Capturing “Pure Magic” — Stephen Gaynor School’s New Mission Statement

Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2024

“[Stephen Gaynor School] is a magical, freeing, accepting schooling environment where children are embraced for who they are today and nurtured to develop into their full potential for who they can, and one day will be. It’s pure magic and words can never adequately capture what happens inside these walls.”

— Paige Kramer, Current Gaynor Parent

On June 5, 2024, the Stephen Gaynor School Board of Trustees approved a new mission statement for the school. Read on to learn about the yearlong process to review and revise Gaynor’s mission.

It may be true that words cannot adequately convey the impact of Stephen Gaynor School to our community, but a team of current parents, past parents, faculty, administrators, and trustees spent the past year working to do just that. In order to ensure that our mission statement acknowledges and honors the vision of our co-founders, Dr. Mimi Michael and Yvette Siegel-Herzog, as well as our aspirational goals as an institution, the Mission Statement Review Committee undertook a thorough evaluation of the school’s mission statement. 

In his charge to the committee members, Head of School Dr. Scott Gaynor said, “We need your help and input to make sure that our mission statement reflects who we are, what we do, and who we aspire to be.” 

Why Review the School’s Mission Statement?

The school’s existing mission statement served Gaynor well for many years, but a mission statement is only powerful when it accurately reflects an institution’s values and goals. For that reason, it is good practice to review an institution’s mission statement periodically. Additionally, in 2024-2025, Gaynor will be undertaking the NYSAIS decennial accreditation process. According to NYSAIS, “Everything … in the self-study process flows from [the mission] statement.”

A good mission statement is a critical component of an organization’s identity and should serve as a guide for goal setting and decision-making. It should be clear and concise, inspirational, timeless, differentiating, memorable, and reflective of the organization’s values. 

The Review Process

In order to provide the committee with feedback from the Gaynor community, the school surveyed students, alumni, employees, trustees, and parents to ask them what three words describe Gaynor to them, how they describe Stephen Gaynor School to a friend, and anything else they wanted to let the school know about our mission statement review. The 300+ respondents to the survey made clear to the Mission Statement Review Committee that there was significant agreement within our community about what defines Stephen Gaynor School. Key words that appeared again and again in the survey included: supportive, individualized, inclusive, welcoming, caring, and nurturing. 

A cloud of words that describe Stephen Gaynor School. Most prominent words are supportive, individualized, inclusive, nurturing.

Over in-person workshops and committee surveys, the team reviewed the school’s existing mission statement and spent significant effort in revising that statement to better reflect the present and future of Stephen Gaynor School. The committee worked together to determine words and concepts that resonated strongly as descriptors both of Gaynor’s community ethos as well as the outcomes they hope that Gaynor students achieve at our school to prepare them for their future academic and social lives.​ 

Updated Mission and Values

The Mission Statement Review Committee and the Board of Trustees felt it was important to pair the updated mission statement with a series of “we believe” statements to further bring the values of the school to life. Once a final draft was written, the proposed statement was shared with Co-Founder and Director of Education Yvette Siegel-Herzog to ensure that the updated mission aligns with her vision for the school. After reviewing all of the feedback from the committee and stakeholders, the updated Mission Statement was presented to the Board of Trustees for their review and approval. The board approved the final, updated mission statement on June 5, 2024.

At Stephen Gaynor School, students with learning differences develop essential academic and critical thinking skills through individualized and evidence-based approaches, empowering them to reach their full potential. Students learn to advocate for themselves and others while actively building an inclusive community, a sense of belonging, and a belief in their own possibilities.​


The new mission statement calls attention to the use of evidence-based methods and our research-backed approach to education. It emphasizes empowering students and teaching them self-advocacy skills, and in general the statement is focused on student agency. It specifically values the creation of an inclusive community and fostering a sense of belonging, enshrining the values of diversity, equity and inclusion into the school’s mission statement.

Stephen Gaynor School has always been a mission-driven institution, and according to Dr. Gaynor, “The updated version will help us focus on what is most important for us as an institution, and will be the thread that weaves throughout the NYSAIS decennial.” 

With this renewed mission, we are not just reflecting on our past achievements but also paving the way for a future where every student is empowered to reach their full potential. As we embrace this updated mission statement, we reaffirm our commitment to fostering an inclusive, supportive, and dynamic educational environment. We look forward to celebrating our new mission statement in the coming year and continuing to grow as a community dedicated to the success and well-being of every student. Together, we will ensure that Stephen Gaynor School remains a place where magic happens every day.