Strategic Plan Highlights Goals for Continued Investment in Faculty and Staff

ETHOS: Strategic Plan Highlights Goals for Continued Investment in Faculty and Staff

From its first pages, Framing Our Future identifies attracting, retaining and supporting “high-performing individuals who are committed to the unique independent school environment” as essential to the school’s vision for the future.

Ravenscroft has always dared to dream big dreams and then worked hard together to achieve them. In the words of longtime Ravenscroft board member and visionary Fran Pugh, “Everything we do, we do for the kids.”

This introduction to the 2022 strategic plan, Framing Our Future, plants a stake in the ground as the Ravenscroft community begins to envision what the future holds for the institution — not only in the next five years that are shaped and guided by this plan, but in the decades that follow. As the most consequential way for all stakeholders in the community to collaborate on a shared vision for the school, Framing Our Future reflects a solid year of intensive and intentional research and inquiry as to how Ravenscroft might best meet the contemporary needs of its students.

Nothing is more important to the Ravenscroft mission than the inspirational talents of excellent teachers and the essential support of our dedicated employees. As a diverse community of skilled and caring professionals, we come together to nurture the potential of each student in an environment that is challenging, accepting, adaptive, respectful and honest.

— Framing Our Future

Reflecting on that process, Head of School Doreen Kelly described it as both inspiring and gratifying. “There were moments of organic alignment in what we felt needed to be represented in this plan,” she said. “I enjoyed the points of synergy we heard from across our different constituencies.”

The result is a framework for continued work to strengthen and enhance Ravenscroft’s distinctive programs and priorities, relationships with members of the school community, and institutional sustainability and philanthropy.

It’s notable that the framework begins with the talented practitioners who are charged with making these goals a reality: Ravenscroft’s faculty and staff. From its first pages, Framing Our Future identifies attracting, retaining and supporting “high-performing individuals who are committed to the unique independent school environment” as essential, and in doing so positions “our professionals” as the starting point for the success of much of the plan’s other goals.

“We wanted to signal particular focus on people in the organization,” Kelly said. “We’ve crafted a plan that makes a top priority of recruiting, hiring and retaining highly skilled faculty and staff who will continue our mission-driven work with students and their families.”

Tawambi Settles, new Assistant Head of Upper School for Student Leadership, enjoys the schoolwide gathering on the first day of school.

Ryder Grenz ’29, Adam Conway ’29 and Parker Sonntag ’29 have fun hanging out together during the Middle School lunch break.

Lower School teacher Tiffany Pellicciotti works with her first-grade students during a writing activity.

Above, Lukas Hessler ’30, Max Rein ’27, Facilities Operations staff Matt Nelson, Ella Bever ’30, Sinclaire McGlown ’27, Facilities Technician Michael Hewitt, Caden Storch ’23 and William Russell ’23 prepare for the first day of school’s presentation of the colors and flag raising.

 

Middle School teacher Sarah Baker leads students in the new yoga elective.


Learn more about distinctive programs and priorities highlighted in the strategic plan:


Lead From Here

Living Lead From Here During the COVID-19 Crisis (Summer 2020)

Citizen Leadership Framework Defines What It Means to Be a Raven (Spring 2019)


Student Wellness

Ravens Exercise Self-Care Through Wellness Programming (Spring 2022)

Contemporary Spaces, Innovative Programming Define the New Center for Student Life (Fall 2021)


Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

Ravens Accept “Ongoing Invitation” to Build an Inclusive Community (Summer 2022)

Creating a Stronger, More Inclusive Ravenscroft (Summer 2019)


Relationships

“Groundbreaking” Work: Committee Reenvisions Alumni Engagement (Summer 2022)

Parent Groups: Connecting and Collaborating (Fall 2020)


Explore the complete details
of Framing Our Future
on our website.

Admissions team members Alicia Petty, Whitney Holmes, Chuck Vitello, Jessie Tesh ’05, Jennifer Baccus and Margaret Mills ’76 get in the spirit during the Lower School’s annual Halloween Parade.

Professional development and mentoring: “A significant investment in our people”

By Julie Dengler

One critical element of the plan’s goals for supporting and nurturing Ravenscroft’s faculty and staff, both now and in the years to come, is professional development and mentoring. While these are not new priorities for the school, their presence in Framing Our Future establishes them as foundational commitments in this vision for the future.

