Strategic Plan 2020-2030
Dear Friends and Families,
One of the most important things that any institution can do on its continued journey to greatness is to form a comprehensive plan describing how it intends to get there. Once a plan is developed, it must be effectively and clearly communicated to its entire constituency – in our case, our families, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends. As we began to formulate this plan, it was clear that the collective goal for all segments of our school family was to continue The First Academy’s rise as a leader in spiritual formation, institutional stability, and scholastic excellence.
Throughout the rest of this school year, our team will be working to fine-tune and develop all of the elements of this plan and more detail will be added to the “big ideas” that you will see in the information below. I look forward to sharing the full completed Strategic Plan with you near the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.
In recent years, God has blessed The First Academy abundantly. In the midst of a global pandemic, our school community has become stronger than ever. The servant leadership of our students, staff, parents, and alumni has shined a light in some times that often seemed dark. Our Varsity Baseball Team brought home the FHSAA Class 3A State Championship for the first time in school history, the Fine Arts department hosted A Night to Remember at the Dr. Phillips Center, being the first school to host an event of that magnitude at the prominent facility, and the Class of 2021 boasted 44 AP Scholars and 20 thirteen-year seniors. Enrollment is strong and we are at Wait Pool for nearly every grade in the Lower School as well as in rising 6th grade for the 2022-2023 school year. Our alumni are returning to TFA as parents themselves, and we now have 55 (and growing!) second-generation students. Since 2010, our graduates have earned more than $100 million in scholarship offers, and 29 students have earned National Merit recognition. In addition, we have completed the Cramer Family Field House, the covered walkways, the Gather space, and the Royal Kitchen & Eatery.
The path is open for The First Academy to accomplish even more. From cultivating the concept of entrepreneurship within our students to strengthening and enhancing our chapel programming, there is much that we plan to do. I am excited to see what God will do on our campus in the next decade. In every facet of our institution, I believe the best is yet to come for The First Academy.
Steve D. Whitaker, Ph.D. Head of School
“Day after day, I see clear evidence of God at work in the lives of our students and families. I meet regularly with our Head of School, Steve Whitaker, and I am deeply appreciative of my relationship with him. God has worked through him as a visionary leader for our school and I am excited about the days ahead! Our shared commitment to excellence is seen in our passion to spread the Gospel and in our eagerness to cultivate a strong church/school relationship. I look forward to watching as the initiatives outlined in this next Strategic Plan come to fruition and supporting The First Academy as one of the finest Christian Schools in the country.”
– Dr. David Uth, Senior Pastor, First Orlando
Our objective was to solicit as much input as possible before writing the next Strategic Plan for The First Academy.
As we began our journey, we interviewed nearly 350 TFA community members including students, parents, teachers, pastors, and board members. Following the conversations, focus group sessions, and review of S.W.O.T. analysis results, many objectives for the future began to take form. Several goals and opportunities were identified, and those had to be narrowed down in order of importance of what could realistically and fairly be accomplished within a ten-year period.
The Leadership Team, the School Board, and members of our Parent Association were then asked to rank order all of the identified objectives. As we began to receive those results, the school’s direction for the coming decade began to crystallize and our updated plan for success gained clarity and substance.
Strategic Plan Goals
One Purpose: Connecting students and their families to Jesus, to others, and to God’s Truth
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Peter Drucker
We want to make sure that TFA is a great place to grow the mind, body and spirit of each student. (Luke 2:52)
- Chapel Program: Bolster chapel programs with an alumni and student-led worship team, diverse keynote speakers, and a multi-year scope/sequence to include educating students on The Five Aspirations of Every Student.
- Biblical Worldview Integration: Further equip faculty and staff with professional development training and Colson Fellows leadership for curriculum integration. Broaden the Senior Thesis to include multi-grade level preparation in collaboration with The Writing Center.
- Mission Outreach: Enhance current student service opportunities to include First Orlando partnerships, community-wide and international outreach, and student leadership expectations.
- Student Leadership/Discipleship Training: Continue to develop the Student Leadership Model in Athletics, Fine Arts, and the Middle & Upper School. Assist Middle & Upper School students in creating a self-development plan by identifying opportunities to further hone their strengths and connect students interested in leadership with key professionals in the field. Work to create K-12 alignment and multi-year scope and sequence.
- Student Wellness Training: Bolster the student wellness program with student-led Bible studies, Chapel speakers, student resources, parent resources, and PreK-12 alignment.
- Internships: Create an Upper School student internship program that includes partnerships with key Central Florida businesses, TFA family businesses, and alumni businesses to give students hands-on experience in their areas of professional interest.
- Entrepreneurship and Business Education: Develop entrepreneur elective course offerings for Upper School students to create and implement business models, including financial planning. Include course offerings that develop economics and business leadership components.
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math): Enhance STEM-based initiatives to include opportunities for students to participate and compete as a team, such as Robotics. Update the K-12 STEM scope and sequence, including a STEM Diploma Endorsement Upper School track and Lower School STEM lab.
- New Student Transitions: Implement new student surveys to identify 2-3 possible initiatives to implement with new students to assist with the transition into TFA in the following areas: Fine Arts, Athletics, Senior Thesis, Bible Knowledge, School Culture, and Leadership Development.
- Gospel-Centered Diversity: Create and implement a long-term plan that outlines how Gospel-centered unity training related to socio-economic, ethnic, and church backgrounds will be incorporated at all levels based on Ephesians 4.
