Thursday, October 20, 2011

CAIS 2014--An Overview


The following message was sent to the CAIS community on October 20, 2011



Dear Members of the CAIS Community,

This letter is the first in a series of communications in which I will share with you the integrated and strategic school improvement initiatives that CAIS is undertaking.

Our efforts began last year to create and maintain a culture of continuous school improvement that remains true to the spirit of our school’s visionary founders while preparing our children for the future that they will face.

Over a year ago I sent a letter to the community outlining a process for evaluating CAIS and improving the school program.  Subsequent communications from me have included the following diagram, which is a visual representation of the school improvement process at CAIS:


The initial stage of “Observation, Listening and Learning” was based on several sources, which include:
  • 2009-2010 Faculty survey;
  • 2009-2010 Parent Association survey:
  • 2008 Accreditation report;
  • 2009-2010 Chinese and English Program Review;
  • Individual “stakeholder meetings” with members of the faculty and staff;
  • Individual “stakeholder meetings ”with CAIS parents;
  • An array of various group meetings and observations;
  • Research and writing on best practices.

At the end of the first semester, I met with the faculty to discuss the things that I thought we had learned in the first half-year. Based on faculty feedback, I then hosted a community meeting at which I outlined the following five Areas of Focus where I believed the school needed to place its efforts and resources over the next three to four years:
  • Curriculum and Instruction;
  • Chinese Language and Culture;
  • Communication;
  • Technology;
  • School Identity and Culture.
The faculty and community meetings in which I outlined the above themes and priorities led to feedback and subsequent revisions that constitute the “Feedback & Revision” stage of the planning process represented in the diagram above.

Early in 2011 we entered the “Planning & Creating a Shared Vision” stage of the process.  This stage included a series of half-day, facilitated planning retreats, each one focused specifically on one of the five Areas of Focus.  In the planning retreats, targeted teams of faculty, staff and in some cases other CAIS stakeholders met and developed high level statements of vision for each Area of Focus.  The statements of vision are concrete expressions of those things we are committed to achieving by the beginning of the 2014 school year—a date that coincides with the Board of Trustees’ strategic planning cycle.

Early spring of 2011 was focused on “infrastructure” issues; restructuring and staffing in order to ensure the school had the capacity to achieve our vision for each of the Areas of Focus.  The community was informed of the restructuring and staffing plans in February and kept up to date on key hires in the subsequent weeks and months.

Concurrent to restructuring and staffing, groups of faculty and staff began establishing some initial short term goals to finish up the last school year in each of the Areas of Focus.  A goal is considered appropriate and relevant if its successful completion advances the school toward achieving the visions that have been articulated for 2014.  Thus we began making the transition from the planning stage to the “Implementation” stage.

While planning is always ongoing, we completed a major shift in focus from planning to implementation over the summer of 2011.  During a two day retreat facilitated by recently retired Head of School at Head Royce, Paul Chapman, a leadership team of 12 CAIS employees developed all school goals for the 2011-2012 school year, organized primarily around the Areas of Focus.  These goals, which are owned and have been operationalized by various members of the CAIS administration, constitute those things that the school is committed to achieving during the current school year.  Successful achievement of these goals will move us closer to the fulfillment of our 2014 visions for each of the Areas of Focus.

We are calling this plan “CAIS 2014.”  The vision statements for each of the five Areas of Focus as well as the specific goals for 2011-2012 can be viewed by clicking here.  I hope you will take the time to look at “CAIS 2014.”  Obviously it is not an exhaustive list of everything we are doing at the school, but it constitutes an overview of important strategic initiatives. As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, I will share with you more details about the specific initiatives within CAIS 2014 in a series of communications that will follow.  The next one will address “School Identity and Culture.”

As always, thank you for your support.  If we want to go far, we need to go together as a community, and only if we go together will our kids go even further.  That’s why we’re here.     

Best,

Jeff