I’m excited to share with you my twelfth State of the School report and provide a dashboard of facts and figures that are indicative of the strong health of Colorado Academy. The address featuring this information traditionally falls on the Thursday before Spring Break. It did again this year, but it also came on the cusp of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. No surprise, then, that my talk began with this: “The school is in great shape, but the world is not.”
Nearly half of the people attending our March 12 address did so via Zoom Video Conferencing, the same platform that teachers had already been training on to prepare for virtual classes. Early on, we were practicing the social distancing that health professionals advised. After describing our preparation for and response to the coronavirus, I shared some of the many metrics that I track when preparing this report. Again, minus the future unknown impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, CA’s financial and enrollment indicators are strong.
CA is committed to awarding $3.9 in financial aid for the 2020-2021 school year, as much or more than any independent school (other than higher education) in the state of Colorado.
The school’s endowment has shown healthy and steady growth and careful management to ensure resilience in the face of a substantial market event. At the end of February, it stood at $28 million. CA continues to target endowment growth as a way to mitigate tuition increases and to reach an endowment commensurate with the size and age of a school like CA.
CA has raised $1.5 million toward a $1.7 million goal for the annual CA Fund, which supports day-to-day operations at the school, and CA has raised $6 million toward an $11 million goal for the fourth and final capital project, as part of the See it Through campaign, the new Leach Center for the Performing Arts. Overall, that campaign has garnered more than $31 million in support, helping the school to create the new Ponzio Arts Center, a new Athletic Center, and a refurbishment of the school’s iconic century-old Welborn House.
Tuition dollars are the lifeblood of the school; thus strong enrollment and reenrollment are vital. CA’s 97% reenrollment numbers, its record 700+ applications for enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year, and the school’s nearly $4 million commitment to student financial aid are all part of keeping CA financially healthy.
Safety & Security
Colorado Academy continues to review its readiness and ability to respond to an on-campus emergency. New Director of Security, Julia Shoun, has led the task of reviewing emergency protocols, increasing the kind and effectiveness of emergency drills, and ensuring that staff is certified in First Aid, CPR, AED, and “stop the bleed” training. Further, she has helped the school to focus on assessing threats, managing risk, and on expanding school infrastructure to include more security measures.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Our new Director of Inclusivity Sarah Wright has been instrumental in making strides in our inclusivity and diversity efforts, including expanding curriculum choices, enhancing representation in our teaching and curriculum, increasing student participation in national independent school diversity conferences, providing parent, student, and teacher programming on issues including identity and gender, and helping to lead “table talks,” for Middle School students, providing a safe place to learn and ask questions.
New Lower School Principal Angie Crabtree has introduced the Fifth Grade Mustang Mentor program, and is working with a yearlong theme focused on character education. Additionally, the division is conducting a curriculum scope and sequence review for all content areas and specialist classes. Teachers are also analyzing MAP assessment data and providing feedback through parent communication.
Middle School Principal Bill Wolf-Tinsman has introduced new content for the division’s Advisory program, featuring twice-weekly social and emotional skill development lessons. In addition, new Sixth and Seventh Grade Physical and Biological science labs are promoting collaboration and problem solving. The Middle School also has strengthened its arts offerings for Seventh and Eighth Grade this year, including offering an innovation-based art course, as well as the reintroduction of photography. Lastly the new Eighth Grade Capstone offerings include a CA Podcast, in consultation with Colorado Public Radio.
The Upper School has instituted a series of faculty workshops called “charrettes,” or intensive planning sessions, where faculty collaborate on a vision for innovative teaching practices, on increasing student agency, and on defining institutional priorities for the future. These have been fascinating to attend and reveal the thoughtful and visionary work done by our faculty members. The Upper School also completed its third consecutive year of a Freshman Intensive program, which provides a deep dive into the topic of Immigration. Coming in 2020-2021, the division hopes to launch a Speech and Debate program. Already, faculty have developed new courses in Computer Science, Engineering & Design.
Those new Upper School courses include some cross-disciplinary courses, combining computer programming with additional disciplines for courses, including Visual Design & Algorithmic Art and Python for Biologists. In the tech realm, CA is one of only 36 schools in the country to have been honored with an AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award, which means that the school has 50% or higher enrollment of girls in both Computer Science A and Computer Science Principles. Additionally, CA now has a Middle School elective focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Already this year, Middle School students have created a Robot Petting Zoo. Both Middle and Upper School are using 3D printing in school projects.
