Like all great schools, St. John's Episcopal School is guided by a forward-looking Strategic Plan. Guided by the leadership of the School Committee, with input from key school constituencies, the Strategic Plan contains long-term and strategic goals for pillars of success: Episcopal Identity, Curriculum, Technology, Co-Curriculum, Admissions, Finance, Advancement, Organizational Development, and Facilities.
The Strategic Plan 2019-2021 outlines priorities to be addressed in the coming two years, which will serve as a springboard for a long-term plan, to be released at the end of the 2020-21 school year. St. John's Episcopal School has a strong present, and a bright future, as guided by the following strategic priorities:
Grounded in the rich history of diversity and excellence in Episcopal education, St. John's fosters every child's full intellectual, physical, and spiritual development. A nurturing learning environment and programs built on an ideal balance of tradition and innovation encourage our students to pursue lives of service and purpose.
To provide an extraordinary STEAM education that best prepares our students for a life of leadership, character, and purpose in the 21st century.
St. John’s Episcopal School is an independent school providing a unique learning environment for children ages eight weeks through eighth grade. Remaining true to our Episcopal heritage, every child is known and encouraged through close personal attention to thrive and to lead a life of service and purpose. As an independent school, St. John’s is able to make program decisions that best serve its students and community without mandate from the government or any other outside entity. Adopting a STEAM approach to teaching and learning is one such manifestation of this autonomy. STEAM integrates curricula across subject areas and enables students to collaborate on projects to create solutions to real world problems. This approach is hailed by leading educators as the best way to prepare students for high school, college, and the dynamic 21st-century workplace. Our engaging programs, coupled with our inclusive, faith-based culture, enrich each student’s mind, body, and spirit, resulting in exceptional academic trajectories and exceptional individuals.
- Episcopal Identity
- Organizational Development
As an Episcopal school, St. John’s is dedicated to academic excellence and ethical conduct in an atmosphere that respects the dignity and beliefs of every student regardless of origin, background, ability, or religion. Rooted in Christian tradition and lively Episcopal-Anglican practice, St. John’s is a diverse ministry of educational and human formation for children of all faiths, or no faith at all. We encourage our students to be grateful for their blessings, understanding that a culture of thankfulness creates a healthy, happy environment in which students are free to learn, strive, question, and explore to their full potential. Understanding that love and mercy are the heart of the Christian gospel, we promote the gospel by our behavior rather than by enforcing doctrine. We encourage our students to discover the breadth of learning that takes place in successes, as well as failures, in what works, as well as what does not work. Ours is a community where all are welcome, wherever they are on their journeys of faith and life.
Continuously align the mission and programs at the School with its Episcopal identity and heritage.
Update as of February, 2020: On campus, the Chapel program at St. John’s began to leverage one of its most important assets—the voices and experiences of our students—to deliver “guest sermons” during our division chapels. These opportunities not only underscore writing and public speaking learning goals, but engage our students in thoughtful reflection on faith, life lessons, and ethical dialogue.
Locally, St. John's students and teachers have continued to expand our service-learning programs. Specifically, the entire St. John’s faculty and staff took part in their first-ever service learning project during the course of their fall in-service. The teachers partnered with the St. John’s church in-gathering by bagging donated food to support the RSM Cares Food Pantry during the holiday season.
Nationally, Head of School Patrick McHonett has been serving on the planning committee for the National Association of Episcopal Schools’ Biennial Conference, which will take place in November in San Diego. School Chaplain Patti Peebles will also be coordinating the chapel services for the event, which will welcome Episcopal School leaders and educators from around the country to Southern California to share faith, trends, and best practices.
Update as of October, 2020: With the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic in the spring, the School and our students have navigated new and important ways to connect with one another and the broader community, while also recognizing the importance of serving as a steward of broader health, wellness, and support to Rancho Santa Margarita and beyond.
This fall, St. John’s has been able to donate additional PPE to the RSM Cares Food Pantry to support its ongoing efforts to feed food-insecure families. Additionally, in September, St. John’s hosted a community-wide COVID-19 testing clinic, to help mitigate the spread of the disease. The sign-ups filled in less than 24-hours, and we look ahead to future testing clinics open to the public in the fall. Finally, our Cardinals are making an impact through their service learning and ingathering experiences, raising funds for charitable organizations via student stewardship and very soon taking part in our traditional Thanksgiving Food Donation ingathering, as well.
