Year Two Review

2018-19 Catlin Gabel Strategic Planning

by Tim Bazemore, Head of School

In the 2018-19 school year, we continued to focus as an institution on our Strategic Plan priorities, and how these initiatives promote growth in learners across the grades. Some of our institutional work this year resulted from new opportunities and emerging needs, but most accomplishments reflected years of planning and careful, staged implementation. Much of this work is already having a significant and positive impact on our students’ experience. (See an overview of 2018-19 student successes).

Highlights of our ongoing work are listed below. In every area, our efforts this year were guided by the three main objectives of our Strategic Plan: Deepening our commitment to experiential learning, becoming an unrivaled educational laboratory, and reaffirming our commitment to excellence.

In all of our institutional work this year, we remained focused on the benefits for students.

  • PS-12 math alignment. Recognizing a need for more coherence in our PS-12 math curriculum, we are aligning and articulating our schoolwide math program objectives for the coming year. Upper School Mathematics Teacher Kenny Nguyen will take on the role of PS-12 Mathematics Academic Leader, helping us connect our math curriculum and instruction across the divisions.
  • Instructional Coaching Program. Because they can provide professional learning that is ongoing, embedded, and specific to the class and curriculum, instructional coaches are a powerful addition to our educational model. This innovation will help further grow a culture of feedback and collaboration and will have a positive impact on our students.
  • Campus expansion. The Board of Trustees set the stage for a new phase in the school’s progress with the purchase of an 8.6-acre neighboring property, for many years the campus of the Oregon College of Art and Craft. The property expansion provides Catlin Gabel with an opportunity to advance long-term strategic, enrollment, and campus goals, and to deepen its community connections.
  • Teacher compensation.The challenge of employing the very best teachers given the rising cost of living in Portland led us to work on teacher salaries and begin to examine how we structure compensation. A Compensation Task Force was formed and will meet regularly over the next 12-18 months to look at compensation structures and models, consider research, formulate a philosophy, and consider relationships between compensation and professional expectations.
  • Mastery Transcript project. At Town Hall discussions this year, school leaders shared how this initiative challenges traditional thinking about student assessment in high school, and how it can allow students to be recognized for the full range of skills and dispositions they demonstrate. With a focus on competency-based learning, the project has been embraced by hundreds of peer schools across the country.
  • Environmental sustainability work. This year a new PS-12 Sustainability Team was created, with program and facilities members working together to ensure that sustainability decisions are both institutional and curricular. To reduce environmental impact, the school instituted “Meatless Mondays” in the Food Service; banned plastic water bottles on campus for all events; and instituted an all-grades recycling program.
  • “Immersives” (Upper School Courses). New experiential learning 10-day mini-courses will allow students to delve into new disciplines or expand their interests. Students will have opportunities to advance their mathematics understanding, immerse themselves in language experiences, learn the foundations of programming, delve into a humanities topic, take a science-lab immersive, or engage in a media-specific art course.
  • Institutional excellence. All indicators this year are in the top 10% of independent schools in the nation. Applications increased over last year, leading to a 23% acceptance rate, and over 96% of families re-enrolled. Our student diversity will increase next year to 44% students of color—the highest in school history. And with generous support from our community, over $4 million was raised in annual and capital gifts.

As in any school, there are issues we need to address and improvements we must make to provide the experience our students deserve. Partnership with and feedback from Catlin Gabel families is an essential part of that continuous improvement process.

I invite you to visit the website regularly for updates, and share any questions or observations with me, or with Barbara Ostos, our Assistant Head of School, who is co-leading our Strategic Initiatives effort.