Strategic Plan

Strategic Priorities

A Vision for the Future of The Ellis School

To sustain our vision and move Ellis along a path of continued innovation and excellence, our strategic priorities fall into five categories.

Strategic Priority One:

Enhance and Enrich Our Visionary Program

The most compelling, and unique, aspect of the Ellis experience is the spectacular attributes girls develop because of their experiences at the School. Ellis students emerge with remarkable qualities that not only prepare them well for college, but that launch them to become truly remarkable young women. These naturally bundle into four pillars, as reflected in our mission and vision statements: being committed and ready to make a positive mark on the world; having great confidence and a strong voice; being caring, open, and authentic; and having deep intellectual vibrancy and power.

Creating a learning environment that builds these qualities in our students requires that we keep those four pillars at the center as we plan programming. It also requires that we recruit and support outstanding faculty, continue to learn and grow as a teaching community, and continually refine our curriculum. 

We know our students will enter a world in which they will encounter both opportunities and challenges that none of us can yet imagine, and they will need to work collaboratively with all sorts of people in order to succeed in seizing those opportunities and developing creative solutions to those challenges. The more experiences we can give them to tussle with unsolved problems, to work in diverse teams, to take appropriate risks with confidence, to advocate for themselves and others, the better.

The wiser we are about understanding all the aspects of girls’ development, the more successful we will be in supporting their growth as healthy, independent, strong young women ready to step out into this ever-changing world.

We Will:

  • Focus the School’s programming on prioritizing girls’ growth around our four pillars
  • Attract, retain, and develop outstanding faculty
  • Launch a system of regular curricular reviews within each department that consider scope and sequence, balance of breadth and depth of content, development of cultural competency, and developmentally appropriate levels of rigor
  • Enhance the interdisciplinary, collaborative problem-solving experiences throughout all three divisions
  • Strengthen programming and experiences that develop students’ confidence, and their ability to speak up for themselves and others
  • Enrich students’ exposure to compelling female changemakers
  • Continue to grow our expertise around child and adolescent development in order to further enhance our strength in supporting all aspects of a girl’s growth

Strategic Priority Two:

Recruit and Retain a Vibrant Student Body

We know our students benefit from being in the company of a wide variety of classmates who share their love of learning, are thoughtful and kind, and who are eager for the adventures learning and life have to offer. Ellis has a long tradition of attracting such students. We are particularly proud of the diversity of our student body. We like to say there is no one way to be at Ellis, and that we all benefit from connecting with people who are both similar and different from ourselves. Our students come from throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan region, and bring a rich variety of talents, interests, lived experiences, and personalities. We are eager for more families and girls to know about Ellis, to explore our school and program, and to become members of this dynamic and welcoming learning community.

We Will:

Optimize the School’s marketing and recruitment efforts to attract and retain students who will thrive at Ellis and be positive contributors to our school community by:

  • Continuing to explore activities that increase community awareness and excitement about Ellis
  • Continuing to expand summer camp offerings that enrich current student experiences and draw prospective students
  • Enhancing intra-school communications about the entirety of the Ellis experience 
  • Examining opportunities for expanded early childhood programming

Strategic Priority Three:

Build an Exemplary School Climate

When we reflect on school climate at The Ellis School, we focus on our core beliefs around what is best for students and families. One of those deeply held tenets is that children and adolescents learn and grow best when they feel welcome and known, and can be fully themselves.

Secondly, we know that students thrive when the adults connected to their learning—at school and at home—work in partnership to support and challenge them, and when there is open communication between families and teachers. Families are most confident about engaging in that kind of partnership when they, too, feel welcome and known at school, and when they have a rich understanding of the stages of development of their daughters and the underlying reasons behind the School’s curriculum and pedagogy. 

Another core principle at The Ellis School is the value of being a diverse and inclusive school community. Not only do we know our students benefit from learning in community with others who bring different perspectives and experiences, but—as a school founded in order to enhance the ability of women to access opportunities commensurate with men at a time when that was a rarity—we carry a fierce and long-held commitment to the importance of equity and justice in making the world a better place for all.

