Monthly Update from Board Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Posted on October 23rd, 2019 by acsrochester


Monthly Update from Board Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Dear Members of the Allendale Columbia Community,

We are well into the second month of the school year, and the AC campus is alive with excitement and activity. We have had the opportunity to speak with many of you, and your continued energy, optimism, and support are appreciated. Here is an update on our progress in creating a plan for AC’s future:

Search for Interim Head: We are very pleased and impressed with the response we have received from our post for an Interim Head of School on the AC, National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) websites. The deadline for applications was October 15th. Because this is an interim position, the search process is different than a traditional Head of School search and is being led by four Board Trustees. Numerous candidates (both external and internal) have been reviewed, and we are confident we will be able to make a selection that will allow us to maintain the strength of our program while continuing our work towards a sustainable future. The Interim Head of School appointment will be made and announced by the end of November.

Financial Plan: We are acutely aware of your desire for answers about the plan, and we are working as quickly as possible with the Board and Leadership Team to provide them to you. AC’s current financial circumstance was created over a period of many years, and it will take some time to “right the ship”. We are extremely optimistic as we plan for 2020-2021 and are working on a long-term plan.

We are currently examining a variety of multi-year financial models that reflect a sustainable future for AC. We will be finalizing a plan over the next month in connection with our accreditation process with NYSAIS. We are confident in the work being done by the Board and Leadership Team to re-vision AC’s finances for the 2020-2021 academic year, and we look forward to sharing that vision with you when it’s completed. We are confident that the work being done on our finances, combined with our fundraising efforts, will demonstrate AC’s financial viability for years to come.

Fundraising: The response to our StandWithAC Appeal and to the AC Day of Giving has been encouraging. Since the beginning of this school year, we have already received almost as many gifts as we did all of last fiscal year, and our participation has increased. We are happy to share that parent giving has more than doubled since last year, we have 100% board participation, and over 90% faculty and staff participation.

While we are delighted by this trend, we still need increased support from all of AC’s constituents to continue to strengthen the financial position. In the next two months, we will continue to reach out to major donors, parents, alumni, and friends to discuss their commitments to AC. It is our hope that you will consider making AC your primary philanthropic priority at this time. The support we are seeing is a tribute to the value so many of you place on the AC experience.

Our next fundraising event will be our Friday Night Fiesta on November 1st at AC. It will be a fun night of authentic Mexican food where you can learn a skill or two and help raise additional funds for the school. We will also be making an exciting announcement at the celebration. We hope to see you there! For details and to purchase tickets, please click here.

Enrollment: Our first Open House for prospective students is on Thursday, October 24th from 5:00-7:00 p.m., and we have a great response so far. It is encouraging to see our new student enrollment numbers were high again this year, and believe this positive trend will continue. Please talk about AC with your friends and encourage anyone who might be interested in learning more about other educational opportunities in Rochester to contact our enrollment office. Word of mouth is our best referral.

Parent Involvement: We are grateful to the parents and alumni who have stepped up to help the Board and Leadership Team undertake all the work to support an independent future of AC. These volunteers are making a meaningful impact on Enrollment, Development, Investment/Endowment, Audit, and Alternative Revenue Committees.

We appreciate all of you who have asked how you can help and your offers to support the school. Our two main areas of need at this time are new students and donations, so referrals to our admissions office and gifts to the school are the most effective ways you can help us achieve our goal of financial sustainability. If you are interested in volunteering, please click here for some ways you can help and who to contact.

As Trustees, our main focus has been on the fiscal health of the school. At our October Board meeting, our Lower, Middle, and Upper School Division Heads presented on areas of excellence and differentiation at AC. We learned more about project-based learning, partnerships, collaborations with international schools, relationships among the Divisions, and the focus on resilience and character building. It was inspiring and fantastic!

You will be hearing more about the strength of our programs and the innovations that differentiate us from other schools, both public and private, throughout the year from the Division Heads and AC communications. We will continue to provide monthly updates about the progress we’re making from a financial perspective. We are moving in the right direction and hope you will continue to StandWithAC.

