from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Happy new year! I hope that you and your family had an enjoyable break, spending quality time with friends and loved ones.

It was journalist and author William Vaughan who said, “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” I suppose I am neither as I was in bed by 10:30 PM on New Year’s Eve. However, I do consider myself an optimist and while as a family we experienced tremendous loss in 2021, I do recognize the many good things that happened. As head of school of Mounds Park Academy, I am grateful that we were safely in-person and on campus for the majority of the year. The dedication and hard work of our amazing faculty and staff, a strong partnership with parents, and the resiliency of our students are certainly to be celebrated.

A new year brings new beginnings. A new year holds promise and opportunity. As a school, we begin the year with a new strategic plan, 2024ward. The new plan builds upon our former plan, Momentum 2020, and captures the energy to embrace the future with opportunity and enthusiasm. Strategic planning is one of the most important responsibilities of the MPA Board of Trustees.

Planning began in early 2019 by a constituent represented task force commissioned by the Board but was halted by the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Instead, the focus of the Board of Trustees and administration shifted from long-range strategic planning to the development a comprehensive scenario analysis and effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Given the demand on the school’s fiscal and human resources necessary to successfully navigate the ongoing pandemic, the board and head of school agreed to embark on an alternative, abbreviated approach.

By building upon the existing strategic plan, Momentum 2020, and the four recommendations provided by our recent accreditation, we decided to design a short-term strategic plan to provide both flexibility and agility to move through the pandemic and set the stage for long range planning in the “new normal” after COVID-19. The shift from long range to shorter-term planning enabled the school to prioritize supporting and delivering an exceptional educational experience during a global pandemic. It also allowed us to capitalize on the insights gained from designing and delivering an excellent education in the COVID-19 pandemic environment to position the school for success in the future.

I am dedicating my Head’s messages over the next four weeks to share the four priorities of 2024ward, how they will guide our commitment to meeting the new and emerging needs of our students, and how you can be involved in this exciting endeavor. An overview of 2024ward may be found here.

Priority One: Empower students to live, learn, and thrive in our increasingly complex and globalized society.

A recent study found that millennial parents have high expectations for their children’s schools, wanting children to be prepared for college, work, and life. Parents hope that their children will become self-sufficient, independent, well-rounded, and confident young adults who will reach their fullest potentials. And yet, our world is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Traditional approaches to learning will no longer be sufficient to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist in this rapidly changing world.

Our new strategic plan calls for us to, “Create customized pathways of learning for students through curricular innovation and leveraging advances in educational technology.” In addition to maximizing the use and integration of technology, MPA has been on a multiyear journey to build upon our school’s strengths in hands-on, experiential, project-based learning. Combining approaches will allow us to ensure every student has a competitive advantage in our globalized society.

We must further deepen our ability to understand students optimal leaning styles and differentiate their instruction. One way to further individualize the education of each student is through mastery based learning. Mastery based learning is an instructional approach that ensures students demonstrate a deep level of understanding of a topic or subject area before progressing onto another topic or subject area. In line with our roots at MPA, it calls upon students to deeply consider and articulate the “why,” not just recall and recite the “what.” Curricular innovation and leveraging advances in educational technology will enable teachers to better meet students where they are and empower them to confidently face what lies ahead.

In order fully embrace mastery based learning, teachers need time to create more interdisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities. And harnessing new technology to enhance student learning requires training, coaching, and support. We need to revise the school calendar, rethink the daily schedule, and explore new models of professional development, thinking differently than we currently do about how we utilize precious time.

As we move forward with implementing this new plan, I look forward to opportunities to engage you in the process. The first opportunity will be a Town Hall Meeting scheduled for Thursday, January 20 at 6:30 PM in the Nicholson Center to learn more about the plan, how to get involved, and to ask your questions. My hope is to hold this event in person and virtually, but given the outbreak of the omicron variant, I am considering whether the in-person option is advisable. Please look for more information in the coming weeks.

As the unprecedented nature of the challenges we are facing become our new normal, 2024ward will enable us to be flexible and agile. What it meant to live, learn, and thrive 25 years ago is much different than what it means today and even more different than what it will mean 25 years from now. Empowering students to live lives of meaning and purpose, to flourish socially and emotionally, and find success in work and career require us to boldly embrace a future-forward education.

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