"State of the School" Report
March 30, 2017 by
As we embark on this exciting new chapter in our school’s life, it is important to reflect on our goals and priorities we hold as a school and as a community – and to examine our current and future positioning in relation to those goals. The Strategic Plan 2015-2020, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2014, centers on the 3 E’s: Excellence, Enrollment, and Endowment. We are tackling these areas of focus from multiple angles and building up the key ingredients for success: ensuring the school has the necessary resources for continued academic excellence; commitment to pluralism as an essential characteristic of our community; and deepening engagement with our community.
Throughout the State of the School report, we will discuss essential areas of school life, our goals for them, and the steps we have taken to ensure continued success. The areas of focus are: Students, Faculty, Community, Governance, Facilities, Fiscal Health, and the Educational Program.
Our goal is to manage enrollment to ensure an optimal student body size, while preserving and strengthening our long tradition of pluralism and diversity. We have taken several steps to support this goal. We have pursued initiatives to increase our visibility among preschool families of our usual feeder schools, as well as to expand our range of feeder schools. We created the Student Support Services Department in order to better serve all learners in all aspects of development. We implemented parent satisfaction surveys and other ways for families to express ideas and provide feedback. And we created intentional vehicles – including the website, open houses, written materials, and visuals – to provide information to the community about the expansion, Middle School, and the “New North” swing space that will house Grades 2-6 next year.
Our goal is to recruit, train, compensate, and retain top quality faculty and staff. Recently we have recruited highly-qualified educators to fill the positions of Elementary School Director, Middle School Director, Director of Student Support Services, and Athletic Director. We have recruited and retained top-notch faculty in all the school’s divisions and prioritized ongoing professional development. We also provide ongoing support for faculty members to develop curriculum over the summer and to pursue advanced degrees.
Our goal is to nurture our bonds and our connectivity within the school community and the broader community, and to raise the stature and visibility of the school. We have been working to strengthen our communication opportunities with families through surveys, the blog, parlor meetings, the Rakazim program, and evenings like this one. We have continued our active participation in community events, as well as our faculty and staff’s involvement in communities of practice across the country, online and in person, and with the independent school associations in DC and Maryland. We have also begun to create partnerships with other schools in the area, with a focus on the Middle School.
Our goal is to ensure proper governance to advance the school in all its strategic priorities. We have prioritized volunteer engagement through Primary Parents, Purim Ball, Ru’ach Campaign, Rabin Lecture, Middle School Committee, and other important programs and initiatives to create a strong leadership pipeline. We offer professional development for the Board in order to ensure the highest level of professionalism. We also leverage parents and community members to promote our school through ambassadorship.
Our goal is to expand and upgrade the North Campus to better serve the educational needs of students in grades 2 through 8. The Facilities Committee continues to be dedicated to the expansion and renovation. We have secured the “New North” temporary location for Grades 2 through 6 for the next academic year, in a facility three miles from our current location. And we have planned for all the logistical implications of the relocation and the new site, with minimal disruptions to the school program.
Our overall goal is to increase our school’s economic resilience, long-term sustainability, and affordability. This year we met the $500,000 challenge match set for us for the building of the Middle School. We also launched the Ko’ach Endowment Campaign to ensure the long-term financial health of the school. We have continued to pursue and secure grants for building, security, and the enhancement of our educational programs, and have made strides in creating a sustainability plan for the future through research, data gathering, financial modelling, and an investment policy.
Our goal is to ensure excellence and continuous improvement in our educational programs for all students. We have conducted Parent Satisfaction Surveys for the past two years. The survey confirmed what we know about our faculty – that they are extraordinary individuals who love and care for each student. The survey showed high satisfaction with the academic program overall. 87.1% of families are likely or highly likely to recommend the school to friends and family. Our Early Childhood Program received high marks in all areas; the Elementary School Program received high marks as well, although some decline was noted. Areas for improvement were identified as Hebrew and Science in the Elementary School, as well as Art, Music, and the Athletics Program. We have taken several steps to begin to address the areas for improvement that the results of the parent survey identified. We hired new teachers for Art and Music, and we plan on adding more instruction in both areas when we are back at the North Campus. We also hired a highly qualified Athletic Director and significantly expanded our offerings in that area. In terms of science, we planned for more sophisticated Science Labs for both the Elementary and the Middle School in the new building, as well as a fully equipped Design Lab. We have also entered into an agreement with Catylator Makerspace in Silver Spring, a makerspace and STEM program, that we will use when we are in the “New North” campus next year. We hosted several parlor meetings at the end of the year to better understand what the students and parents would like to see improve in the Hebrew Program, and we implemented several changes in the program as a result of parents’ comments. We also created the position of Director of Jewish Life to increase the vibrancy of the Jewish experiences we are providing for our students, and to increase the integration of Hebrew and Jewish life – in all its manifestations – at the school.
We are grateful to all our community members for making our school and community so special. We look forward to working with you on the next exciting steps.