As Menlo School approaches its centennial year, its mission remains vital: "to empower students to explore and expand their interests, reach their fullest potential, develop the skills necessary for success in college, and become ethical, responsible and engaged members of ever wider communities." Building on previous success, the Board adopted in May 2006 its strategic vision, "Challenge 2012," summoning the School to become a preferred choice among Bay Area independent schools for students seeking a balanced educational experience with superb opportunities to grow and excel in academics, athletics and creative arts, comparing favorably with the best independent schools in the country.
Challenge 2012 has been a remarkable success. It is established as the School's roadmap, providing inspiration for many exciting initiatives while enhancing every aspect of School life. Its ambition and promise are as relevant today as when it was adopted. The School's progress is even more notable when considered in the context of the 2008-2009 global economic decline. These new realities require even greater ingenuity to achieve our goals.
As our centennial approaches, we rededicate ourselves to these priorities:
- Above all, make the instructional program even more engaging.
Menlo School is unquestionably a rigorous and engaging environment for learning. The hallmarks of engagement are visible throughout campus: the quality of relationships between students and teachers, excitement inside and outside the classroom, opportunities for student-directed original research and creative problem solving, and many occasions for students to pursue their passions while experiencing learning as an inherently rewarding activity. A culture of inquiry and initiative supported by a community that values collaboration and trust makes Menlo an exceptional college preparatory school. Academic achievement with engagement remains our central focus.
We want Menlo to be the school of choice for outstanding faculty, who are the linchpin of our success. We must think creatively and work effectively to attract tomorrow's best teachers to Menlo. We need to continually invest in recruiting, developing, mentoring and retaining a premier faculty. This means offering excellent compensation, desirable opportunities for professional growth and an unparalleled teaching environment.
Meaningful engagement is rooted in a feeling of community and connectedness between students and adults on campus. Each student deserves to be known in an authentic way that is uniquely motivating and encouraging. Students must understand the value of developing relationships with adults centered on learning and personal growth. We are committed to helping our students learn the skills and habits that are critical for success not only in college but also in lives filled with curiosity and learning.
Developing global consciousness generates excellent opportunities for engagement and helps prepare students to be leaders in ever-wider communities. Menlo's instructional and extracurricular programs should continue to promote understanding of international issues and help students develop an expanded world perspective.
Technology enhances learning and plays a central role in students' lives. Teachers should be actively encouraged to embrace technology as a means of creating and delivering quality curriculum. Opportunities for students to collaborate, as well as demonstrate and communicate their knowledge through multiple media, should grow as a hallmark of a Menlo education.
Menlo must continue to offer a broad range of extracurricular activities and events that provide opportunities for exploration, leadership, initiative and enjoyment, leveraging the extensive academic, professional and alumni resources available nearby. Recognizing the central role that service to others plays in Menlo's mission, we seek to make it a more meaningful feature in each student's life and a genuine part of each graduate's worldview. Distinguished speakers and guests should continue to challenge and excite students as they develop into lifelong learners and tomorrow's leaders.
- Strengthen and build community around the School's mission and values.
Menlo School will most successfully deliver its promise when all constituents actively support the School's mission and values. We need to more clearly articulate the high expectations we have for all community members-students, faculty, coaches, administration, staff, parents and alumni-and the role each plays in contributing to the health and reputation of the entire School community. We improve the Menlo experience for all by attracting students and families who subscribe to the School's key values and expectations. The Menlo School parent associations play a vital role in supporting students and staff, educating and involving families, and nurturing affiliation with the School.
All students and families should feel that Menlo is a community of one and be supported in finding ways to participate in the life of the School that are mutually rewarding. We must do more to ensure that School events are welcoming, are sensitive to economic and cultural differences, and reflect positively on the School.
- Continue to make Menlo School more heterogeneous and inclusive.
Menlo students are better educated and prepared to succeed when the School community-students, families, faculty, administration and staff-is diverse and inclusive. Diversity benefits the entire community by providing a wider range of perspectives and experiences. We embrace a broad definition of diversity: a community comprised of people with different racial, cultural, economic and religious backgrounds. In addition, we support students with a wide variety of interests, talents, personalities and politics.
