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
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:
- Donate your time: There are many opportunities to volunteer, and we will communicate where volunteers are needed after the school year begins.
- Donate your money: We are accepting gifts now. Please contact either Board Chair or Karen Higman if you have questions about making a donation.
- Refer a family: Share names of families who could benefit from an AC education with Shannon Baudo, Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid.
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!