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!
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: ACBoardofTrustees@
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!
Head of 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.
Out of the Mouths of Babes: A Brief Overview of the Allendale Columbia Student Commencement SpeakersPosted 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…)
Posted in: Alumni News, Highlights, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
This year, we recognized Bob Tait ’75 as the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. Bob has been a tremendous contributor to Allendale Columbia School throughout his lifetime.
Posted in: Alumni News, Highlights
For more than two decades, the Senior Project Program has allowed Allendale Columbia seniors to explore potential careers, participate in community service, and indulge their curiosity in constructive ways.n These three-week off-campus experiences take place in professional environments and are expected to occupy at least the equivalent of the regular school day. At the conclusion, students must prepare and deliver a ten minute presentation to a Review Board of professionals from the AC community. On June 5th, three members of the Class of 2019 presented on their experiences. (more…)
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Highlights, Partnerships, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
|By Kelsey Lisi, Aaron Shepard, and the Costa Rica Trip Students
Twelve Allendale Columbia students conducted scientific inquiry while immersed in regional culture and Spanish language during an intensive 10-day trip to Costa Rica during AC’s May Term session in the final weeks of the 2018-2019 school year. The experience took place in the region between San José and the Caribbean coast and was organized by the AC Center for Global Engagement and the AC Invent Center for STEM and Innovation.
We began our journey at the Ecology Project International (EPI) campus in San José. From there we traveled to the Tirimbina Biological Reserve where we spent two days exploring the rain forest, conducting scientific inquiry, and learning about native species. Our next destination was the Pacuare Reserve, a nearly 2,000 acre tropical forest with six kilometers of beachfront. Pacuare is one of the most important leatherback sea turtle nesting sites in Costa Rica. We were fortunate to take part in three nights of turtle census work, during which we encountered several females that had come up on the beach to dig their nests and lay eggs. Some of the students were able to take measurements and act as “midwives” by collecting the eggs in a plastic bag for relocation to a safer area.
On the return trip to San José, we stayed one night at Casa Calatea, a community–supported neighborhood hostel high up on a forested mountainside. Here we enjoyed delicious food and an amazing view that included howler monkeys and toucans. The next day we traveled to the village of Cahuita, with its eponymous national park, where we went on a snorkeling expedition. We had a tasty lunch at a local diner before continuing our journey back to the EPI campus in San José. Our final full day in Costa Rica included a visit to the active Poás volcano and a tour of the Toucan Rescue Ranch, a rehabilitation facility for numerous wild animals such as toucans, sloths, owls, and monkeys.
As chaperones, we found the experiences we had to be life–changing, and can only imagine the impact it had on the students’ lives. They were an inspirational group who are forever bonded by their unique experiences on this trip. You can read their impressions below.
Blog Post 1
During our trip to the Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica, we excavated a previously relocated leatherback sea turtle nest. Researchers excavate the nest after sixty days to see if there were any survivors who had hatched but had not been able to reach the surface and to collect the egg remnants to determine hatching success of the nest. When the nest was relocated, the team dug the nest to a matching depth to the original nest, which is usually about 80 centimeters deep!
The researcher found seven living leatherback sea turtle hatchlings which we were able to exhume and release for the long journey to the ocean. Although it was tempting to carry the sea turtles to the water, the turtles had to make their own journey to the water so they could pick up chemicals and environmental clues which will help them to return to the beach when they are of breeding age.
Since we couldn’t carry them to water, the group was assigned individual turtles to follow them on the sand to ensure that they make it to water. Along the way, the turtles were met with debris such as sticks and trash, sandy hills, and vicious crabs hoping to make a meal out of them. The turtles made the approximately 30 meter trek from the nest to the ocean in about 20 minutes. During this time, we were their cheerleaders and their guardians. Some of us chose to take the time to name our turtles; others viewed the journey as a race and started to cheer for their turtle to win. Marlin Bassett said, “I felt really protective of the baby turtles as they moved toward the water.”
