True North(west): Forest Ridge Strategic Direction for 2018 and Beyond
“To aim at the best and to remain essentially ourselves is one and the same thing.”
Janet Erksine Stuart RSCJ
It is an opportune coincidence that just as the Society of the Sacred Heart celebrates the Bicentennial of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne’s “crossing of frontiers” in the Americas, Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart is simultaneously engaged in “crossing of frontiers” as we look to embolden our empowerment of young women in the Northwest. As the northwestern outpost of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the United States, Forest Ridge has always leaned into its legacy as a pioneer, and our next chapter will necessarily be bold, brave and wholeheartedly about ensuring young women strive for their best while authentically upholding their own “true North.” In a world that requires confidence and resilience in breaking through barriers, Forest Ridge will be all about transcending the normal to achieve the extraordinary.
Building on Boldness: Innovation, Opportunity and Leadership
Throughout its rich history, Forest Ridge has developed and implemented strategic initiatives which have enhanced its legacy as the region’s premier school for young women. The last such process, Road Map 2008-2013, was an ambitious, far-ranging plan grounded in three pillars: Innovation, Opportunity and Leadership – which exemplified the School’s desire to build on its tradition of innovation in education.
To achieve success in that plan, Forest Ridge created several strategic initiatives as the primary areas of focus for the future. Chief among these were initiatives concentrated on growing a program focused on women’s leadership and on enhancing the School’s affordability and accessibility – two critically important directions for connecting the School’s mission to local, national and global communities. One intended to support a commitment to offer a Forest Ridge education to all those who qualify and the other to create and launch leadership opportunities extending beyond the Forest Ridge community.
Through hard work, innovative and creative thinking and the extraordinary generosity of the Forest Ridge community, the 2008-2013 strategic plan bore fruit in the form of the successful $16 million “Open Your Heart Campaign for Scholarships” in 2010 and the birth of the Women as Global Leaders program (both benefiting from generous grants from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) launched in 2009. In addition to the multiple successes of Women as Global Leaders in sharpening the focus on global leadership and service, the far-ranging accomplishments and learned experiences from each of these initiatives have set the stage for the next phase of strategic thinking in the 110-year history of Forest Ridge.
No superb school rests on its laurels. As a Sacred Heart school, Forest Ridge is compelled to strive in ever more inclusive and impactful ways to ensure that the Goals and Criteria are vibrantly alive and dynamic in the lives of its girls and in the school community. To that end, the Board of Trustees began a series of strategic conversations in the spring of 2017, intent on identifying the next opportunities for innovation and leadership. As the Board engages in the process of the selection for the next Head of School, there is also the imperative to ensure the school’s healthy momentum in mission-critical areas.
The Way Forward: One School, One Heart
Forest Ridge has the distinction of being the only Sacred Heart school for young women in grades 5-12 in the greater Seattle area. With ample research highlighting the unique intellectual and social emotional needs of pre-adolescent and adolescent girls, this is a powerful platform from which to lead. Building upon the individual successes and reputational excellence of our Middle and High School programs, the next step is to realize a cohesive vision for comprehensive 5-12 “whole girl” educational excellence in Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest. Our Middle School has long been known as a leader in educating young women who are at a critical juncture in their intellectual, physical and social development. Our High School, with a reputation for academic rigor, has recently made the bold move to join the emerging wave of future-focused schools redesigning a more relevant, better integrated curriculum with a goal to prepare young women for both college and life beyond college. This smart move offers fresh opportunities for sharing spaces, time, experiences, enhanced programming and greater continuity between both the Middle School and High School. The time is ripe to strengthen, articulate and publicize our commitment to an exceptional girl-focused learning community, one that instills deep institutional pride and announces its excellence in the successes of its community and the lives of its alumnae.
The guiding principles upon which we will build enhanced, developmentally appropriate 5-12 programming are:
Cultivating an inter-connected community rooted in relationships and collaborative work
Designing and implementing an intellectually rigorous -and contiguous- program, rich with opportunities to build and extend knowledge beyond the boundaries of classroom and an academic year
Developing a globally integrated program of studies that brings the world in all its facets to life by centering experiences, histories, texts, theories, and materials from many cultures and worldviews
Creating a school culture that fosters the personal growth and well-being of each student
Doing What We Do Best: The Center for Girls
Throughout the early months of strategic discussion in focus groups with parents and alums, one clear pride point emerged: Forest Ridge knows and understands how to educate young women—intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It was a simple decision then to follow our excellence where it led, namely to a grand vision to create, fund and launch The Center for Girls. While this title is very much a working title, the idea that powers it is a full throttle, mission-driven commitment to orchestrating a regional, national and even global conversation about what girls need to thrive. Through this Center and its programming, Forest Ridge intends to make real, practical and relevant St. Madeleine Sophie Barat’s two-hundred-year vision for excellence in educating young women. The Center is an idea, a dream, a place, a program. At its pulsing heart, however, the Center is a dialogue about impactful change in the lives of girls.
