What is the Mark of a Great School?

Say, if I could holler / Like a mountain jack
Yeah, yeah, oh, people / I’d call my baby back

Whether you’re listening to the slow, bluesy Ray Charles version, or the much more up-tempo rendition from The Queen of Soul*, the sentiments expressed are the same:

Come back, baby…Let’s talk it over one more time.

If a good school is measured in large part by its growth, what is the mark of a great school?

Independent school administrators (and their boards) have been pondering and debating this rhetorical question for years. For me, one of the best responses that I’ve ever heard comes from consultant Rick Newberry, who has written:

Great schools are known by engaged, committed families: the ones
who come for the promise of an exceptional educational community 
and stay because they can’t imagine finding anything better.

With respect to growth (one measure of a “good” school), I think it’s fair to say that MCS certainly qualifies, especially when you consider that, when the school first established its permanent home here on Pope Road back in 1985, we were a modest, one-building preschool.

Walk around our 13-acre campus today, and it’s abundantly clear that we have “grown” considerably over the last 33 years.

That said, when one considers that a major goal of our 2015-2022 Strategic Plan and the ambitious expansion plan that accompanies it (namely, achieving an increased enrollment of up to 300 students), it’s equally clear that the best way for MCS to be able to truly define itself as a “great” school is if we are not only able to attract a sufficient number of new families in the coming years, but also to re-enroll an ever-higher percentage of currently enrolled families as well.

Last year, thanks to the hard work of some very dedicated staff members, we were able to retain many more students than has been MCS’s historical averages. How did we do it? Primarily (but not exclusively), by “talking it over” with you parents—and your child’s teachers—while also listening, not only to your concerns but also to your hopes and desires for your child’s future.

Even though we are still barely one month into our new school year, that important work continues—or perhaps is better described as having returned—not only through the formal conversations that we will be having at our upcoming student-led conferences, but also during our casual, informal interactions at drop-off time, or maybe at a soccer game.

I promise not to be asking you (or worse, singing to you) to “come back, baby” anytime soon. For now, I’ll just let my friends Michael, Jermaine, Jackie, Tito and Marlon speak for me.

(*Bonus points if you can tell me who comes up to speak with Aretha after she finishes her song.)

Tim Daniel
Head of School