We seek students who will benefit from, contribute to and ultimately succeed in our distinctive learning environment. We strive to attract top-quality students from diverse backgrounds, as well as the best faculty, staff, administrators, coaches, trustees and parent leaders who reflect the breadth of our heterogeneous community and the wider world. Equally important are the multifaceted efforts by the administration, faculty, students and parent organizations to build an inclusive community, helping every student and family feel welcomed, valued and able to succeed.
- Communicate Menlo's unique core benefits and differentiation.
Menlo students immerse in rigorous academics and enthusiastically engage in all they do, choosing from an extraordinary range of athletics, creative arts and activities that challenge and inspire. Led by a stellar faculty and staff, Menlo students are prepared for college and for life.
Menlo School's unique value proposition is focused on the core benefits that are most important to both its community and prospective families. It must be authentic today, deeply rooted and consistently reflected in all aspects of the School's life, so that our words and actions are genuinely linked.
Menlo's communication strategy must translate its value proposition into clear and simple messages. Developing and implementing effective communications will support the efforts of Admissions, College Counseling and Development to attract the School's preferred applicants, convey to colleges and universities the exceptional value of the Menlo experience, and create an understanding of why the School merits the community's ongoing financial support.
- Ensure the School remains a competitive financial alternative for families.
The School is providing a highly valued educational experience while moderating tuition growth. Integral to our success are two key commitments: discipline in setting tuition levels and increasing tuition assistance at a rate equal to or greater than the rise in tuition. Over the long term, the rate of growth of tuition should not exceed the rate of inflation by a significant margin, except as necessary to expand programs and fund new initiatives.
Menlo does not consider a family's financial aid needs when making admissions decisions and aspires to meet the needs of all admitted students. Achieving greater socioeconomic diversity requires having additional funds for financial aid, along with increasing awareness that Menlo welcomes students regardless of their families' means.
The challenge of attracting and retaining a superb faculty while remaining a competitive financial choice for families will be with us for a long time. Maintaining strong annual giving and increasing the endowment will allow the School to support essential improvements in programs and financial aid without relying as heavily on tuition increases. Following recent economic declines, our strong financial position proves that the School can be resourceful in operating efficiently; this discipline must continue and become a source of constructive change going forward.
- Complete the building program.
Menlo School is now the steward of its future, having ended the shared jurisdiction with Menlo College of the campus's land and facilities. The master plan for the campus envisions new facilities that create extraordinary venues for learning, collaborating and building community. Our signature programs in athletics, creative arts and emerging academic specialties will be further enhanced in modern facilities. The Athletic Center is the most recent of such new venues.
To complete its master plan, the School must raise the necessary funds to construct creative arts classrooms, a performance hall, a dining facility, additional athletic facilities and space to house academic program improvements, while maintaining the School's infrastructure. These critical investments will not only have immediate and direct benefits for students and staff but will also make Menlo even more desirable to prospective applicants and faculty.
At the same time, it is vital for the School to develop and fund a solution to the housing needs of the next Head of School.
The School should continue to reach out to the neighboring community in the most positive and responsible ways, both as a matter of course and to ensure support for future initiatives.
- Reach a $40 million endowment by the School's centennial.
Menlo's current $21.3 million endowment is far less than the amount necessary to achieve its vision. Providing a premier educational experience-with excellent, well-paid teachers; superb opportunities in athletics and creative arts; increased financial aid; and moderate tuition growth-is both worthy and expensive.
In addition to the demands of the facilities program, the School must address the critical need for endowment in the near- and long-term. Growing the endowment directly benefits the entire community by providing resources for compensation, program development and financial aid while moderating tuition growth. As an interim goal, Menlo should grow its endowment to $40 million by 2015, the School's centennial. This effort-together with successful investment of our existing funds-supports the longer-term goal of having a $100 million endowment, appropriate for a school of our stature and ambition.
Success in pursuit of these priorities will strengthen Menlo's position as a premier school in the nation and enable it to attract the students and families we most want as well as the faculty, coaches and administrators best able to complement our objectives and contribute to our mission. To this end, we must not only devote ourselves to these priorities, but also measure our progress against them regularly, holding ourselves accountable for their advancement.
Adopted by the Menlo School Board of Trustees May 2010