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

An Update from AC Board Co-Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Posted on August 5th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

An Update from AC Board Co-Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Dear Members of the Allendale Columbia Community,

We are honored to be co-chairs of the Board of Trustees at this important time in the school’s history.

As you know, in April the Boards of AC and Harley signed a Letter of Intent to explore the benefits of merging the two schools. In July, after careful consideration, the AC Board voted to stop the ongoing negotiations, terminate the Letter of Intent, and not to merge with Harley. The decision was impacted by the enthusiasm of the community to move forward independently and a belief in the wisdom of that action. We would like to thank the members of the 2018-2019 Board for their work and dedication as they explored the option to merge.

After the Letter of Intent to merge was signed, the 2018-2019 Board appointed a Contingency Committee to explore alternative paths to achieve long-term financial sustainability in case AC or Harley decided not to move forward with the merger. As part of its work, the Committee was able to secure generous donations from a large number of AC families to proceed independently. These donations will allow us to move forward, but for a viable future, we need to continue to raise funds to support the school. Once the vote to not merge happened, board leadership was elected and the 2019-2020 Board is moving forward with, and expanding on, the work of the Contingency Committee.

So where are we now? 

The Allendale Columbia community has a unique opportunity to secure the future of the school. The news of the decision to move forward independently was greeted with incredible enthusiasm. That enthusiasm needs to be directed to giving. We listened to your concerns about the merger and acted. Now it is your turn to act. We need immediate donations to allow time for us to further review our operations and to continue to reinvent ourselves so that our program continues to stand strong into the future.

We are aware that there are many questions. Below this email are a few that have been asked most often and for which we have answers for at this time.  We are also working on scheduling a Town Hall meeting where we will share information, answer questions, and listen to your feedback.

Moving forward, we will reach out with timely updates about our progress and challenges. We can achieve long-term financial stability with your help, but in order to help, we know you need to be informed. Transparency, communication, and collaboration are our goals.

With your help, we can do this. Take a stand with us, stand with AC.


Ann W. Balderston P’04, ’07, ‘10                 Richard Yates P’15
Co-Chair                                                        Co-Chair 



1. Will we be able to save Allendale Columbia?
With your help, yes. We have need for immediate funding to give us a runway for planning, strategizing, and implementing. We will share details as plans develop. We are fortunate to have an incredibly strong and dedicated administrative team at AC who stood by the school, despite their concerns about their own jobs, and they are already meeting regularly to create plans to launch an aggressive fundraising campaign and increase enrollment.

2. Who will replace Mick Gee?
First, we want to stress the importance of Mick in this transitional year. He is excited to be able to coordinate this effort with his team and the Board. It is critical to be aware that Mick was not involved in the merger discussions and chose to explore other employment opportunities when it was made clear there would not be a Head of School position for him after the 2019-2020 school year as part of the plan to merge. He will be fulfilling his commitment to a new Head of School role in Utah beginning July 2020. The Board will begin the process of searching for a replacement for Mick this fall, and we will keep you informed of our progress.

3. Is Allendale Columbia accredited?
Yes. In anticipation of the merger, NYSAIS (New York State Association of Independent Schools) approved a one year accreditation. Now that we are not merging, the accreditation team will revisit AC later this year as we apply for accreditation as an independent entity.

4. Will students see any noticeable changes when they return to AC for the 2019-2020 academic year in September?

Our responsibility is to our students, and they are our number one priority. Great care is being taken to ensure the quality education and personal experience that our students and parents have come to expect and appreciate continues. If you have specific questions about your child’s grade, please feel free to contact their Division Head.

5. Have we lost students attending the school because of the merger?
Yes. In addition to normal attrition (which has risen in the last two years due to families leaving the Rochester area), some families withdrew their child(ren) in anticipation of a merger. We have seen some of those families come back since the vote was cast, and it’s our hope more will follow. If you know of a family in that situation, please encourage them to consider returning to AC. In addition, we are always accepting new students. Please contact Shannon Baudo if you know of anyone looking to make a change for their child and who is interested in an exceptional education.

6. How can I help?
There are many opportunities to help, and we will continue to share those with you throughout the year. At this time, we have three areas we are asking for help with now and in the near future:

We know there are more questions that need to be answered, and we will provide more information in the coming weeks and throughout the school year. Thank you for your support!



Posted in: Highlights

Introducing AC’s Board Leadership

Posted on July 29th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Introducing AC’s Board Leadership

Dear AC Community,

Last week’s decision by the Allendale Columbia Board of Trustees to not merge with The Harley School brings many opportunities for our school and a chance to reset. Moving forward, together, the Board and I will share our plans with you as things progress and ask for your input; we will need everyone’s help this coming year to collaborate, raise funds, and increase enrollment at AC.

