As we close the 2015-2016 school year, I thought I’d share an update on the school’s strategic plan.

Our Vision

Cary Academy will create learning opportunities that are flexible, personalized, and relevant. We will cultivate self-directed and bold life-long learners who make meaningful contributions to the world.

Goal 1: Institutional Flexibility
Cary Academy will create institutional flexibility to facilitate innovative and dynamic learning experiences.

The year started with our faculty and staff design thinking workshop. Following this introduction, a study team formed and met throughout the year to explore how the concepts might be applied to our work.

A task force began to explore the school schedules, looking for ways to better align the MS and US schedule and give it more flexibility. A prototype schedule was tested in the spring. The work of this group will continue, with another prototype coming next year and a schedule change to be introduced for 2017-2018. Continuing on the theme of flexing time, the Upper School developed our first for-credit CA summer course. The US history course will run this summer, and it will give students more flexibility in their scheduling or course selection in the coming year.

In pursuit of more dynamic learning experiences, we began our first formal MS/US curriculum review sequence. Math and science teachers met throughout the year to review curriculum and trends, topics under review range from learning progressions and flexible learning pathways to assessment strategies and cultivation of a growth mindset. They will make a series of recommendations next year, for implementation in 2017-2018. This will align with the planning of our new science building, as outlined in the master facility plan. Next year, reviews will begin in English and social sciences.

Finally, we launched a Research and Development Team to explore concepts that we believe have the potential to positively impact learning at Cary Academy. Early topics being explored include: micro-schools, micro-credentialing, professional development models, and threshold curriculum concepts.

Goal 2: Authentic Engagement
Cary Academy will foster the intellectual and cultural elasticity needed to adapt and thrive in the world.

Continuing our initiative to blend the best of digital and face-to-face pedagogy, we added three new blended courses into the Upper School this past year: multivariable calculus and differential equations (in partnership with NC State), architecture, and anatomy and physiology.

Several new projects were introduced this school year as well, including:

  • a  partnership with the CLOSE UP organization for the 11th grade class trip to Washington, DC.,
  • a 6th grade Citizen Science project,
  • and new MS world language field trips and Skype collaborations.

To spark further smaller-scale projects within existing courses, we launched a grant program for faculty to use the summer to develop engagement opportunities. We have two projects under development.

The Upper School launched a structured work experience program during Discover Term, creating mini internship-type opportunities for 22 juniors over the last two weeks of school. Look for an overview of this exciting new program in the fall.

Goal 3: Strong Communications
Cary Academy will strengthen existing relationships and build new connections to embrace multiple perspectives and opportunities.

There were a number of outreach efforts to connect Cary Academy to the wider community, including:

  • visits from Dr. Peggy Macintosh and Terri Phoenix and the development of a parent SEED cohort as part of our diversity and inclusion programming,
  • a schoolwide Celebration of Creativity and Innovation, including a speaker series, as part of our Grandparents Day,
  • and exciting new PTAA initiatives, such as the Charger Derby 5K and Auction.

We worked with an outside firm to conduct a comprehensive communication audit, and then we followed that up by engaging with a communications firm to help us sharpen our visual and written messaging around the Cary Academy story. That work will continue into next school year. In addition, a committee used a design thinking protocol to prototype a new weekly email communication that will launch in the fall.

Finally, a 20th Anniversary Planning Team has been working all spring to pull things together for a yearlong celebration in 2016-2017.

Goal 4: Appropriate Resources
Cary Academy will build the professional and learning environments necessary to realize our strategic vision.

We migrated to a new student information system, Veracross, across the academic, admissions, advancement divisions. This single platform should improve coordination and communication. Internally, we have begun implementation of an internal calendar, technology, and facilities management platform called SchoolDude.

This fall, we completed a capital campaign readiness study, and the Board of Directors approved that report in January. We have begun a quiet phase in this process, and our Campaign Steering Committee will meet in June to help finalize our campaign case statement. The campaign will be in support of programs identified in the strategic plan and facilities needs outlined as part of our master plan.

Our facilities updates continue this summer with the renovation of the Lecture Hall, the creation of a new makerspace/design studio and the development pilot classroom and collaborative spaces in the Upper School. Our furniture replacement cycle also continues.

As we wrap up this past school year, I hope this overview gives you a sense of the types of things we are working on at Cary Academy. This is a school that does not sit still. However, I do hope that everybody takes some time this coming summer to rest, relax, and recharge. More great things will be on tap for the fall!