In our Return to Campus, the religious leadership and chaplaincy at St. John’s has stepped out of the church and into the classroom—and we are hosting virtual chapels for all grade-levels, while still sharing the communal experience of shared prayer.
Finally, Head of School Patrick McHonett and Chaplain Patti Peebles each serve on the steering committee for the National Association of Episcopal Schools’ Biennial Conference, which will take place in November. Mr. McHonett has helped shape conference sessions, guest speakers, and thematic initiatives, while Ms. Peebles has coordinated prayer services at the heart of the conference mission.
St. John’s will stay at the forefront of the STEAM approach to teaching and learning, while researching and adapting to appropriate educational trends and industry changes. The School is excited to embrace new paradigms for pedagogy that utilize technology, flexible spaces, and collaborative instruction to create active learning environments. St. John’s will remain true to its mission to balance innovation with tradition, embracing technology and any other emerging curriculum, pedagogy, or tool, that enhances student learning, with thoughtful integration, professional development, and support. The School will continue to use a variety of data sources to ensure that St. John’s students’ physical, emotional, and social needs are met to reach their highest academic potential and that all curricula are effective and aligned with best practices.
In alignment with the School’s mission, embracing both tradition and innovation, ensure the School provides a physical, social, and emotional environment where students learn best, and a STEAM based curriculum that ideally prepares our students for success in high school, college, and the workplace beyond.
Update as of February, 2020: This fall, the St. John’s faculty took part in a program review of all classes and grades, from kindergarten through eighth grade. Students, parents, and faculty each met with an outside expert consultant to identify areas of strength, as well as opportunities for growth within our program. Through the program, as well as subsequent follow-up meetings as an entire faculty and staff, the School has identified two key areas to devote additional attention: 1. Articulation of Program, from ECC through eighth grade— leveraging collaboration, alignment of learning goals and pedagogical practice. 2. Student Wellness and Support, including creating a shared understanding of engagement, differentiation, and academic and socio-emotional supports for our all students.
Over the course of the spring of 2020, faculty and staff are engaged in deliberate professional dialogue and professional development to better learn from one another and codify a comprehensive school program, supporting the notion that we are “One School,” from ECC through Middle Division, with age- and developmentally-appropriate curriculum and pedagogy for a seamless and robust educational experience. Additionally, the school is seeking to add a School Counselor for the 20-21 school year to support the socio-emotional needs of our students and foster a continued goal of student wellness at St. John’s.
Update as of October, 2020: In March, St. John’s was among the first schools in Orange County to announce its preemptive campus closure in order to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our pivot to remote learning was fast and successful, prioritizing student learning, direct connections with teachers, and a robust academic experience. The School was also recognized as a national leader in this transition, and was showcased on the NAIS Solutions forum as an exemplar for other schools pivoting to remote learning.
In our Return to Campus planning, St. John’s leaned into its student-centric and innovative mindset by creating paths for both on-campus and remote learning. By leveraging small groups, creative scheduling, and impactful technology and professional development, St. John’s has been committed to supporting all Cardinals, on campus and via our Live Streaming Experience. All faculty and staff took part in substantial professional development for teaching and learning in a hybrid environment, technical application and support, student social-emotional wellness, and health and safety protocols. Additionally, a newly-formed Teacher Task Force was able to codify and streamline our remote learning experience, to benefit both students and teachers, while continuously improving an already strong academic and co-curricular offering across grades K-8.
While always improving our students’ academic experience, the School has paid special attention to the personal wellness of all students during these times, adding Ms. Nadine Maxwell as our first-ever St. John’s School Counselor. “Ms. Max,” as the students call her, brings two-plus decades of School Counseling experience to St. John’s, and she is working directly with students in individual and small groups, while also co-teaching our newly-created 6th grade Life Skills class, ensuring all students a smooth transition to our Middle Division.
St. John’s Co-Curricular programs play an integral part in fostering the intellectual and physical development of our students. St. John’s targets three co-curricular areas – athletics, after school programs, and summer school – to complement its 21st-century curriculum and provide excellent offerings that support the diverse interests of its student body. The School seeks to provide students with viable, high-quality, on-campus options for cultivating and developing interests beyond the classroom. In addition, school athletics will be a consistent source of spirit and pride.
Offer co-curricular programs that engage students, their families, and the wider community in the life of the School.
