Strategic planning

Dream, design, do!

Thursday, March 7th

Dear Gordon parents, faculty, alumni and friends, 

When the strategic planning began in the fall, I promised you all that this process would go beyond the mere gathering of ideas, to strengthen relationships and inspire new partnerships throughout the school. I am proud to report that the next step, Dream, Design, Do, on Tuesday, April 9th, will deliver on this promise.

Over the past four months, the strategic planning Design Team and the Board of Trustees have collected an exciting range of ideas. These came to us through meetings and conversations with the Gordon community as well as the written responses you provided through online surveys and cards hung up in the Commons.

I am asking the adults of Gordon's community to come together in April to see how the Design Team and the trustees have used your ideas to create a basic framework of goals for Gordon's next several years. As the night plays out, everyone will pitch in and help think through the steps we'll need to take as we move towards these goals. With your help, we'll start to sketch out the specifics of how some very exciting big ideas could become tangible realities.

At this event, no one will sit down for long. Everyone in attendance will move among tables, share ideas for the school, and hear from other members of the community. Together, we will connect through our shared commitment to this amazing school.

Gordon has a long track record of innovation that consistently draws on a clear, ambitious mission. That's one of the reasons I chose to come to Gordon, and I am excited to work alongside you as we build on that history and plan our next steps together.

Who should come? 
Everyone's input is important! Parents, faculty, staff, alumni, grandfriends and friends of the school... anyone who cares about Gordon's future.

Can my children come? 
The RSVP form includes an opportunity to sign up for child care. You're welcome to bring your Gordon-age child (who is potty-trained) but your advance sign-up is absolutely necessary for our planning. 

What if I cannot make it? Is this my last chance to weigh in?
You may have other commitments that night. There will be a second round of online questions before the April 9th event that will help ensure that people's ideas are captured. You're also invited to connect with a member of the Design Team or Board of Trustees to share your thoughts.

From my first days at Gordon, I have been looking forward to this process of coming together as a community to build the future of this very special school. I hope that you are able to join us on Tuesday, April 9th. The evening begins with a light supper at 5:30pm. The work begins at 6pm. Please RSVP at

January 20th update

January 20, 2019

Dear Gordon community families and caregivers:

We’re in the final days of Gordon’s first Listening Tour, with a deadline of Wednesday, January 23rd, and we are hoping to get many more responses. Please join! 

Consider using the survey—even one or two questions—to spark a conversation with a friend, then capture your insights in the form. If it is easier, people are also encouraged to complete the form by themselves. You choose! It's at

Another option is to complete a “What if?” card in the Commons. We want to hear from you!

This strategic planning process is also meant to strengthen community relationships in and beyond Gordon, so consider the “What if?” card and the Listening Tour as your best excuse to grab coffee, make a friend, and help thrust Gordon into its next chapter! 

Part 1 of the Listening Tour closes next week on Wednesday, January 23rd, but we’ll be launching Part 2 in early February. Part 2 will be more narrowly focused on strategic goal priorities identified at the Board retreat on January 26th. We hope that you can participate in both parts.

How do all these activities and events fit together to make a strategic plan? 

Below is a visual of the strategic plan's Appreciative Inquiry “5-D” process. 

After Defining what we want to study, as well as who and how to engage along the way, we are engaging community stakeholders (you!) to help us Discover examples of Gordon at its best, as well as aspirations for the future -- Dreaming big around what we can do new, better and different. This includes Part 1 of the Listening Tour, as well as strategic planning activities in January. 

The Board retreat on January 26th will use this community input to Design a Gordon SOAR map (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results), identifying three to five strategic goal areas to narrow the focus of the strategic plan. Part 2 of the Listening Tour will pick up in early February, further refining the three to five strategic goal areas through a survey and at a World Cafe event at Gordon on March 7th.

Finally, in April, the Design Team and the Board will come together to Deliver a final strategic plan. This will include even more focused details of a clear, accountable long-term plan. 

Who’s doing what to move this process forward? On roles and governance...

There are three primary bodies stewarding our strategic planning process:

(1) Design Team - eyes and ears of the community

Design Team members serve as strategic planning ambassadors to represent and be the voice of Gordon stakeholders. Members must be committed to Gordon's values and leadership in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as to the work of keeping this strategic planning process grounded, aspirational, and transparent. 
Emily Abedon
Ignacio Aguirre
Robinson Alston, Jr.
Aja Blanc
Kate Bramson
Thomas Brendler
Lisa Carcieri
Esteban Cardemil
Sarah Cashore
Angela Flynn
Christopher Moore
Besenia Rodriguez
Linda Shumate
Deb Salem Smith
Stephen Szermer
Caroline Walsh
Joshua Wynn

More concretely, Design Team members are helping identify the focus and desired outcomes for the strategy process, as well as key themes and topics to explore before, during, and after the January 2019 Board of Trustees retreat. They provide input on interview questions and retreat designs, while challenging the Sprint Team to think more broadly about who to involve, when and how.