We encourage you to contact us with any questions at

Thank you,

Ann and Richard

Ann Balderston P’04, P’07, P’10                            Richard Yates P’15 
Co-Chair, Board of Trustees                                            Co-Chair, Board of Trustees 

Posted in: Highlights

NASA Langley Research Center Director Encourages Students to Do Things THEIR Way

Posted on October 16th, 2019 by Amelia Fitzsimmons

Director of the NASA Langley Research Center, Clayton Turner, returned to campus to discuss the important role our 6th grade students play in on-going scientific studies and research. As a GLOBE school, AC students serve as citizen scientists reporting daily cloud observations to help researchers improve the interpretation of satellite readings, provide ground-based data on contrails, and help better calculate the rate of heat exchange in the atmosphere.

Mr. Turner encouraged students to follow their passions, ask questions, and do research THEIR way. “There are many ways to learn and many pathways to success. These different approaches are often how we make new discoveries. Find what YOU are passionate about and the way that fits YOU!”


Posted in: AC in the News, Highlights, Middle School, Sixth Grade

Friday Night Fiesta!

Posted on October 16th, 2019 by acsrochester

Join us for authentic Mexican food and our signature sangria as we celebrate AC’s independence and progress towards our financial goals. The evening will feature a guacamole bar, salsa lessons, and a mixology class to learn to make the perfect margarita! This is a great opportunity to have fun with friends, raise additional money, and hear about what is happening at AC.

Friday, November 1st
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Allendale Columbia Dining Commons

$35 per person
Drinks, tapas, and classes included
Attire: business casual and colorful!

RSVP by: October 25th

Posted in: Alumni News, Highlights

How to Get the Most Out of Teacher Recommendation Letters

Posted on October 15th, 2019 by acsrochester

The applications of five students with similar grades, test scores, and extracurriculars landed on my desk. “Emily, we can add two more Biology students,” the Dean of Admission shared. “Would you mind presenting these applications in Admission Committee and helping decide which students are the right fit?”

Throughout application review season, I faced the same dilemma: how would we make fine distinctions between students with similar academic qualifications? The students would have strong grades in rigorous curriculums and test scores that fell into our published ranges. They all took advantage of the clubs, sports, and volunteer opportunities at their schools.

More often than not, the key to finding students who were the right fit for the college was the detailed information found in teacher recommendation letters.


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Posted in: AC College Consulting, College Advising News, Eleventh Grade, Events & Workshops, Highlights, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Paying for College: The Expensive Elephant in the Room

Posted on September 22nd, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School


Take a guess. How much are families currently investing in a college education? 

Including tuition, room and board, and other expenses, families will spend an average of $92,304 for four years at a public in-state college; for private colleges, it jumps to an average of $169,732 for four years (NCES 2017-18). With the cost of higher education seemingly reaching no limit, families are feeling stuck.

Is it better to save for college as soon as a child is born, or will limiting assets benefit your student in the college financial aid process?

Where can you turn when you have questions about paying for college?


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Posted in: AC College Consulting, College Advising News, Eleventh Grade, Events & Workshops, Highlights, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Updates and Timelines from Board Co-Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Posted on September 13th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Updates and Timelines from Board Co-Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Dear AC Community,

As we continue to both listen and be transparent with you about the future of AC, we wanted to share a brief update of expected timelines on several important topics.

Succession Plan: With Mick Gee, our current Head of School, leaving AC at the end of this academic year, the Board is working on a leadership succession plan and transition process. We are fortunate to have a talented and strong administrative Leadership Team in place that has guided AC through a challenging spring and emerged on the other side of summer committed to moving the school forward on all fronts. With this, we are looking for a Head of School who has an eye towards our current context but who is also committed to continuing the path we are on with respect to our academic program. Given the school’s need to work quickly and nimbly to develop a multi-year financial plan over the next few months, we have made the decision to appoint an Interim Head of School for the 2020-2021 school year. Because this is an interim position, the search process is different than a traditional Head of School search. Four Trustees; Richard Yates (Co-Chair), Ann Balderston (Co-Chair), Diana Clarkson ’99, and Lisa Campbell ’83, P’18, P,’20 will conduct the Interim Head of School search with the goal of having the Board make an appointment by the end of November 2019. The position description will be posted soon, and we will continue to update you all as warranted. In mid-2020, a search process for the permanent Head of School will be developed and communicated.

