STAY PUT, STAY SMALL, CELEBRATE WOODCHIPS

During my time at The Northwest School, I knew lots of Valley graduates.  I always admired the fondness they had for their elementary school. There was something special about Valley that always led them to consider this their favorite school. 

During our strategic planning process, we spent hours considering the “irreplaceable characteristics” that are vital to our identity and culture. The Aspirational Future Work Group, made up of Board and faculty members, alumni, and parents, looked at how we could preserve these qualities, amplify our impact, and spread the message about the wonderful things that take place at Valley.  Of the five strategic areas – also including Learning Program, Diversity and Inclusivity, Community Relations and Communications, and Campus Plan – this was the group that looked most expansively and broadly at the purpose and future of the school. 

To preserve the best of Valley and to enhance our impact on future generations of Valley kids, and families, we committed to the following strategic initiatives:

  • Increase the standing of The Valley School in our area by further outreach with other schools, particularly through more involvement within the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS).
  • Continue developing our assistant teacher program. Already an obvious asset of the school, it can become an even more prominent destination for people exploring careers in early childhood and elementary education.
  • Expand our summer camp offerings over the next several years. A larger summer camp will enhance our outreach in the community, meet the needs of current families, and support our financial sustainability. It will also provide professional development opportunities for our teachers.
  • Continue our sensible and careful financial management practices that allow us to offer a successful learning program for our students while compensating our teachers and staff fairly and competitively.

Part of what makes The Valley School special is our campus.  In the literature I read about effective schools, I increasingly see education experts citing the importance of school climate.  The climate of a school is based on many elements.  The human element – the community, kids, teachers, parents – has a profound impact on school climate.  But the environment also plays a significant role in building school climate. 

The Campus Plan Work Group focused intently on the environmental and physical dimensions of The Valley School.  We love our campus, with its open spaces, with its classroom buildings scaled to the size of neighborhood homes, with its woodchips, animals, trees, and gardens.  The Board’s Strategic Plan recommitted to our size and grade configuration, with one section at each grade, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. And we committed to preserving the geographical features of the place and enhancing the child-centered dimensions.  In essence, we said, “Let’s stay put, and let’s stay small.” And, like homes, our school buildings require regular maintenance and upgrades, and our budgeting for the future ensures that we maintain the financial reserves needed for wise maintenance and smart enhancements.

As Head of School, one of my goals is to ensure that our kids graduate from Valley with big, kind hearts and active, curious minds – and a fondness for Valley that, years later, will still keep their elementary school ranked as their favorite school.