(2) Sprint Team - lead decision makers, sponsors, governance body

The Design Team is working in close partnership with our community facilitator, Jen Hetzel Silbert, as well as a group we are calling the Sprint Team. This group coordinates the process and serves as the governance body of the larger planning process.
Lynn Bowman (Assistant Head of School)
Betsy Stubblefield Loucks (Trustee)
Amanda Riegel (Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees)
Noni Thomas López, Ed.D (Head of School)

(3) Board of Trustees - ultimately responsible for the stewardship of Gordon’s strategic plan

Gordon's Board will be modeling a planning process that is participatory and inclusive. They will co-create a blueprint for Gordon’s continuity and way forward, serving as a backbone decision-making body around whom the January 26th retreat will be focused. Board members are encouraged to participate before and after the retreat, engaging in the Listening Tour and various community engagement events wherever possible in a manner that gathers input into the strategy while strengthening the relationships and partnerships that are key to the successful execution of the plan.

The input we receive from the Gordon community is important, but so are the relationships that this process will help deepen, within and beyond our Gordon community. We hope to hear from everyone: students, alumni, faculty, staff, current families, families of alumni, friends of Gordon, and our Board of Trustees. Please follow our progress at

I’m looking forward to hearing from and engaging with you! As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at 

Take care,
Noni Thomas López, Ed.D
Head of School

Stretching imaginations

Gordon is developing a new strategic plan, and the entire community is generating ideas through meetings, conversations and quiet reflection.


The thoughts are being collected through a Google form, but Gordon recognizes that typing into a Google form is not for everyone.


As a quicker, pen-and-paper alternative, What if? cards have been placed in the Commons.


In the first thirty-six hours, it's clear that these cards are sparking ideas that might not have made it into the online form.


Maybe the cards hanging on the wall are inspiring new thoughts.


Maybe some people think differently when looking at paper than they do looking at a screen.


And maybe some ideas about Gordon simply can't be adequately expressed with a keyboard.

Gordon parents, students, faculty, grandparents, alumni, and everyone else who considers themselves part of the community are urged to submit their ideas on the What if? wall or The deadline for this round of input is Wednesday, January 23rd.

January 9th update

Gordon's strategic planning process is underway, and the plan's Design Team is looking to get input from every corner of the Gordon community. 

Your involvement is not just desired, it's necessary to make this process a success!

How can I participate?

Join the Listening Tour! For this round, which ends Wednesday January 23rd, people will be using the form linked at

The form was designed to be used in pairs, with one person asking the questions, and recording their partners' responses. Then, they can change roles!

Working in pairs, and listening to one another, will help shape everyone's answers and spark new ideas. If it's not possible to work with a partner, people should feel free to fill out the form by themselves.

Where should I do this?

The form is simple and works well on a mobile device, so feel free to pull it up if you're in the Commons, at a basketball game, checking out the art show or anywhere else where you are around Gordon families.

January's POSOC, GCA and Antiracism Working Group for White Parents meetings will also include time to take the listening tour.

Can I do this more than once? If I go to more than one parent event, will the conversation be different?

Everyone should feel free to participate as many times as they wish! 

Whether doing an interview in the Commons over coffee or during one of the parent events this month, different pairings will inspire new responses, and new ideas or reflections will come to mind over the course of the process.

What will happen to my responses?

All responses will be shared with the strategic plan Design Team (listed below) and will fuel the next steps in the planning process. All responses are anonymous, but quotes from responses might be shared in public documents.

When should I do this?


The deadline to use this form is Wednesday January 23rd. There will be additional opportunities to give your input, but this first step is important! And fun!

Thank you so much for your participation!


December update

above: action photos from the December Design Team meeting

Dear Gordon community families and caregivers,

Gordon is barely a month into its 2018-19 strategic planning journey. Since my November update, when I sought your Design Team nominations, we officially launched this group and hosted a meeting last Tuesday, December 18th. I hope you will consider Design Team members your ambassadors for broadening community input and participation in shaping our vision for the future­—the eyes, ears, 
and voices of the strategic planning process, keeping us grounded, aspirational, and transparent.

Please join me in thanking our Design Team members, a diverse mix of parents, alumni parents, faculty, and supporters, for their generous contribution of time and ideas: Emily Abedon
Ignacio Aguirre
Robinson Alston, Jr.
Aja Blanc
Kate Bramson
Thomas Brendler
Lisa Carcieri
Esteban Cardemil
Sarah Cashore
Angela Flynn
Christopher Moore
Besenia Rodriguez
Linda Shumate
Deb Salem Smith
Stephen Szermer
Caroline Walsh
Joshua Wynn

I cannot emphasize enough that anyone who wishes to participate in this important process will have the opportunity to do so. Read on to find two ways to jump in right away!

