Creating a pillarless strategic plan

I have been part of four formal strategic planning processes over my career. Each resulted in the same (standard) design with objectives articulated in siloed pillars for easy focus and measurement.

Like many schools, academic excellence has always been the priority pillar among other parallel priorities.

If we made our plan in pillar format, it would be expressed in four independent sections dedicated to advancing Academic Excellence (expressed as Differentiated Learning), Social-Emotional Wellbeing, Jewish Identity and Operational Excellence.

Unfortunately, this construct does not work. It never has, especially in an educational institution.

How can academic excellence live apart from our other objectives? Indeed it cannot be fully considered without its relation to social-emotional learning, Jewish identity, or operational excellence.

The launch of The Leo Baeck Day School’s new Strategic Plan, therefore, shares a fresh approach covering 2022 to 2027.

In this model, no one objective works independently. Instead, every area has interdependence and multiple points of intersection. So connected, they lead to our ultimate goal of creating outstanding student growth and achievement for every child.

Our Strategic Plan is communicated using a Venn diagram showing Leo Baeck’s four main objectives amplified as they connect with an overlapping purpose. The core objectives have the label: Differentiated Learning, Jewish Identity, Social-Emotional Wellbeing and Operational Excellence.

Each strategic decision we make as a school furthers at least two, if not three or all four, of these objectives simultaneously.

Let’s take the example of our School’s desire to implement changes to our policies and practices to encourage a pluralistic community, a goal we have worked towards for many years to ensure everyone feels welcome in our environment.

A commitment to inclusion and diversity ensures that each student is supported so they can achieve academic excellence by first gaining self-confidence from the knowledge that they will be accepted and supported, despite their differences.

The goal of a pluralistic community touches all four objectives:

  • Operational Excellence -ensuring that we have pluralism in our workforce to attract the best employees and ensure they flourish in their careers.
  • Social-Emotional Wellbeing – creating an atmosphere where every student can come to School as their full self, ready to contribute and able to receive new information.
  • Jewish Identity – helping students to understand that Reform Judaism opens the widest possible tent to Jewish expression so that all may feel welcome.
  • Academic Excellence – Our focus on differentiated learning ensures that all types of learners and personal experiences, interests and beliefs are leveraged to propel students forward and achieve even greater learning outcomes.

Conversely, no one action can impact only a single objective.

To continue the example, when creating a pluralistic community, Differentiated Instruction relies on teacher training that relies on operational excellence funding. The same applies to the division coordinators and social workers who facilitate social-emotional learning in our school community. Similarly, student exploration of their Jewish Identity will only be fully realized if they feel socially comfortable and if a diversity of expression is part of our classrooms.

Creating a pluralistic community is one of many examples of why siloed plans no longer fit the planning needs of a progressive school. The same argument can be made for the broad impact of our Tikkun Project or the addition of Division Coordinators to drive social-emotional learning that also require an integrated structure to measure their impact.

I encourage you to watch our video and explore our strategic plan using our interactive diagram that helps explain each priority area for the coming five years. I am confident you will see the potential for our school community, especially when walls are dismantled and objectives are woven together.

May we continue to go from strength to strength as we build the next chapter for our School.

Janis Seftel
Communications Specialist
The Leo Baeck Day School

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