Head of School Blog

Giving Thanks for Another Great Year Together!

Jill Singleton
Feeling a genuine sense of community is something that our parents, students and teachers cite more than any other factor when asked what they value most about our school. Small school advocates would likely agree that the most compelling aspect of small schools is the kind of relationships that exist there. Relationships between teachers and their students, between parents and teachers, and between administration and every member of the community are the magical ingredients to our success. Another is that we are all here by choice; we have all made a conscious decision and some level of sacrifice to be present with one another, and have made a commitment to our unique mission. And our mission commands more of us than academic excellence (which many would consider a floor and not a ceiling); our mission calls us to develop discipline and determination, tolerance and compassion, an unquenchable passion for learning, and a compassionate heart committed to service.

A highlight of the year has been our enhanced spirituality initiative, launched in September 2013. The addition of formal weekly Community Time assemblies and a Mid-Month Gathering have been received with joy and enthusiasm. These opportunities represent a meaningful way to nurture the minds, hearts and spirits of not just students, but of faculty, staff, and parents as well. “While watching the Gathering I kept thinking about how fortunate we are to have our children at All Saints,” one parent reported. “I have always been impressed with the academic learning that goes on in the classroom, but the Gathering drove home for me the breadth and depth of the broader educational experience. I am truly grateful that my family is a part of this special community.” Themes explored this year include interdependence, abundance & gratitude, inner wisdom, purpose, mindfulness, stewardship, service and life in community.

Retention this year at our school is at an eight-year high, with 85% of our current students returning for the 2014-2015 school year. While applications were down slightly from last year in the lower grades, a trend being experienced by schools throughout New Jersey, application growth has been steady at about 10% over the past several years, and enrollment for next year is expected to meet or exceed the budgeted number of 279 students – an increase of 8% over the current year.

As our school has grown, we have been intentional about increasing the financial aid dollars available for capable students who would not otherwise be able to afford an independent school education. This year, the school awarded $401,825 in financial aid to 34 students, an increase of 13% over the prior year. Four students from the Jubilee Center are currently enrolled in the school and we continue our efforts to identify qualified students as part of our Bridge Program with Jubilee. We have grown our partnership with NJ Seeds, a non-profit organization that places motivated, high-achieving, low-income students into independent schools. We enrolled two Seeds students last year and look forward to the addition of four more Seeds students next year. Grassroots networking through current families in neighboring towns is also an important vehicle for identifying those families for whom even a small award can make all the difference in affording a high-quality independent school education.

It has been another banner year in the realm of fundraising. We engaged the services of a fundraising consultant to strengthen and improve our current fundraising initiatives. Our Annual Fund campaign, which will wrap up on June 30th of this year, has exceeded its goal of $220,000 and our Spring Auction yielded $120,000. We attracted two new families to our top donor tier, bringing the number of “Partner” level donors (those who donate $10,000 or more) to five – a significant increase from the two families at this level of giving just three years ago.

To accommodate our growing student population, staff has increased to 37 full-time and 10 part-time employees. Positions added this year include a part-time admissions associate, an assistant to the Head of school and an additional part-time grounds keeper. In addition to our in house faculty and staff, we have more than a dozen enrichment providers for our after-school classes.

To support our dedicated faculty and staff, we are pleased that we have been able to maintain a high level of benefits, despite the ever-rising costs in these areas. Employees receive full medical insurance (paid 100% by the school), an allowance for dental expenses, a pension plan to which the school contributes 5% of the employee’s salary and matches up to an additional 4%, short- and long-term disability, life insurance, professional development days, and tuition remission for children of faculty/staff. In addition, the school offers flex spending benefits for child care and medical costs and participates in the Transit Chek program where employees can use pre-tax dollars for commuting expenses.

We continue to make improvements in technology, and anticipate launching our new website some time this summer. This new platform will include several upgrades and improvements, including the ability to conduct online registration for enrichment classes.

Students continue to make important connections within the school and larger Hoboken community. This month we are especially proud of our Fourth Graders for presenting the results of their Action Research project about pedestrian safety at an official meeting of the City Council. In addition to surveying all of the Fourth Graders in Hoboken, our students also conducted more than 120 “man on the street” interviews and interviewed the Director of Health and Human Services. “There are many things we love about Hoboken…and want to make it the best it can be,” students wrote in their report. “We agree with the
U.S. Secretary of Transportation that Hoboken is a walkable city; however we also believe that there are some things that could be improved in relation to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.” [To more about this project and to read their full report, visit our school’s website: http://www.allsaintsdayschool.org/?page_id=19]

This year marks the final year of single-digit middle school classes. We will be graduating six Eighth Grade students this week, and these accomplished students have been accepted into a variety of high schools, adding to our growing list of prestigious secondary schools to which our students have been accepted. New acceptances this year include Elisabeth Irwin/LREI, High Tech High School, Leman Manhattan Preparatory School, and Friends Seminary. (Next year’s Eighth Grade class will have 16 students!)

The 2013-2014 school year began with a capital expansion project yielding three new classrooms on the third floor of 707 Washington Street. This additional space, completed in October, will meet the school’s near-term needs as we explore the long-term development options at the Clinton Street site. We look forward to working with the Parish as it engages in a process of careful study to reconsider its long-term property strategy, and will be seeking out alternative space options to meet the near-term needs of the school. Father Danny and I have been working closely with one another to think through the important work that lies ahead of us, and I have every confidence that our mutual resolve, commitment, compassion and love for this community will provide the courage and inspiration we need to serve as leaders in this next exciting and vital chapter of our shared ministry. Father Danny has helped me very clearly see the necessity for this discernment process…a time to pause and to reflect, and to use our creativity and reason to discover the path that will lead us to an even brighter future.

As the sun sets on my tenth year as Head of School, I am filled with a tremendous sense of gratitude for the privilege of watching our school grow from a struggling program with 92 students in Nursery-Grade 4, to a highly respected community of 260 students including a vibrant middle school whose eighth grade graduates are being noticed and enrolled by some of the area’s finest high schools. On behalf of the whole school community, I offer sincere thanks for the support of our dedicated Board of Trustees, our gifted teachers and staff, The Rev. Daniel Lennox, the Vestry, and the entire congregation and school communities as our school continues to mature and evolve, allowing us to more fully live into our ambitious mission.

Thanks for a great year, everyone!