I’m looking forward to hearing from and engaging with you in the new year. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Take care,

Noni Thomas López, Ed.D
Head of School

Join the “Gordon Listening Tour”

Whether or not you’re able to attend an event in person, please consider joining our Listening Tour by conducting an interview with an old or new Gordon colleague or community member using the prompts at Should connecting in-person or by phone with another person not be an 
option, please use the same form to share your own answers.

Join us in person!

Starting in January (and running through April 2019), there are various Gordon meetings and forums where parents, students, faculty, and alumni are encouraged to join the conversation. For starters, there will be conversations about the strategic plan at these events:

Wednesday, January 9th, 6pm
Parents of Students of Color meeting

Friday, January 11th, 8:15am 
GCA meeting

Wednesday, January 16th, 6pm
Antiracism Working Group for White Parents meeting well as opportunities for students and parents at the Art Show, for faculty at Friday meetings, and for trustees at the Board retreat.

An invitation

November 14, 2018

Dear Gordon School Community,

Since our founding, the Gordon School has stood out as a leader in nursery to eighth grade education. Our mission, as a racially diverse school that works child by child "to inspire joyful learning, encourage intellectual leadership, foster an empathic spirit, and stimulate a drive for positive societal impact", is more relevant now than ever before. We take great pride in learning and leading as a community, and planning together so that every voice is heard. As we embark on our 2018-19 strategic planning journey, we seek broad community input and participation in shaping our vision for the future. 

Gordon has hired consultant Jen Hetzel Silbert of Spartina Consulting to facilitate our strategic planning process. Devoted to promoting inclusion and equity in education and in the labor market, Jen brings over twenty years in strength-based community facilitation, social entrepreneurship, strategy and workforce development in cities, schools, Fortune 500 companies, and indigenous villages around the world. 

In order to best support and guide this process, Gordon will establish a Design Team, whose membership will draw from all corners of the Gordon community. Members will serve as ambassadors, actively gathering input from the larger community and using it to inform our strategic planning process. Think of the Design Team as the eyes, ears and voice of the strategic planning process, keeping us grounded, aspirational, and transparent. 

Consider nominating someone for the Design Team (including yourself!) by using this Design Team Nomination Form before 5pm Wednesday, November 21st.

This team will work in close partnership with Jen, Lynn Bowman (Assistant Head of School), Amanda Riegel (Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees), Betsy Stubblefield Loucks (Trustee), and myself, a group we are calling the "Sprint Team." This group will coordinate the process and be the governance body of this planning process. 

People chosen for the Design Team will be notified by Tuesday, November 27, so they can attend a launch meeting in mid-December. The goal will be to create a diverse group that reflects as many Gordon stakeholder groups as possible.

Strategic Planning Process and Methodology

Our planning process will be highly interactive, engaging a wide array of stakeholders and community partners during a series of events. Following a more efficient process than most traditional strategic planning approaches, we will launch in December 2018 and wrap up in April 2019 (five months). We will use a strength-based, participatory approach to change known as Appreciative Inquiry. 

Appreciative Inquiry is based on two deceptively simple concepts:

(1) What we look for, we find; and what we pay attention to grows. The more positive and affirmative (solution-seeking) the conversations are, the more positive and productive the follow-through and action will be. 

(2) People commit to what they help to create. The more involved people are in planning the changes needed, the more committed they will be in seeing them through to success.

The Design Team will serve as a working advisory group whose job is to ensure that our strategic planning goals are set and met, and that the process remains positive and inclusive, before, during, and well after the planning. More than gathering ideas and input from across our diverse community, this Appreciative Inquiry process, by design, will strengthen relationships and alliances, harnessing Gordon's "secret sauce."

Who else will be involved? 

Who else will be involved over the next several months? Perhaps an easier question is who won't be?!

Following the December launch meeting, the Design Team will announce a series of community engagement activities (December through April) where anyone who wishes to participate in this important process will have the opportunity to do so. We hope to hear from everyone: students, alumni, faculty, staff, current families, families of alumni, friends of Gordon, and our Board of Trustees (whose fiduciary oversight makes them the body ultimately accountable for the creation and implementation of our strategic plan). Additionally, an online survey will be provided here on the Gordon website as a supplement or alternative to attending in-person engagements. Throughout the process, the community will be able to follow our progress here at

From my first days at Gordon, I have been looking forward to beginning this process of dreaming together as a community about the future of this very special school. I can't wait to get started. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Take care,

Noni Thomas López, Ed.D 
Head of School