Skip to main content

Collective Innovation: The 2016-2020 CDS Strategic Plan

Collective Innovation: The 2016-2020 CDS Strategic Plan

Table of Contents:


Our Guiding Principles

The Five Pillars of Our Strategic Plan

How You Can Get Involved

Introducing the CDS Strategic Plan for 2016-2020

Dear CDS Families,

Children’s Day School started in 1983 from humble beginnings as a pre-school in the Excelsior. And since that time it has metamorphosed over many iterations, keeping up with the changing needs of its student and parent body. But what has never changed is the spirit and drive behind this growth. Time and time again over its history a group of passionate community members saw a need and stepped up to make it happen. As it grew, the school always managed to stay true to its founding purpose of social justice.

In 2009, the board decided that for its future health the school needed to grow to two sections per grade level. CDS needed to grow for many reasons; children who were at the school from preschool to 8th grade spent 13 years with one class, and this limited the peer-to-peer interactions so important for children’s socio-emotional development. Financially, the school needed to grow so that infrastructure costs could be mitigated across a larger parent base. In addition, adding two classes per grade allowed us better flexibility to attract the mix of families that make up our diverse community where nearly one in three families is on sliding scale tuition. In 2010, we began the hard work of acquiring, financing, fundraising for, designing and finally constructing our state of the art middle school. The 601 campus was the central strategy to achieve the board-mandated goal of growth. And the 2015-2016 school year marked not only our first full year’s use of that campus, but also the last year of a single graduating class. When we all came back together this fall, for the first time in its history the school is two classes per grade, making CDS the largest independent preschool to 8th grade school in this vibrant city. 

So, the growth mandate set by the board in the last strategic plan has been achieved. The question we have been tackling as a board over the last two years is, therefore, what is the next strategic imperative? How do we ensure the fiscal and emotional health of the school so that it remains one in which our children and those of future generations will continue to thrive?  

Luckily, we had a strong set of principles to guide us in constructing this plan. These have been an invaluable compass for the strategic planning task force heads, Lucy and Heather, as they led the community in crafting this plan. Read on to be reminded of those principles and of course see the plan itself (comprised of pillars and strategic priorities to uphold those pillars). We would like to invite everyone to be involved in making this next stage of our school a reality because this new chapter for CDS should be no different to its past—a community effort of passionate citizens changing the world.

Sincerely yours, both grateful for the past and excited for the future,

Cheryl Porro
Chair, Board of Trustees

Molly Huffman
Head of School

Our Guiding Principles

The CDS Vision:

CDS Is A World-Changing School.

The CDS Belief:

Passionate Citizens Change the World.

How We Do This:


Our Mission:

Children’s Day School recognizes that every child is born with unique gifts. Our mission is to develop each student’s genius by providing an inspiring environment where challenging academics are inseparable from social, artistic, and physical experiences, and where children of all backgrounds feel safe to be themselves, become avid learners, and strive to make a difference in the lives of others.

Our Values:

The Children’s Day School community nourishes and celebrates diversity,promotes justice and respect for all people, and aspires to act always with integrity, compassion, and generosity.

The Five Pillars of our Strategic Plan

Below are the things that make CDS truly unique.

1. Program

Deliver program excellence to our students, faculty, and families.

2. Students

Educate and raise confident, passionate citizens with a powerful worldview.

3. Community

Strengthen our supportive, diverse, and innovative community using the principles inherent in our founding purpose.

4. Environment

Develop and maintain our outdoor and indoor facilities to provide an environmentally sensitive, enriching, child-centered learning environment.

5. Finances

Lay the foundation for long-term financial sustainability and strength.


Deliver program excellence to our students, faculty, and families.

Children’s Day School provides a distinctive curriculum designed to encourage curiosity, build academic competency, foster resilience, and prepare students to solve the problems of an increasingly complex world. Children’s Day School embraces technology but believes that it works in service of a bigger goal, that of raising well-rounded global citizens. We believe that by better defining and articulating the core tenets of our program and by attracting and supporting educators who embrace our philosophy, CDS will stand out as an exceptional place for students, faculty, and families.

Strategic Priorities:

  1. Articulate how the curriculum builds across grade levels for these core tenets of our program: social justice, social-emotional learning, and ecological literacy.
  2. Leverage our teaching philosophy and approach based on constructivism, to foster a joy of learning.
  3. Make both teaching and learning visible to those outside the classroom through the use of various technology platforms, thereby strengthening school-family partnerships.
  4. Attract, support, and retain a team of world-class teachers and administrators who will provide an excellent education and an enriching learning environment for our students.
  5. Articulate a technology vision that supports our mission and strategic priorities.