That spark of optimism, joy, in our faculty and staff is really special.

— Justin Brandon, Associate Head of School for Academic Affairs

Support for new hires

All Ravenscroft employees — classroom teachers and assistants but also staff in facilities, business, administrative support, communications and more — participate in continuing education and professional-growth activities, both on campus and in conferences and workshops offered by outside organizations. As Justin Brandon, Associate Head of School for Academic Affairs, explained, the opportunities begin before many new hires even attend their first full faculty and staff meeting.

“Since the development of Lead From Here, new Ravenscroft employees have attended an intensive workshop with the citizen leadership framework’s co-creators at the Center for Creative Leadership,” he said. “The retreat immerses them in Ravenscroft’s culture of leadership development — a culture that includes not just students, faculty and staff but families as well — and helps them begin to align their own practice with these guiding principles. This year, we had nearly 40 new faculty and staff attend the three-day retreat at CCL. This practice represents a significant investment in our people.”

College Counseling Coordinator Bailey Lamidi, Upper School English teacher Kevin Flinn, Upper School counselor Sam Borkovic and Upper School Mandarin teacher Yi-Wen Liu are ready for some basketball during Stark Raven Madness, the division’s celebration of friendly competition and spirit building. 


But it doesn’t end there. New faculty and staff are paired with a mentor, providing in their first year here an experienced and committed colleague who offers support and encouragement. In addition to informal check-ins and ongoing guidance, the mentor program hosts four formal meetings a year and provides support for new teachers, such as extra time for writing report card comments.

“As leaders, we are continuously looking to create a supportive and welcoming work environment for our professionals,” Assistant Head of Lower School Steven Mercado, who came to Ravenscroft in 2021, said. “My time at Ravenscroft has been guided by both informal and formal mentorship. Our professional development days have been important, but what has been even more tangible are the connections that are made organically through the values of our institution.”

Ongoing professional development for all employees

Other opportunities build on this work, from schoolwide workshops held on teacher workdays to off-campus conferences that provide training in curricula, best practices and emerging trends. To be clear, such experiences aren’t just for department chairs and division heads — and they’re not just suggestions: Ravenscroft requires all of its faculty and staff to engage in ongoing professional development in their areas of employment.

The requirement is particularly stringent for classroom teachers. But while Ravenscroft requires more continuing-education credits of its faculty than the state does, the school also maintains a budget to fund workshops and training.

First-graders Christian Wilcox, Nick Peguese and Dawson Durrette have fun together during the Fall Community Celebration, which was also “Green and Gold Day” of Spirit Week.


Managing those requirements for faculty and staff is one of Chris Kay’s many responsibilities as Executive Operations Manager for Head of School. “One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing the reaction on new teachers’ faces when I take the stack of accreditation paperwork and self-filed records from them and say I’ve got it from here,” she said. “It is one of the benefits we provide to teachers — they don’t need to worry about licensure paperwork, state continuing-education records and paying fees.”

“I am beyond grateful for the robust professional development offerings that Ravenscroft provides,” fifth-grade teacher Wes Brown said. “From on-campus trainings with the Center for Creative Leadership to opportunities off campus at local and national conferences, Ravenscroft has invested in my professional growth and development and helped me prepare to live out the school’s mission in my classroom.”

Shared goals

There’s one more thing about Ravenscroft’s approach to faculty professional development that stands out: topics of schoolwide professional development are built around an institutional goal designed to support everyone on campus.

“Our emphasis on DAC (direction, alignment, commitment) at all levels and divisions helps unite the school community and make expectations clear for all,” Brandon explained. “Each year an institutional goal is set, followed by divisional and individual faculty goals. Check-ins and workshops allow the entire community to stay on track and regroup when needed. This practice was behind our recent focus on faculty and staff wellness.”

As the work of Framing Our Future takes shape over the next five years, school leadership is committed to continuing to improve and enhance these programs for faculty and staff.

“Coming out of last year’s professional development around wellness, we’ve had several wellness groups and a faculty/staff yoga program get started, as well as a reinvigorated social committee that has already sponsored some fun events this year,” Brandon concluded. “That spark of optimism, joy, in our faculty and staff is really special.”

 

Fourth-grade teacher Bernadette Fox-Mckenzie gathers her students around the Murphy Bell Tower on the first day of school.

