The educational environment presents huge challenges and people
involved in education are deeply committed to meeting those challenges.
This is how one school manifested that commitment.
Future Search and the Oak Hill Elementary School
There was never a school that needed to close the
past and refocus on a bright future as much as Oak Hill. Its history
was filled with outstanding accomplishments, but a number of
circumstances moved the school into near crisis. The future search
process proved to be an amazingly effective vehicle not just for
celebrating the past, but helping the school community and staff
develop a shared vision for the future. It brought real and lasting
change in the form of significant program implementations, improved
morale and increased dialogue and shared decision making. No other
event changed the culture and direction of that school in such a
dramatic way. No other event in the history of my own professional
career changed my ability to function as a leader more than future
search. It was successful in part because of the timing of the event,
but also because of the embedded processes and strategies used by the
highly skillful facilitators, Dr. Nancy Aronson and John Van Deusen.
This versatile planning process could be used in nearly any
organization. It is a positive, energizing and productive approach to
Dr. Sandra Chapman
Oak Hill Elementary School Director of Professional Development
Blue Valley School
In trying to manifest caring and commitment, most educators live in
a complex tension between responsibilities, expectations and standards.
- Superintendents are under constant pressures from
political and community interests, while juggling administrative duties
related to unions, teachers, parents and staff.
- School administrators have inadequate staffing and funding, often doing double duty as counselors, teachers, schoolyard attendants or custodians.
- Teachers, while trying to focus on their studentâ€™s
personal and educational needs, also have to juggle legislative
mandates, parental issues, professional requirements and performance
- Parents, caring about their children's education,
often feel powerless to affect the quality of their education or to
participate in a meaningful way.
- Cherished priorities and programs can be changed or undermined by new boards, principles or superintendents.
- Charter and private schools, while less exposed to such pressures face the important need to build buy-in and support from their school.
- Schools are increasingly dependent on other agencies for things such as health services, counseling, security, human services and other needs related to the schools mission.
- Special programs, even when they are effective or
widely supported, often struggle for survival, spending huge energy
maintaining political and financial support.
- Follow through and buy-in are difficult to
maintain in the charged educational environment, where paid staff are
overextended and many programs depend on volunteers.
and school systems around the world have used future search to build a
common foundation from which diverse individuals and interests can act
collaboratively. It offers a methodology that builds on diversity and
is able to elicit sustainable commitment, ownership and buy-in.
While many organizations and communities spend 80% of their energy
on the 20% of things about which they disagree, future search focuses
on commonly shared values and visions, building commitment to action on
a shared foundation. At the same time, it encourages people to speak
their voices fully and acknowledges the realities that exist in the
Future search is invaluable in establishing shared, goals,
standards, implementation strategies, or curriculum priorities. It can
help departments, schools and communities develop or implement mission.
It is a powerful way to coordinate activities between departments,
agencies or other service institutions.
Ways FS has been used by schools:
- Develop and build commitment and ownership in a school or program. Develop or implement curriculum.
- Build common ground among parents, teachers, community members,
political leaders and others in the school community. Support
collaborative implementation of performance standards. Long range
- Produce positive results for people with multiple complex needs.
Respond to complex social, political and economic realities. Achieve
- Integrate agency efforts with those of numerous other providers.
Strengthening partnerships among agencies. Strengthening partnerships
with the community. Bring hope out of despair.