Case Study

prospect Sierra School

Independent School: Organizational Growth and Alignment Through Strategic Partnerships and Innovation

SITUATION

  • Wendy served as the Director of Advancement and Partnerships at Prospect Sierra School for 11 years where she co-produced a TEDx Conference on Teaching Compassion with the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. She developed partnerships with organizations such as Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, Dovetail Learning, and Roots of Empathy.

  • The school was named an Ashoka Changemaker School, a NAIS Model School of the Future and a US Department of Education Green Ribbon School for its leadership in greening, teaching of 21st century skills, and social-emotional curriculum. 

  • Wendy also served on many accreditation study teams for the California Association of Independent Schools and has served as Board member, capital campaign lead, development consultant and leadership coach for schools and nonprofits throughout California.

CHALLENGE

  • Working in a challenging social and economically diverse community who craved commuity and outreach, Prospect Sierra’s culture was fragmented and unified with strained communication and collaboration with teachers, administrators and parents. 
  • Like most education institutions who rely on tuition income, the financial situation and fiscal longevity of the organization was at risk. New income streams were required, yet integrity and value of the organization needed reframing.

KEY OUTCOMES

  • INTEGRATED NEW INITIATIVES LED BY FACULTY

    Created distributed leadership teams for faculty to research, propose, and lead the development and integration of key areas: 21st Century Skills, social-emotional curriculum, greening and sustainability, technology, and diversity and inclusion, resulting in a vast capacity for shifting curriculum, gaining buy-in, and enriching community and culture.

  • DEVELOPED INFLUENTIAL THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

    The Head of School served on the Board and became Board Chair of the National Association of Independent Schools, a consortium of 3300 schools across the United States. In this role, she shared stories and process about the school’s growth and development, attracting global interest in its programs. Visitors from around the world came to learn firsthand how Prospect Sierra created flexible classrooms, taught SEL and diversity and education, and faculty and staff presented at national conferences as well. 

  • ALIGNED VISUAL DESIGN AND KEY MESSAGING

    Through a stakeholder-wide process, Prospect Sierra was able to create one core message that aligned the rest of their messaging: “We give them (students and teachers) the tools to build a better world.” From this, the school created a new website, new collateral, new magazine, and had an unifying lens through which to development content and programs.

  • NEW DONORSHIP STREAMS

    Through the partnerships, Prospect Sierra attracted donors for capital projects, program sponsorship from both individuals and institutions, and initiated an endowment. Donors trusted that the school could be both visionary and successfully implement on the vision.

  • ENROLLMENT INCREASED DESPITE DOWN ECONOMIC TIMES

    In 2008, the school had the social capital among faculty and staff to freeze salaries for a couple years. Additionally, two neighboring schools closed and Prospect Sierra became the school of choice and absorbed new students despite economic hardship for many. 

  • INCREASED CAPACITY FOR INNOVATION

    Professional development was offered for the entire faculty and staff, regardless of role, through the belief that it would deepen alignment and support of the mission. At other times, faculty trained in groups, creating a tipping point for introducing and integrating new practices including Stanford d.school’s K-12 Lab on design thinking and ecoliteracy with Fritjof Kapra, among others. An entrepreneurial mindset developed as a result.

LET’S TALK ABOUT BIG THINGS

SMALL TALK IS SO 2019