After a fine Parent Appreciation Dinner prepared by the AC Kitchen, Parents of Allendale Columbia Kids (PACK) took care of some annual business voting on new officers and amendments, and Head of School Mick Gee gave thanks, an update, and an earnest appeal for support.
In PACK business, parents voted in a new President, Lois Palomaki P ’24, ’24, and Vice President, Marisa Casa P ’30, ’30, for 2019-2020 ( coincidentally both are parents of twins). Two amendments to the by-laws were approved, adding “When possible” to a clause regarding terms of the Middle School Liaison, and adjusting the number of class liaisons to two in Lower School and 12th Grade and one each in Grades 6-11. Tami Bilinski was recognized as continuing for her 2nd year as Special Events Coordinator, and Lower School Liaison Melissa Clark, Middle School Liaison Colleen Roof, and Upper School Liaison Dawn Williams-Fuller will each continue their two-year terms in 2019-2020.
Mr. Gee then took the stage for his annual update, in which he thanked parents for actively partnering with AC in each child’s education and development. “It’s because of you that the AC family is what it is – a diverse, dedicated group of parents, host parents, guardians, grandparents, faculty, staff, students, and alum who believe that what AC is doing is different, life-changing, and special,” he said, before introducing this video:
Mr. Gee then stated the fact that enrollment is down at independent schools around the country. “This nationwide trend threatens who we are and what we do here at AC, so we have taken aggressive action to address the shift in enrollment. One of the things we’ve done is gotten ourselves into something called the Strategy Lab at the National Association of Independent Schools or NAIS. NAIS saw this same trend and dove in head first to pull the problem apart and come up with new solutions. We were one of 5 schools selected to take part in that process and over the past year, Shannon Baudo and I, and our entire admissions and marketing team, began trying new things and taking risks when it comes to enrollment.”
The following video, shown at the NAIS Annual Conference last week before the keynote address, describes some of that work:
As a result of that participation, AC has made some changes in its marketing, advertising, and open houses, which in turn have contributed to increased applications, Open House attendance, and applications compared to this time last year.
Mr. Gee then appealed to parents to help in another area: annual giving, as summarized below and sent in an email following the event:
A huge thank you to those of you who were able to come out last night for the Parent Appreciation Dinner. It is because of all our families that AC is able to offer an education that is life-changing and unique.
For more than 125 years we’ve been offering the best academic opportunities in the most diverse, supportive, and loving environment in Rochester. As we discussed last night, however, to do it for another 125 years, we’re going to need some help.
AC needs its family right now. AC needs you right now.
Enrollment is down at independent schools nationwide. We have made significant moves this year to address that, and we are trending above where we were last year. But, even with full enrollment, tuition at AC covers just 64% of our operating expenses. The rest of our operating budget comes from donations, and our parent giving is just 27% (compared to 66% nationally).
Simply put, we aren’t getting enough donations.
If we had every parent donating — in whatever amount they could — we could go to corporations and funders and tell them, “Our parents get it. Our AC parents recognize that this is worth it. Our AC parents know that this kind of education doesn’t happen on tuition alone.”
We know what the AC family can do when it comes together. So this is us, asking you for help. We ask because we’re family. We know you will help, because you are, too.