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.
Our goals in area 1 are to:
- Extend, deepen, and sustain a vibrant intellectual program that places students at the center of their learning by focusing on the development of critical habits and dispositions for learning in and beyond the classroom (e.g. service, athletics, and community leadership).
- Define and articulate essential areas of study
- Create interdisciplinary courses and learning experiences that co-relate subject areas and emphasize inquiry, investigation, research, reflection, and the intentional use of appropriate technology
- Define senior year exit skills and plan backwards to 6th grade to develop a range of performance based assessments and learning experiences that culminate in developmentally appropriate public exhibitions
- Address all learners in an equitable way through a range of programs
- Personalize learning for all students by engaging in teaching approaches in order to meet students where they are and support growth and challenge for all
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.
Our goals in area 2 are to:
- Deepen Watkinson’s understanding of and commitment to equity and diversity
- Sustain an inclusive environment for students and adults
- Develop and commit to a plan for ongoing learning and reflection around equity and diversity that supports the ethical, intellectual, and civic growth of students and adults
- Develop the capacity to engage in on-going, community-wide, courageous conversations about race, ethnicity, diversity, and privilege, and take the actions necessary to demonstrate our commitments
- Attract and retain a diverse faculty, capable of serving a diverse student body
- Expand and diversify our International program to include students from a variety of countries and continentsInc
School as Community, Community as School
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.
Our goals in area 3 are to:
- Build upon Watkinson’s reciprocal relationship with the city of Hartford and the region by moving learning beyond the school, while simultaneously developing authentic opportunities for the community around us to engage with Watkinson
- Infuse academic and other programming with opportunities for “real world” education
- Create opportunities that integrate Watkinson students into the surrounding community
- Invite the community — e.g. artists, activists, thought leaders, authors, academics — into Watkinson to interact with students and the school community in authentic ways
Outstanding Financial Resilience
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.
Our goals in area 4 are to:
- Over time, discern the appropriate and sustainable enrollment and commensurate staffing levels for the school and leverage and enhance the three primary avenues to financial strength: net tuition, additional revenue, and wise and efficiently managed expenditures. In effectively allocating the school’s resources, reflect the school’s priorities, advance its mission, and attract and support outstanding faculty
- Aggressively manage revenues and expenditures
- Calibrate and communicate tuition to most advantageously position Watkinson in the marketplace, including exploring and dedicating tuition offsets to generate the greatest possible enrollment
- Develop additional revenue streams
- Cultivate unrestricted philanthropy
A Story That Becomes a Model
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.
Our goals in area 5 are to:
- Create and generate an undeniable message about the power, impact, and difference of a Watkinson education in a way that increases both the visibility and understanding of the school and its story
- Articulate the unique place Watkinson inhabits in the independent school world and beyond
- Communicate the identity of the school wisely, with awareness and consistency within the Watkinson community, the region, and to the larger world
- Create the structures and mechanisms for Watkinson to participate in the national conversation about schooling and play a role in the wider discussion about teaching and learning today.