Financial Plan: We will be submitting our multi-year financial plan to NYSAIS (New York State Association of Independent Schools) for our accreditation by December 15th. As we’ve shared, in anticipation of a merger, NYSAIS approved a one-year accreditation given that AC was not going to operate as an independent entity beyond June 30th, 2020. Now that we are not merging, we will be working with NYSAIS to extend our accreditation. A task force is being created to develop our financial plan along with input from financial experts, the Division Heads, staff members, and the Board. Upon submission to NYSAIS (December 15th), we will share a high-level overview of this plan. 

Fundraising: Our fundraising goal for the remainder of 2019 is to raise at least $4 million by December 31st. To achieve this goal, we officially launched our fundraising campaign, StandWithAC, the week of August 26th, and we are working multiple tracks, including direct mail, special events, and one-on-one meetings with interested donors. Even before launching a strategic fundraising effort, we received many gifts from parents, alumni, and friends and we continue to be inspired by the progress we’re making as gifts come in daily. We will update you on the progress of our fundraising efforts after each monthly Board meeting. 

We greatly appreciate the many notes and words of encouragement you have shared over the past few months as well as your generous campaign gifts that are rolling in. We are confident we will be able to meet our goals and build a financially sustainable future for AC. We all feel fortunate to be part of this vibrant, caring, and extraordinary community.



Ann Balderston P’04, P’07, P’10                       Richard Yates P’15

Co-Chair, Board of Trustees                                       Co-Chair, Board of Trustees


Posted in: Highlights

An Update from AC Board Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Posted on August 26th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

An Update from AC Board Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Dear AC Community,

Since you last heard from us, we have been working diligently towards building a sustainable future for Allendale Columbia School. As promised, we are keeping you updated as things progress.

Here is a brief list of what we have accomplished so far:

  • We have met with the school’s leadership team to discuss strategy,
  • We have restructured the Board for increased efficiency and productivity,
  • We have developed our StandWithAC fundraising initiative and a comprehensive communications plan.

Additionally, we are researching innovations and actively looking at alternative sources of revenue that could be beneficial to our future viability.

In the next week, you will receive a letter inviting you to StandWithAC and to show your support. This is your opportunity to assist at this critical time in AC’s history. We believe in the value AC has to its past and present community members. Your financial support will help us guarantee the availability of this unique educational experience for generations to come.

Our first Board meeting was two weeks ago, and we are impressed with the talents, enthusiasm and dedication of this group, which is composed of current and past parents and alumni. One topic of discussion was enrollment for the coming year. While we had gained significant momentum with our new student enrollment during the 2018-2019 school year, the proposed merger resulted in a loss of 28 students whose families felt that a merged school would not provide their children with the educational experience that AC offers. We have since seen some of those families return to AC, and we are happy to have them as part of our community again. Others felt it would be very disruptive to make another change and want to reevaluate after they see the results of our efforts towards sustainability.

Enrollment matters and is imperative to our long-term financial stability as well as our AC community. We will soon be launching a marketing campaign to support our admissions efforts and our first Open House is October 24th. If you know of a family looking for a new educational option for their child, please connect them with Shannon Baudo in Admissions at or 585-641-5282.

We are excited to move forward, and we thank you for your support.



Ann Balderston P’04, P’07, P’10                 Richard Yates P’15

Co-Chair, Board of Trustees                                 Co-Chair, Board of Trustees



Posted in: Highlights

College Admission Committee: What Happens Behind Closed Doors?

Posted on August 20th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Ten stern-looking men and women, stacks of college applications surrounding them, gather around a conference table, where they are poised and ready to dash the dreams of thousands of high school seniors. Is this what you picture when you think of college admission committee?  Having spent fifteen years in selective college admissions, I can promise you that image is not entirely accurate. Sure, there may be admission counselors sitting in a meeting room, but they’re looking bleary-eyed because they’ve spent the past 5 months reviewing seemingly endless files of transcripts, letters of recommendation, and essays. They’re not excited about sending bad news to anyone, let alone you.  


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Posted in: AC College Consulting, College Advising News, Eleventh Grade, Events & Workshops, Highlights, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School