Setting Our Sights Even Higher - Vision Planning Part 3 of 3

October 11, 2018

Setting Our Sights Even Higher

CAIS Strategic Vision Planning Sets Sights HighI’ve previously described the founding of CAIS—and the audacious belief and dedication required to create the nation’s first dual language Chinese English immersion school—as a successful moonshot. Throughout our history, we have kept that drive to aim ever higher. Nearly five years ago, we launched a strategic vision that has reaped many rewards for students, families, and employees. Now, during the 2018-19 academic year, it’s time to reflect on our journey, renew our vision, and set new priorities for the future. The space exploration metaphor still holds; given the relationship between time and space, planning for five years out with the current pace of innovation is akin to plotting our course beyond the moon and on to Mars.In fact, we are using this exact theme to put together a small working group of CAIS faculty, trustees, parents, and alumni who will help guide the process. We’ve asked faculty nominators:

Imagine you’ve been asked to recreate the very best attributes of CAIS on planet Mars, but you only have seats on the space ship for a few people. Who would you send? They are the people who are likely to be exemplars of the organization’s core values and purpose, have the highest level of credibility with their peers, and the highest levels of competence.”

The resulting Vision Advisory Team will be announced shortly and will work in conjunction with the Board of Trustees, Administrative Council, and me to shepherd the Strategic Visioning Process which will involve the entire community. In addition I have engaged the talents and experiences of educational consultant Bill Jackson, who is acting as thought partner for me in helping to shape a process that is both inclusive and effective. Bill is an alumni parent (Claire CAIS ’14, UHS ’18, University of Chicago ’22), the founder of Great Schools in 1998, and now the driving force behind Raise Ready Kids. He will be helping me to collect community input throughout the process and may be reached at has helped me think through and outline the process ahead as follows:

CAIS Strategic Visioning Process

What CAIS has accomplished in the past five years?

  • Impressive gains in literacy (English & Chinese)
  • Strengthened support for teachers
  • Improved facilities: renovations and space agreements at Oak with French American, refurbishments at Alice A. Carnes (Waller), and entirely new 888 Campus for middle school
  • More students traveling to and learning in China
  • More effective use of technology in teaching and learning
  • Better support for diverse learners
  • Growing focus on diversity, equity, inclusion

Where do we want to be in five years?

We’re not sure yet. The Strategic Vision process will answer this question. Yet, as we begin this process, we have three high-level ideas in mind:

  • We want to continue to evolve the CAIS brand of immersion education so that the world comes to see it not only as a great way to develop bilingual and bicultural young people, but also a powerful approach to helping children develop along all the dimensions we care about: academic, social, emotional, and as citizens of the world.
  • We want to deepen our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and also strengthen students’ engagement with the world outside the school.
  • We want to to further develop our facilities so they can support our continuously-improving program.

Key questions as we begin our visioning and planning process

  1. What are the abiding, deeply-held values that inform how the CAIS community views education?
  2. In what ways are our graduates well-prepared for the future? How could they be better prepared?
  3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of CAIS today? What should we be doing more? What should be be doing less?
  4. What kind of change does the world need—change that CAIS is in a position to help bring about?

Fall ’18/Winter ’19 activities

  • Community conversations: The Head of School will meet with individuals and groups small and large to discuss the key questions
  • Surveys: Students, alumni, parents, and faculty will be surveyed
  • School visits: Administrators will visit schools that CAIS may be able to learn from
  • Core values research: A consultant will observe and describe our core values

Expected outcomes for the process

  • Refined vision/mission statement
  • New statement of core values
  • A new set of five-year goals and key strategies
  • Communications that express our strategic vision to the community and beyond

The new plan will be rolled out in early fall 2019.

How to get involved

  1. Respond to the surveys that come your way
  2. Share your ideas by talking with our strategic planning consultant Bill Jackson (send email to

The Vision Advisory Team, a small group of CAIS faculty, trustees, parents and alumni is being assembled to help guide the process.


As I mentioned to prospective families at CAIS 101 this month, when you look around at who is drawn to be part of this community, it is truly awe-inspiring. With these hearts and minds guiding the journey, the impressive accomplishments of the past 38 years feel like the booster rockets propelling Mission CAIS onward to greater heights even than previously imagined. Thank you for being on this ride together!