AC Artists Honored by RIT Faculty at the “Start Here” Art Exhibition

Posted on January 24th, 2020 by acsrochester

AC upper schoolers Vivian ’20 and Sophie ’22 were honored by RIT faculty at the opening reception of the 2020 “Start Here” exhibition. Sophie’s mixed media piece was selected for the School of Art’s “Fine Art Studio Award — 3d”, and Vivian’s oil on paper portrait received the “Dean’s Award.”

The exhibition continues through February 1st in the Bevier Gallery at RIT. For more information, visit: 

Posted in: Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Kid Kudos, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Monthly Update from Board Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates

Posted on December 18th, 2019 by acsrochester

Monthly Update from Board Chairs Ann Balderston and Richard Yates


Dear Members of the AC Community,

Over the past five months, we have thoughtfully developed a strategic three-year financial plan which will lead the way to Allendale Columbia’s long-term financial sustainability. We are writing to share high level details of the financial plan we submitted to the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) last week as part of extending our accreditation, and we expect a positive outcome from their review. The following is an overview of the work we’ve been doing and the information that was submitted to NYSAIS.

AC is projected to continue to improve its bottom line in 2020-2021, 2021-2022, and 2022-2023 with a net positive budget. We have reached these projections by working closely with the school’s Leadership Team, thoughtfully managing expenses, carefully considering tuition increases and successful fundraising, and projecting conservative enrollment numbers.

As part of our financial planning process, the AC Leadership Team and the Board took a hard look at every area of the budget to see where we could cut expenses without impacting our students or our program. As a result of this work, we were able to cut approximately $1.5 million in expenses while continuing to maintain, and in fact expand, our program offerings for students.  

In August, we launched our StandWithAC fundraising campaign and reached out to all of you asking for your help in our effort toward sustainability. We are excited to share that we have raised $2,300,000 toward our year-end target of $3,000,000, and we are confident that we will reach our $3 million goal by December 31st.

We anticipate that we will end this school year in June slightly ahead of budget with no draw from our endowment for the first time in 10 years. We have been asked how much we have in our endowment, so we want to be clear that we have $7.5 million. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, 24% of independent schools across the country are operating without an endowment. We are fortunate to not only have this financial resource but to be in a position to not have to draw from it this year.

While we are making great progress in a very short amount of time, our need for exceptional donor generosity and participation will continue this spring and into 2020-2021. Our hope is that we can continue to count on you for your dedication to the future of AC. If you have given already, please know that those gifts have allowed us to get to a place where we can confidently say that AC is on a strong path. If you have not donated, but are encouraged by the success we have achieved in five short months, please join the effort and StandWithAC!

Each and every member of the AC community is critical to our enrollment effort. People need to hear about AC and be encouraged to come visit. Given the dynamic nature of this past summer, we know that there are still people in the outside community who believe we merged or are closed. We are counting on YOU to share the AC message of our strong, dedicated community who have come together, around a common goal, to give current and future students access to an incredible education.

As past parents of former AC students ourselves, we are energized by the dedication of AC’s faculty and staff, the excitement we see in the students, the support of our alumni, and the knowledge that the work of so many is moving Allendale Columbia toward a future of continued excellence in education. We are both pleased to be part of this effort and encourage you to give your time and dollars to support AC’s long-term sustainability and make an AC education accessible to more students in our community.

We will continue to work on our long-range strategic planning and keep you informed of our progress throughout 2020. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the holiday season, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting Allendale Columbia School.



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

7 Steps to Take BEFORE Submitting Your Common Application

Posted on December 9th, 2019 by acsrochester

It’s probably best not to wait until 11:56 p.m. on deadline day to submit your Common Application, but if you speak with any Director of Admission, you’ll learn that a good portion of applications actually arrive at colleges in the 11th hour. My advice: don’t be one of the last applicants to submit your Common App, as you risk running into technical issues or, if a college notes your submission time, even portraying yourself as a Last Minute Larry.


Here are 7 key steps to take before you submit your Common App:


1. Give yourself plenty of time to accurately and authentically complete your application.

The summer before your senior year is the perfect time to begin work on your college applications, as we all know how busy things can get when the school year begins. Set aside some time during the summer to write (and re-write!) your personal statement and review any college-specific application requirements.



2. Connect with family members to make sure you’re capturing the right professional and educational information.

You’ll need to know your parents’ job titles, employers, and educational background, including degree dates. If you have older siblings, you’ll need their details, too. Colleges like knowing whether there is a legacy connection, which can sometimes be a boost in the admissions process, or whether you will be the first in your family to attend college.



3. Know which standardized test scores to self-report.

With score choice and test-optional schools, you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to reporting test scores. My advice is to use an SAT/ACT conversion chart to see if one score clearly trumps the other, in which case, the lower score can be omitted from your application. I also recommend only self-reporting AP scores of 4 and 5.  



4. Have a game plan for the Activities Section.

This is one of the most important sections of the Common App, as it’s the place where you can brag about your commitment and contributions to extracurricular activities. You should carefully consider the order and descriptions of your activities. The activities in which you’ve held leadership roles should be given priority, while one-year activities should be listed towards the bottom of the list.



