Aspengrove School
AGM November 8, 2019

Head of School’s Report to the Community

Welcome and thank you for coming out this evening to our AGM. 

The Aspengrove community has a shared, common purpose which is to provide an exemplary learning environment for young people—your children, our children. It is encouraging to have us all here together tonight in one place; it confirms that shared purpose and our shared efforts. 

Our shared purpose, of course, is summarized in the School’s Vision, Mission and Values—I believe on occasions such as this, it is important for us to reconnect with the language that defines who we are as a school community: 

Vision: Transformational learning for a transforming world.

Our vision is aspirational: it defines why we exist for young people, while they are here with us and once they leave us to take on the world.  

Mission: Aspengrove School challenges and inspires its community to act with purpose as compassionate, knowledgeable and principled global citizens 

Our mission is clear and intentional: we commit ourselves, each and every day to this statement of what we do as a place for teaching and learning.  

Values: Citizenship, Compassion, Courage, Creativity, Curiosity

Our values are firmly imbedded in our practice: they summarize for the community how we conduct ourselves in relation to each other and our shared work. 

At the Opening Assembly in September I used one of my favourite images, the canoe, to frame our opening of school. For those of you who were not here that day, here’s a bit of that introduction:

Every year, at Aspengrove, we begin in much the same way. It’s as if we are all climbing together into this great canoe, to begin the exploration of our year; collectively and individually, all the same, we begin our year together. Paddles in hand, packs made heavy with tools and snacks, sun on our faces. We greet each other and slowly, with intention and purpose, we gather at the edge of the lake to begin. It’s an adventure that calls us to exploration. 

And we know enough about canoes, to know that things can get tippy. We know we need to pay attention. And we know that any exploration requires give and take, challenge and celebration, curiosity and forgiveness. We know we need to be courageous for ourselves and for each other. 

And what are WE here to explore? Where do we hope our canoe will take us?

My task this evening is twofold:

  • To provide you with a tiny snapshot of our year to this point; and
  • To provide you with a sense of our plans moving forward.

In essence, I will be sharing with you where the canoe has taken us thus far, and what we hope to explore in the months ahead. It has become our practice, at this time of year, to share with you how we are doing. I will do this within the framework of our “Strategic Plan: Building on Success” which identifies three priorities for the school: 

Priority 1: Innovation in Teaching and Learning

Priority 2: Healthy Bodies and Healthy Minds

Priority 3: Strength and Permanence

We have made advances in each of these three strategic areas since the acceptance and implementation of the plan in November, 2017. We are now beginning our third year of exploration through the key actions of the plan. 

It is important to note, as I provide you with some of the details of our developments, that central to our considerations in each of the key areas are: need, capacity and sustainability.

In order to determine what we focus on, when and how, we ask:

  • What is the need? How have we established this need? Is the need urgent or something for a future focus?
  • What resources do we currently have and/or do we require to make a change or to implement something new?
  • And finally, do we have everything in place to sustain such a change or new program? 

Without careful consideration of need, capacity, and sustainability, we run the risk of trying to move too quickly or of attempting to “be all things to all people.”

With this in mind, I offer the following: 

Priority 1 focuses primarily on:

  • teacher, staff and leadership development, recruitment and retention,
  • academic program development, and
  • co-curricular and extra-curricular program development

Highlights of advances made thus far in our year include the following:

