Blog

Back

Chairman of the Board Jim Hartman: State of the School Address

It was three years ago that we last had the opportunity to deliver a State of the School address to our community and we are excited to be back. Riverbend School continues to grow and thrive, and as President Obama said in his State of the Union speech, “the state of our school is strong.”

How Far We Have Come

In order to demonstrate where we are and where we want to go, I want to take us back to the fall of last year. The 2013/2014 Board had just officially voted to move forward with the Children’s House construction. It was a thrilling evening. Months of effort had gone into that night, working tirelessly with our contractor, architect, lawyers and bankers. It was the culmination of many, many years of thinking and planning by Head of School Karen Riccardi and previous board members, parents, alumni and friends.

But as exciting as a new school can be, we were equally thrilled when we completed the official Riverbend Strategic Plan. It is the road map that will guide Riverbend School to fulfill its mission and vision.

Our Strategic Initiatives: 2013-2018

The plan has five main initiatives:

  • Strengthen Riverbend’s position as a School of Excellence and Leader in Innovative Montessori Education.
  • Ensure that Riverbend remains a top choice for teachers.
  • Develop campus facilities that reflect best practices.
  • Broaden Riverbend’s financial sustainability and governance structure.
  • Support our growing and vibrant school community.

2013/2014 Goals in Review

A New Children’s House

Each year, the Board reviews the strategic plan and then develops goals for the year. Last year we had three main goals. First and foremost was completing the first phase of our unified campus plan. The Children’s House construction started in the fall and, in spite of Mother Nature, was complete and open for students the first day of the 2014/2015 school year. This project was a major undertaking. People that had full time jobs already graciously took on a new part time job. Those that were not working outside the home were suddenly working over 40 hours a week on this project. If there was ever a team effort, it was this. We are deeply indebted to each and every person who contributed to the new Children’s House.

Strengthening our Development Programs

Our second goal was to strengthen our Development programs. With the assistance of our consultant Carolyn Wood, we continued the groundwork started earlier on capital giving. One of the primary activities was reaching out into the Alumni community with the exciting news of our new construction. This involved one-on one-meetings, hosting alumni events, conducting building tours and other activities designed to engage this community.

Expanding our Governing Board

The third goal was in the area of Governance. As our school continues to grow, we recognized the need to expand the Board of Directors to enhance the diversity of experiences, the depth of knowledge and build excitement for our wonderful school. Through this process we were able to expand from nine board members to fifteen. I am pleased to report that from the very first meeting we were able to capitalize on our broadened base of knowledge and excitement and, more importantly, humor, as we developed our goals for this fiscal year. Expanding our Board also allowed us to expand our goals.

2014/2015 Goals

Our Teachers

When the word “asset” is mentioned, financial reports often come to mind. We think of our beautiful new building or strong bank accounts. But as amazing as our new Children’s House is, our most valuable assets are our teachers. Our first goal for this year is to enhance what we are calling “the teacher experience”. Towards this end we have a created a subcommittee that will be meeting with teachers in small groups to talk about their roles and experiences and conducting surveys to better understand what they enjoy and what they would like to adjust. We intend to combine teacher input with all the resources we can possibly muster to ensure Riverbend continues to be a top choice for teachers.

Marketing and Communication Plans with Impact

The second goal is in the area of Marketing and Communications. This initiative involves refining the Riverbend Story to better articulate who we are as a school and our competitive advantage in the private independent school field, including leveraging our new Children’s House. Internal marketing and communications will also help all of the members of our community understand and articulate the amazing things our school has to offer at every level. To accomplish this goal we have created a subcommittee of Board members and administration staff to develop plans together. As part of this process they released a survey this fall that is giving us a wealth of information about our current strengths, challenges and opportunities for growth.

Strong Governance

The third goal is Governance. Without a strong Board, the above goals will just not happen. So this year, we have assembled for the first time a small team dedicated to ensuring our Board operates efficiently, with structure and organization that can easily be handed down to future members. Activities in this area involve a thorough review of all school documents, fine tuning policies and procedures and developing operating guidelines.

Development and Fundraising Support

The final goal is to continue to grow our Development and Fundraising programs. All of the above does not happen without your generous support. For the first time last year, the Board issued the Riverbend Annual Report. In this report you will notice that tuition accounts for approximately 90% of the school’s annual budget. The Annual Fund, Auction and other giving helps to fill in the gap and provide funding for classroom materials, technology improvements, teacher professional development, and special parent and community education presentations. Specifically this year we are focusing on the Annual Fund with co-chairs James McElligott and David Young.

While the primary goal of the Annual Fund is financial, there are other benefits that are equally valuable – the most significant of which is participation. Whenever a school works with a bank on a lending program (like we did last year) one of the first questions asked is about the Annual Fund, and more specifically about participation. Higher participation levels give banks a better feeling about the strength of support that a school enjoys. I am very happy to report that we already have 100% participation by our Board. The Annual Fund is now underway and will be through the end of the school year.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I will share that the Board is at the halfway point this year and we are all very excited about what the second half will bring. We want to thank all of you in the community once again for your many gifts of time and talent. It is an ancient African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child”. Riverbend is very happy to play a role in that village. But is also takes a village to build a school. Thanks for all your support.

Sincerely,

Jim Hartman

President, Riverbend School Board of Directors