Update as of February, 2020: In addition to an array of after-school athletic and enrichment programs, St. John’s initiated its first-ever Intramural Program in the Middle Division this fall, allowing our students to engage in wellness and friendly-competition within the footprint of the school day. The first season was a huge success, welcoming a significant portion of our MS students for team dodgeball, and the second season is now underway with team handball. Additionally, St. John’s athletics was proud to field its first-ever Lacrosse program this winter, as an after-school competitive sport. Wherever possible and aligned within the School mission and strategic goals, we continue to seek opportunities to engage our students on and away from campus and to grow and learn beyond the classroom. Go Cardinals!
Update as of October, 2020: While the global pandemic effectively limited our co-curricular programs during the spring, as well as the onset of the 20-21 school year, one program served a vital demonstration for our community to support a safe return to campus: Summer at St. John’s. In July, we welcomed our ECC Summer Camp back to campus, demonstrating important safety and wellness procedures, small group classes, and more. Yet, the important social and personal connections that have been a hallmark of our SJES Cardinal Camp program were never stronger! Students were smiling, laughing, playing, and growing together with their teachers once again.
At the end of July, we welcomed K-8 students back to St. John’s for our Elementary and Middle School summer program, including our first foray into hybrid learning via our LSE program. Students, teachers, and families experienced enhanced safety and wellness procedures, while also engaging in our fun summer classes like Build-A-Book, Music Technology & Songwriting, and more.
Each of these experiences proved to be valuable proof points and learning opportunities for St. John’s in its planning for a full return to campus for the 20-21 school year. Teachers, students, and families were surveyed and feedback was collected to help inform our return to campus planning, and adjustments were made in order to ensure St. John’s is able to further its mission in a safe and responsible manner.
As the first independent school in Southern California to adopt a STEAM approach to teaching and learning, St. John’s has positioned itself as the leader in innovative education among independent schools in Southern California. Based on the curricular changes, coupled with innovative classroom and facility changes, the School is poised to see consistent demand for a St. John’s education and thereby stable enrollment. Consistent with its mission, St. John’s seeks to admit a diverse student population and promote inclusiveness through its enrollment process.
Reach admissions targets and establish long-term strategies to optimize and maximize enrollment with students and families who are well aligned with the School’s mission and culture of philanthropy.
Update as of February, 2020: Beginning with the 19-20 academic year, the Offices of Admission and Advancement at St. John’s re-aligned to best support the evolving needs and strategic goals of the School. The Admissions team has been optimized to provide all prospective families a personalized and engaging experience, reflective of our overall St. John’s experience, prizing individual touch points and support in the recruitment, application, and enrollment processes. As a result, the School opened with a strong enrollment for the 2019-20 school year, including active wait lists at a number of grade levels.
The Office of Advancement has prioritized donor cultivation and stewardship, particularly as it builds a clarity of message surrounding key events, ways of giving, and impact of philanthropy at St. John’s. Whether espousing the impact of the Cardinal Fund—the School’s top philanthropic priority on an annual basis—or planning Cardinella, our annual fundraising gala event, as well as a host of other fellowship, fundraising, and outreach events, the Office of Advancement continues to support a grateful, clear, and inclusive message of a school community “all-in” in support of St. John’s.
Update as of October, 2020: While the surrounding world has had its level of uncertainties in recent months, one constant has been the value and importance of a St. John’s education. As such, our admissions team has been working overtime engaging, evaluating, and enrolling fantastic mission-aligned students and families for the 20-21 school year. We open the school year with 439 total students, including 120+ new students joining St. John’s across all grade levels, many of which are at capacity with deep wait lists of interest. With an additional 10+ midyear enrollees already committed, the School is approaching its optimal enrollment, while maintaining our small classes, close student-teacher relationships, and dynamic program.
At the onset of the global pandemic, our Admissions team shifted to remote tours for prospective families, continuing to engage families in better understanding the St. John’s experience and community, despite being unable to set foot on campus. Additionally, the successes and recognition of our remote learning program through the spring engendered trust and demand for the limited spots available at St. John’s, particularly as our Return to Campus plans were disseminated to the community this summer. Many thanks to the SJES families who took the time to refer a prospective family to apply to join the Cardinal Family! By adhering to our mission, staying true to the goals of a Cardinal Learner, and providing an unparalleled experience to St. John’s students and families, our school remains on solid enrollment ground for the 20-21 school year and beyond.
St. John’s has entered a phase of growth and innovation. Employing a highly-disciplined budget planning process is necessary to ensure successful funding of strategic initiatives that encourage growth and support high-level academic programs. Planning will be thoughtful and pragmatic to strategically invest resources in support of our objectives. Balancing the growth of the organization while maintaining an appropriate tuition base relative to the value of the education is paramount.
