Head of School Blog

Letter to families from the Board

Guest Blog: Board of Trustees | Volume: 5 Issue: 14 | Dec. 16, 2015
Dear Families,

The All Saints School board of trustees is sending this letter to you to share more broadly some information we provided to the parents of our Pre-K students this week, in response to questions about All Saints’ space and enrollment plans.

At the outset, we want to assure you that regardless of space and enrollment limitations, the board and Administration are committed to the school’s mission and to maintaining the high standards of academic excellence that we have always provided for our students.

Space Plans
As we previously indicated would likely be the case, the board and Administration are not currently looking for new or additional space. Instead, we are working through various issues with the parish vestry in connection with our goal of separating the school’s governance from that of the parish. These issues include how to handle our shared mortgage obligations and potentially entering a new lease. We need to work through the questions surrounding independence and we need certainty as to our lease terms and mortgage obligations, before we can consider embarking on plans to find other space.

Last year, our strategic direction changed when we realized that we would not be able to proceed with the building project at the St. Nicholas Center (SNC) campus and we would need to implement our enrollment reduction plan. We switched gears and have been focusing on gaining our independence. Once the question of independence is settled, we will engage in a comprehensive strategic planning process designed to include the collective needs and wants of our community, including the idea of whether we will return to our growth model and what that would look like.

We know and appreciate that our parents love our school and want it to continue to grow. Some parents have even offered their ideas for additional space, including: the use of trailers; renting space from the Jubilee Center; using public school space and merging with another school.

While we have not actively pursued all of these options, we do have reason to believe that many of them would not work for the school. For example, the Administration has explored the use of trailers in the past, and does not believe these are a viable option for us due to cost and space limitations. Similarly, with respect to the Jubilee Center, the school needs dedicated space, and the Center uses the available space at times that overlap with the school’s normal programming time (specifically, the overlap time is from 3:00-6:30pm). Finally, because our mission and curriculum are unique within our community, we do not believe there is another school with which a merger would be appropriate.

More broadly, however, pursuing other options for space at this time is neither realistic nor practical. First, we need financial certainty before we can assess what is affordable. Second, as a small school with limited resources, we simply don’t have the capacity to search for space while also working on issues with the vestry and overseeing the ordinary course of business of our school.

Class Sizes
The number of classes and the class sizes for students currently in Kindergarten and higher grades will not be affected by the school’s space constraints. For children currently in Pre-K or younger, we plan to have one class for each grade as those children progress through the school.

Our plan is to have one Kindergarten class next year if 19 or fewer students return. If we have more than 19 students, we will have two classes, with the expectation, based on historical data, that the group would become one class over time, through attrition. (Class size depends on the size of classrooms, which are not uniform throughout our buildings; our Kindergarten classrooms at SNC can accommodate 19 students each.)

If there is just one Kindergarten class next year, the current plan is to use one of the Kindergarten classes as the classroom, and the other as the Art Room. This arrangement will allow the two First Grade classes to stay together at 707 Washington Street in 2016-17. Then in the following year (2017-18), our current plan is that the one First Grade class will be held at SNC, and the Art Room will move back to 707 Washington Street. For the year that the Art Room is located at SNC (2016-17), our current plan is that students will be walked over for Art, Community Time class, and for Reading Buddies. These special subjects will be scheduled such that each class in Grades 1-8 would spend one morning or afternoon per week at SNC.

As the current Pre-K and younger grades progress up through the school, they will be in one class, until or unless the school returns to a growth plan. After we have certainty with respect to financial and governance issues, we intend to consider pursuing additional space in order to grow.

We think the quality of education offered at All Saints is exceptional and will remain so - regardless of the number of classes on grade. While we understand that parents of children in Pre-K or younger for whom two classes on grade is an absolute priority may be seeking other options, we hope families will carefully consider the quality of education they are receiving at our school as part of their decision, because we believe the All Saints experience is comprehensive and unique.

Teachers
Our teachers are one of the most important assets of our school and we are taking great care to limit any concerns they could have related to the reduction in enrollment. We are making every effort to be open and honest with all of our staff, and to assure our teachers that we want to retain them. As our needs change, we hope and believe that natural attrition of staff will make it possible to retain everyone who wants to stay. A couple of teachers who could be affected by reduced enrollment in the short-term have signed contracts for this year knowing it could be for a one-year or temporary position.

When offering contracts in April, the Administration will, as always, carefully select teachers for each position based on their experience and qualifications. Any decisions regarding the teaching staff will be made with the intention of maintaining the high level of education that has always existed at All Saints.

Enrichment and After-School Offerings
We don’t expect the new enrollment plan to necessitate changes to our enrichment, after-care, or special class offerings (e.g., music and dance). Kindergarten would have enrichment offerings similar to those currently offered to Kindergarten. Nursery and Pre-K classes would have enrichment immediately following dismissal at 11:15, as the morning session does now. However, we may need to have Kindergarten students walk over to 707 Washington Street for after-care.

Financial Issues
The planned reduction in enrollment will certainly present some budget challenges, which the board and Administration have been working through and will carefully manage. Competitive compensation for high-quality teachers and staff will continue to be a key priority.

The board does not expect any unusual jumps in tuition. Instead, based on what we know today, we expect tuition will rise at a rate that is similar to past years and in line with the market for schools in our community.

We will use the auction and other fundraising efforts to raise money for STEM and other future programs, and the school will continue to implement new academic initiatives. The funding for these initiatives will also come from fundraising efforts.

Communication
Finally, please know that the board is making a concerted effort to communicate with the school community on a more regular basis. While our board meetings, like those of other independent schools, are closed to safeguard confidential information and allow for the most efficient and open discussions of issues among board members, we intend to share any important developments or decisions about independence and space as soon as practicable.

Thank you for your continued faith in and commitment to All Saints. Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments at asktheboard@allsaintshoboken.com.

Sincerely,

ASEDS Board of Trustees
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