Ted Talks March/April 2023: Guided by Our Strategic Priorities
Ted Graf, Head of School
Friend of Headwaters and longtime school psychologist, Rob Evans, has taught us that schools, when faced with change, have more in common with religious congregations than they do with companies or other organizations. It’s demonstrated in our commitment to values, mission, and relationships, especially in the important and immeasurable areas of connection and community.
All schools (and ours is no exception) do their best to adapt as conditions around us shift, but we always endeavor for our Purpose, Promise and PACT to inform and direct those changes.
So, with five weeks remaining in the school year (and Elementary Field Days, High School Prom, final field trips, the Community Picnic, Primary Move-Up, Senior Symposium, IB Exams and several concerts on the horizon), we are very much focused on the present, AND we are preparing for next year and imagining what it needs to be and what it could be.
Though none of us knows exactly what next year will bring, we are using our strategic priorities to guide our thinking. Here’s what’s emerging as some of our major themes and needs for next year:
Community & Culture – Building community requires effort and intention. I envision us actively rebuilding and rekindling community for parents, faculty, staff, and students next year. As several parents have said to me, we need opportunities to be back on the campus(es) that are low stakes and fun.
People & Talent – Faculty (and staff) compensation work must continue next year. We need to find ways to deepen and amplify what’s great about teaching at Headwaters, AND we must continue to work on enhancing salaries, especially as the cost of living in Austin increases. In order to retain guides, we need to develop more options that support their growth.
Programs – In light of national and regional data about student wellness, our curricula and programs need to continue to emphasize social and emotional learning, and the benefits that come from self-directed learning. On the River Campus, we will introduce The Social Institute into middle and high school advisory; it will allow us to support our students to think differently about their relationship with technology and digital platforms. We look forward to sharing this learning with parents across our programs. We will also implement SmartLab Learning across the middle and high school, and we need to explore how that initiative can be extended to the early childhood and elementary programs.
Operations – Since each of our campuses is at or near capacity, we need to continue to find ways to care for our buildings, while making them as functional and beautiful as possible. This includes enhancements like the Creek Soccer Field and smaller, but impactful projects like outdoor water stations.
Finance & Development – Given the persistent economic uncertainty combined with the growth of Austin, we must complete the school size study begun this year and set a course for the right sizing of our school. We expect to have more to share about this project and our thinking soon after Labor Day. As our systems in finance continue to evolve, we will deliberately build support for our Strategic Priorities and plan for the school’s needs in the future. And thanks to the ongoing generosity of two families, we are seeking to expand our PACT Scholars program, so more deserving students can have access to a Headwaters education.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – As a foundation to our work on Community & Culture, People & Talent, and Programs, we are looking to move our work in diversity, equity, and inclusivity forward by having campus-based faculty leadership. In our vision, these DEI Coordinators will facilitate the design and implementation of projects on each campus. The coordinators will also join the Inclusivity Advisory Group, a cross-campus group made up of guides, parents, and administrators from across the campuses, as we work smarter in the critical areas of identity formation, advocacy, and embracing diversity.
One of the great joys of my role is getting to be present at the end of year rites and rituals (it helps that I tend to be an extrovert). I hope to see many of you at those celebrations, and I hope to hear your plans for the summer and your hopes for next year (and beyond).
As a 501(c)3 non-profit school, Headwaters School does not discriminate because of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other classes protected by federal, state, or local law in its admissions, hiring, or board membership processes.