As you look ahead to officially joining St. Stephen’s in July, what are you most looking forward to?
July feels so far away right now, but the weeks are flying by so fast. I can hardly believe it is March already! However, as I think about July, I have to say I am most looking forward to being on campus and being present with the SSESH community. Over the past few weeks, I have been fortunate enough to attend a few events and meetings which have allowed me to meet and engage with families, staff, and community members. Great schools are “people places” and I am excited to continue building relationships and develop a better understanding of how I can best lead the school beginning in July.
The church and school communities are moving forward with key decisions about the scope and timeline of campus development at St. Stephen’s. Why do you think now is the right time to rebuild our campus and partner with a developer?
Based on what I have learned and been involved with so far, it is clear to me that there has been a great deal of time, effort, and reflection put into the campus development plans. The values that make SSESH unique and successful are key elements of those plans. Schools need to maintain an eye on the future and seek ways to invest in evolving into their next better version. We expect the same from students: reflect on your learning, form a vision for how to improve, and take action to realize that vision while leveraging what makes you unique and special.
Campus development projects include many phases and generally move slower earlier in the process in order to move more quickly once actual construction begins. As St. Stephen’s plans for the future, providing fresh learning spaces that can take the school into the future will be a tremendous step in serving our mission in the community. The energy I feel and the feedback I have heard regarding this project are clear signs that the time is right for this campus project.
How will new facilities benefit the school?
Whenever facilities are refreshed, there is an opportunity to reflect on what we have learned about learning and how that understanding informs our vision for what learning should look and feel like as the school evolves. This is usually done early in the design process. My experiences with campus renovation and new construction have consistently had a positive impact on students and staff.
One impact is emotional. A thoughtfully and purposefully designed learning space can evoke calm, reflection, engagement, sharing, etc. All of these qualities are important to learning and design has a vital role in promoting those feelings.
Another impact is practical. Having enough space to serve students at different levels or with different needs is important. Staff also have needs. Spaces that allow for staff to be organized and collaborative promote positive team culture which flows outward to the students and families.
Essentially, a well-planned design for facilities that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of students and staff always makes a positive impact on the learning experience.
How will they affect enrollment?
Enrollment includes both new families and returning families. Working with the contractor and project manager on ways to complete the project with minimal disruption to enrollment is an area on which I know we will be very focused. My experience has been that a campus with new facilities always attracts families and often leads to a boost in enrollment.
How can the school continue to deliver an excellent education while construction is underway?
During the building process, there are ways to build excitement and advance our mission as a school. Examples of this include frequent updates and communication, as well as creatively bringing the facilities project into the classroom for developmentally appropriate learning opportunities. Contractors and developers who work with schools often have great ideas for how to get students, staff, and families involved.
No matter what we need to do or how we may need to adjust during construction, I am confident that the St. Stephen’s learning experience that our students and families enjoy so much will be maintained throughout this journey. The caretakers of our student’s educational experiences are the teachers. SSESH is blessed with many great teachers and I am prepared to support their needs during the campus construction. Students will continue to receive the excellent education SSESH has always delivered. We will put our students first, model our core values, and do the emotionally labor-intensive work of being a relationship-centered community of teachers and learners.