For 15 years I’ve used my State of the School presentation as an opportunity to share my thoughts about where Colorado Academy is as a school and where we’re going. And as always, we have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be excited about as we look ahead.
But this year, as we fully emerge from the pandemic, it feels as if the life of the school has come back 10 times stronger than I can recall. We have an incredible team of educators who are looking very thoughtfully at the future and how we best serve our kids. It’s been a privilege to really dig into ideas about teaching and learning with them, and to witness their support for our school and your children.
A great sign of that energy is our enrollment, which at 1,035 students is the largest we’ve ever had. An amazing 97% of our families have committed to return next year, and inquiries at all grade levels are at record levels. Clearly, our current families are deeply satisfied with what they’re seeing at CA, and prospective families are picking up on that message.
Yet each division of the school remains small enough that our principals and teachers truly get to know the kids. That’s important, and we want to sustain it. CA is all about community.
Today CA is also as diverse as it’s ever been, with 32% of our student body identifying as people of color. This is an area where we continue to do intense and thoughtful work. Our new Director of Culture and Community, Collinus Newsome, has brought to CA her deep experience with many different organizations, and has helped us think about the culture of our school in new ways. Diversity, equity, and inclusion need to be part of the DNA of the school so that we can become a true place of belonging and conversation—a “beloved community,” as Collinus says. We’re looking to provide her office with additional support that will help us serve all students with opportunities and classroom practices that are culturally responsive and inclusive.
In those classrooms, our faculty have demonstrated they are experts in their field. Across the school, 74% have advanced degrees, and in the Upper School that number is actually 87%. We continue to attract talented teaching candidates from across the country who know about CA’s reputation and are seeking us out. That’s an incredible testament in a time when teacher shortages are in the news and educators are leaving the classroom at alarming rates.
Families’ support for CA through the CA Fund underscores the school’s strength. Giving by families as well as faculty and staff allows us to support over 18% of the student population with $5.1 million in financial aid next year. This year’s CA Auction on May 6 aims to further bolster our financial aid capacity. Additional giving has allowed us to continue offering robust professional development, presenting amazing musical and theater events, hosting our SPEAK lecture series, advancing our sustainability goals, and empowering our Interim and global travel opportunities.
But families have supported CA in so many ways beyond giving. Our active Parent Association has been a major force for community building, teacher appreciation, volunteering, and planning events. Parents have also pitched in with HOPE and Horizons Colorado, efforts that reach the larger Denver community.
To me, the energy and commitment we’re seeing from every corner of our community represents a ringing endorsement of our mission: creating curious, kind, courageous, and adventurous learners and leaders. Below, I’ll touch on areas throughout the school where that mission is driving great success and continued innovation.
- Parenting workshops: Sessions focused on emotional regulation in the fall and will cover de-escalation strategies this spring.
- FAMILIES program: Each child Kindergarten-Grade 5 is part of a FAMILY group that also includes at least one Lower School adult.
- Day of Service: On Friday, April 28, each grade level will complete a project to support the Denver community.
- Professional development: Lower School teachers have participated in Collaborative Conversation Professional Development meetings each week this year.
- Fifth Grade Crow Canyon: After three years, we are returning to Crow Canyon in Cortez, Colo., for a week-long trip to explore Puebloan culture and develop community.
- Executive function: Lower School teachers are exploring how to develop and support these skills for children ages 4-11.
- Principal search: We say goodbye to long-time Middle School Principal Bill Wolf-Tinsman, but are excited to welcome Nick Malick after a national search.
- Revised study skills program: With the help of Dr. Morgan Beidleman at Reach Learning Services, the Middle School has updated their study skills curriculum.
- Grade 7 trip: The September Seventh Grade trip to Golden Gate Canyon State Park was a great success.
- Continued Focus on Social Skills Development: The Middle School continues to support students to develop the interpersonal and collaborative skills that lead to success now and in the future.
- ASR: Advanced Studies and Research courses move us beyond Advanced Placement classes in social studies and English, allowing for deeper engagement that will distinguish our graduates in an increasingly test-optional world.
- Service learning: Grades 9-12 engaged in off-campus service days, working with more than 15 non-profit agencies.
- Upper School Retreat: Upper School deans spent the year developing and formalizing a new retreat program, which will launch 2023-2024 with an overnight retreat for the Junior class.
- Theater and Dance: The Theater Department has again wowed its audiences this year and is taking full advantage of the new stage in the Leach Center for the Performing Arts. CA’s advanced Dance Company has been the largest it has been in years.
- Music: The Fourth and Fifth Grade choir has grown to over 65 singers, and Choral Director Kevin Padworski has been continuing to get his Upper School Choir off campus and singing in our community.
- Visual Arts: Senior exhibitions have begun for the year, and the Ponzio Gallery has been filled with students, faculty, and staff eager to celebrate their work.
- All-School Arts Festival: Our first ALL ARTS Festival kicks off on May 3 with an Upper School outdoor music performance on Stamper Commons, followed by two days of art-making on May 4 and 5.
- Girls Field Hockey won its fourth State Championship under coach Veronica Scott, their 10th overall.
- Boys Soccer won its third State Championship under Coach Gabe Bernstein, their eighth overall.
- In Boys #2 singles Tennis, CA Senior Fabi Frenz won the 4A State individual title, and in Boys #1 doubles, Michael McKee and Charlie May were individual champs.
- Girls Basketball were champs of the Metro League, where they went undefeated. And our Boys Basketball and Ice Hockey teams performed well in post-season play.
- CA Girls Lacrosse is ranked 25th in the country and first in the West by USA Lacrosse Magazine as the season kicks off. The girls have a new head coach, Sonorah Hunter, and will be playing for their eighth straight State Championship.