All seven of our turtle hatchlings made it to the ocean and were carried away by the waves after submerging. This experience gave us hope for the future of sea turtles and the marine environment. Hopefully in twenty years we can see our turtles return to the beach to lay their own eggs and ensure the success of the species. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that made our trip so memorable.
Mrs. Lisi collected some responses from our reflections that afternoon. There were many words and phrases to describe this experience and the trip including magical, powerful, thankful, incredible, and fortunate.
Blog Post 2
During our trip to Costa Rica, we spent nights 4-6 on Pacuare Reserve. We had 4 hour shifts nightly for turtle censuses, at either 8pm or 12pm. Both of us (Marlin and Greg), were given the opportunity to be up close to the Leatherback Sea Turtle while it laid its eggs. At around 1pm on night 4 Marlin saw the massive Sea Turtle, while Greg saw the Sea Turtle on night five around the same time. Even though we both worked with different turtles our experiences were very similar. Only females lay eggs and they come ashore on the beach to do so. She will dig a hole in the sand about 70cm deep with her massive flippers, and lay around 80 eggs. What’s unique about Leatherback Sea Turtles, is that they first lay their fertile eggs, and then on top of the hole infertile eggs. This is done to protect them from predators, and shield them from the elements such as heat. Their eggs unlike any other reptiles are very soft in the beginning, so they don’t break while falling into a 70cm deep hole. If you were to look at the dug hole from the side, it would have a unique shape similar to a boot.
We both had the opportunity to hold this ancient dinosaurs flipper while it laid its eggs into her hole. Before she started to lay her eggs we had to place a large plastic bag under the cloaca so we could collect and relocate the eggs to a safer location, away from poachers. Our main job during this activity was to try and count the eggs that she laid as well as moving the flipper out of the way so other people could observe the amount of eggs that she laid. We both felt how strong she was even by just holding her flipper. Although we tried to move her flipper sometimes it became apart very quickly that once she decided she was moving her flipper, she was moving it and we had no way to stop her. She continued laying eggs for about 10-15 minutes depending on the turtle. When she was done laying, we had to quickly remove the bag before she started filling the hole back up with sand. We then handed over the bag to on-site researchers, so they could relocate it to a safer place which has a higher egg hatch rate. It would then be monitored and checked after 60 days. Data would be collected on the amount of hatched and unhatched eggs.
This made us feel humbled and gave us an overwhelming amount of respect for the Sea Turtles. They have been alive longer than us and have experience far greater than we could ever know. Especially with the problems of pollution and poaching even the effect of global warming it is truly amazing how this animal survives each day and makes this trip to lay its eggs. It makes us hopeful for future generations of life watching the eggs, knowing they will likely hatch and go on to become adults. Thus changing the lives of people like us.
Blog Post 3
On our second day at Tirimbina, we had a midday snack led by our trip guides, Katherine and Catalina. It consisted of the sampling of eight tropical fruits. These were Cocoa beans, Guava, Sour Guava, Passionfruit, Granadilla, Starfruit, Pejivalles, and Mamey Sapote. We ate the pejivalles with mayonnaise, which tasted similar to very dry squash. Starfruit and sour guava were dipped in salt to enhance the flavor. Overall, our favorite fruit was the granadilla (4 orange masses), which had a similar feel to the passionfruit. It was quite sweet with a tang, and its innards were protected by a styrofoam-like barrier. The granadillas were simple and fun to crack open, as we pushed our thumbs into its side and ripped it in half.
For the duration of the trip, we ate rice and beans for practically every meal. However, it was prepared differently each time and even through our various locations, we never repeated a meal. It altered between the separation and combination of these two dishes. There was also consistently a variety of sides, such as plantain chips, shredded cabbage, chicken, fish, beef, mashed potatoes, diced vegetables with corn, mango, watermelon, pineapple, and papaya. We also had many different fruit juices each day, including Passionfruit, Hibiscus, Watermelon, and Cas.
