Update from Board Chair Joe Niehaus

Posted December 2, 2011


Dear Friends of Convent & Stuart Hall,
As we begin to wind down the fall semester, I am writing to provide you with a quarterly update regarding the progress of a few of the current initiatives undertaken by our Board of Trustees. These “Communications from the Board” are posted on the school’s website under Board of Trustees.

Strategic Planning Process
Convent & Stuart Hall, like many other independent schools, identifies and pursues major initiatives in programs and facilities pursuant to periodic five-year strategic plans developed by the Board. Our Board commenced working on a new five-year strategic plan this past January. At this point, we have largely completed collecting feedback from our various constituencies through the focus groups and community survey, which were conducted over the spring and summer, as well as prior research performed by the school.

We would like to express our thanks to all of you who participated in our community survey. We are pleased to report that we received over 800 responses from parents, students, alumni, faculty, staff, and other supporters of the school. This remarkable response rate provides further evidence of the passion that many of you possess for our school and the mission of a Sacred Heart education in San Francisco. I have attached a document that summarizes the survey findings. You will note that the survey results affirm many of our core values at Convent & Stuart Hall, while also identifying opportunities for improvement.

The survey results have been reviewed by both the Board and the senior administration and are providing important input into the strategic planning process. The Board devoted a large portion of its annual retreat this fall to prioritize the key elements that will comprise the plan. We are now engaged with the senior administration and faculty in the development of the plan itself and are on track to complete it by the end of the current school year. I will continue to update you on our progress.

President Search
As you know, Gordon Sharafinski will be retiring at the end of the current school year, and the Board is conducting a search for his successor. Keith Giarman, Chair of the President Search Committee, provides the following update:

We have made significant progress on the President search and remain on schedule to conclude the process by February. Based on input from the Convent & Stuart Hall community as well as the Search Advisory Committee, we successfully completed the Opportunity Statement for the President position, which is now posted on the school website. Based on this profile, our outside search firm (Wickenden Associates) screened nearly 100 potential candidates, of which a few dozen formally applied for the position.

The President Search Committee worked with Wickenden to evaluate those applicants and select a core group of semi-finalists who will be formally interviewed by the President Search Committee this weekend. We hope to choose two or three finalists from this group to visit the school in January for an extensive tour and interviews with representatives of our community. The Board will name one of these finalists as President after it considers the feedback from all involved.

The President Search Committee would like to thank everyone who took the initiative to complete the online survey, recommend candidates, and serve on the Search Advisory Committee. Overall, we are excited about the quality of interested candidates and are looking forward to moving the process along toward a successful conclusion.

Leadership Transitions at Convent Elementary School and High School
The Board is also focused on ensuring smooth leadership transitions at Convent Elementary School and Convent High School next year. Anne Wachter, RSCJ, and Andrea Shurley each made their own decisions to pursue outside opportunities, which we must respect as consistent with Sacred Heart Goal V of “personal growth.” We are extremely grateful for all that Sr. Wachter and Mrs. Shurley have contributed to build our school over many years, and we wish them well in their new endeavors. While they will move away from our city next year, they will forever remain part of the fabric of Convent & Stuart Hall.

Along those lines, we are pleased to welcome back Mary Forsyth to our community next fall as Interim Head of Convent High School. Mrs. Forsyth previously served for 27 years as a teacher and senior administrator of Convent High School. She is a graduate of a Sacred Heart high school and college, and is steeped in our educational traditions. We look forward to her return to our school.

Representatives of the Board are working diligently with Mr. Sharafinski and members of the Convent Elementary School community to identify a new Head of School for next year. A national search is under way with further assistance from Wickenden Associates. We are searching for an educator who appreciates the benefits of values-based, single-sex education in the Sacred Heart tradition. The team conducting the search is currently reviewing applications and intends to formally interview semi-finalist candidates in January.

While apprehension to change can be a natural human reaction, schools are institutions whose leaders have their own careers and personal aspirations. This necessarily leads to leadership transitions from time to time. At Convent & Stuart Hall, we are fortunate that the Sacred Heart Goals & Criteria permeate our entire community and transcend any one person. The Board is confident that our community will work together to provide the necessary assistance and support for the new President and Heads of Convent Elementary School and High School to be successful in their roles. As Trustees, we remain deeply committed to our school and are available to respond to any questions you might have regarding these transitions.

Gratitude
Our school-wide theme this year is Gratitude. As we head into the holiday season, the Board is grateful for the many contributions of time and resources that you make to support Convent & Stuart Hall. First, we would like to recognize the faculty and administration who carry out the Sacred Heart mission with our students on a daily basis and are surely our greatest resource. In addition, we are highly appreciative of the generous support provided by our financial donors. Year-to-date contributions to the Annual Fund are up over 15% from last year and our Framework for the Future campaign is approaching $19.5 million of commitments. Lastly, we are thankful to the many volunteers who magnanimously donate their time and energy. As an example, Parents Association volunteers organized two successful events this fall: the Golf & Tennis Classic and Christmas on Broadway. These events not only raised funds to support our programs, but they also provided opportunities to build community.

Your collective support continues to make a meaningful difference in the education of our students.

Regards,
Joe Niehaus, Board Chair

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