MICDS Board of Visitors Offers Input and Expertise

The MICDS Board of Visitors (BOV), a group of alumni dedicated to returning to their alma mater to tackle issues and provide feedback, was on campus in October and their work continues to give us food for thought.

The MICDS International Board of Visitors was founded in 1998 with Senator Jack Danforth ’54 serving as the inaugural Chair. It’s made up of 30-40 distinguished alumni who live outside the St. Louis area, and they offer the insights of people who are devoted to MICDS and have frames of reference beyond our local community. The Board’s purpose is to study the strengths, advantages and values of the Mission, programs and future plans of MICDS so that they can offer counsel to the Head of School and support the work of the School. These committed and talented alumni review an in-depth packet of materials before traveling to St. Louis at their own expense to participate.

Past topics for the Board of Visitors have included Balancing the Humanities and STEM for Lives of Purpose, Preparing Students for College and for Life, Entrepreneurship, Core Competencies of an MICDS student, Diversity, Parent Partnerships and the MICDS Strategic Plan. This year, the BOV topic was “What is MICDS’ value proposition of being a JK-12 school?”

The Board of Visitors offered their input and expertise in evaluating how we can leverage and amplify our School’s promise, program, identity, history and energy as the only non-sectarian JK-12 school in Saint Louis.

Here are a few of their recommendations:

  • Amplify and market the School’s unique position in the marketplace as the only learning environment that offers students academic and co-curricular experiences that are based on interest and readiness and not restricted by grade or division level.
  • Create a deeper sense of community across a wide range of age groups by leveraging the cross-divisional opportunities for mentorship, leadership and collaboration.
  • Positively brand and more effectively promote the current MICDS community and the vast opportunities that are available to today’s students to our alumni community.
  • Foster deep relationships across division levels and grade levels, teaching adaptability and collaboration through these interactions.

Last year, the BOV challenged us to “consistently and formally weave ethical material from the existing enrichment program in all grades and all classes across the divisions” and “change the name of the enrichment classes in the Upper School to something more substantially relevant.” Both recommendations gave us ideas to consider across the School. Our student body’s ethical frame comes from a sense of reflection, personal accountability and learning habits that promote good decision-making. The pivot to our faculty teaching social-emotional learning encapsulates a larger framework in which ethics and ethical decision-making are included. 

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

To that end, “Enrichment” is no longer used as an external framework. We are instead focusing on integrating our collective work around self-awareness and social-awareness in our classrooms, advisory and other community gatherings. Changing the moniker from “Upper School Enrichment” to “Community Time” more accurately represents a variety of practices and experiences—inside and outside of the classroom. Students learn how to better reflect on their lives in the context of social-emotional learning as students at MICDS. They engage deeply with each other within an ever-increasing complicated social fabric and know each others’ names and stories. They operate inside of and positively add to our diverse community of learners and thinkers. To that end, the Lower School continues its work refining Responsive Classroom. The Middle School developed the acronym L.E.A.D. where 5th-8th grade Rams: 

  • Learn with curiosity and joy
  • Embrace challenge
  • Advocate for self and community
  • Demonstrate collaboration and teamwork

We are grateful for the commitment and dedication of our Board of Visitors and although next year’s Board of Visitors topic has yet to be decided, we know that their suggestions and insight will continue to be invaluable to the Board of Trustees and Head of School Jay Rainey.