Announcing WSG’s New Mission Statement

Posted by Dr. Beth Reaves

The Washington School for Girls is pleased to announce its new mission statement, adopted recently by the Board of Trustees, developed with robust stakeholder input, and rooted in our commitment to educational equity and racial justice:

Washington School for Girls ignites the joyful pursuit of learning and inspires lives of faith-filled purpose, leadership, and service.

A mission statement is central to an organization – succinctly explaining its purpose in a way that resonates throughout the entire community. In a school setting, a mission statement is a unifying vision for teachers and administrators, guiding the school’s work with students and families and informing program design. The mission serves as an expression of the school’s values and beliefs, so that students and families can be sure they align with their own.

Most importantly, students must be able to see themselves reflected in the mission of the school in a way that honors their contribution to the community and their potential for growth. It must also be a call to action for all stakeholders: students, families, staff, volunteers, supporters, and partners. While it may be considered an inward statement for a school, the impact of the mission statement reverberates throughout the community.

As part of our recent re-accreditation and strategic planning processes at WSG, we conducted a comprehensive review of our mission statement. This review included community surveys to various stakeholder groups including students, families, faculty/staff and our Board of Trustees. A common theme arose from the surveys: while the WSG community is unified in our shared purpose, our statement focused too much on defining our students and not enough on our bold vision for their success.

In January, armed with this feedback, we gathered a cross section of our stakeholders together for a strategic planning retreat and to discuss a revision to the mission statement. We wanted to ensure our mission statement would connect internally with our faculty and staff, feel relevant and aspirational to our families and students, and be compelling to our external stakeholders. Most critically, we wanted to ensure that our mission statement would reflect our commitment to equity through its language and framing.

Language is incredibly powerful and, as evidenced by ongoing national conversations about racial equity, can impact the way we think about the world around us. To inform our discussion on how we describe our students and our work, we learned about the concept of asset framing – you can learn more by watching this short video by Trabian Shorters. In summary, Shorters’ work calls on organizations to describe those they serve in terms of their aspirations and their contributions rather than their challenges and deficits. In doing so, organizations like WSG can affirm the dignity and worth of their students and avoid setting any unintended limitations on them.

Our group of stakeholders tested and evaluated several versions of our mission statement, with specific focus on the fidelity to our founding values, the connection with our students and families, and faithfulness to our vision and goals. We are extremely proud of the resulting statement: one that draws on our school history and founding vision, reflects our partnership with students and families, and authentically describes our aspirations for our school and our students.

Read on to learn more about why the committee chose each component of our new statement:

Washington School for Girls ignites…

We chose “ignites” as our leading verb, rather than something like “empowers” or “uplifts”, because we acknowledge that young girls of color have fortitude and power within themselves. We don’t need to give them power or lift them – rather, we play a role in activating a potential that already exists within each student. We ignite this potential, but it is the student herself who, through realizing her own power and ability, engages proactively in her education.

… the joyful pursuit of learning…

Joy has been a core value at WSG since its founding – and one that is visibly present within our school. Our students are young girls: elementary and middle school aged. Schools should be supportive, encouraging, safe spaces where students want to be; classrooms should encourage students to want to learn. Embracing learning can be a beautiful and yes, joyful, experience.

We also chose “pursuit” to reflect that there is no endpoint for learning. We want our students to continue to learn throughout their lives, through higher education, professional growth, and in their personal and spiritual lives. The joyful pursuit of learning is not a chore, rather, it is to delight in the discovery of something new.

… and inspires lives of faith-filled purpose…

As a Catholic school, we believe that God is the source of our lives and strength and so we support all faith expressions. We encourage each student’s deepening of her spirituality through the Catholic faith tradition, shared prayer experiences and our school culture. We believe that this helps students find purpose and meaning in their own lives, and was critical to include in our mission statement.

… leadership…

WSG is developing tomorrow’s leadership. We want our girls to understand that they can be leaders in their schools and in their communities as they mature and head into high school. Leadership development is woven throughout the WSG experience for students, with a range of opportunities for them to use their voices for good.

… and service.

Our desire is that WSG students contribute positively to society and the world. Stewardship and a spirit of generosity are important tenets of our program, helping our students to understand they have much to share with others.