St. Stephen's is committed to further strengthening its commitment to academic excellence and relies on its reputation to
● recruit Rome-based students who have a choice about where to attend high school,
● enlist students overseas to join our boarding program, and
● attract and retain top-tier faculty and administrators, including heads of school.
In addition, our reputation for academic excellence helps the School’s seniors earn competitive college/university admissions, raises donor support, entices local businesses to partner with us on extracurricular activities, and is core to the School reaccreditation process.
Continuing to build academic excellence is vital to the School’s long-term viability and fits within its strategic framework because academic excellence is a key defining characteristic of St. Stephen’s that helps to distinguish it from its competitors both locally and abroad. We can ill afford to take academic excellence for granted. Competitor upgrades and the availability of broader technological and pedagogical advances encourage the continual nurturing and investment in our program. Academic excellence depends to a large extent on a combination of high-caliber students, outstanding and motivated faculty, adequate pedagogical resources, and an appropriately adaptable curriculum – and these are precisely the areas that our efforts should focus on over the next 5 years.
3. Apportion a larger percentage of annual revenue for student scholarships.
We will increase the amount of financial aid to permit a larger number of students to attend St. Stephen’s who would otherwise be unable to on account of our private school tuition levels. Currently, we expend about 7 percent of our revenue on scholarships; within 5 years, we will raise that amount to 9 percent. Further discussion is required to determine whether, and to what extent, recipients of such scholarships will need to meet merit-based criteria beyond the standard qualifications for admission. Prior to the budgetary cycle for 2023-24, the incoming Head of School will be asked to share her proposed approach, together with any relevant data, for the Board’s consideration. In any event, the result should provide a superior learning opportunity for students who could not otherwise afford to attend an elite school while contributing to the socio-economic diversity of the student body.
4. Foster a culture that values professional development and enhances the motivation of our faculty.
It is not enough to recruit top faculty and pay them competitive salaries; we also need to ensure they continue to grow and mature as teachers, keeping up with the latest subject matter literature, teaching methodologies, and technological means, as well as having an opportunity to learn from their peers and explore new topics within their field through independent research. We also need to ensure our faculty members feel adequately supported, so that they remain fully motivated; this can be effected, in part, through support for their professional development. To meet these needs, the school will financially support faculty attendance at academic conferences and seminars and participation in various technical and pedagogical training programs, while encouraging faculty to take sabbaticals. In addition to investing more resources, the incoming Head of School will evaluate the efficacy of our existing professional development practice in terms of the adequacy of incentives, opportunities, and monitoring.
5. Organize and equip classrooms to optimize teaching and learning success.
Some classroom furnishings are outdated and do not fit the classroom spaces effectively. Learning can be negatively impacted by how desks are arranged to fit the space. Teacher movement and, thus, interaction is compromised by cramped spaces and poorly furnished classrooms. Classroom set up and furniture should be flexible to allow for independent and collaborative work; however, classrooms are at times used by several classes with varying requirements and set-ups. To address these constraints, we will purchase high-quality, durable, and easily moveable furniture to facilitate greater flexibility and improved use of classroom space. In addition, we will routinely assess our teaching technology needs and make the appropriate improvements.
6. Explore a rigorous and credible alternative to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.
The IB is a staple of the St. Stephen’s educational experience, and we are confident it will remain so, as it constitutes an exceptional curriculum for the vast number of our students. However, every year there are some students for whom the IB is not the most appropriate option and this number may increase as we attract more boarders from the United States and other countries where the IB is less pervasive. These students may wish to focus on academic pursuits that lie outside the core IB subject areas, may wish to dive deeply into a subject that the broad-based IB does not accommodate, or may simply not be interested in carrying a 6-course load and care more about investing time in their musical, athletic, or community service interests. Until now, students who have chosen to opt out of the IB have not had a properly designed and resourced programmatic alternative. Such an alternative might, for example, include a capstone project, such as a self-directed academic project, a performance-based project, or a service-oriented internship. The new Head of School will be tasked with assessing and developing a curricular alternative for what might be provisionally called a Concentrated Diploma that could be implemented as soon as possible. The incoming Head will need to develop an accompanying plan for communicating effectively the development of this non-IB track to colleges and universities, current families, and prospective students so that its merits can be fully absorbed.