Define Your Mission

By Susan Black

Do you know your district’s mission statement?

For several years I’ve collected school mission statements, mainly to track trends in school goals during an era of reform. On occasion, I’ve discussed mission statements with superintendents, principals, teachers, and board members. The best I can say is that many school districts, and many schools, have mission statements. The worst I can say is that many mission statements are muddled, murky, and forgotten.

A Massachusetts superintendent confided that the committee selected to draft his district’s mission statement had become his “worst nightmare.” The group couldn’t agree on the district’s top priority. One faction fervently supported a more stringent discipline code, and another adamantly insisted on reversing a fast-growing dropout rate.

A principal in Maine said he inherited a mission statement written by a committee years earlier. He’s posted the statement in his office, but he rarely refers to it. The statement, he said, is “probably an ideal, but not a reality.”

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