The Next Normal

By Michael Fellin, Headmaster of Crescent School
“For some organizations, near-term survival is the only agenda item. Others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and things return to normal. The question is, ‘What will normal look like?’ While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years.” This perspective was shared by former McKinsey managing partner Ian Davis in 2009 following the last global financial crisis. While many current Crescent students were not even born at that time, his words are especially true today and pose a unique forewarning to the reality we (and all schools) are currently facing.
It is now abundantly clear that our chapter in history is being defined by the experiences throughout the global spread of COVID-19 and a “next” normal will emerge post-pandemic. We have witnessed a dramatic rethinking of the political, educational, economic, and social order in which society has traditionally operated. Schools are engaging in debate about what will be part of this next period and what will be left behind: what programs and offerings acutely define and distinguish the school mission, what curricula and experiences uniquely represent the vision for each graduate, and what character competencies and behaviours are aligned with the values of the community.

More can be said about the causal factors that situate and surround this type of institutional reflection, including the new realities of post-secondary learning, the war for talent, the calls for racial justice, the future of cities, the affordability gap between rich and poor, and the looming environmental concerns to name a few. However, if we zoom in for a moment on the forces that are within the control of most schools, it is evident that the next normal will require leadership at all levels to manage ongoing and extraordinary change due to the factors above. An antiquated and traditional school program that cannot keep pace with the externalities of society is bound to fail — and this challenge will require broad engagement and support from all those who wish for the long-term viability, feasibility, and desirability of independent schools.

In the coming days, weeks, and months you will continue to read about this journey at Crescent School, We have been laser-focused on our short-term needs and priorities while working hard on our long-term strategy and unique value proposition. The latter efforts include redesigning our curriculum, launching our own diploma, refreshing our experiential learning programs, prioritizing wellbeing and performance, finalizing our master campus plan, deepening engagement with our alumni, and planning for our long-term financial sustainability. It’s a long list, indeed! 

We have been doing more than successfully managing urgent matters of the pandemic; we have also been thoughtfully planning our future. Crescent’s “next normal” will be much more than a “rinse and repeat” of the past — our mission to build character in the lives of young men, the vision to prepare them for an increasingly complex world, and the values to guide their choices is simply too important to remain static as a community. You can be certain that Crescent’s next normal will rise to this challenge as we have done for 109 years.

See all of Headmaster Fellin's Open Mike Blogs