Feb 26 2021
Our Head of School sits down for a conversation with the president of the SMUS Alumni Association.
St. Michaels University School is a leading co-educational, Kindergarten to Grade 12 independent school in Victoria, BC, Canada. Through the intertwining of the two key roots of St. Michael’s School and University School, and the support of a vibrant community of students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and many others, we have grown rapidly and strong through the years.
This 2020-2030 strategic plan recognizes the importance of our history, and confidently celebrates who we are and what makes us great, while recognizing that being a leader also means not becoming complacent. As we look toward our Jubilee Year in 2021 and beyond to the end of the decade, we are ideally poised to begin fresh growth; indeed, to flourish.
We are excited to have this once-in-a-decade opportunity to look over the horizon toward 2030. Over more than a century, our school has been evolving and building momentum. This process was accelerated in 1971 by the grafting of our two key roots, University School and St. Michael’s School.
Over the years our commitment to excellence and our focus on leadership has provided the values and skills for our students to contribute their full potential to the professions and communities in which they move on to work and live respectively.
This Floreat 10-year strategic plan is based on one of the broadest consultations ever undertaken by a school in Canada. This research has given us a bedrock of views and opinions, thoughts and suggestions which have come together in this new strategic plan.
We have aspired to be bold, to innovate, to avoid complacency, to build on the best of the past, and to reinforce and enhance our reputation as one of the leading schools in Canada.
On October 26, 2019, the St. Michaels University School Board of Governors unanimously approved this strategic direction, restating our school’s Vision – “To learn, to lead, to serve.” – and the Values that have served us so well over the school’s history. Based on this plan, the school will create yearly action plans which will drive us toward our vision to deliver a transformational and truly excellent learning experience.
We invite our extended community, past, present and future, to journey with us through 10 years that will doubtless provide challenge and opportunity. With your help and support, we will play our part in handing over to the next generation a school that will continue to provide outstanding preparation for the lives of the future.
On behalf of the Board of Governors it is my great pleasure to join our Head of School, Mark Turner, in announcing the launch of our new 10-year strategic plan.
Why have we consulted so broadly, researched so deeply and spent so much time and effort in examining the options before adopting the new plan? It is because we are committed to ensuring that SMUS continues to offer our students outstanding preparation for life in an ever-changing and challenging world. That is our vision and mission.
The new strategic plan will ensure that the many decisions to be made in the years ahead, in all areas of school life, will be guided by that clear sense of purpose and resolve.
It is an exciting time for our school. Our communities, our country and indeed the world are seeking a new generation of thought leaders and team builders; those not only with relevant skill sets, but also with caring temperaments and healthy resilience. This is the future that our strategic plan envisions and that our school will strive to deliver for our students and their families.
We are blessed with an exceptional Head of School, talented and committed faculty and staff, an engaged and diverse student body, and dedicated parents and alumni. I can assure you that the Board of Governors will do its very best to help fulfil the promise that this strategic plan holds for all the SMUS community.
Our school seeks the excellence in all of us, with passion and compassion. We are a community shaped by the pursuit of truth and goodness, providing outstanding preparation for life.
To learn, to lead, to serve.
Respect • Courage • Honesty • Service
St. Michaels University School (SMUS) is one of Canada’s leading independent co-educational day (Kindergarten to Grade 12) and boarding (Grade 8 to 12) schools. We are defined by our commitment to excellence through academic rigour and a student-centred approach to learning. Guided by talented faculty, students at the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools develop a love of learning and excel in academics, the arts, athletics, leadership and service. You can learn more about us on the SMUS website.
St. Michaels University School can draw on more than 110 years of history and tradition through our two founding schools, St. Michael’s School and University School. Withstanding the upheavals of the 20th century, both schools provided an outstanding foundation for amalgamation to form St. Michaels University School in 1971.
After the introduction of co-education in 1978, there came a period of bold leadership in forging ahead with an 18-year campus master plan that provided much of the campus we know today.
We now find ourselves in the strong position of being an in-demand, thriving school that is recognized locally and nationally for the quality of our education. We are therefore perfectly set to begin new growth as we look toward 2030.
Mark Turner joined St. Michaels University School as Head of School in August 2018 and embarked on a year of “Looking, Listening and Learning.” This involved engaging in every aspect of school life and meeting with students, faculty, staff, governors, alumni and parents to gain a greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our school.
This was supported by one of the broadest consultations ever undertaken by a Canadian school through independent international consultant RSAcademics. More than 500 current parents, 220 faculty and staff, and 600 alumni completed a confidential survey, while 87% of Middle and Senior School students contributed their views alongside interviews with Junior School students. Furthermore, RSAcademics held 15 focus groups with 150 people. RSAcademics reported back positively on many aspects of the school, while identifying areas that could bear further examination.
