by Ken DeSieghardt
Having had the professional and personal pleasure of working with school districts on stakeholder research and communication issues since 1992, I have (what’s the right word here?) encountered all manner of Mission Statements.
Whether they are long or short, flowery or to the point it’s always evident that each word, sentence and idea has been “fussed over,” as my mother used to say.
The worst offenders are those that are – no joke – two paragraphs long…or more. As you read these, you can see where the authors were checking items off a list of “must-haves” as they wrote.
But I’ve also seen school district Mission Statements you could fit on one of those tiny Post-It® Notes if your penmanship is good enough. While the long ones get so far into the weeds that the reader can’t escape, sometimes the short ones don’t say anything at all.
Then there’s the 'school-eze' jargon. If you see a lot of industry lingo in a Mission Statement, doesn’t it get you wondering who, exactly, it was written for?
Let’s be honest. Nobody considering whether or not to move into your district says, “Let me see the school district’s Mission Statement before I decide.” Your staff may be able to recite it, but it’s not likely that they reference it as they carry out their daily tasks.
I was going to title this column, “Blow up your Mission Statement,” but that sounded too harsh. You can leave it as is, until you seat your next Board and someone says, “Have we taken a look at our Mission Statement recently?" Good times.
Instead, I suggest you begin to introduce new, repeatable ideas into discussions of your Mission Statement. Call them more relatable 'Proof Points,' if you will.
For example, “Our district is preparing students…"
- To succeed in college. If “College- and Career-Ready” is the vernacular these days, put it to use. It offers the perfect umbrella under which you can place much of your curriculum and programming.
- To succeed in their careers. Document how you address the needs of students for whom college is not an option – or a choice.
- For life. The drumbeat supporting more life skills training in public schools gets louder by the day. Even if you have a lot of work to do to grow this area, talk about what you do have and your plans to expand your programming to meet this need.
“We prepare students for college, career and life.” The entire Mission of a school district in (much) less than two paragraphs.
You don’t have to “Blow up your Mission Statement” to make it more useful. You need to change how it is used.
Just something to think about.