Strategic Plan Year 3 Update: 2018-2019 Achievements and Exciting Next Steps

By Ryan Dahlem, Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives

St. Margaret’s aspirational Strategic Plan continued to guide innovation across all areas of campus in the 2018-2019 school year. The professional community executed action steps created through the Design Thinking process to achieve larger Strategic Plan goals identified by the Board of Trustees. Now in its third full year of implementation, the Strategic Plan remains alive as ever and is driven by the engagement and creativity of the professional community.
The following is a summary of achievements on strategic initiatives during 2018-2019 and a preview of next steps in each of these important areas.
Health and Wellness
  • Redesigned school schedule launched with overwhelmingly positive feedback and measurable improvements in student sleep habits and perception about the schedule’s impact on academic and co-curricular pursuits.
  • Parent education: PTF Parent Up Speaker Series presented visiting experts in sleep, technology use and mental health.
  • The Social Institute brought to campus to engage students and parents in positive uses of technology
  • Physical education program expanded to Personal Fitness and Wellness
  • Nutrition education pilot featuring healthy advisory snacks and nutritionist presentations to Upper School students
  • Red Ribbon Week expanded to include mental health challenges
  • Assessment, Intervention and Care Committee formed to identify and support students
  • Magnus Health data used to identify student health trends
  • Next Steps: student engagement survey selected through Stanford University’s Challenge Success program to better understand daily experience of students and measure progress in health and wellness initiatives; formal partnership entered with Social Institute to expand social media education; homework analysis conducted to assess volume and relevancy; programming developed in personal goal setting, purpose and meaning to help students pursue larger intentions around purposeful lives and their impact on the world
Elevating Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Innovation Block mini-courses launched in grades 11 and 12 based on student interest and choice
  • Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop expanded to Middle School program
  • Lower School STEAM Block expanded to grade 4
  • Reggio Emilia implementation deepened in Preschool
  • Debut of WOW Night in Preschool to showcase student learning
  • Innovation Grants 2.0 featured development of new interdisciplinary learning experiences
  • Artist in Residence Ken Horii visits from Rhode Island School of Design
  • Next Steps: New courses approved for 2019-2020 in architecture, artificial intelligence, advanced engineering and research methods in American studies and social movements; Innovation Grants 3.0 expanded to include funding for creation of interdisciplinary, cross-divisional and experiential curriculum; Innovation Block mini-classes expanded to grades 9 and 10
STEAM and Entrepreneurship
  • Girls in STEAM Symposium expanded to full-day event with more than 100 students attending from throughout Southern California
  • St. Margaret’s earns Common Sense Media School designation and hosts Digital Citizenship Symposium for local educators
  • Virtual reality experiences expanded through acquisition of Google Expeditions cart
  • Tartan Tank Incubator Pilot provides guidance for students interested in taking next steps with innovative solutions
  • Innovation Block mini-courses offered on start-ups and personal finance
  • Next Steps: VR programming class offered in grade 7, robotics programs expanded and supported through dedicated robotics space in Library, STEAM curriculum developed for Lower School Outdoor Classroom, mySMES implemented to consolidate and enhance student user experience with learning management systems
Cultural Competency and Global Education
  • Director of Equity and Inclusion Victor Cota concludes highly successful first year in new position
  • Equity Team formed with focused subcommittees on a PK-12 cultural-competency framework, professional development, culturally responsive teaching, hiring and retention, and data and measurement
  • Survey administered to professional community to assess areas of strength and pathways for growth
  • Language and Culture Day expanded to include opportunities for celebrating all cultures including and beyond Spanish, Chinese and Latin in the world languages department
  • World Leadership School educator pilot in Costa Rica, summer 2019
  • Initial discussion regarding St. Margaret's international partnership or campus
  • Next Steps: Develop and implement action plans from Equity Team subcommittees; Spanish III course in Salamanca, Spain planned for summer 2020.
Experiential and Service Learning
  • New Upper School service-learning model based on consistent relationships expanded to Grade 10
  • All-School California Wildfire Relief Initiative raised more than $8,000 for L.A. and Northern California Dioceses wildfire relief efforts
  • Celebration of WE event hosted at St. Margaret’s
  • Professional Development with Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN)
  • Outdoors Independent Senior Project (ISP), a Colorado River canoe experience
  • “A Revolutionary Experience” created in grade 5
  • Next Steps: Upper School service-learning model expands to grades 11 and 12; annual all-school service-learning project formalized with culmination at spring eucharist; many Innovation Grants funded to support development of experiential lessons and activities where students are learning by doing
Professional Development
  • Professional Development funding aligned with Strategic Plan goals
  • In-service days split between all-school and divisions based on feedback from professional community
  • Inclusion of Professional Community office colleagues during in-service days
  • Sustainable budget increase (3.2 percent)
  • Positive feedback trajectory regarding relevance and application of content from in-service days
  • Next Steps: On-site professional development through Stanley H. King Institute for Middle and Upper School advisors; enhanced professional development
Institutional Advancement
  • Campus Master Plan
    • Second phase of Upper School renovation completed fall 2018
    • Construction of new Upper School science lab completed fall 2018
    • Creation of Lower School STEAM Center including remodeled science classroom, ICE Lab and CUBE completed fall 2018
    • Construction of new Lower School Outdoor Classroom completed fall 2018
  • Significant endowment growth to $12.6 million
  • Communications strategy prioritized on strategic initiatives.
  • Next Steps: Renovation of Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC); relocation of Wee Tartan Center to ECDC; remodel of Library space including construction of dedicated robotics lab; construction of front entrance monument; construction of maintenance and transportation center
Additional Highlights:
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California