We want to make sure that TFA is a great place for faculty/staff to flourish in their calling. (2 Thessalonians 2:14)
- Curriculum Review: Strategically align new course offerings with existing courses to strengthen writing and analytical thinking, along with the consideration of technology implementation to enhance teaching and learning.
- Faculty/Staff Connections: Strengthen the school culture by developing opportunities for spiritual renewal, personal connections, and professional growth that lead to a school community that is flourishing.
- Academic Scorecard: Identify output metrics available by division that may be used to define “success” in different areas of school engagement including the following:
- academic achievement
- spiritual formation, leadership
- extracurricular engagement
- Create a TFA Christian School Scorecard that can be used annually to create goals and benchmark success across areas and divisions including the following areas: Admissions Data, Standardized Test Data, Spiritual Formation, and Extracurricular Engagement.
- Teaching Fellows: Create a full proposal for a teaching fellows program that includes the following elements:
- Financial resources to support 1-2 annual teaching fellows
- Identify master teachers to serve as teaching fellow mentors
- Process for identifying targeted content area for potential teaching fellows
- Application and interview process
- Design professional development and school life program
- Living Curriculum Influencers: Align the annual faculty growth plans, evaluations, and Christian Educator of the Year and Christian Staff Member of the Year to The Seven Characteristics of a Living Curriculum Influencer. Provide resources for the individual spiritual growth of each faculty and staff member.
- School Culture Team: Bolster the school culture by aligning what we believe, say, and do as faculty members and students in the daily work of teaching and learning.
- First Orlando Connections: Continue to foster the already strong relationship between the church and school leadership and pursue opportunities to connect our TFA students and families to First Orlando through chapels, pastor speakers, worship team leaders, etc.
- Professional Development: Hire or assign a leader to oversee and enhance a robust professional development plan with a cyclical focus on The Five Aspirations for Every Student and The Seven Characteristics of a Living Curriculum Influencer.
- Certification/Endorsements: Align professional development leadership and growth opportunities to certification requirements. Parallel faculty and staff compensation step increases to include successful completion of Masters degree, Doctorate degree, and Educational/Biblical certifications, including the Colson Fellows program.
- K-16 Model: Explore the future viability of expanding the current K-12 model into one that includes post-secondary opportunities leading to the option for students to complete The First Academy with a four-year college degree.
We want to make sure that TFA is a great place for friends and family to invest their God-given resources. (2 Thessalonians 2:14)
- Financial Stability: Continue to work with the Business Operations Committee to ensure that there is a strong framework for financial stability. Work with the Finance office to substantially increase the revenue from auxiliaries in the next three years.
- Campus Safety: Conduct a third party safety audit of our entire campus. This will include the thorough review of the buildings and grounds. Secondly, a review of all of our security policies and procedures that will include but not be limited to drills, and our prevention and preparedness for all matters related to safety and security.
- Master Plan Need: Create a one-page visual Master Plan of TFA’s campus, artfully showing the buildings that already exist. Identify 5-7 renovations/additions to campus, including Athletic driven needs, that will assist in carrying out the mission and vision of The First Academy and outline potential locations for the new initiatives identified.
- Natalie Thomas Gymnasium Remodel: Work with an architect to create plans to repurpose the Natalie Thomas Gymnasium into a Student Center at the heart of campus. Host a feasibility study to identify key Gospel Patrons and potential leadership-level gifts for the project and then launch a public campaign to fully fund the new space that will serve as a Fine Arts, Chapel, and Athletic venue.
- Multi-Campus Strategy: Identify key areas in Central Florida to grow Kingdom education and expand The First Academy mission and vision beyond our main Orlando campus. Research top communities that our new families are currently enrolling from, along with viable areas for long-term growth and sustainability for a second TFA campus.
- Technology Plan: Continue to support the school in the use of technologies that will enhance and strengthen the teaching and learning process to foster student success, enhance support services, and provide for effective administrative systems.
- Tuition Assistance: Continue to encourage qualifying families to apply for Step Up and other state funding opportunities that would decrease our dependence on tuition assistance. Additionally, identify seven to ten major donors who have an interest in giving to tuition assistance. Once this affinity group has been created, work with them to support and bolster the fund for those families who do not qualify for Step Up or other state funding.
- Covered Lunch Plaza: Obtain designs for a covered lunch plaza to be installed outside of the Gather Space for student dining, special events, and outdoor learning. Identify a small group of donors to assist in funding the project.
- Capital Improvements/Replacements: Create a plan for needed recurring capital replacements with a funding structure, including Athletic needs. Create a ten-year plan projecting necessary capital improvements for the school.
- Enhanced Extended Education Programs: Create a plan to expand The First Hope program offerings to increase student ratios and allow for additional growth and increase The Classical School opportunities for Lower School families to grow in the elementary hybrid homeschool market.
“It is my joy to serve as School Board Chairman at The First Academy. I am also a proud alumni parent. I have been blessed to watch as The First Academy has grown and flourished since opening its doors in August of 1987. Day after day, I see our living curriculum influencers teaching students to build strong academic, athletic, artistic, and spiritual foundations. It is more important than ever that we serve as a robust community of faith for our families and students. This next Strategic Plan is poised to not only build upon our school culture, but will include initiatives to bolster all aspects of our institution. The future is bright for TFA. Throughout my many years of being part of the TFA family, I have never been prouder to call myself a Royal!”
– Mr. Clark Keator