We have committed to being transparent with the St. Francis School community about our process for exploring a potential name change for the School. Therefore, we are pleased to share the results of our recent survey and a summary of feedback gathered during our listening sessions.
While survey results indicate support for a name change, no decision has been made about whether or not to change the name of the School – a decision for the Board of Trustees. The survey and listening sessions are only part of the process. The Name Exploration Task Force is taking all of this feedback into account while gathering additional data from other relevant sources, which include:
- interviewing college admissions officers to determine the possible impact of a name change;
- interviewing employee search firms to determine the impact on potential hiring;
- interviewing schools that have considered and/or undergone a name change to learn more about possible benefits and pitfalls; and
- exploring the potential cost of a name change.
All of this information will be analyzed and reviewed collectively by the Task Force in order to make a thoroughly researched recommendation to the Board in January on whether to change the School’s name.
Bulleted data from the Survey Click here to see all pie charts:
- The survey was sent to 3,300 people and was posted on social media
- 1,417 people engaged by at least listing their constituent group; 948 answered all the name change questions; 893 answered all the tagline questions; 870 completed the full survey
- % (number) of survey responses by constituent group*:
- Current Students 9% (125)
- HS Alums 28% (398)
- Goshen Alums 19% (268)
- Former Students 2% (25)
- Current Faculty/Staff 5% (74)
- Former Faculty/Staff 4% (63)
- Current Parents 26% (362)
- Alumni Parents 18% (251)
- Former Parents 5% (75)
- Current Grandparents 7% (94)
- Alumni/Former Grandparents 2% (24)
- Friends 3% (44)
- *%s do not add to 100, as people can belong to more than one group
- Respondents have an overwhelmingly positive impression of the school (95% agree or strongly agree)
- On the questions regarding the name:
- Nearly 80% of respondents will continue to support the school regardless of the name
- By a 2-1 majority, respondents agree that the name of the school is confusing or doesn’t match because we aren’t a religious school (59% to 28%)
- By a 2-1 majority, respondents agree that it’s in the school’s best interest to change the name (54% to 23%). 21% neither agree nor disagree/have no opinion
- 79% agree that they will feel connected to the School no matter the name; 5% (52 people) disagree and 3% (26 people) strongly disagree
- 74% of respondents believe the school’s tagline, “The School of Thought”, is an effective message and identity for the school
- Only 30% of respondents believe the school’s logo, an exclamation point in quotes, is an effective message and identity for the school
Highlights of Results by Constituent Groups, including Current Students, Alums, Current Parents, and Alumni Parents
- Current students – Majority of respondents favor a name change (56% strongly agree or agree, 13% neutral, 31% disagree or strongly disagree)
- High school alums – Plurality of respondents slightly favor a name change, with more opposition than in the overall group (43% strongly agree or agree, 22% neutral, 33% disagree or strongly disagree)
- Goshen alums – Plurality of respondents slightly oppose a name change, the only constituent group with more opposition than support (36% strongly agree or agree, 18% neutral, 41% disagree or strongly disagree)
- Current parents – Overwhelming majority of respondents favor of a name change (69% strongly agree or agree, 17% neutral, 11% disagree or strongly disagree)
- Alumni parents – Majority of respondents favor a name change (53% strongly agree or agree, 25% neutral, 21% disagree or strongly disagree)
Listening Session Feedback:
Over the course of three weeks (October 26 – November 12), 13 listening sessions were held for the various constituent groups connected to the St. Francis community in order to provide an open forum for discussion on the prospect of a name change for the School. Below is a summary of the feedback received from the various constituent groups. These groups included Alumni, Students, Faculty and Staff, Current Parents, and Alumni Parents.
All constituents seemed to appreciate the opportunity to be heard and be invited into this process. There also was a consistent desire for the Task Force to be transparent about the process of deciding on the name change. While some are definitely not in favor of a name change, overall, there is an openness to changing the name. The alumni are the most hesitant about changing the name. All groups acknowledged that there is a level of confusion about our name, though it often elicits conversation, not all of which is bad, as pride, emotion and brand equity are developed through these conversations. There was agreement that the name does not communicate our Mission/philosophy and indeed that it communicates something very different from our Mission/philosophy. There was significant concern, however, regarding what we might change the name to if we change it. People’s support for a name change will be dependent on what new name is chosen if we go forward.