Our favorite meal was at our stay in Casa Calatea. We stayed here for one night after our three days at Pacuare, which was similar to a giant tree house. The staff made us an incredible dinner, which was made up of very tender chicken, mashed potatoes, diced vegetables with corn, plantain chips, and a very good, sweet coconut dessert. It was in a dark brown bar shape and combined coconut pieces with sugar and butter.
|Costa Rica 2019 – Curated tweets by ACSRochester|
By Judy Van Alstyne ’88, Head Librarian
You never know what kinds of seeds are planted during May Term. Four years ago, Tony Tepedino and I offered a Middle School May Term called Getting Schooled the Minecraft Way. At that time, Mojang still owned Minecraft; MinecraftEDU was a separate installable modification (mod) which allowed teachers to host servers specifically for their students to engage in Minecraft activities designed for learning all kinds of concepts.
We had high expectations for the ten Middle School boys who signed up. They weren’t going to be students in a Minecraft activity designed by us grown-ups; they were going to have Lower School teachers as clients, designing educational activities for students in grades two, four, and five. For the second grade class, four boys (Dylan Reece, Ben Smoker, Jack Wheeler, and Garrett Wilson) designed “U.S. Landmarks” to teach about symbols of the United States. For the fourth graders, three boys (Marlin Bassett, Henry Grasman, and Cameron Perry) designed “Bomber Math” for practice in calculating area. For the fifth graders, three boys (Caden Kacprzynski, Peter Klem, and Kasi Natarajan) created “Island Adventure” to teach geometry, measurement, and economy. The boys worked hard and had fun, and when we concluded by inviting the Lower School students in, everyone had fun playing and learning. It was a success that we were sad to end.
But this past week, the Rumsey Library was alive again with students (this time in Upper School) busily playing and creating with Minecraft thanks to two of those former Middle School students, Caden Kacprzynski ‘20 and Cameron Perry ‘20, running a student-led May Term titled Experimenting with Architecture and Code in Minecraft: Education Edition. Now computer experts, they explained to me much that has changed in the Minecraft education world. Mojang was bought by Microsoft, which created a new product for teachers called Minecraft: Education Edition. Caden and Cameron explained how much easier it is (no need to create a local server, for example) and it has a coding curriculum already built in (in conjunction with Code.org). Learning how to code has the immediate benefit of allowing users to create more efficiently and with enhanced functions, for example, building a wall with one command rather than placing each block individually. There are also more possibilities for saving work to be shared with others in the future.
Caden and Cameron decided that for their May Term, they would keep the parameters somewhat loose, requiring only that students work solo or in groups to create worlds for others to play and explore, so long as they incorporated coding into each world’s creation. Each world provides challenges for players such as finding secret levers, parkour, and escape rooms. They reflected on how much noisier those ten Middle School boys were compared to this group of fifteen Upper School girls and boys. Also of note is how much more skilled older students are with group problem-solving. Although they were initially concerned that their peers might not follow their instructions or be engaged in the work, they were pleased to see everyone working very hard on their projects, even skipping breaks or parts of lunch in order to make more progress. Similar to what Mr. Tepedino and I discovered long ago, giving students autonomy to play and create keeps them very engaged!
In preparing for May Term Exhibition Night, I discovered the laminated Minecraft instructions from four years ago. While the Lower School players from the past are now in Middle School and probably don’t need them, we suspect some parents will find them very helpful! I also found the signs we had put up for each of the projects the Middle Schoolers had created. Cameron and Caden each took one as a souvenir; Caden remarked, “This is more meaningful to me than any certificate I could have gotten from a summer camp.” We are so proud that Caden and Cameron decided to share Minecraft with new learners, and we hope they are proud of themselves! And we hope you found a chance to play a little Minecraft on Exhibition Night, June 6th!
Judith Van AlstyneJudy worked as a reference librarian and childrenâ€™s librarian in several public libraries in the Rochester area before coming to Allendale Columbia in 1997. At AC, she serves as Head Librarian and teaches Digital Literacy, Information Literacy, and library classes for students in nursery through first grade. Judy holds a bachelor's degree from Tufts University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and a Master of Library Sciences Degree from Simmons College. Judy is leaving AC after the 2018-2019 school year to complete her PhD in Education (Teaching & Curriculum) with a focus on digital literacies and online learning.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Invent, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School