed ourselves in other institutions – schools, non-profits, and big corporations – to understand how questions of identity, culture, community, and leadership impact everyone beyond TCS.

Some things have already emerged from these explorations: The Children’s School fills a void in the Atlanta educational community and performs essential service to citywide families and children. In these months, we’ve understood that our brand is how we purposefully care for and nuture children and childhood in times of incredible and, almost unlimited, opportunities and threats. We honor the beauty and promise within each child through the core beliefs clearly expressed in The TCS Way.

It may seem obvious to you reading this that I, as an educator and head of school, would write about children. But I contend that this issue of caring for our children’s futures is relevant to not just educators and parents. The likely consequences of the opportunities and threats surrounding us – entrepreneurship, innovation, self-expression and self-fulfillment, global access and engagement, war, displacement, religious and ethnic strife, immense gaps between the wealthy and the poor, and more – will stretch beyond our lifetimes and impact our children’s lives well into their adult years. How we attend to our children will determine their service and attitudes towards the rest of the world. The lives we touch today can be motivated and inspired to change the world tomorrow.

So what’s next for our strategic planning? This week, the Vision Team will meet one last time on Thursday and Friday and chart a series of bold statements that will provide a backbone for the next five years. These bold statements will be passed along to the Board of Trustees for feedback and approval at their January Retreat. We will then commence deeper engagement with the full community to articulate more clearly and concretely the work required to realize the intent in the bold statements. At that time, I expect to reach back out to you and request your participation and commitment.

I leave you with the following thoughts as you consider the full meaning and impact of our strategic plan: Every generation wishes to leave behind a safer, healthier, and happier world for the next one; I sometimes wonder reading and watching the news whether that will be said of our generation. If you know me well, then you know my love of superheroes and comics. I see our job as educators and parents, perhaps naively at times, as firmly ensconced in the struggle between good and evil. While we do not serve every child in Atlanta or the world, I do believe that The Children’s School offers a compelling model on creating compassionate, curious leaders who will and are changing the world already. The work we are doing now, then, is so much more than just creating our school’s future; it’s about securing our children’s futures.