The Shape of Things to Come,” Watkinson’s five-year strategic plan, was published in 2016. Here’s a recap of the five Goal Areas and the specifics of what we’re working to create by 2021.
Teaching and learning are at the very center of a Watkinson education, and our commitment to understanding, valuing, and challenging a wide range of students with differing styles and approaches to learning already sets the school apart. In the coming years, Watkinson will deepen and expand its program by developing innovative curricula that emphasize the relationships between subject areas and seemingly disparate disciplines of study. Students will demonstrate their learning through a wide variety of assessments across essential skill areas.
Watkinson has a long history of modeling and teaching the value of inclusion. One of the school’s core beliefs, this is manifest in our admissions and hiring practices, in the content of our curriculum and in our teaching methods. Conversation matters: we talk and listen to each other in affinity groups, advisory groups, faculty meetings large and small, and in our thrice-weekly All School gatherings. We seek to educate every member of our community by taking actions that reflect our common understanding of what an equitable world looks like. We must reach out beyond our walls, bring in those who can teach us anew, and continuously dedicate ourselves to every new generation of educators and learners who join the Watkinson community. We must tend to the inclusive environment tirelessly in order to grow and thrive.
As Hartford’s oldest independent school, Watkinson has demonstrated an enduring commitment to being a part of the city and its surrounding region. In looking to the future, we envision a deepening of the school’s current relationships and an expansion of the ways in which Watkinson interacts with the city’s neighborhoods and organizations. In addition to our already thriving programs, including our more than 40-year sponsorship of SPHERE, the summer learning program serving Hartford elementary school students, and our community partnerships with the Knox Parks Foundation, Billings Forge, The Mark Twain House, the Hartford Stage Company, and the University of Hartford, we see increasing value in and opportunity for cultivating our relationships within the greater Hartford community. Partnerships that extend beyond the walls of the school provide real-world experiences that simply cannot take place in the classroom, helping to ensure that a Watkinson education is not an insular experience, but rather authentic, experiential learning. Relationships across the city will promote Watkinson’s place as a Hartford institution, cultivate future enrollment, and enable us to collaborate within the wider educational and business community. Now, as ever, Watkinson is strengthened by its city presence, and the next five years will see an increased focus on bringing Watkinson into the city and drawing the city to the school.
In order to accomplish the above, the school will focus on the development of new approaches to its finances and the following essential elements of its operation. Over the course of its long history, Watkinson has faced the challenges that are the natural outgrowth of having limited financial resources and variability in enrollment. Watkinson has been a careful steward of every precious tuition dollar, yet operating on a thin margin has required rapid and reactive changes to fluctuations in enrollment. To ensure Watkinson’s strong financial future, built on our existing sound financial base, we must acknowledge and unapologetically achieve and sustain our best size, while instilling what essential means in all that we do. We will focus on calibrating our school’s operations to both free up resources and invest in essential people, program and plant. We will use how we deploy tuition to build our student population, paying close attention to local competition and the needs of students and families in different grades and we will work hard at generating income of all types. All of this will allow Watkinson to achieve sustained strong financial underpinnings to enable the School to continue to flourish.
In the same way no two students are alike, every school is a unique community with particular ways of defining and describing itself and its features. The success of The Shape of Things to Come relies heavily upon the school’s ability to accurately assess and describe the distinctive qualities and benefits of a Watkinson education.
The school must tell its story in new and compelling ways as part of a cohesive, in-depth, and sustained marketing effort. No longer content to be “Hartford’s best kept secret,” Watkinson School will articulate and proclaim with clarity the elements and aspects of a Watkinson education that distinguish it as a school that changes lives.