5. Don’t draft your Personal Statement (or any other essays) in the Common App.

You’ll go through many iterations of your essays, and believe me when I tell you how devastating it can be to lose your work when you encounter an internet issue or technical glitch in Common App. Instead, draft your essays in Word or GoogleDocs. You’ll be able to save (and share) these more easily without the risk of losing hours of work!



6. Have someone thoroughly review your application.

Before you submit your application, it’s a good idea to have your college counselor or parent review your Common App for accuracy and authenticity. They’ll be able to catch spelling and grammatical errors and even let you know whether the application reflects your personality. However, if you are applying to more selective colleges, you could benefit from having a former admissions counselor review your application (see details below). 



7. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit.

This is for all of those procrastinators! Do not wait until deadline day to submit your application, as there’s a chance you’ll run into internet issues or the Common App website will be overwhelmed by user volume and crash. The safest bet is to submit your application at least one day in advance of a deadline. Plan accordingly!

Interested in having your Common Application reviewed by a former Associate Dean of Admission and Director of Selection?

As we approach application deadlines, please consider Emily Nevinger a resource and “final check” before submitting your application. During an application review, Emily will review all sections of your Common Application from the perspective of a former admissions counselor. Emily will pay close attention to your Activities, making sure you’re maximizing the order and descriptions of extracurriculars, and she will also review your Personal Statement. 


Emily Nevinger

Emily Nevinger

Emily is Associate Director of Admissions and College Advising Consultant at Allendale Columbia School. After serving as the Interim College Advisor in Fall 2018, Emily took on a role to offer students and families outside AC with guidance in the college admissions process. Her role has since expanded to the Admissions team, where she helps prospective families learn more about AC's innovative education. Emily joined AC from Emory University where she directed the selection process for more than 20,000 freshmen candidates each year. She started working at the university level in 2003 and was a senior member of the admission committees for University of Miami, Emory University, and UNC Chapel Hill. Emily holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University, a Master of Higher Education Administration and Enrollment Management from the University of Miami, and a Certificate in College Access Counseling from Rice University.
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Posted in: AC College Consulting, College Advising News, Eleventh Grade, Events & Workshops, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Holiday Breakfast 2019

Posted on December 6th, 2019 by acsrochester

Holiday Breakfast is one of AC’s most special traditions. We celebrate the last day of school before Holiday Break with spirited student performances, a story from the Head of School, speeches by seniors, and plenty of music, food, and merriment! It’s a wonderful time for students, faculty, staff, and families to come together, celebrate the holidays, and give thanks for our community!

 (live stream will start at 9:00 a.m. EST)

PACK Ice Skating at the
Bill Gray’s Iceplex

Friday, December 20th
12:00 – 1:30 p.m.

Join PACK after Holiday Breakfast for a fun family skate from 12:00-1:30 p.m. at the Bill Gray’s Iceplex, 2700 Brighton Henrietta Town Line Road, Rochester, NY 14623. Admission will be $6 per person (if you bring your own skates) and $8 per person for admission and skate rental. PACK will also be providing pizza at the rink!

We hope to see you there!


If your children are performing at Holiday Breakfast:
  • Parents of K-5 students that are in the Holiday Breakfast program should walk their children into the Alumni Gym (smaller gym) by 8:30 a.m. so that they can meet their class. You can park in the back and side lots, enter through the Gannett Lobby and, after dropping off your child, proceed to the Gannett Gym to be seated for the Holiday Breakfast program.
  • Middle and Upper School Chorus are asked to meet at 8:30 a.m. in the Chorus Room.
  • Brass Ensemble and Wind Ensemble are asked to meet at 8:15 a.m. where they will perform in the Gannett Gym.
  • Student speakers should meet in the Gannett Gym at 8:30 a.m.


Other Holiday Breakfast Reminders:
  • All are welcome! Even if your children are not performing, we welcome the entire community, families, and friends to join us for this annual tradition.
  • Parents of Nursery and Pre-K students, we encourage you to come with your child to the Gannett Gym for our Holiday Breakfast program. You are also invited to enjoy some refreshments in the Dining Commons after the program. Please do not drop off children to the classroom on this day as there are no classes.
  • Wheelchair-accessible seating can be arranged if needed. Please contact Amy Fioravanti before Dec. 18th to make the necessary arrangements.
  • Refreshments will be served in the Dining Commons following the program.
  • The Wolf Den will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. so you can do some holiday shopping.
  • No classes or bus service on this day. Please plan accordingly and enter through the Gannett Lobby to reach the gym. For safety reasons, please do not park in fire lanes or along campus roads.
  • Rainbow Room will be in session. Register your child ahead of time if you plan to use Rainbow Room this day.
  • AC will close at 10:30 a.m. for the Holiday Break.
  • Join PACK at 12:00 p.m. for ice skating and pizza at the Bill Gray’s Iceplex. RSVP for ice skating here.