  • PYP teachers are embarking on the transition to changes in the PYP curriculum as required by the IB organization. Teachers are working with an external PYP IB leader to help facilitate this transition.
  • MYP teachers have developed and implemented a new framework for Action Projects that engages students across grades in activities that inspire them to develop projects that serve various levels of community. Action is an integral part of the MYP experience and it prepares students for similar DP requirements.
  • This fall we implemented year one of the RAVENS Outdoors Program. This included expanding geographically and programmatically so students in grades 5-10 have a broader range of experiences. Our redesign also included refining and strengthening the purpose and desired outcomes for the program. I am pleased to report that this year we had the best ever overall feedback and participation across all grades. We will continue to explore the possibilities for this important part of our Aspengrove curriculum.
  • After a review of Aspengrove Athletics, we have begun to establish and build our program, especially as we look forward to moving into our new Athletic and Activities Centre facility. Over the last two years, including significant advances made this fall alone, we have increased our athletic offerings by introducing competitive Cross-Country Running, Track and Field and Soccer. As you know, two of our fall teams qualified for the Provincial championships. Again, we will continue to look at this program through the lens of need, capacity and sustainability.
  • Part of our Athletic review included a refresh branding of the program—to that end, we have developed a RAVENS logo, and with the generous support of a parent-donor, we now have a uniform design that speaks to our growing program.
  • This fall we introduced Spanish at the grade 10 level, providing an additional choice for language studies. 
  • We have begun to build our Living Lab initiative which will see the integration of several programs that take learning out of the classroom and into the environment. We started this last year with the Salmonid project. This year we will include a greenhouse and beehive. 
  • We are embarking on year two of our Professional Growth Model for teacher development; this program has been designed to ensure each member of our professional community is supported in their growth and in the delivery of our promise to provide a transformational teaching and learning environment.

Priority 2 focuses primarily on:

  • Student and staff health and wellness, and
  • Establishing an environment where health and wellness are part of our everyday considerations

Highlights of advances made thus far:

  • We have engaged a personal counsellor to be on site 2 mornings a week for confidential student support and parent consultation. The addition of this support has been well-received and we anticipate that, as students and parents become more familiar with this service, we will expand the time commitment and offerings. 
  • In addition, our counsellor has been offering small group and class presentations on social-emotional health management; we will continue to explore opportunities in this area. 
  • In November, staff will attend our annual professional development day dedicated to health and wellness management to further our practice of supporting each other, our students and families. 

Priority 3 focuses primarily on 

  • enrolment management, 
  • fundraising, and 
  • facilities development. 

Highlights of advances made thus far:

  • This fall we engaged consultants from Independent School Management, an organization that serves independent schools across Canada and the US, to undertake a review of our enrolment and marketing strategies. We are developing an 18 month plan in response to their recommendations, some of which we have already begun.
  • We held our second New Parents Reception this fall. This event has helped us communicate with our new families relatively soon into their experience of the school.
  • Re-recruitment (ensuring current families and students are well-served by the school) is integral to the health of our community. Last year we introduced “Conversations with the Head” as part of the Student-Teacher-Parent conference schedule. We are continuing this initiative this year. 
  • We are hosting Aspengrove Information Evenings in three communities this fall to expand our recruitment efforts. 
  • We have contracted with an marketing firm that will support our website development, refine our market communication and provide tracking data so we can understand where to focus our marketing efforts for greatest benefit. 
  • As you know, in March of this year, we broke ground on our Athletic and Activity Centre, a 15,000 square foot facility that will serve students JK-12, providing an amazing space to learn, play and grow. We are incredibly excited to see this space open in the spring of 2020. This particular building represents the input of the community—especially our students!–that identified Arts and Athletics facilities as areas of greatest need. As a result, our Arts and Athletics programs will have room to grow.
  • We launched a capital campaign last November and have made good progress to date. As per my eNews of last week, we are now in the second phase of this campaign which will involve reaching out more broadly to our families. Independent, not-for-profit schools rely on philanthropy—fundraising events and donations—to support facilities development. School fees cover day to day operations and programs, whereas the generosity of friends and families of the school create the funds necessary to improve our campus. Our school exists today as a result of such generosity. The future of the school depends on the same.
  • We have set a date for a Gala event on May 9, 2020; the Gala Planning Committee has begun its work and we are well on our way to creating a memorable community event that will help fundraise for the building project.

These are exciting times for Aspengrove School—especially as we seek to provide the very best for our students in all facets of their experience here. 

Moving forward we have good work ahead of us that will confirm we are all paddling in the same direction, and that the canoe is stable and steadfast as we explore the myriad possibilities of our vision: transformational learning for a transforming world. 

Many thanks, again, for your ongoing support and for trusting your children’s education to us. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to come by for a chat—I am only more than happy to share my enthusiasm for Aspengrove School and to hear from you what we are doing well and what we might do to be even better!