We begin this process today by introducing our 2019-2020 Board leadership. Leading us as board co-chairs are Richard Yates and Ann Balderston. Our co-vice chairs are Mary Beth Conway and Becky Wehle ‘90. All of these individuals are current or former parents of AC students and have lead and/or served on the AC board.

I think it’s important to share that as the leadership of the 2018-2019 Board was investigating the possibility of a merger, a board-appointed contingency committee was exploring all other options in case Allendale Columbia or Harley decided not to move forward with the acquisition. Both Richard and Ann served on this contingency committee. After an extensive due diligence process and indications of some financial support, the Board decided it was best to remain independent and not proceed with a merger. The Board is now moving forward with the contingency plan that will continue to be developed for the long-term financial sustainability of the school. We will reinvent ourselves operationally and make necessary changes to achieve long-term success.

As I shared with you in May, I will be taking a new Head of School position in Utah next July. This academic year, I will be here at AC, ready to provide our students with an incredible education and a fulfilling, fun experience they cannot get anywhere else in Rochester. We need to increase our fundraising efforts and expand our enrollment, and I know that I can count on you to help us succeed. The Board will address a formal search process for a Head of School in the coming months, and you will hear more about this search in the future from Richard and Ann.

I know there are questions about next steps, fundraising goals, how to get involved, and more. We are putting together a list of FAQs and working on future plans for a Town Hall meeting to share information. Our goal is to be transparent, collaborative, communicative, and as efficient and effective as possible.

Please keep an eye out for another communication this week that will come from our new Board co-chairs Richard Yates and Ann Balderston with a status update, where you can find more information, and a list of FAQs we are able to answer at this time. It will be sent from the Board of Trustees email address:

Lastly, I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you for the many emails, calls, posts, and conversations that you’ve shared over the past week expressing your excitement for the year to come. We feel your energy, we are thankful for you, and we’re ready to get started!

Thank you,

Mick Gee
Head of School

Posted in: Highlights

AC’s 129-Year Legacy Lives On!

Posted on July 23rd, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School


Allendale Columbia School Votes Not to Merge

with The Harley School

Rochester, N.Y. — After thoughtful consideration, the Board of Trustees of Allendale Columbia School (AC) have decided not to proceed with a merger with The Harley School at this time. This decision was reached after an extensive due diligence process with the best interest of all the students, alumni, donors, and employees in mind. The current decision does not affect the schools’ long-standing combined sports program, which will continue to operate as HAC Athletics.

Allendale Columbia School will immediately move forward with an aggressive fundraising campaign to create future financial stability. We are confident AC will continue to deliver a high-quality educational experience. It won’t be “business as usual” at the school as AC will reinvent itself operationally and make necessary and innovative changes in order to achieve long-term sustainability. The entire Allendale Columbia School community is excited about the opportunities ahead and looks forward to opening the doors for the 2019-2020 school year on September 4th, 2019.

“Often times your best success occurs after you are faced with a daunting challenge,” said AC board trustee Richard Yates. “The past three months have given us the opportunity to evaluate our many options and reimagine the possibilities of a truly independent school education. We intend to proceed in a transparent manner that utilizes the strength and enthusiasm of all our stakeholders.”

“I am honored to be returning to the board of trustees, supporting this effort with Richard, and helping to bring together parents, alumni, and the entire AC community. We have a dedicated community who are committed to ensure the health of Allendale Columbia School in the years to come.” said Ann Balderston, former Board Chair and past parent.

About Allendale Columbia School:
At Allendale Columbia, we prepare students for the world they will inherit. In our trusting and responsive environment, students in nursery through grade 12 grow in confidence and develop scholastic independence. Together, our students and teachers imagine, design, and create in order to make a positive impact locally and globally.

Allendale Columbia School. First here, then anywhere.

Posted in: Highlights, Uncategorized

Out of the Mouths of Babes: A Brief Overview of the Allendale Columbia Student Commencement Speakers

Posted on June 18th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

By Ted Hunt, AC History Teacher

“A few weeks ago, I was thinking about A/C and what it has meant to me over the last four years; after all, I had a graduation speech to write.”

With those words, Brandon Block, Class of 1985, began the first senior Commencement speech in Allendale Columbia School history. The list of student speakers now numbers thirty-five, and what a group it has been: articulate, poised, thoughtful, and diverse in just about every parameter imaginable: gender, race, and ethnicity; urban, rural, suburban.  Over the course of the last thirty-four years, these speakers have had two commonalities. First, their speeches collectively represent some of the most impressive student prose imaginable and, secondly, I have had the pleasure to work with all of them as they crafted and rehearsed their speeches. Year after year, our student speakers were able to distill the essence of Allendale Columbia, its programs, and its people as well as any group of professionals we could have hired to market the school. I saved each and every one of those thirty-five speeches and I would like to share some of their highlights. (more…)

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Posted in: Alumni News, Highlights, Twelfth Grade, Upper School