2010-03-26

To Launch a High School


As in the Weekly Post, March 26, 2010.
by John Long, Head of School

Walking through his Iowa corn field Ray Kinsella hears a voice say, “If you build it, he will come.” Soon Ray plows under his corn and builds a baseball field, a Field of Dreams.  Ray was a visionary lone wolf and a spontaneous risk-taker.
  
Slightly misquoted, “If you build it, they will come,” has been used ever since as a rallying cry by intuitive entrepreneurs, and it describes one style of planning.  However, a school’s board of trustees cannot act with such abandon, and in considering whether to launch a high school, Post Oak’s board has been more measured.  


Parents expressed strong interest in a high school during the October strategic planning retreat (See “Post Oak 2.0” in the October 29 Weekly Post.)  Since then the board has taken a series of steps to assess the viability of a Post Oak High School.  


It dispatched a committee to visit Montessori High School at University Circle in Cleveland, where they observed the high school in action and met with its leadership team.  The committee returned to Houston and delivered an enthusiastic report to the board, recommending that Post Oak base its high school on the Cleveland model.  The committee then drafted a vision statement which the board adopted in principal, and which is now being further refined.


Acting on its fiduciary responsibility, the board is developing a pro forma business plan for the high school, to assess its fiscal viability.  Post Oak is on solid ground financially and has the resources to contemplate this project, but the board is aware that an effort of this scope entails risk, and wants to understand the dimensions of the school’s exposure.


Adopting the Cleveland model would result in a separate, Museum District campus for the high school. After putting out a call nationally, a committee of the board contacted a number of headmasters who have experience with split campuses.  This group sought out the pros and cons of such an arrangement, and were encouraged by the message they heard.


Parents have asked me, “What can we do?”  


The board’s next step is to determine your depth of interest in the high school project.  School consultant John Littleford is returning to Houston in April and will spend two days at Post Oak, April 21 and 22.  It is opera week.  There will be intense activity here on campus.  And we will want to meet with small groups of parents to hear your views about a Post Oak High School.  If you wish to be included, please respond to me (johnlong@postoakschool.org).


I know this letter needs a concluding paragraph.  That conclusion will be written by our actions over the next 60 days.  Look for the publication of the finished “Vision Statement” for the Post Oak High School in the weeks to come.  That will tell the story of what will make this high school both unique and extraordinary.  And we’ll keep you informed of progress as we move forward.
© John Long and the Post Oak School