We are deeply proud of our recent successes in creating school and community-oriented initiatives around equity and justice, and we strive to become even more compelling leaders in this work.

We Will:

  • Create an environment in which all students feel welcome, known, heard, safe, and treated fairly 
    • Engage in continuous enhancements to orientation programming for new students and students moving between divisions
    • Prioritize community building within each grade level and division
    • Continue to strengthen affinity group programming
  • Create an environment in which all parents feel comfortable engaging with the School and home-school relationships are healthy and strong
    • Engage in continuous enhancements to home-school communications to strengthen partnerships with families
    • Continue to enrich the programming offered to parents by the School and by the Ellis Parent Association
    • Develop pre-kindergarten to grade 12 parent education offerings that support parents as partners in their daughters’ education and growth in all developmental areas
  • Establish the School as a leader in equity and justice initiatives
    • Build a curricular arc for students’ cultural competency learning—learning that grows students’ ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures 
    • Strive to recruit and retain faculty and staff that reflect the identities and lived experiences of all students
    • Empower all faculty to adapt culturally responsive classroom practices and curricula
    • Continue to build programming for parents related to equity, inclusion, and cultural competency
    • Establish a Board Diversity Committee
  • Build ever-stronger ties between the School and its alumnae and friends
    • Continue to explore alumnae and former parent programming, both on campus and in key cities 
    • Expand the alumnae database to facilitate connections between alumnae and strengthen school-alumnae relationships

Strategic Priority Four:

Support Facilities That Enhance Our Program

We are fortunate to have a beautiful and welcoming campus rich in history, while still evolving to support our ever-growing understanding of the best ways to foster student learning and community connection.

We are particularly excited about recent updates to our most heavily used and cherished spaces, including our library and auditorium, both of which play a central role in the experiences of our students and families.  

Our future priorities related to campus facilities are clear. We are committed to putting our resources towards maintaining and creating physical spaces that optimize student growth and further our goal of being a welcoming and inclusive school community. Beautiful buildings and grounds are wonderful, but it is what happens in those spaces, and how those spaces help build community, that is foremost.

We Will:

  • Evaluate the campus facilities needs, prioritizing projects that will enhance student learning and school climate
  • Institute a maintenance plan that supports sustained upkeep of our existing facilities
  • Whenever possible, opt for environmentally sustainable construction

Strategic Priority Five:

Ensure Long-term Financial Health

Any school would be remiss not to include a focus on the financial future of the school in a strategic plan. We are deeply grateful for all the ways in which our extended Ellis community has supported the School, and we take our role as stewards of that support very seriously. We are committed to developing clear and sustainable plans for the funding and operations of the School that will support our dynamic vision for the program and school community, while guaranteeing a healthy financial picture for the foreseeable future.

Our priorities reflect our commitment in three key areas. First, we believe it is crucial that we continue to be able to attract and retain outstanding faculty, as we know that it is the faculty who are at the core of the experience for our students—what happens in classrooms at Ellis every day, and the relationships between teachers and students, are what make Ellis the remarkable school it has been for over 100 years. Second, we are committed to developing tuition models that make it possible for a diverse and compelling range of families to be able to send their daughters to Ellis. Finally, we believe that building a strong culture of philanthropy among all our constituents is instrumental in strengthening the sense of connection and community among those who care about, and love, this life-changing school.

We Will:

  • Create a five-year financial model to guide the sustainable financial health of the School
  • Support compensation that attracts and retains outstanding faculty and staff
  • Support a tuition model that is sustainable for current and prospective families as well as the School
  • Increase non-tuition sources of income
  • Build a development program that supports the short and long-term goals of the School, with an emphasis on:
    • Establishing a comprehensive major gifts program that supports all of the School’s fundraising efforts
    • Launching a formal planned giving program
    • Focusing on targeted capital projects that enhance the student experience
    • Continuing to build robust donor participation among all constituents of the school community