Together 10.7.22

October 7, 2022 | Nancy Van Epps

by Head of School, Abby Hall Choi

Thriving Roots & Flourishing Branches

In the 43 years since MSS first opened its doors to 16 students, the school has experienced many seasons. During each season, our unwavering commitment to:

  • a child-centered, rigorous curriculum
  • arts-infused expressions of understanding
  • and financial accessibility

is our beacon, helping us determine how to adapt to change and thrive while remaining true to who we are. Our foundational identity as a mission-driven school community, where children and families walk in love and grow in their understanding of connection to God, self, and others, guides us. As a complex and inclusive Christian organization, we are also enriched by families who come to us from other faith traditions, or from no faith tradition at all.

It’s hard to believe that we are beginning our fifth school year of working through our 2018-2023 strategic plan! Some new MSS families may not even be aware that groups met throughout the 2017-18 school year with the mandate to write this ambitious blueprint. 

  • It took well over 1000 people hours to craft the plan.  
  • More than 65 people contributed, most of them serving on seven Strategic Plan task forces. 

You can read our initial publication on the strategic plan, Thriving Roots & Flourishing Branches. Or, if you would like to see the full plan, check here.

Our work supports five overarching goals: 

  1. Educate the whole child: Engage Mind, Body, and Spirit
  2. Nurture our Core: Respond to our Families and Community 
  3. Plant Seeds: Tell the Mustard Seed School Story
  4. Cultivate Roots: Building a Strong and Flexible School for All Seasons
  5. Spread Roots: Grow School Leadership

Despite the interruptions and distractions of COVID, we have continued to meet the milestones and objectives outlined in this important document. Over the next couple of weeks in three installments, I will share the adaptive solutions that we have cultivated over the last four years in accordance with the strategic plan. Starting with the goal at the top, I’ll list the directives to reach the goal and a summary of our work so far as well as our future plans. With this transparency, my hope is that current parents and other interested members of the MSS family will gain a big picture understanding of where we are and where we are going.

As with any adaptive problem-solving process, we are called to hold complex views of the situation and world; the answer is almost never “yes or no” or “right or wrong.” The adaptive learning in a school keeps the mission central while the individuals carrying out the work understand there are many ways to solve the problem. By definition, the term “adaptive” suggests that leaders seek and consider new learnings that arise and adjust their plans.

Goal I: Educate the Whole Child

Engage Mind, Body, and Spirit

Charge: Maintain our purpose as a multi-denominational Christian community in an urban environment, dedicated to providing an outstanding education, while assuring access for students with limited financial resources.

In the fall of 2018, led by the Director of School Initiatives and Improvement (me), MSS began a multi-constituent reconsideration of the wording of our mission statement. As part of the process, I designed and led: 

  • Whole and small group staff meetings
  • Whole and small board meetings
  • Individual interviews with key members of the community 
  • Families were invited to idea check and weigh in
  • A small group of staff met to idea check and question the work

At no time was the intent to change the heart of our mission but rather to explore what new imagination would be invited through a restatement of our commitment.

In the winter of 2019, the board approved a restatement of our mission.

Mustard Seed School teaches each child to know and care for their community and God’s world. Together we inspire minds, cultivate hearts, and remove barriers. 

At that time, the board also adopted 3 core commitments: 

  • We educate the whole child
  • We are rooted in Christian faith
  • We remove barriers

These core commitments and their explication are held with the same level of missional importance as the 25-word mission statement.  Here is the full content. 

The mission continues to guide the work of the school as well as the supporting documentation such as the DEIB statement and the portrait of a graduate. 

Over the next few weeks, I look forward to sharing more about our work and vision for the future of the school as we strive together to be our best.

Nancy Van Epps

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