St. George’s School’s purpose has always been about doing what’s best for kids by providing them with the best possible education. And pared to its essence, this strategic plan is about ensuring our school can sustain—and continue to improve—our ability to deliver that exceptional, intentional, transformative education for each and every learner.
As strongly as I believe in this “plan,” however, I have a hard time knowing what to call it. “Plan”—a static noun—doesn't feel quite right. For St. George’s, an action verb is more appropriate. Just as our school is an organic, interdependent, evolving system of individuals, relationships, ideas, goals, responsibilities, plans, and accomplishments, so too is this strategic plan a living, breathing, and adaptive document. As you read through this strategic plan microsite, I invite you to view it not as a dusty old noun, but as a forward-leaning, optimistic, sleeves-rolled-up, ready-to-tackle-the-future verb. Like St. George’s, it won’t sit still. In fact, it’s already in motion.
Over the coming years, this strategic thinking, seeing, deciding, adapting, and doing plan will guide our decision making as we navigate toward our centennial and our vision for the future. Thank you for your continued support and belief in this amazing school. We’re so glad you’re along for the ride!
With deep gratitude and excitement,
Head of School
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Everything, every day at St. George’s is about learning, growing, and evolving.
Most independent school strategic plans aren’t themed.
But then again, St. George’s isn’t most independent schools. The concept of environmental sustainability—of safeguarding natural resources so that today’s actions don’t impede future generations’ ability to thrive—has assumed greater and greater importance for our school in recent years, both programmatically and operationally.
But while that idea is an important element of our strategic plan, it’s not central. So why choose “SUSTAINABILITY” as our theme?
Well, just as the study and practice of environmental sustainability is nuanced, systemic, and difficult to pull off, so is our educational approach. And just as there’s more to living “sustainably” than recycling or switching to LED bulbs, so, too, is there much more to operating a sustainable school than meets the eye.
Actually, while our school is incredibly committed to environmental sustainability, we’re much more committed to ensuring the sustainability of our distinctive philosophy, educational experience, and mission. In other words, we’re committed to making sure St. George’s is still around and still delivering an engaging, transformational education on our 100th birthday in 2030 and for the hundred years thereafter.
So much of this strategic plan is about sustaining our ability to keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing since 1930—ensuring that we remain a model of progressive, child-centred education. But St. George’s School has never been content to just endure, to persist, to survive; this is a school designed to grow, to adapt, to learn, to improve, to lead, and to thrive—just as we intend for our students.
To us, that's what “sustainability” really means—“sustaining,” yes, but more importantly, sustainably growing, improving, and learning, as individuals and as a community.
There was no shortage of meaningful, positive stories from all stakeholders.
Everyone was engaged.
—Community Café reflection
One plan, many perspectives
Because this strategic blueprint is intended to lay the groundwork for our school’s future—for the next year, five years, and many more to come—we invested significant time, attention, and care in its creation. In true St. George’s fashion, the process was both thorough and collaborative. It included (and continues to include) numerous retreats, workshops, and meetings, and relied upon contributions from a diverse cross-section of the St. George’s student, parent, faculty, staff, administration, alumni, and Board Members, as well as outside experts in various fields.
While remaining grounded in our school’s enduring principles, we took the opportunity to consider how those founding ideas might best be manifested today and in the future. By interweaving the lessons of our past, the realities of our present, and the challenges, opportunities, and possibilities of our future, the themes of this strategic vision and plan gradually emerged. After much more planning, debate, consideration, research, and prioritizing by the Senior Leadership Team and the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee, the plan was finalized and officially approved April 21, 2017. And again, in true St. George’s fashion, we got to work before the ink was even dry.
The philosophy of the school has not changed. When I was a student, it was really all about the individual student and how they grew individually, but also how they integrated with, and respected, everyone and everything. The teachers tried to teach us to think “outside the box.” …I loved my teachers, and they loved us.
—Marilyn Hayes, St. George’s alumna, class of 1955
The more things change, the more they stay the same!
In many ways, the themes that emerged from our planning process affirmed what St. George’s has always believed: that this school’s central focus must always be the quality and nature of each student’s individual experience. It should come as no surprise, then, that the plan’s first three areas of strategic focus are teaching and learning; the singular St. George’s culture that envelops, nurtures, and encourages each member of our community; and what educators call the “Third Teacher”—the physical environment in which our students explore, reflect, collaborate, and grow.
Our fourth strategic priority is to ensure that we maintain and grow the human, financial, natural, physical, operational, and reputational resources we need to optimally support the highest-possible-quality student experience, now and for years to come.
