HARD AT WORK Sophomores Kaelan Swinmurn, Lili Brush, Ming Zhu and Connor Pederson work on their AP Computer Science Principles research projects in the computer science lab. As part of the strategic plan, the school is working on advancing technology, which included getting 18 new iMacs for the computer lab. (Photo by Mehdi Lacombe)

Administration aims to strengthen school’s public image via strategic plan

After a year of both committee and all-school meetings, Country Day has released its strategic plan to the community and general public.

The strategic plan sets out guidelines and goals for the next five years. It covers a variety of areas, such as academics, community outreach, economic growth and physical expansion.

The planning committee, which includes head of school Lee Thomsen, head of high school Brooke Wells, teachers and administrators, works together to improve Country Day’s collaborative environment, according to head of community outreach committee Christy Vail.

Thomsen said the school tries to improve in three ways: “innovating students’ learning experiences, partnering with the community and positioning Country Day as a valued school.” These rules set specific guidelines that improve the school’s environment.

Director of advancement Rachelle Doyle said that the committee is separated into three groups based on the three rules. Each group is focused on a different aspect of the overall goal and understands the problems. In the past, the committee has solved finance problems, fixed spacing issues and started more community events.

Over the past year, parents, students, staff, alumni and consultants were contacted about their opinions on certain aspects of Country Day. They were asked about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the school, according to members of the committee.

“Everyone likes to know that we have a plan for the next five years,” Wells said.

“Instead of staying still, we continue to grow, so it is important to always have a general idea as to how our school will function.”

Director of finance Bill Petchauer said that the committee is trying to raise the profile of Country Day and portray itself as a center of learning and leadership for students and adults. Solutions are being proposed, such as allowing adults to come to school and give seminars about education. Marketing firms are currently being contacted about modifying Country Day’s visual identity as well, which includes changing the school’s logo.

Raising the profile of the school will  allow it to partner with different companies so students can take classes that are not offered on campus, such as dancing, according to Thomsen.

“The biggest thing that I hope to accomplish within the next several years is to see if we can create a new performing arts center for our students, which will replace our current MP Room,” Thomsen said.

Thomsen hopes to use this new building for productions and plays put on by the drama department.

Senior Josh Friedman, who has been in the drama program since seventh grade, said he was excited about the new MP Room.  

“Since lower school, I’ve been hearing promises about a new fine arts building, and I’m super excited that it’s finally happening,” Friedman said.

“Our (current) MP Room is terrible for music and drama. The light system is outdated and hard to use, and the backstage area is very small.”

Doyle said that on top of new infrastructure, the school is currently creating a service-learning curriculum through the whole school.

“Service learning is a program which offers time for students to reflect on their actions,” Thomsen said.

Lower and middle school students will be volunteering with different places that relate to their learning at school. According to Thomsen, there have been no finalizations about how frequently this will be happening.

Last year, the public purpose committee, which works with the service aspect of the school, submitted a proposal of guidelines about this service-learning program, and the program will be implemented in lower and middle school by next fall.  

Wells said that the school is also currently working on the advancement of technology-related learning. Five years ago, students started taking online computer science courses. Once more students started taking online computer science classes, the school hired teachers for those subjects. And earlier this year, a computer lab was installed, making it easier for students to learn and do code, according to Wells.

The learning committee is looking at adding more computer science classes in the high school and more electives in middle school to utilize the computer lab. Next year, a higher-level computer science course, AP Computer Science B, will be offered. However, no decisions have been made about the teachers, Wells said.

Wells is also in charge of the scheduling committee. The goal, he said, is to make changes with the daily class schedule to incorporate class requests of all students. Wells said that the final schedule will be finished later this year.

Friedman also addressed his opinions about the schedule.

“I know there has been quite an effort to change from a rotating schedule to a block schedule, and I really don’t want that,” he said.

“Some classes are required to meet every day to pass the AP exam, such as AP U.S. History or AP Physics C, and with a block schedule, this is not happening,” Friedman said.

Friedman also said that he hopes long period won’t be taken away, as it adds more material to be covered about once a week per class.

In the lower school, the teaching and learning committee used research from other online studies to train teachers to better meet the needs of students, according to Vail.

A drill known as responsive classrooms was done with lower school teachers to help them understand the social and emotional state of the kids.

According to Vail, teachers are trained about the emotions of children after certain situations with the goal of helping teachers understand the perspectives of students. Although this drill has been done with only the lower school teachers, the committee is hoping to do this drill with the other teachers on campus as well.

The main guidelines of the strategic plan were finalized in May, and updates about its implementation are still being developed. A copy of the strategic plan  can be found on Country Day’s website.

—By Sanjana Anand

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