Thursday, September 18, 2014

What's Happening

I have been involved in a number of important meetings and events over the last two weeks that involve Gaston Day.

Last Tuesday, September 9, we held our annual GDS Board Retreat. This year our focus was administrative plans for 2014-2015. Josh Lutkus (Dean of Students), Kim Schneider (Interim Head of Middle and Upper Schools), Jennifer Newcombe (Middle School Coordinator), Marianna Davis (Lower School Head), Casey Field (Athletic Director) and I all presented. Mine discussed this year's budget, the status of the strategic plan, and other areas of emphasis this year. The budget is balanced for the twelfth year in a row, although it has a smaller surplus than last year. Several items of the strategic plan have been completed, including the new security system, the iPad rollout, and the new Dean of Student's position. Others have been partially funded or delayed to make sure that we stay within budget. We funded faculty raises at a 3.2% increase, rather than the 5% which the strategic plan called for, to stay on budget. We also delayed the increase to the continuing education budget for at least one more year. The iPad roll out has been an area of special interest for me, and I am happy to report that program is going well. 

Josh Lutkus reported to the Board on his plans for improving student discipline and student life. He also outlined plans to contact all parents to inquire about their children's progress and satisfaction. Interim Middle and Upper School Head Kim Schneider talked about the technology initiative and also her plans to increase and improve classroom observations and teacher supervision. Lower School Head Marianna Davis presented new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs in Lower School, including an exciting new robotics program. Middle School Coordinator Jennifer Newcombe talked about student culture and academics. Athletic Director Casey Field reported on Gaston Day's successful transition to the new Metrolina Athletic Conference (MAC). 

The Board of Trustees is responsible for the strategic oversight of the school and for hiring and retaining the Head of School. They are a self-governing body that chooses their own members. Marsh Spencer is in his second year of service as Chair. Charles Heilig is the new Treasurer. Gaston Day School is extremely fortunate to have these two Board leaders and all the other dedicated, talented Board members. The Board remains excited about the Strategic Plan we adopted last year and pleased with the school's direction.

Thursday morning, we had a reception for New Parents in the Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Lobby. About fifteen parents attended, and we had a wonderful question-and-answer session for about thirty minutes. Coming into a new school is confusing and complicated. Hopefully, our answers will help our new parents navigate their way.

Thursday afternoon, I attended a meeting at Palisades Episcopal School (Lake Wylie) to welcome all new Heads of School in the western half of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS). As a member of the NCAIS Board, I serve as mentor to two of the new heads: Mark Earwood (Statesville Christian Head of School) and Kurt Telford (Charlotte Catholic Interim Head). Several of the other new Heads are old friends of Gaston Day School. Bob Shirely, who was Interim Head here in 2000, is the new Head of the Woodlawn School near Davidson. Gene Bratek, for many years the Providence Day School Head and an old friend, is the new Head of Davidson Day School. Whenever I am with other Heads of School, I benefit both from the fellowship and the opportunity to find out what is going on at other schools. Being with other Heads is great continuing education.

Last Friday, Martha Jayne Rhyne (Director of Admission), Carolyn Senter (Director of College Placement), Kim Schneider (Interim Middle and Upper School Head) and I visited the Hammond School in Columbia, SC, to study their housing for international students. Hammond is a little more than one-and-a-half times bigger than Gaston Day. But the schools are remarkably similar in many ways. Associate Head Bob Davis met with and toured us. I enjoyed learning about Hammond and inspecting the two houses that they rent and own to house Asian students at Hammond. I am so grateful to Bob Davis for his time and expertise.

These are just some of the things that have been happening at your school over the last week. Let me know if I can answer any questions or help you. Thank you for caring about Gaston Day!