Mission Makes the Meaning

Without a doubt, my favorite part of being a Consultant to private-independent schools is that I get to visit their campuses. And I don’t just love all the school travel because of the airline miles and the hotel points (shocking, right?).

Rather, it’s because it never ceases to amaze me the diversity of private-independent schools we have in the United States – not to mention those that are beyond our borders.

I’ve visited schools with as few as 50 students and those with well over a thousand. Urban and rural. Perched on the coast and tucked into the mountains. All girls, all boys, and co-ed, with tuitions ranging from well under $10,000 to approaching $50,000. Some with wait-pools loaded with full-pay families, and others who have created true socioeconomic diversity through the use of school choice vouchers.

I know, I know … you get it … I’ve visited a lot of schools, and they’re all really different.

But here’s the thing. What makes these schools unique isn’t their location, their enrollment numbers, or their tuition.

What makes each school truly different from the other is something much more important. So important, in fact, that it drives every single decision its leadership makes, every penny it spends, every teacher it hires.

That “thing” is mission.

Quite simply, a school’s mission statement is its “why” for existence. What is its purpose? What would be lost if the school shuttered its doors tomorrow?

This is why I love visiting schools.

If only for a few days, I get to live each school’s mission, learn from their faculty, and be inspired by their students.

Me and my daughter, Julianna, at the Legacy Lunch at Ravenscroft School, circa 2011. Where have the years gone??? Credit: Susan Washburn.


A great mission gets to the heart of the school. It’s short. It’s memorable. And, if it’s really great, it might even give you chills.

Take my own kids’ schools, for example. My daughter is a freshman Ravenscroft School, and my son, a junior at The Fletcher Academy. Both also attended Academy at the Lakes for a number of years.

Now, read each school’s mission statement:

Academy at the Lakes is a learning community of shared values dedicated to the success of each individual at school, in the community, and in the world. We celebrate the love of learning and the joy in the journey.

The mission of The Fletcher Academy is to develop the human potential of students with learning differences in a joyful and nurturing environment where individualized instructional methods and leadership opportunities promote the development of academic, artistic, athletic, social and technical skills for life.

The Ravenscroft community, guided by our legacy of excellence, nurtures individual potential and prepares students to thrive in a complex and interdependent world.

You can probably surmise a lot about each school just by reading its mission. And you’re probably right.

And I can speak from experience as a parent that each of these schools offers an exceptional education and is outstanding at what they do. They have dedicated leaders, talented faculty, and students who learn in an engaging environment.

So what’s the real takeaway here?

Mission makes the meaning.

If you were to visit these three schools, you would see that the campus buildings, the classroom sizes, the curriculum, and the extracurricular programs are all driven by mission — nothing more, nothing less.

This is what makes private-independent schools so vital to our educational landscape. With mission at the center, I believe, there is a private-independent school that can meet the needs of every child.

When a school reaches out to me to inquire about working together, the very first thing I do is read its mission. True, it may not tell me everything I need to know about a school, but it tells me an awful lot … and it tells me what matters most.


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