Continuously update the financial model to ensure the School’s long-term growth.
Update as of February, 2020: Through prudent management of resources and sound planning, the School has been able to evaluate and evolve its financial model to both maximize investment in resources to support its mission, while also reserving funds to maintain and support the physical plant of a now-thirty year old campus. While always being conscious of the price-point and philanthropic asks of families investing in the School, St. John’s was able to strategically invest in three key areas this fall in order to enhance our students’ experience: Professional Development for Faculty/Staff, Additional/New Learning Materials for Classrooms, and IT Infrastructure. At every opportunity available, the School continues to strategically manage its approximately-$8M operating budget, investing appropriately for long-term, sustained improvements, while maximizing students’ experiences each day.
Update as of October, 2020: As the School prepared for its Return to Campus for the 20-21 academic year, St. John’s prioritized the long-term investment in campus spaces, technology, and infrastructure at every decision point. The School made a significant upgrade to its wifi and bandwidth capabilities, added requisite technology to classrooms to support our LSE students, re-imagined campus spaces as classrooms to support physical distancing, and supporting overall student, faculty, and staff safety and wellness. Additionally, the School has taken a prudent strategy for reserving and replenishing facilities and technology reserves, to best support the longevity of current and future campus infrastructure. Finally, as it does on a continual basis, the Finance Subcommittee of the School Committee continues to refine its investment strategy, continued evaluation and support of mission-aligned corporate partnerships and taking the long-view on financial planning for the coming years.
The School will establish a clear St. John’s brand to increase community awareness of the unique value of a St. John’s education and achieve the School’s admissions and philanthropic goals. Fundraising activities will be focused and synergistic with marketing efforts to maximize community awareness and achieve necessary financial support.
Advancement, working in alignment with Admissions, will actively promote a consistent brand image, strengthen community awareness, drive new enrollment, and meet philanthropic goals.
Update as of February, 2020: At the onset of the 2019-20 School Year, the School set increasing parent participation in the Cardinal Fund as a strategic goal. The Cardinal Fund— our most important annual philanthropic effort—not only fills the gap between tuition revenue and the cost of a St. John’s experience, but also represents the margin of excellence at St. John’s. We’re proud to announce that the 2019-20 Cardinal Fund has not only shattered records for parent participation (70% and growing! Up from 47% in 2018-19), but also in funds raised to support our student learning experience. Many thanks to the entire St. John’s community, including the 100% of Faculty/Staff, School Committee, and PTF leadership that contributed to this key, annual initiative. We’re “all-in” in support of St. John’s students!
Update as of October, 2020: This past March, as the School shifted from on-site to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our dedicated Cardinella committee quickly adjusted from an elegant on-campus event to a fully virtual school fundraising gala—and it was a huge success! Thanks to the generosity in underwriting from over 40 families and seven corporate sponsors, we had a multitude of bidders for unique online auction items that were donated at no-cost to the School. The event outpaced its budgeted goals, and the impactful Parent Gift led to a renovated Multipurpose Room on campus, which will serve a variety of SJES constituencies for years to come. Thank you to all who supported this event, particularly in its unique circumstances, and we look forward to coming together once again for Cardinella 2021—mark your calendars for Saturday, March 27, 2021 for this year’s annual fundraising gala!
Additionally, in May, we launched the St. John’s Community Relief Fund, a philanthropic effort to support the need-based financial aid requests made by SJES families negatively impacted by the economic fallout of the global pandemic. Over the course of the summer, we continued to raise funds for this important effort, while also granting financial aid awards to families with verified need. So far, we have awarded nearly $70,000 in need-based financial aid to families that have experienced job losses, businesses slowing, or other pandemic-related hardships, on top of our need-based financial aid offerings that would be available to families during a typical school year. This is yet another sign of the strength of our Cardinal Family, and our commitment to the SJES Mission to “foster every child’s full intellectual, physical, and spiritual development.”
Over the course of its 30-year history, St. John’s has been blessed with able, long-tenured leadership. With the School welcoming a new Head of School in the 2019-20 school year, our strategic priorities will focus on successful integration and support of Mr. McHonett, his leadership team, and the structures in place to make an impact on the community experience. Review of internal administrative resources and staffing will be conducted to ensure efficiency, effectiveness of positions, and appropriate succession planning for potential retirements. In addition, the School Committee, in accordance with its bylaws, will continue to ensure that its members are spread across the divisions of the School, have diverse professional and personal backgrounds, and are sufficiently active and philanthropic in their service.
