Commons sums up mission in 26 words

Zoe Dutton

The new mission statement emphasizes the importance of “joyful” learning in addition to academic excellence.

President Rick Commons spoke about the statement at Opening Convocation on Tuesday. He first announced it Aug. 26 at the opening faculty and staff meeting and on the school website.

“Harvard-Westlake strives to be a diverse and inclusive community united by the joyful pursuit of educational excellence, living and learning with integrity, and purpose beyond ourselves,” it reads.

A small committee led by Commons drafted the statement last year, and the school’s Board of Trustees revised and approved it during the summer.

The new version contains many of the older draft’s sentiments, but in what the administration hopes is a more condensed and memorable form.

“I thought, ‘I need to know my credo,’ and I realized I didn’t,” Commons said. “So I looked it up, and it didn’t sing to me. A couple days later I was in a meeting with the administrative council and asked if anybody knew it, and nobody really did.”

Commons said the new statement is meant to encourage students to hold the administration accountable to its principles.

“If there is a student who does not feel that she is being included by the policies or the way the culture affects her, I want her to call us out on that,” Commons said. “I want her to say, ‘We aspire to be a diverse and inclusive community, and we did this?’ And that should happen, because, of course, we are always aspiring to be better.”

Upper School Dean Beth Slattery said the statement was reflective of a larger pivot by the administration towards addressing student concerns.

“I think a big focus for the upcoming year will be on the new mission statement and also on the workload study,” Slattery said. “How we are going to be providing balance to kids moving forward, how we are going to take those recommendations and really act on them.”

Some students appreciate the administration’s effort to make the mission statement more accessible.

“I think the Harvard-Westlake mission statement reflects the community vibe,” Carolyn Hong ’17 said. “As a new ninth grade student, I was so glad to find a student body that was so welcoming and shared my passion for learning and achieving excellence. Because the students have such an accepting and joyful view on education, I think this new version was able to portray the students’ and the school’s intentions almost exactly.”

Commons will speak in greater detail about the new statement at the Parents’ Association General Meeting Sept. 17.