The Board of Governors, Head of School and Senior Leadership Team have created a plan that recognizes our position as one of the leading schools in Canada; a vision that is ambitious and achievable. We will continue to thrive by strengthening our roots as a dynamic and transformative centre of learning in Victoria, British Columbia and Canada.
One of the four values of St. Michaels University School is respect. With this in mind, we acknowledge that our school rests in the heart of Straits Salish territory, a living culture with its own rites, ceremonies and unfolding history. We honour the Esquimalt, Songhees and WSÁNEĆ peoples, whose homelands we share and whom we recognize as our neighbours.
Rooted in a strong history and grounded in tradition, our school’s story is shared by a dynamic community. A common understanding of who we are and what we offer is vital to strengthening our identity and focus.
From how and when we teach, to choices within the curriculum, our students can meaningfully personalize their education. Our students benefit from an enhanced BC curriculum and we will explore options in our structure to make the most of our teaching time. We value lifelong learning and know the importance of a seamless Kindergarten to Grade 12 journey.
Our history is our foundation, and our future is a promise to our students to prepare them for life.
We are confident in our school and in our community but we are not complacent. Based on a review of our enrolment targets, our academic priorities, our programs and our physical locations, we will communicate who we are with clarity. This shared knowledge will guide all aspects of school life.
Informed by our diverse student body, we are a vibrant and inclusive community that is known for its academic rigour and commitment to excellence. We are a co-educational, independent, Kindergarten to Grade 12, international day and boarding school, located in a beautiful suburban setting close to a thriving city core. We will continue our work to define what it means to be a SMUS learner, teacher and graduate.
Our school year will be structured to maximize quality instructional time, while allowing for breaks to rest and reflect on the lessons learned. As part of our commitment to academic excellence, we will explore how we can minimize disruptions to classroom learning while maximizing the hands-on and off-campus learning that enriches our students’ experiences.
With the BC curriculum as our base, we offer an internationally relevant education from Kindergarten to Grade 12 that provides students with the knowledge and skills they need for post-secondary and for life. We will be intentional in how we choose and develop our programs, reinforcing rigour and standards, balancing depth and breadth, and asking every student to be ambitious.
We structure our education as a continuous 13-year journey that positions students for a lifetime of learning. While we have Junior, Middle and Senior Schools, we are a Whole School working together for student success. With a commitment to age-appropriate learning, we strive for a seamless progression in our academic, arts, athletics, leadership and service programs.
We are ambitious in wanting to offer the best education in Canada. We will raise the profile of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programming across all grades and explore our Advanced Placement offerings to ensure students are best prepared for future studies. We are committed to reviewing our programs, both in what we offer and how we evaluate our performance in an international context.
Our students are guided to first understand themselves, and then to seek understanding of the world around them. At every stage, in every grade, we look to identify our students’ needs and interests, and then support them to find the excellence within themselves.
Through a balanced education that includes academics, arts, athletics, leadership and service, students learn both content and character. Guided by a community support system made up of teachers, coaches, parents, alumni, classmates and more, students gain a clear understanding of their values and a deeper appreciation of their responsibility in the world.
We focus on developing the whole person: students who are respectful, courageous, honest and service-minded. The combination of academic excellence, a focus on wellness and a commitment to character development is what will prepare our students for life.
What students learn at SMUS is part of the foundation of their lives. It is imperative that our academic program combines relevant knowledge, steadfast rigour and a love of learning. To ensure our students are leaders on the world stage, they will be prepared to ground their ideas in facts, debate contrasting views with respect and uphold their ongoing learning to the highest standards.
We educate the whole person, emphasizing physical and mental wellness as life skills. We are committed to structuring our programs to allow for pastoral connections between teachers and students, and resourcing programs that support a healthy mind and body. As the world changes, so will we to ensure we also implement research-based policies related to technology and social media-use that prioritize our students’ health and wellness.
Our commitment to the motto mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) informs our athletics program. From participation to performance, there are opportunities for every level of athlete to benefit from physical activity. We will increase participation in our athletics program across all grades and empower students to excel by identifying performance sports.
Visual and performing arts play an important role in developing lifelong skills including creativity, collaboration and communication. Across our Whole School, we will continue to harness the strength of our arts programs by enhancing our current offerings while exploring new ways to shine a light on our artists and performers.