Facilitate the successful transition and integration of a new Head of School and optimize human resources for successful administrative and governing leadership.
Update as of February, 2020: Through the transition of a new Head of School this past summer, the School has taken the opportunity to evaluate its overall leadership, administrative, and faculty and staff structures to be in alignment with its mission and strategic goals. The Head of School has met with key constituencies, including each faculty and staff member, students, School Committee members, and key community stakeholders and educational leaders in California. Over the course of this transition, the feedback has been clear: The magic of St. John’s is best exemplified by the genuine, loving relationships between students and expert teachers, supporting optimal learning and personal growth.
The School has also sought opportunities to plan for appropriate succession planning, faculty or staff retirements, and professional growth of promising leaders, in order to ensure sustainability and growth of personnel. When Mrs. Barnum, Elementary Division Principal, announced her retirement to follow the 19-20 school year, the School engaged with a prominent, national search firm, Educational Directions, to lead a comprehensive, inclusive search for the position. Educational Directions visited campus this winter, spoke with students, parents, School Committee members, faculty, and staff to best understand the school culture, as well as codify the ideal traits and skills of the next leader of the Elementary Division in order to inform their search and recruitment process. Semi-finalists and finalists for the position will be selected in the early-Spring of 2020, with the goal of having the position filled by the end of the Spring and start July 1, 2020.
Update as of October, 2020: This fall, as St. John’s enters a Strategic Planning process designed to chart the coming years of the Cardinal Community, the School has contracted with prominent independent school leader, Jim McManus, to help facilitate the Strategic Planning experience and provide valuable insight and professional development to the School Committee and Strategic Planning Subcommittee. Mr. McManus is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools’ Board of Trustees, the former Executive Director of the California Association of Independent Schools, and a longtime Head of School and Trustee at leading CAIS schools. Mr. McManus will bring his wealth of experience to bear in supporting the School Committee, Head of School, administration, and Strategic Planning subcommittee as it embarks on the journey to chart the course from St. John’s strong present to an even brighter future. Further information on the next Strategic Plan, as well as how every member of the SJES community will have an opportunity to engage in this process, will be shared over the course of the 20-21 school year.
The facilities at St. John's will continuously be evaluated and updated to support St. John’s mission and 21st-century education. The Making Space for the Future capital campaign will transform instructional and common spaces across campus. Technology will be enhanced in all classrooms and the infrastructure will be maintained and upgraded as necessary to support required functionality and security. The campus will be safe, welcoming, and aesthetically appealing.
Provide facilities that are safe, attractive, and ideally support the School’s mission and its innovative, 21st-century program.
Update as of February, 2020: The 2019-20 academic year at St. John’s opened with students entering newly-renovated Middle Division classrooms and enrichment spaces throughout campus, guided by the Making Space for the Future capital campaign. These student-centered flexible learning spaces are guided by research-based best practices to support student learning in the 21st Century. During the spring and summer of 2020, sights are set to learning from these new spaces and using these experiences inform the design and renovation of our other learning spaces on campus, specifically our Elementary and ECC classrooms and outdoor areas.
Additionally, the School has announced that the benefit of the “Parent Gift” at Cardinella this spring will be a remodel of the Multipurpose Room on campus—one of the most heavily-trafficked spaces that is used for academic, enrichment, outreach, and church purposes across ages, grade-levels, and constituencies. We are excited to continue to build a physical plant that reflects the excellence of a St. John’s experience!
Update as of October, 2020: This summer, St. John’s took its next steps to update campus learning spaces with the funds raised via the Making Space for the Future Capital Campaign. Our fifth grade and third grade classrooms received full remodels, while kindergarten classes received new furnishings, and multiple classrooms in the elementary division received upgraded technology and aesthetic updates in order to best support the learning of our students now and for years to come.
Additionally, the School invested in new wifi and internet fiber on campus, to best support the growing technology use and video streaming during our LSE modality of learning.
Finally, in order to make long-term investments in support of our short-term challenges related to the Return to Campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, we made prudent upgrades to technology in all classrooms, including the incorporation of our St. John’s “Streaming Stations,” allowing remote students to engage in classroom discussion and connections with their teachers, in the best replication of a typical St. John’s experience possible. While we look forward to the “return to normal” at St. John’s, we always seek to ensure that we can enhance our program for the long-term at every opportunity.