Jim Collins justifiably is renowned for his book, Good to Great; his book previous to that, Built to Last, is also terrific. In it, he explains that the most successful and lasting companies reconcile two competing values: they preserve eternally the core of their organization’s core purposes while still also stimulating progress by adjusting, updating, and refreshing their mission. This becomes then one of the book’s strongest principles: Preserve the Core, Stimulate Progress.
This I think we have done; last week the St. Gregory Board of Trustees updated its mission of the past four years with a revised statement that most certainly preserves the core, promoting excellence in student development of character, scholarship, and leadership, while stimulating progress in the critically important area of 21st century innovation, and also by adding in the importance of our being a diverse learning community.
(I have put in at the very bottom of the post the previous, for those who wish to compare).
We did one other thing: we sought, admittedly in very general terms, to answer the question to what end? Yes, it is our mission to challenge (and now also to support!) our students to excellence, but for what greater purpose? So that they can make a positive impact in the world by pursuing their passions, appreciating and creating beauty, and, in what may be my favorite, by solving problems!
St. Gregory College Preparatory School, as a diverse learning community,
challenges and supports students to achieve excellence in character, scholarship, leadership, and innovation
and prepares them to make a positive impact in the world through pursuing their passions, appreciating and creating beauty, and solving problems.
St. Gregory honors the development of student character built on personal integrity, compassion, and respect. We promote the dignity, self-worth, and potential of each individual within a supportive, connected, and caring community which embraces a diversity of students, families, faculty, administrators, staff, trustees, and others.
The St. Gregory learning community is committed to educating the whole child intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, artistically, and ethically. Our students’ disciplined scholarship is instilled and developed in a learning environment which values the rigors and joys of learning. This scholarship is grounded in intellectual curiosity, critical and creative thinking, and effective communication.
Leadership at St. Gregory affirms the civic responsibility of students and encourages using skillful facilitation and collaboration to positively influence the action of others. We recognize our school’s public purpose to use our resources to serve our own students and others in our region and beyond.
At St. Gregory we cultivate a mindset of innovation founded upon open-minded inquiry, divergent thinking, and purposeful action. As innovators, our students develop the creativity, ingenuity, inventiveness, and originality of thought to tackle and resolve the challenges facing our world.
A word about the addition of innovation: certainly this addition as a new and fourth core value of our educational purpose has many sources. Harvard Professor Tony Wagner’s book, the Global Achievement Gap, has been an enormous influence on my headship from the beginning; indeed, I spoke about it at length when I was a candidate for the headship, before my appointment. His book makes clear that curiosity and imagination, the seventh and final of his seven survival skills, create great value for innovation, which he calls our true competitive advantage as a country in our future. In his meeting with our board last March, he spoke again about the significance of educating for innovation, and I understand too that his next book is on this topic.
Perhaps, however, the single key crystallizing moment in this development came a week after my headship began (informally, and three days before it began formally), when Shelly Silverman, our now Board Chair, then Treasurer, emailed me and the board executive committee an Op-Ed, Invent, Invent, Invent, from Tom Friedman in the New York Times, and she said to us, this article captures the educational excellence that St. Gregory should represent and advance. Quoting Friedman:
The country that uses this crisis to make its population smarter and more innovative — and endows its people with more tools and basic research to invent new goods and services — is the one that will not just survive but thrive down the road.
We might be able to stimulate our way back to stability, but we can only invent our way back to prosperity. We need everyone at every level to get smarter.
Lately, there has been way too much talk about minting dollars and too little about minting our next Thomas Edison, Bob Noyce, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Vint Cerf, Jerry Yang, Marc Andreessen, Sergey Brin, Bill Joy and Larry Page. Adding to that list is the only stimulus that matters.
The mission above went through many iterations, with close review by our Board Executive Committee, our Administrative Team, our faculty, and finally review and adoption by our Board of Trustees. We believe that it carries forward values and principles that have been long meaningful to St. Gregory constituents even as it poises us to be a cutting edge forward tilted school which is committed, more than any others, to serve our students development of the ingenuity and inventiveness that our world needs most in our fast-changing era. We have many new initiatives underway to advance our institutional commitment to creating leaders and innovators, many of which have been, or will be, readily available here on this blog.
Share with me your views, if you wish, about this new mission.
Previous Mission, 2007-2010
St. Gregory believes in educating the whole child (intellectual, physical, emotional, social, spiritual, aesthetic) in a supportive, student-centered school community that values the rigors and joy of learning and the dignity, self-worth, and potential of each individual.
St. Gregory challenges its students to pursue excellence in character, scholarship, and leadership.
In this pursuit, St. Gregory strives to foster these guiding principles: character built on personal integrity, compassion, and respect; disciplined scholarship grounded in intellectual curiosity, independent thought, and effective communication; and the development of courageous, civil, and responsible leadership.