Faculty and Staff
Listening sessions were held for Preschool, Lower and Middle School, and High School faculty. Overall, faculty and staff were positive about the prospect of changing the name of the School as long as the School remains true to its mission and culture. Importantly, no faculty or staff members strongly disagreed with the idea of a name change. Some did suggest we consider keeping part of the current name, such as including “Francis” in some way. Several faculty were particularly eager for the opportunity to create new opportunities to promote our identity as Progressive educators. Additionally, several thought a name change may further strengthen the connection between the Downtown and Goshen campuses. Only concerns expressed were related to cost and making sure that a new name is a good fit. Faculty and staff ultimately want what is best for long-term viability and success of the School.
Three alumni listening sessions were held. The majority of alumni, even those who expressed a strong connection to and a great sense of nostalgia for the St. Francis name, understood and agreed that the name is confusing and poses challenges with marketing and building brand awareness of the School.
Overall, alums were split between those who felt that a name change was absolutely necessary and what took us so long to come to this decision, and those who felt strongly that we definitely should not change the name. There did seem to be some consistency of more recent alums being more open to the change and alums from earlier decades being less open, although of course there were exceptions on both sides.
Common questions raised by alumni were “What is the Urgency?” and “Why now?”. Comments on this centered on the fact that this has always been a challenge, but we’ve been able to overcome it, so why do we need to make this dramatic move now?
A small group raised concerns about the current climate of Cancel Culture and how a decision to change the name of the School may potentially be perceived in the community as an attempt on the part of the School to right a wrong, regardless of whether or not that is actually the case.
Alums expressed great affinity for St. Francis, the person, and felt that his philosophy and values very accurately represent the mission of the School even if the name is confusing. Those who strongly disagree with changing the name of the School asked that their concerns not be dismissed as simply being change-averse. Several participants also felt concerns about the potential loss of brand equity and questioned why other marketing strategies could not be employed to achieve greater name recognition and enrollment.
There was also a consistent expression of the desire for some nod to the School’s history, and not a wholesale name change, if a name change happens. While the majority were open to the idea of a name change, alums are extremely concerned about what the name might be if we change it, and their point was that we better get it right.
Listening sessions were held for students on both the Goshen and Downtown campuses. A small group of high school students — seniors and juniors — attended the Downtown session. Those who attended feel generally sad about the prospect of changing the name of the School, and concern about further confusion in the near term if the name were to change. They worry they may not feel connected to the School if it has a different name. However, the opposite opinion was also expressed: that what mattered most is the mission of the school and we would be able to attract more like-minded students and be overall more successful if we were to change the name and clear up the confusion about what kind of school we are. All students expressed great affinity for the Mission and love for the School and their greatest desire was for the School itself not to change and to thrive in the future. Even those who were sad about the prospect felt they could accept a change if it’s truly what’s best for the School.
Many of the Middle School students on the Goshen Campus expressed the frustration they feel about having to explain to friends and peers outside of St. Francis that the School is not Catholic. Some students suggested that people may still continue to refer to the School as St. Francis even after the name has been changed, which therefore would create even more confusion. Concern about the cost and workload involved with changing the name were also mentioned by many middle schoolers.
Task Force members will also be having more in-depth discussions with the Student Councils in December on both campuses to gain more insight from students.
Current Parent/Alumni Parent/Others
Two listening sessions were held for Current Parents/Alumni Parents/Others. The majority of current and alumni parents feel positive about the prospect of a name change, and agree that the current name is confusing and creates a barrier to inquiries. Many cited their own experiences with assuming SFS was a religious school before learning about it from a person with direct experience, or having to correct others who are misinformed about what kind of school SFS is because of the impression the name gives. Overall, this group saw the pragmatic benefits of changing the name and were generally supportive. However, many did express concerns about potential loss of brand equity that has been built. They also identified that there are likely other changes/new approaches that need to happen in order to reach the ultimate enrollment/sustainability goals and that the local educational landscape is more competitive than ever. Several folks noted that there is hopefully an approach that allows for seamless continuity (whether that is keeping “Francis” or “SFS” or the like).
The following are the additional steps and research the Task Force will complete in December in order to come to a conclusion:
- Provide a summary of feedback from interviews with college admissions officers
- Provide a summary of feedback from interviews with employee search firms
- Provide a summary of feedback from interviews with schools that have considered and/or done a name change
- Examine the potential costs of a name change
The Task Force will make its recommendation to the Board of Trustees on whether the School should go forward with a name change in January. The Board will vote on the Task Force’s recommendation at its January meeting.
If anyone has not yet been able to provide input and would like to do so, please email NameExploration@StFrancisSchool.org and a member of the Task Force will get back with you.