- CA is set to open its new turf field across the street this spring. Newton Field is a great new addition to CA, thanks to generous donors, and will be a community- and revenue-building asset as we allow teams throughout Colorado to use it.
- Return of CA’s Global Travel Program: Nine global travel opportunities are offered during the spring and summer of 2023—three for Middle School, six for Upper School.
- Record number of applications: 196 students applied; 126 will travel with the CA Global Travel program during the spring and summer of 2023.
- This year’s travel opportunities: Middle School: language immersion in Costa Rica; marine science in Florida. Upper School: language immersion in Mexico and Colombia, Chinese language in Vancouver, sustainability studies in the Bahamas, choral festival in Toronto, and climate change and photography in Iceland.
- Next year’s anticipated travel opportunities: Middle School: Quebec during Interim for students taking French; Costa Rica during Interim for Spanish language and cultural immersion; Peru: adventure travel to the sacred valley in July 2024. Upper School: French exchange in Nantes; Spanish language immersion in Ecuador and Panama; marine biology Interim to the Bahamas; Belize global citizenship/collaborative leadership trip in early June 2024.
- Trips: 85 students participated this year: Lower School: fall colors hike, on-campus camping, yurt trip, treehouse adventure park; Middle School: rock climbing, beginner backcountry skiing, survival skills, outdoor photography; Upper School: return of spring ice climbing trip in Lake City, mountain biking, fly fishing.
- Middle School Interim: 16 options; new trips this year include Junior Naturalist training at the Denver Audubon Society and Space Camp.
- Upper School Interim: 30 options; new trips include backpacking in Bandelier National Monument; tree climbing/arborist training; aerial circus skills; survival skills and trail building; local hikes and water sports.
- Upper School Experiential Education Leadership Student Program: Students will lead in existing CA experiences and dive deeper into the outdoor world with backcountry skills, Wilderness First Aid, and advanced climbing.
- REDI Lab Aimee and Jonathan Coleman Center: Opened January 6, the new space allows the REDI Lab and CA to live its “what’s possible in education” model in innovative and exciting ways. Since its opening, REDI Lab students have been commuting to the Coleman Center located at 10th & Navajo, in the DHA Mariposa neighborhood.
- Expanded offerings: The Coleman Center has also hosted a CA Alumni Board meeting, the CA Board retreat, the Senior REDI Lab presentations, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Coming up are a teacher training session, a Horizons advisory board meeting, all of the REDI Lab Summer programming, and much more.
Speech & Debate
- Third year of success: The CA Speech & Debate team, under Jon Vogels and Randall Martínez, has doubled in size, with students competing in tournaments both locally and nationally.
- Impressive results: Top five finishers in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Extemporaneous Speaking and Original Oratory; Top 10 in our district in multiple categories.
- New Middle School Speech & Debate: Development feeder program for students as they enter high school.
Counseling & Student Support
- Lower School: “KidPower” presentation on safety, boundaries, and violence prevention; emotional regulation toolkits for Pre-K–Fifth Grade.
- Middle & Upper School: Sex ed and STDs presentation by Children’s Hospital for Ninth Graders; Soundcheck Prevention Network substance abuse prevention programming; Shafia Zaloom presentation to US students on consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships; cyber citizenship education for Ninth and Tenth Graders.
- Social media: Attorney Lori Smith presentation to Middle and Upper School students on the legal implications of social media mistakes.
- Depression & suicide prevention: Alex Yannacone from the CU Depression Center presentation to MS students and Tenth Graders.
- Expanded College Office: David Jones ’09 joins staff.
- Junior and Senior Year college classes: First full year of increased touchpoints with all Juniors and Seniors through a new fall/spring class model.
- High college admit rates: CA students are being admitted to colleges at a rate higher than the national average: over 350 acceptances already for the Class of 2023.
- Senior award winner: One Senior was recently awarded one of the most competitive merit scholarships in the country—the Coca Cola Scholarship—with only 50 named scholars out of 91,000 applicants.
Safety & Security
- ID cards: Badges now required to enter buildings; all faculty and staff, as well as parents, are required to wear ID badges while on campus.
- Cameras: In addition to multiple cameras around campus, cameras are now at the entry of Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School.
- Gate security: Welcome Center gates will soon be up and running; car decals required for identification and entry.
- Safety drills: CA continues to practice fire and lockdown drills and education in all divisions.
- Hiring: CA is hiring additional Safety & Security team members.
- Composting: CA generates nearly zero waste in the Dining Hall; new biodigester will provide organic mulch and fertilizer to keep campus green.
- Electric car chargers: Grant-writing process underway to secure electric car chargers on campus; once installed, these will be available to students, faculty and staff, and parents.
- Bus program: Ridership is up this year, and as a result, 40 fewer cars per day are coming to campus—a savings of 272 barrels of fuel per year compared to last school year.
- Classroom education: Sustainability is taught in every division. From Upper School Environmental Chemistry, to our three-time winning Middle School Future City Team, to our Fifth Graders who tackle climate in their capstone projects, Voices of Change.
- 1,037 enrollment for 2023-2024
- 97% re-enrollment
- $5.1M in financial aid awarded to 18% of the student body
- 32% racially/ethnically diverse student body
- 133 new students from 83 schools
- 60% from private schools/40% from public schools
- eight students from out of state: CA, LA, NH, NJ, and NY
- five students from out of the country: Chile, China, Costa Rica, S. Africa, and U.K.
I am extremely excited about the future of our amazing school community. In just a few months, we will be saying goodby to the Class of 2023 at our Commencement ceremonies. That class has done an outstanding job setting a tone for the year, and they have been supported by a first-rate faculty and staff. In the months ahead we will be doing all kinds of planning for next year. Stay tuned for information about a new daily schedule and more exciting changes.