Diverse representation in recruitment and hiring: “A welcoming and progressive community”

By Stacy Calfo

Another important component of the strategic plan’s focus on faculty and staff is closely tied to Ravenscroft’s commitment to its mission and to fostering an inclusive and welcoming school community: diverse representation in recruitment and hiring. For school leadership, that translates into two key priorities moving forward: emphasizing cultural competency as an essential skill for all employees and recruiting outstanding educators and school leaders who reflect the diversity of our student body and community.

Ravenscroft is a community where each student can see themselves. At Ravenscroft, diversity is not simply for particular groups or perspectives, it’s about everyone.

— Lisa Horton, Assistant Head of School for People and Culture

Diversity “is about everyone”

While many families are likely familiar with the school’s ongoing efforts in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging — which include building “connection before content” and a commitment to constructive dialogue across areas of difference — the term “cultural competency” may be less familiar. Lisa Horton, Assistant Head of School for People and Culture, explained that cultural competency “is more than knowing other cultures exist from yours. It’s having the skill set to know that other cultures communicate differently and problem solve differently. It means you are able to flex the way you communicate with others, the way you problem solve with others.

PreK teacher Mercy Irvine and her students celebrate Spirit Week’s “Wacky-Tacky Day​” with a class photo on the rug.​​​


“Ravenscroft is a community where each student can see themselves,” she added. "We want a community where students’ different perspectives are valued and appreciated. At Ravenscroft, diversity is not simply for particular groups or perspectives, it’s about everyone.”

Kelly charged Brandon, as Associate Head of School for Academic Affairs, with reviewing and revising hiring practices in support of these goals.

“While it has always been a part of our hiring process, we wanted to make sure our new hires truly understand what it means to be a part of our community today — that they are curious and are able to connect and meet with students and peers of all types,” he said. Strategies included aligning all job descriptions and ensuring candidates meet a variety of community members during their interview process — faculty, staff and students.

Enhancing student growth

The new practices have helped Ravenscroft bring on dynamic and highly qualified employees who are committed to the school’s vision.

Tawambi Settles, who came on board this year as the new Assistant Head of Upper School for Student Leadership, called Ravenscroft a “welcoming and progressive community” and applauded the work being done “to make community members feel seen, heard and have a sense of belonging.”

New Upper School chemistry teacher Manuel González came to Ravenscroft from Monterrey, Mexico, where he worked as an industrial chemist before transitioning to a career in education five years ago. “I feel proud and excited to know that the school saw these qualities in me, and I’ll do my best to live up to them every day,” he said.

Upper School teacher Manuel Gonzales works with Anthony Omonte ’25 and Kate Tyler ’25 during a chemistry lab.


For Brandon, this goal — as with the goal of providing ongoing support and mentoring of current faculty and staff — ultimately enhances the academic growth, social-emotional development and life skills of Ravenscroft’s more than 1,200 students.

“Research shows that education is more impactful when we have a more diverse community. We want all of our students to find themselves in the faculty. They benefit from seeing a representative faculty,” Brandon said. “How can we provide a diverse group of teachers to showcase different ways of thinking and different types of experiences? We want this level of diverse representation and perspectives for faculty interaction as well as for student-faculty interaction. It promotes a sense of confidence and belonging and a desire to thrive in our community.”

 

Upper School science teacher and head JV soccer coach Jordy Baende ’14 helps kindergartener Trudy Liu lead the team during the Fall Pep Rally.

Legacy of excellence: “A foundation on which our other goals and aspirations are built”

By Karen Lewis Taylor

As school leadership moves forward on the goals in Framing Our Future — in addition to supporting faculty and staff, the plan prioritizes strengthening distinctive programs, nurturing relationships with current families and alumni, and ensuring Ravenscroft’s institutional sustainability for future generations of learners — it’s important to note that they do so in partnership with many stakeholders who care deeply about the institution’s future.

It is the faculty that deliver what we promise. The relationships between our students and faculty are the cornerstone of our community.

Margaret Mills ’76, Director of Enrollment Management

Teachers “inspire both in and out of the classroom”

For current families, the plan’s commitment to its faculty and staff ensures that today’s Ravens enjoy a rigorous and engaging educational experience guided by the best teachers around.