While the COVID-19 pandemic created a variety of challenges for Upper Schoolers and the college admission process, 85% of the students in the Class of 2020 had a cumulative GPA between 3.3 and 4.1 going into the third trimester. Even before the Spring acceptance deadlines, members of the Class of 2020 had been accepted by 107 different colleges to programs in film and engineering, business and architecture, computer science, education, marine biology, English, and more, as well as to a variety of selective Honors programs and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. CA students were also highly competitive for college scholarships at the national and local level. In keeping with the number of student-athletes committing to collegiate sports, approximately 20 members of the Class of 2020 are set to play at Division I or Division III programs next year.
Colorado Academy’s commitment to strong library resources and teaching continues to support student learning. Said CA Director of Libraries Allison Peters Jensen, “CA is truly a community of readers.” CA’s library staff provides ongoing digital citizenship and information literacy instruction for students. CA subscribes to 18 online research databases, covering a wide range of subjects and reading levels to support student research needs. CA’s print collections are inclusive, diverse, and tailored to meet the needs and interests of our community.
Colorado Academy’s counseling staff continues to support students in the areas of mental health and wellness. The three divisional counselors provide ongoing and age-appropriate programming for both students and families on topics that include suicide prevention, grief counseling, substance abuse prevention, assault prevention, boundaries training, eating disorders and body image awareness, self-care and balance, learning differences, study habits, social media and screen usage, conflict resolution, and more.
Global Travel and Exchange
This program is being greatly impacted by the coronavirus, and many Spring trips and exchange programs had to be cancelled or postponed. Thanks go to the coordinator of these programs, Daniel Lopez, who has worked with students and families throughout the year. We remain committed to helping create global citizens who have a deepened understanding of the world through this program. We are hopeful about continued travel next year, including currently planned trips to Quebec, Vietnam, Cuba, and Scotland, to name a few. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, we had nearly 100 students signed up to participate in our Global Travel and Exchange program. Further, 20% of those students were able to participate using financial aid.
A signature programming area for Colorado Academy is its outdoor education. Again this year, the Outdoor Program has included optional weekend adventures and experiences for students, including offerings of bird banding, fly fishing, as well as rock and ice climbing, camping, and hiking. CA’s much-loved Fifth Grade Crow Canyon trip as well as our Interim program, through which we offered 15 Middle School and 31 Upper School trips, will be postponed or canceled due to concerns over COVID-19.
Under the direction of our new Director of Visual and Performing Arts, Katy Hills, students continue to take advantage of the school’s extensive arts program, including taking part in the Rock Band, Jazz Band, and orchestra offerings. Students have made popular a class offering of tap dance. CA’s new Director of Vocal Music, Dr. Kevin Padworski, is making his mark on the school’s vocal music program with multiple, impressive performances. Also recently two CA students were selected for All-State Choir, and two students won Gold Key Scholastic Art Awards.
In reaction to the pandemic, the Colorado High School Activities Association canceled Spring sports competitions and events. Before that, however, CA’s Girls Lacrosse was ranked in the top 20 teams nationally heading into the season. From the Fall, CA’s Field Hockey team walked away with both the State Championship title and an undefeated season. CA students are taking part in new strength and conditioning classes with coach Wes Kirk. Said Director Bill Hall, “I see the hire of Wes to be impactful on our entire community and a positive add on so many fronts.” Hall also praised the work of new head coaches Noah Tondre (Boys Tennis), Annie Bennett (Cross Country), and Reggie Morton (Girls Basketball). Physical Education staff is also focused on national standards and grade-level outcomes for K-12 education.
Our Horizons Program at Colorado will celebrate 22 years with the upcoming Summer program and will again serve a record number of low-income students in grades ranging from Pre-K to high school. A testament to the impact of the program is that nearly 40% of the Horizons faculty and staff are graduates of the program, and some are the second generation of Horizons students in their families.
Culture & Community
Though tougher to measure in facts and figures, our welcoming community and school culture are so frequently the number one thing that I talk about in public settings. This year in particular, the tremendous support from our families and constant engagement with the school and with one another are central to the vitality of this school. I am grateful to our Parent Association and all of our parent and family volunteers who work to support one another, to provide programming and financial support for the school, and for the strength of our ongoing partnership. Thanks for all that you do.
Editor’s note: Dr. Mike Davis is the eleventh Head of School in Colorado Academy’s more than 100-year history. Since 2008, he has led the CA community in a collaborative, multi-year strategic plan, undertaken a broad-reaching school culture project, led the effort to replace critical parts of the school’s infrastructure, implemented a series of 21st century curriculum initiatives, expanded CA’s experiential and global education offerings and service learning efforts, broadened the school’s work in diversity and inclusivity, and maintained CA’s mission-based balance of academics, arts, and athletics.