The map is not the territory.
—Alfred Korzybski, philosopher
As carefully as we’ve considered, curated, and crafted this plan, however, we know it’s impossible to have 20/20 foresight. While we’re 100% committed to these priorities and goals, and while we begin our journey with a clear sense of direction and next steps, we remain open to course correcting along the way. Thus, as we move from designing to implementing this plan, we will rely on four essential “compass points” to guide our decision making and ensure we stay on course.
LEGACY: Our Foundation
Almost nine decades ago, a group of Montréal parents founded St. George’s School as their courageous, research-based, and forward-thinking response to a simple question: What kind of education is best?
That essential question remains at the core of our school, and at the core of this plan. Looking back, we find both inspiration and timeless wisdom in our school’s history and enduring principles.
SIX FOUNDING PRINCIPLES
Health must come first
Learning comes from doing
The classroom should be freed from unnatural restraints
Adapt education to the differences of the individual child
Group-consciousness and social-mindedness should be developed
The child should have abundant opportunity for creative expression
St. George’s School of Montreal provides a hands-on, well-balanced and rigorous educational experience. Mindful of the different strengths and needs of all of our learners, we prepare each student for what lies ahead.
At St. George’s:
We challenge students to think critically and express themselves creatively; our students are confident problem-solvers.
We provide a nurturing, respectful environment that encourages both self-discovery and collaboration; our students enjoy and value learning.
We embrace meaningful inquiry and thoughtful reflection within and beyond the classroom; our students grow into engaged and compassionate citizens.
Grounded in the themes and practices of progressive education since 1930, St. George’s is aligned and actively engaged with research and innovation dedicated to the education of the whole child.
Every element of this plan is chosen to ensure that we will consistently provide the fertile conditions necessary for life and learning to thrive.
Looking ahead, we envision a school
that identifies and understands the whole, multifaceted person within each student.
that supports learning and fosters the connections students need in order to discover and develop new and existing skills and talents.
that provides proven direction to cultivate new thought, growth, and challenge in the education of each learner and leader.
that sustains a joyful environment where the process of learning and development is celebrated by all.
whose people connect with each other and with outside experts to create a living, thriving system that is continuously sensing and responding to evolving conditions.
The actions and objectives outlined in this strategic plan will create a sustainable, living ecosystem, bigger than the sum of its parts, in which learning grows unrestricted in all directions.
CENTRE FOR LEARNING ENRICHMENT: Our R&D Lab
Progressive education is always coming of age.
—Agnes Irwin, founder of Little Red Schoolhouse, New York City (one of several model progressive schools that inspired the founders of St. George’s)
For all good schools, strategic planning involves looking out, around, within, and ahead—at the latest educational thinking, trends, signals, curriculum, and best practices; at what’s working for their particular school, and why; and toward constant improvement in supporting both student and faculty learning. At St. George’s, though, that highly sensitive teaching, learning, and iterating mindset isn’t reserved for strategic planning; it’s baked into our DNA and everyday practice through the Centre for Learning Enrichment.
While the CLE was formally established in 2006, its “always-on” researching, teaching, designing, collaborating, and sharing philosophy has existed since our school’s founding. Many of us are aware of the CLE’s stellar success in supporting, extending, and enriching student learning. But, under the steadfast leadership of Assistant Head of School, Nathalie Bossé, the Centre’s group of educational experts is also responsible for guiding continuous improvement across the school. Through research, prototyping, and programming, they ensure St. George’s remains on the cutting-edge of curriculum design and deployment, faculty professional development, and awareness of significant educational developments and insights. In other words, the CLE is the engine at the heart of our school, driving perpetual growth and providing essential expertise to everyone involved in bringing this strategic plan’s vision to life.
LEADERSHIP: Our Guides
No single plan can accomplish or even address every operational need. By definition, prioritizing certain areas of school life over others means we'll be making a lot of tough choices in the coming years. Tough choices between competing opportunities, initiatives, and investments. And the tough choices needed to align our precious resources with our most strategic priorities.
In order to ensure that we deploy our time, money, energy, attention, and other resources as prudently as possible, we turn to our school’s leaders—the Board of Directors, Senior Leadership Team, student and alumni and parent leaders, and outside experts—for their trusted guidance and insight. Quite often, our leaders will be choosing between multiple good opportunities, or responding to complicated, interrelated changes in circumstance. That’s why we’re so grateful for the wisdom, discernment, and experience our multifaceted leaders bring to this multifaceted plan.