Related Pages:

2019 Holiday Breakfast program

2019 Holiday Breakfast photos

2018 Holiday Breakfast video

2018 Holiday Breakfast program

2018 Holiday Breakfast photos



Posted in: Highlights, PACK

Alumni Town Hall Meeting Tuesday, December 17th

Posted on November 20th, 2019 by acsrochester

Join Co-chairs of the Board, Ann Balderston and Richard Yates, and Board members representing the AC alumni community, including AC Alumni Association President Bridgette Rivers ’81, at an AC Alumni Town Hall on Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 from 7:00-8:00 p.m. EST.

This event provides AC alumni with the opportunity to hear a live update on the progress the school has made over the last six months and ask questions.
We welcome all alumni who can attend in person to join us, and those who live outside the area to view the Town hall via a live stream link.


The Board welcomes questions submitted in advance through the AC Alumni Office.


Posted in: Alumni News, Highlights

Interim Head of School Appointed and Monthly Update from Board Chairs

Posted on November 19th, 2019 by acsrochester

Interim Head of School Appointed and Monthly Update from Board Chairs

Dear Members of the Allendale Columbia Community.

In September we launched a search for an Interim Head of School for the 2020-2021 academic year, and we were impressed with the response we received from qualified internal and external candidates. The Interim Head will serve for one year while we conduct a more traditional search for a long-term Head of School who will lead the school into the future and begin serving on July 1st, 2021. As Co-Chairs of the Allendale Columbia School Board of Trustees, we are pleased to announce that the Interim Head of School for the 2020-2021 academic year will be AC’s current Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid, Shannon Baudo.

Shannon was chosen unanimously from a competitive field of more than 20 other qualified candidates. This decision was reached based on the Board’s strong conviction that AC needs a leader who demonstrates expertise in bringing the school community together and playing to its strengths. That leader is Shannon. We are fortunate to have an Interim Head in place who has worked collaboratively on an exceptional Leadership Team, and has benefitted from exposure to both the academic and operational parts of AC. Her multifaceted skill set will only enhance our momentum moving the school forward.

Shannon is a graduate of Hamilton College and has 18 years of progressively responsible experience working in prestigious independent schools, including Canterbury School and The Gunnery in Connecticut. She has been at AC since 2015 where she has served as a key member of the Leadership Team and is responsible for increasing Net Tuition Revenue per student by 17.5% over a four-year period while bringing down the discount rate from 38% to 32.3% in 2019. During a three-year period of Shannon’s tenure, overall enrollment increased by 6%, despite the declining demographics of school-aged children in Rochester. Shannon also serves as a liaison between the Parent Association (PACK) and the school’s leadership team, and she has created a parent referral program based on the research of the “Jobs to be Done” Theory. Shannon has also significantly improved AC’s visibility worldwide by developing new partnerships with international agencies.

In consultation with the Head of School, the AC Board has decided to name Shannon Assistant Head of School, effective immediately, as she works together with Mick Gee through June 30th, 2020. Shannon will remain an integral part of the Admissions Office through the spring, and plans are being made to augment the current admissions team with additional expertise.

Please join us in congratulating Shannon Baudo.

In addition to this exciting news, we want to provide a brief update on our progress in moving AC forward:

On November 1st, 170 guests celebrated AC at our Friday Night Fiesta. During the event, we announced that we received one of the largest donations in the school’s history: a gift of $1 million from current parents who wish to remain anonymous. In addition to their transformational gift, we were able to raise $29,300 the night of the event.

The response to our StandWithAC campaign has been inspiring and impressive. We have four times as many donors as we did at this time last year, and our overall giving participation has increased. In a few short months, we have raised an impressive $1,679,594, but we aren’t finished yet, and we still need your help! It is our hope that you will consider making AC your primary philanthropic priority to help us reach our $3 million goal by December 31st. Please keep an eye out for our progress report and Winter Appeal that will arrive in the mail and/or email later this week.

Financial Plan:
As we shared in October, we are examining a variety of multi-year financial models that reflect a sustainable future for AC. We will send a separate email with greater detail about our financial plan and fundraising efforts in December, as promised in previous communications.

Our first Open House was on October 24th, and we welcomed some wonderful potential AC families to campus to learn about our program.

Our admissions team has been focused on community outreach and partnerships as part of our recruitment efforts. This past month, they attended the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, welcomed teachers from the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Preschool to campus, visited some of our feeder schools, and met with local realtors to teach them about AC’s programs so they are well-informed of our offerings when working with their clients.  The admissions team is currently gearing up for Preschool Fairs at three public libraries, and AC will also have a presence as a sponsor at the Maker Faire showcasing our exemplary STEM program.

Word of mouth is how many families become interested in AC. Please talk about the school with your friends, and encourage anyone who might be interested in learning more about other educational opportunities in Rochester to contact our enrollment office.

We appreciate all of you who have asked how you can help and have extended your support to AC. We encourage you to StandWithAC, and consider making a donation at

It’s hard to believe we’re already nearing the later part of November. As Thanksgiving approaches, we reflect on how thankful and fortunate we are to have the support of so many in the AC community. We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, and we truly appreciate all of you who are helping Allendale Columbia thrive.



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

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

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