Head of School Report 2017-18

Did you do your best today?

Growing up, I was asked this question most every day by my mother. Although she cared greatly about results, I believe her goal in asking this question so often was to help me develop a mindset and discipline around effort and persistence that would serve me well no matter the challenge. She believed firmly that every day represented an opportunity to get a bit better. The determination to get a bit better every day has defined the Collegiate School spirit for generations. It is in that spirit that I share with you the 2017-18 Head of School Report.
Portrait of a Graduate
In support of our ongoing JK-12 curriculum endeavors, we have spent the past year collaborating on the Collegiate Portrait of a Graduate. Drawing inspiration from our mission and values, the very purposeful development of this portrait helps guide our students’ learning experiences into each and every classroom from JK through 12th Grade. In the coming months, we will continue our work on the Portrait, defining well each attribute. We look forward to sharing this important work with you.

Parent Survey 2017
Collegiate parents who participated in our most recent Parent Survey, in January 2017, identified several areas of school life where they would like to see more attention focused. The sections below outline how we are addressing some of the suggestions and feedback the School received.

Student Experience: Resiliency, Instilling Curiosity and Ethics
One of the most exciting curriculum initiatives this year is the addition of the senior year Capstone Program, Envision Your World. The senior Capstone is a one-semester graduation requirement (which can be completed during the summer) that replaces the senior seminar and senior project graduation requirements. The Capstone program brings to life students’ classroom learning in a real-world context.

As the Capstone course description notes: Each senior Capstone course has at its core an essential question or challenge and challenges students to use their cumulative learning to engage it. Students are able to choose from a variety of Capstone experiences, each embedded in a one-semester course, each with a curricular focus on one or more of the pillars of Responsible Citizenship - Global Engagement, Inclusion, Economic Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Service Learning, Civic Engagement, Ethics and Sustainability. In addition to the Responsible Citizenship focus, all Capstone courses include collaboration, leadership, design-thinking, experiential learning and public sharing.

Similar to the Lower School’s Envision Collegiate and the Middle School’s Envision Richmond Capstones, Envision Your World is guided by Collegiate’s commitment to Responsible Citizenship and inquiry-based learning. The mission of Responsible Citizenship at Collegiate is to empower engaged, contributing citizens by nurturing students’ compassion, creativity, curiosity and purpose.

In addition to our Capstone programs, we have several JK-12 inquiry-based curriculum initiatives underway that we are excited about and that will continue to help our young people develop across many dimensions. These include interdisciplinary work in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM), as well as Project Based Learning experiences in other core disciplines.

We will continue to keep you abreast of all of these curriculum enhancements. Please note that the Portrait of a Graduate, which was produced with collaborative input from faculty members and administrators, also reflects several attributes highlighted in the Parent Survey results: inquisitiveness (curiosity), resiliency and ethics.

Socioeconomic Diversity
Another area of interest highlighted in the Parent Survey results was socioeconomic diversity. This topic has been an important one for the School for many years and is of particular interest to the Board of Trustees. Our strategic plan, Focused Forward, includes this as one of our strategic priorities.

To give this priority the focus it deserves, the Board of Trustees has formed an ad hoc Endowment Committee that will be considering strategies for growing the Endowment to support increased financial assistance. As their work progresses, you will be hearing more about this initiative. In the meantime, we will provide our community with an update on our existing Endowment and how it works before the end of this semester.

More Streamlined Communications
More streamlined communications, especially regarding the frequency of School-related emails, was also one of the areas noted in the Parent Survey. This continues to be a work in progress, and to date, we have not become as efficient as I would have liked. We continue to explore ways to keep you informed in a timely manner and to be more judicious and effective with our correspondence. Although there is much activity and news to share with you, we can do better on this.

Campus Improvements: Oates Theater
As we finish putting the final touches on the newly renovated McFall Hall dining center, we are turning our attention to the next significant renovation — Oates Theater. In 2018, Oates Theater will celebrate its 25th anniversary. This amazing facility has supported well the growth of our fine arts program, but is now in need of a makeover to better serve our current student body.

To accomplish this, the footprint of the theater can remain the same while the inside is completely renovated. If seating is reconfigured and a balcony is added, this will increase seating capacity from 565 to more than 700. In addition to the increased seating capacity, sight lines to the stage would be greatly improved and significant enhancements using the latest technology would be made to the lighting, acoustics and fly system.

This $2.7 million renovation will take six to eight months to complete, and fundraising for the project is nearly complete. Based on a successful completion of our fundraising efforts and the Board's final approval, we are hopeful construction will begin at the end of this semester and be completed by August 2018. More detailed information on the Oates Theater project will be communicated to our community in the coming weeks.

Once the renovation is complete, Oates Theater will become one of Central Virginia’s premier mid-size theaters. It will be among the top five venues in Richmond, in terms of capacity, alongside the renowned Altria Theater and the Carpenter Center.
Digital Citizenship: Smartphones and Social Media
As I noted in my Sept. 29 letter to the Collegiate community, we believe that technology has a very supportive role to play in the overall education of our young people. However, we recognize that the use of technology can also result in negative consequences. In particular, we are concerned with the exponential rise of smartphones and the concomitant use of social media by young people with smartphones. Mounting evidence suggests that this combination may be toxic for young people. These alarming trends deserve our community’s focus and attention. Beginning with internet safety expert Katie Greer’s visit the week of Oct. 2, we will be doing more in this area to support our young people and their families. Over the course of the year, each of our three divisions will be making this important topic a priority.

Campus Security
In line with the independent campus security audit we conducted in 2016, we continue to take steps to upgrade the security on our campus. Most recently, keyless entry has been installed on all classroom buildings and athletic facilities doors on both sides of our main campus, allowing us to electronically control access to all spaces used by students. This important security upgrade now allows us to respond much more quickly if there is ever a serious security-related event on campus. With more than 175 doors on the Mooreland campus, this project took many months to complete and was a retrofit challenge. The keyless entry project was the last major recommendation left to be implemented from our audit.

Resource Stewardship
In order to provide our families with more predictability around tuition, we continue to operate the School using a tuition-setting approach that is more closely tied to inflation. We made this promise to our families three years ago and we remain committed to fulfilling it. As a result of this commitment, we have had the School’s lowest average tuition increases, as compared to any other three-year time period in the last 20 years. If you would like to review again our tuition-setting approach, please follow this link for a more comprehensive explanation.

College Admission
Collegiate School’s 2016-17 College Admission Report will be shared with you the week of Oct. 23. Please be on the lookout for it. I believe our community will be pleased with the results. Once again, our young people’s college acceptance rates were very competitive, exceeding every major selectivity index.

State of the School Presentation: Oct. 18
On a final note, I do hope that you will make plans to attend the Parents’ Association (PA) fall meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct. 18) at 7 p.m. in the Estes Café area of Sharp Academic Commons. Collegiate Board Chair Frank Mountcastle and I will be discussing the State of the School and we look forward to answering questions that you may have. We will be joined by several other School leaders, who will provide a presentation on the Lower School and Upper School Capstone programs.

As always, your support is very much appreciated.