Educate and raise confident, passionate citizens with a powerful worldview.

Children’s Day School honors the diverse minds and spirits of our children and ensures that they leave CDS with a passion to change the world. Our students are collaborators, team-builders, creative problem solvers, out-of-the-box thinkers, and unique individuals who have a strong sense of social justice, civic responsibility, and environmental stewardship. We believe that our combination of traditional academics along with unconventional learning opportunities results in great students who have the capacity to do great things in high school and beyond.

Strategic Priorities:

  1. Expose students to diverse perspectives and provide them with the tools to engage and thrive in a world that requires critical thinking to solve problems large and small.
  2. Strengthen experiential learning opportunities to broaden our students’ worldview.
  3. Thoroughly examine our learning services program, defining our objectives, benchmarking against peer schools and making improvements that better support our current and future student population.
  4. Evaluate the mission statement in context of our vision and strategic plan, engaging the community to thoughtfully revise it if necessary.


Strengthen our supportive, diverse, and innovative community using the principles inherent in our founding purpose.

The Children’s Day School community nourishes and celebrates diversity, promotes social justice and respect for all people, and aspires to act always with integrity, compassion, and generosity. Our families, students, staff, alumni, and friends have a special connection that sets us apart from many of our peer schools.

Strategic Priorities:

  1. Maintain a leadership position among Bay Area schools in socio-economic diversity.
  2. Strive for a “no majority” admission goal.
  3. Leverage the innovative and talented CDS community with the goal of strengthening community and increasing parent involvement.
  4. Provide clear and effective communication across all divisions about the school’s programs, students, and accomplishments, using technology to get regular parental feedback.
  5. Forge meaningful connections with our external community and local neighborhoods, leveraging our relationships with Aim High, the San Francisco Boys & Girls Club, and other organizations to attract and serve under-resourced youth.
  6. Broaden our definition of community to include other schools around the world, sharing our ideas and learning from their perspectives.
  7. Strengthen and increase awareness of the unique CDS brand in the wider community.



Develop and maintain our outdoor and indoor facilities to provide an environmentally sensitive, enriching, child-centered learning environment.

The campus facilities of Children’s Day School are an asset and a source of pride for us. Our sunny, safe play yard at 333 Dolores Street, the remarkable farm and garden, and the grand, state-of-the-art middle school building at 601 Dolores Street signal the school’s maturity, growth, and stability. We believe that carefully considered and well-maintained indoor and outdoor learning environments enrich our students’ experience.

Strategic Priorities:

  1. Strengthen the connections of our learning spaces and physical campus to the school’s educational goals.
  2. Provide spaces that promote outdoor learning and the study of environmental sciences at both campuses.
  3. Maintain and improve the physical assets of our campus to align with our commitment to environmental sustainability.
  4. Evaluate whether our current facilities are meeting the needs of our students and update the facilities master plan to reflect the changing needs of our community, including athletic facilities and preschool facilities.


Lay the foundation for long-term financial sustainability and strength.

Children’s Day School has a strong commitment to socio-economic diversity. Our sliding scale tuition program, our desire to retain extraordinary teachers, and the high cost of living in San Francisco require that we be diligent, thoughtful, and innovative in planning for the future.

Strategic Priorities:

  1. Implement financial and fundraising strategies that provide long-term sustainability, including raising funds to complete the facilities master plan and crafting a strategy for establishing an endowment.
  2. Understand and build a culture of philanthropy at CDS by educating our community, encouraging participation, and building ambassadors for the school’s mission.
  3. Invest in CDS teachers by maintaining compensation that is competitive with peer schools, budgeting for realistic salary increases, and investigating options to assist with housing costs.
  4. Commit to sustainable goals and policies for sliding scale that reflect our values, balancing both affordability and accessibility.
  5. Continue to diligently manage the annual operating budget, including restoring operating reserves to recommended levels or higher, and explore alternative revenue streams.

How You Can Get Involved

Coming out of the ratification of this plan, the board and faculty have formed many task forces. These groups will work on the identified strategic priorities over the next five academic years. The task forces range in subject matter from teacher housing to alternative revenue streams and many others. If you would like to be involved, please email Lindsay Galligan, Liaison to the Board of Trustees, at and tell us how you would like to help.


Collective Innovation: The CDS 2016-2020 Strategic Plan



Attached Files