A school is an idea representing an ideal or aspiration.
On one level, this is like brand—a set of expectations built around experience—but on a deeper level, this is of course a combination of the ideas and beliefs behind the school’s founding and its current stated mission. Rather like constitutional law, schools evolve as time and experience—quotidian and crisis—force the leaders of the institution to adapt their understanding of its purposes, aims, and values to changing conditions. Like the law, there may be a thick encrustation of interpretation and precedent and operational procedures akin to statutes, but at the core must live those principles, call them constitutional principles, that guide the school toward its ideals and its most lofty aspirations.
What are the ideas or aspirations that come to mind when people hear the name of your school? This is an important question, and of course in presenting your school to the world and to itself (external and internal marketing, both equally important) it is critical that there be congruence between the school’s view of itself and the world’s view of the school. (And what do you do when you suspect the world’s view is the more accurate?)
A school that lacks clarity on this issue is in difficulty.