“Our family is fairly new to the Raleigh area, and we were welcomed to the Ravenscroft community with open arms,” Lower School parent Laura Maiurano said. “The faculty and staff went above and beyond to make my then-second-grader feel so welcome and included. From day one we knew we had made the right decision in choosing Ravenscroft.”

When asked about her family’s experience at Ravenscroft, Upper School parent Kathleen Malik gave a shout-out to all of the teachers and coaches her daughters Macey ’26 and Sammey ’26 have had. “Due to the dedicated teachers who inspire both in and out of the classroom, our daughters have soared since starting here,” she added. “Ravenscroft faculty and staff help shape the futures of thousands of good stewards and innovators who will lead their lives responsibly, meaningfully and authentically. They are equipping our kids with the qualities necessary for living happy and fulfilling lives.”

Bennett Gillespie ’23, whose parents Katie ’95 and Rich ’96 are also Ravens, said of his experiences, “In my mind, Ravenscroft has no greater strength than the passion of its educators. In nearly every class I’ve taken during my time at this school, my teachers have possessed a certain spark that clearly demonstrates their love for the subjects they teach. This zeal is indicative of a desire to get students as excited about the material as their instructors, a goal that is often successful from what I’ve seen. Ravenscroft cultivates a unique environment for students to develop their interests alongside those of their teachers, and I am incredibly excited to carry that love of learning with me in the years to come.”

Kyle Hawkins ’23, Nolan Dirks ’23Donnie Williams ’24 and friends enjoy a pick-up basketball game during their lunch break.

Upper School chemistry teacher Maddie Steinmetz illustrates a concept on the whiteboard during class.


“I learned so many lessons”

As the products of Ravenscroft’s legacy of excellence, alumni, too, emphasize the vital role faculty and staff, and the growth opportunities they create, have played in guiding and shaping them.

Nina Barnett ’15 said, “The faculty and staff at Ravenscroft, especially in the Athletics Department and in the Upper School really let ‘me be me.’ Now I have degrees in physics and acting, have run a company and am doing stand-up comedy in New York City and touring the country. You can’t do all that without support in those years leading up to college.” 

“I learned so many lessons from the faculty and staff at Ravenscroft that continue to guide me in my life and my career. Coach Gonet taught me about the importance of hard work and discipline. Mr. Pruden taught me that learning could be fun if framed in the right way, which helped me to go on to receive several graduate degrees. Coach Piette and Coach Fowler taught me about what it means to be there for your teammates and the power of compassionate leadership. Dr. Avery taught me about the importance of family,” David Fajgenbaum ’03 said. “Together, these lessons guided me as I coped with the loss of my mom, started three nonprofit organizations, became a physician-scientist at the University of Pennsylvania and discovered cures for my disease and others.”

Many alumni give back to the institution, both through volunteerism and philanthropic support, to ensure Ravenscroft continues to deliver on its mission, today and tomorrow. Dewayne “DJ” Washington II ’16, a 2020 University of Miami graduate who now works for J.P. Morgan Private Bank, worked with the Alumni Strategic Design Committee to help shape the future of alumni relations at Ravenscroft. He said, “The discipline Ravenscroft taught me definitely translated to my career. The ability to balance sports, academics and the fine arts allows students to early on learn how to work hard and balance. Various projects that connected me with professionals in high school allowed me to have exposure to different careers and realize what I wanted to pursue.”

Director of Enrollment Management Margaret Mills ’76 — who is also an alumni parent — said she and her team see faculty and staff as one main reason why so many families today are choosing Ravenscroft for their children. “It is the faculty that deliver what we promise” as an institution, she said. “The relationships between our students and faculty are the cornerstone of our community.”

Visual art teacher Allison Tierney confers with Ricky Moore ’28 during a project in the Middle School elective, Mixed Media.


As the praise and gratitude from Ravenscroft’s different constituencies attest, the school’s commitment to and investment in its faculty and staff merit its high-profile placement in Framing Our Future.

“The strategic plan’s vision for supporting and sustaining our outstanding faculty and staff provides a foundation on which our other goals and aspirations are built,” Amy Batten, chair of the Board of Trustees and an alumni parent, said. “The board is committed to working with all stakeholders in our school community to make this vision a reality, ensuring that Ravenscroft is able to attract and retain the best teachers out there and empower them in service to our mission: to nurture our students’ individual potential and prepare them for what comes next in our complex and interdependent world.”