In Phase 1, The Center will be the “spine” of the 5-12 social-emotional programming that is produced for young women fortunate enough to go to school on the Ridge, as well as for aspirational girls across the region. Through well-researched and intentionally designed programming, girls will be provided the leadership skills and practice to be agents of transformative change in their local communities and in global society.
Research confirms that girls are relational learners. The Center’s programming for girls will build on this essential foundation, offering an experiential curriculum in leadership, emotional intelligence, and socio-emotional skill-building. The developmental focus for this girl-centric curriculum begins in the pre-teen years and offers appropriate personal growth challenges through the transition to life beyond high school, the most pivotal years in the successful journey from girlhood to womanhood.
Age appropriate opportunities will be provided for girls and young women to learn to:
- lead with influence
- manage power dynamics
- speak with confidence and purpose
- compete from honed core values
- solve problems creatively
- understand team dynamics and the essentials of good collaboration
- take responsible risks and develop resilience following life’s failures
- serve with both strength and compassion
- embrace the practices that will ensure balance and wellness throughout life
Key partners in each girl’s growth journey are the loving adults who work with and support her in her home life and in activities outside of school. These adult figures are influential educators in these roles. The Center’s programming will embrace these adult guides and mentors, providing resources and educational forums for them as they seek to be available to and responsive to the needs of the girls in their lives.
Phase II of the vision for the Center takes Forest Ridge into the role of convener, facilitating transformational dialogues with players of influence in the world of girls and girls’ education. The world turns better if all young women are empowered to live lives of purpose, action, commitment and influence. Yet, globally, over 65 million girls are not in school. Young women in school marry later, have the potential to earn more as an adult, and are more than twice as likely to send their own children to school. It is indisputable fact: educating girls matters. Knowing and believing this, The Center for Girls aspires to create and offer transformative opportunities for girls to engage in global conversations that crisscross continents, so that the sharing of common experiences across borders and boundaries will unite us all in a cause that truly will change the world in unimaginably wondrous ways.
Communicating the Legacy and the Vision
In today’s competitive educational landscape, it is essential that each independent school makes clear its unique niche so that parents can easily point to and notice its mission strength. Paying attention to our message is critical in this crowded marketplace. Forest Ridge must successfully—and creatively—articulate the distinctive value of a Sacred Heart education for prospective students and their families. As we build the programs that demonstrate our excellence, the Board also intends to be thoughtful in designing the right enrollment profile for a school with our mission, values and program. To both ends, Forest Ridge will:
- Fully leverage our mission distinctiveness by ensuring Forest Ridge operates as a Sacred Heart School for girls—the only 5-12 girls school in the Pacific Northwest
- Utilize social media and marketing tools to build, sustain and publicize our success at creating community, a community that instills deep institutional pride and commitment
- Through the art and science of research and experience, intentionally design the right enrollment profile for a school with our mission, values and program
- Boldly and enthusiastically articulate the Forest Ridge mission promise and initiate efforts to make sure that the school community acts and is in alignment with the brand, “Women Who Can,” that Forest Ridge is “walking the talk” of a distinctive Sacred Heart school for girls
Onward: A Compass Versus a Road Map, A Direction Versus a Plan
Every school has cycles in which the stars align magically, and anything is possible. This is the case at Forest Ridge in this moment. The timing is perfect for aligning creative approaches to curriculum and a renewed emphasis on cultivating a connected community rooted in relationships and collaborative work, executed with a sharp focus on communicating our strengths and telling our story to more fully leverage our mission and standing as Seattle’s only 5-12 school for young women.
These initiatives are inspired by our Sacred Heart roots and our legacy as pioneers. More important, however, these initiatives ring true as they remind us of the wisdom of Janet Erskine Stuart RSCJ, they call for us to remain “essentially ourselves” even as we “aim at the best.” Together, One School, One Heart, One Forest Ridge.