Commons develops new Visions


Leo Saperstein & Harry Tarses/Chronicle

HW Visions Progress report released Sept. 15 highlights five administration goals set in 2015 and how the school will implement change based on student opinions in the community to better student life, local communities and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Tessa Augsberger and Milla Ben-Ezra

The school published its first Visions progress report and released its broad-based Visions survey for its next report in an all-school email Sept. 15.

The report highlights five overarching categories of goals set in 2015: Happiness and Balance, Commitment to Inclusion, New Ways to Serve Los Angeles, Commitment to Character and Engaging Pedagogy, Curricular Innovation and Professional Growth. Each theme includes 7-10 steps the school has taken in the past five years to fulfill each Vision.

President Rick Commons said the school’s Visions report, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is similar to a strategic plan but is more idealistic and allows for greater flexibility. He said the periodic progress reports, as opposed to a single finalized strategic report, allowed the school to adapt to online learning during the pandemic.

“In March 2020, there was only one goal, [which was] to deliver school as best as we could [through] Zoom,” Commons said. “But we were thinking about [our] Visions, like happiness and balance in the student experience, new pedagogy and purpose beyond ourselves. [We thought,] ‘How can we do these things on Zoom school?’ and we had the Visions there [to guide us].”

Student Leadership in Diversity and Equity (SLIDE) co-chair Lauryn Milburn ’22 said she believes the school has made visible progress in its commitment to inclusion during her time as a student .

“I feel that the school has definitely made strides to improve the overall experience of students of color and black students,” Milburn said. “I appreciate the changes, and also I really liked that the school sent out things like surveys to hear from students themselves. [One way] that the school has improved is that they’ve definitely hired more teachers of color in their departments [who serve as] safe people you can go to if you’re dealing with anything, if you’re having a tough time or if you just need someone to talk to.”

Although she said she values the changes the school has implemented in alignment with its Visions document , Milburn said student leaders should be more involved in the Visions process and that the administration should be more transparent about the implementation of its Visions.

“The school can improve [by] letting students know what is being done behind the scenes because I feel like what is actually being changed and improved is sometimes hidden from students until it actually happens,” Milburn said. “Having those talks with administration and having more outlets to directly share how students feel and what we think could be better at the school, and also along with that, [for students to learn] how the school is fixing that actively [would be beneficial].”

Peer Support trainee Max Thompson ’23 said he is impressed by the school’s ability to branch out into the greater Los Angeles community and noted that the Visions initiatives integrate the Studio City community into the school’s future expansion plans.

“I think that [the administration is] doing a good job of connecting with the Los Angeles community as a whole,” Thompson said. “[Take] the River Park project, for example. [I think] the fact that they’re trying to implement ways that the whole Los Angeles community can get involved with it is great.”

Commons said unlike the school’s mission statement and tactical initiatives, which are more implementation-based and for the long term, results from the latest Visions report provided the school with goals for the next several years.

“One [part of] our mission [statement] is diversity and inclusion, [so one of our Visions determined in 2015] was a commitment to giving every member of our community an equal sense of belonging,” Commons said. “I like that phrase so much I have a hard time imagining [a] Visions [report] for the next several years that does not include that phrase, but it doesn’t say what we’re going to do with regard to financial aid, what we’re learning from the [SLIDE board] or what we’re learning from students who are part of underrepresented groups. Those are things that I don’t see written into the Visions. I see them [instead] as an implementation in pursuit of giving every member of our community an equal sense of belonging.”

Director of Institutional Research Michael Barker, who spearheads data collection for the Visions project, said he hopes to see increased student involvement in the school’s goal evaluation process.

“I would love for [the administration] to engage with students in [the Visions] process, and that’s hopefully what that survey started to do,” Barker said. “I would love for students to really get involved in it because it’s important to remember that adults have an idea [around] what’s happening at the school, and then there’s a whole world that [only students] experience that you create as a student here. You would hope [the school’s] Visions speak to that student experience as closely as possible.”

Associate Head of School Laura Ross said she is optimistic that the Visions progress reports will help shape the school’s future.

“A big piece of my work in my office is thinking, ‘What should the school focus on next?’” Ross said. “Because those Visions are really powerful, they help guide us to think, ‘How can we achieve these [goals]?’ especially if [they are] something we think we should do as a [whole] school, so it’s really exciting.”

Commons said the 2020 Visions progress report is a mere step towards long-term change for the school community.

“Our strategy should be evolving regularly,” Commons said. “Meanwhile, we want to keep ideals and visions in front of us as the way we are being strategic.”