We want students to graduate from SMUS prepared for their careers and life ambitions. We will support their journey through exploring their passions and interests, knowing that the more diverse their initial experiences, the more focused their future learning can be. Through experiential and real-world programming, paired with a dedicated University Counselling department, students will be encouraged to be courageous, creative and ambitious with their post-secondary planning and their lives.
Our experience is rooted in the landscape on which we learn, including the quality of our campuses. The spirit of place is strong here and we will enhance it. We will give our students strong roots while recognizing that we all contribute to ensuring a sustainable future.
Through solid governance, a commitment to continuous learning, environmental best practice and sound financial performance, we will prepare our students for the opportunities ahead while ensuring the school is attractive to future generations.
Our school is excellently served by a dedicated and diverse Board of Governors. Our model of governance has elected representation from current and past parents and alumni, in addition to appointments from the Alumni Association, Parents’ Auxiliary and faculty. To support strategic decision making we must review our structures, bylaws and processes to ensure the community members who offer their time and talent to support the school can do so efficiently and effectively.
To ensure the best possible experience for our students, we are committed to investing in the long-term professional growth of our faculty and staff. To be true to our Mission, which “seeks the excellence in all of us,” we will promote professional development and champion a love of learning for everyone in our community.
We will evolve the campus master plan for future facilities, while revitalizing our historic spaces. We will explore the potential for new spaces to support STEAM programming. Recognizing we have a shared future on the planet, we will make our decisions based on maximizing our educational impact while decreasing our environmental footprint.
To confidently plan for the future, our financial model must withstand those challenges we know are ahead, as well as those we cannot yet predict. The result of this prudent work is a school that is robust in times of change, creating a space for students to confidently prepare for life. We will develop a financial sustainability plan that looks to long-term horizons, accounting for reserve fund increases, financial risk mitigation and additional revenue sources not related to increased enrolment.
The value of philanthropy starts in our classrooms through a focus on service. Our broader culture of philanthropy is integral to deliver on this strategic plan and must be celebrated among our Board of Governors, and with staff, faculty, parents and alumni. Our goal is to increase financial aid capacity, support the campus master plan and grow our endowment, all through a major fundraising campaign. It is an ambitious yet realistic plan to meet the investment needed to place SMUS at the forefront of Canadian education.
Beginning with our two founding schools, community has long been at the heart of SMUS. With students from more than 30 countries, dedicated staff and faculty, a supportive network of parents, and more than 8,000 alumni and friends around the world, we will continue to be a place that brings people together.
This community is to be celebrated. We are committed to excellence in all its forms, through intentional planning, staffing, communication and, above all, a celebration of the school’s Values our students embody: respect, courage, honesty and service.
SMUS students already demonstrate a pride in who they are and a respect toward others. This does not happen by chance. We will continue to provide a holistic education in academics, arts and athletics, with a strong focus on student leadership roles and service. We will be mindful of student well-being by ensuring that the school’s Values are a guiding force and that conversations from chapel are at the centre of our school culture.
The collective experience, wisdom and support that exists in this community, for the school and for each other, cannot be undervalued. We will continue to find ways to engage with people, both inside and outside our community, assisted by the Alumni Association and the Parents’ Auxiliary. We will improve communications in our ongoing work to meaningfully connect.
To sustain and truly enhance the student experience, SMUS will not be complacent in recruiting, developing and retaining the highest quality faculty and staff. We will recruit globally, invest in our people and articulate clear expectations of excellence at all levels in support of the school’s Mission and Vision.
Where we learn is deeply connected to how and what we learn. We are grateful for the location of our school, and its proximity to BC’s diverse landscape. It influences our classrooms and curriculum, opening the world to our students. In turn we strive to be a welcoming space for all people to live and learn. We learn from and honour all Indigenous peoples with intention and respect.
We celebrate 50 years of education as St. Michaels University School in 2021. Rooted in our history and traditions, we will move forward as a Whole School, grateful for our past and excited about our future. Our Jubilee celebrations will be an opportunity to connect what makes the SMUS community it is today, as we prepare to flourish in the future.
Our Report Card is an annual publication that reports on the preceding school year. It is a cross-campus look at our academic results, university acceptances and school governance.
On January 21, Mark Turner, Head of School, gave a presentation to parents about Floreat. If you were not able to attend the presentation you can now watch a recording.
All parents are invited to an information session about the Floreat strategic plan on either Tuesday, January 21 and Tuesday, January 28. Both sessions will take place in Chapel. They are an opportunity for parents to hear more about the strategic plan and ask questions.
This would also be an excellent opportunity to bring a friend, if you know of anyone who may be interested in the future direction of SMUS.
To confirm your attendance, please RSVP on the SMUS website.