Autumn ivy on School House

To the SMUS Community,

With the lights and sounds of Diwali flickering and echoing around the school campus, with the exuberance of Halloween approaching, and with plans for the first in-person cross-campus Carol Service in three years taking shape, this is the time of year when the Board meets in-person for their annual retreat. Part of the format involves detailed annual presentations from key areas of the school’s operations including admissions, academics, advancement, and this year, communications.

The Board was pleased to receive reports from these sections that reflected both the information available in Our Report Card, and our way forward for this year. Specifically, the Board were interested to hear about the Portrait of a Graduate as our North Star for education, which you will hear more about in the upcoming weeks, and the ongoing commitment to academic rigour, particularly in STEAM with the work of our new Hinton Chair, Chris Csaky.

This focus on the experience of our students, curated by Admissions from our Victoria community and 28 countries around the world, is supported by the excellent work of Advancement with our Power of Participation Annual Fund drive and the forward-looking Journey for Life campaign. Our communications audit from the Spring has led to a plan that will ensure the communications from the school are clear, concise, coordinated and delivered in the most appropriate way as we continue with the work that keeps us a leading independent school in Canada and around the world.

An area of interest for our community on the agenda this year was the discussion around the draft recommendations presented by our Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Committee. These recommendations were the result of an 18-month process of careful deliberation under the guidance of Dr. Moussa Magassa.

The Board wholeheartedly supported the spirit of the recommendations and accepted most as presented, taking the time to discuss variations on implementing others. The discussion reinforced the support for the work that has already been invested through the 750 responses to our EDI survey and multiple focus groups, and provided every encouragement for the school to move forward as quickly as possible with preparing a comprehensive roadmap for implementation that is in line with Floreat, our strategic plan.

The Board was also happy to receive a report on the first ever EDI survey of faculty and staff. This work was completed by an external consultant, Equifair Research, and will serve as a baseline to monitor progress. It is important to note that we are one of the first schools of our type to launch this form of research, which is much more in line with the journey that many universities have undertaken.

Overall, there was unanimous support that the compass guiding our EDI journey should continue to be ‘respect’ as a core value of our community. When we are at our best it is alive in every interaction and decision. At the same time, we know that we have much to learn, including what it means to be a fully equitable, diverse, and inclusive community. The Board has requested that a formal report will be presented each year at their retreat so that annual progress can be noted and monitored.

The school is also pleased to move forward with the next steps of our journey of Indigenous relationships. Plans are underway to recruit a new Indigenous Liaison to build on the excellent volunteer work that Jenn Fletcher has contributed over the last several years. We will also be assessing how best to capture the outstanding contributions of our 2021-22 and 2022-23 Indigenous Scholar, Dylan Thomas. 

This year, the Board Retreat confirmed the excellent progress the school has made and momentum generated even through the COVID slowdown. At the same time, we were galvanized by the fact that there is so much more to do in so many important areas to ensure that we continue to flourish.

We are most grateful for your continued support of our school, and we look forward to continuing this work with you.