President Rick Commons has decided to rewrite the school’s mission statement to be more memorable and reflective of Harvard-Westlake’s core values.
The current mission statement emphasizes the opportunities the school strives to provide for the development of its students’ intellectual, spiritual and emotional capacities. It states that students are taught to learn how to live “with integrity and purpose as contributing members of society.”
Commons said he doesn’t disagree with the current mission statement’s sentiments, but he wants the new one to be more digestible, which he hopes will help it become a credo that will inform students’ and faculty members’ daily decisions.
“When I asked my administrative team what our mission statement was, zero could begin to remember what it was,” Commons said. “The same thing happened when I asked students.”
Commons said that despite the school’s success, having a unifying mission statement is crucial to a real sense of community. To help achieve this goal, Commons has decided to assemble a committee of students and faculty to help him form the mission statement before the end of the school year.
“It’s important that [the new mission statement] contains goals reflective of ourselves and our aspirations,” Commons said. “We hope it’ll reflect what a broad swath of our community would say is important to us.”
Commons said he was inspired by Johnson & Johnson’s complete nationwide recall of Tylenol in 1982 after cyanide was found in several Tylenol capsules and seven people died as a result of taking the pain reliever.
“Even though the CEO knew that the only infected bottles came from one store, he decided to pull all bottles off of every shelf in the country,” Commons said. “He pointed to their credo, which said their first obligation was to the doctors, nurses, patients, mothers and fathers they strived to help and that helped him make his decision. That’s what I want to be able to do, and what I want our students to be able to do.”
Commons stressed the need for the new statement to reflect both the current state of the school and its future ambitions.
“There need to be timeless truths that we hold as self-evident, and we need to be able to say them to each other,” he said, smiling. “Not that I’m comparing this to the Declaration of Independence, but we want our credo to be similarly timeless.”