August 2017: progress on the Strategic Plan
Posted 10/16/2017 04:24PM
Friends, 
I hope you are enjoying the summer -- time away, fun in Aspen, and most of all, time with your family.

During July I have had some time to reflect on the previous year while also planning for the year ahead. In thinking about the upcoming year,
I decided to flip through 2020 inSight, the strategic plan for Aspen Country Day School, which was published last fall. What an impressive document, and again I want to thank the  committee led by trustee Daniel Shaw. Their hard work and leadership, combined with  the voices heard throughout the community in at-large work sessions, created a visionary document that is now our road map for the next five years. I am so  excited to think how much we have accomplished in year one, and I look  forward to more to come.

As the strategic plan begins with a goal to "deepen and extend the learning experience for students," let me start with the program. We have now had two rising Eighth Grade classes experience the Peru service trip, and both have had life-changing outcomes. This year we decided to add days to the journey so the kids had the component of a "trek." Carrying 30-pound backpacks, our students embarked on an adventure at 14K feet and conquered it valiantly. This was a reminder of how well prepared our students are for a strenuous adventure as well as for meaningful service to others. This coming year will bring even more positive examples of our intentional interdisciplinary program in all grades.
 
I also wanted to share an exciting program review that happened late this spring. In May I invited the heads of the math department at the Collegiate School in New York and the Cate School in Santa Barbara to spend three days at ACDS and visit our classrooms, spend time with teachers, and meet with the Leadership Team. The report they submitted highlighted the strength of our math program and also pointed out areas we can look at, including consistency in scope and sequence, time in the weekly routine for teachers in different grades to collaborate, and differentiation of instruction for various types of learners. It was extremely valuable to have a third party share professional opinions and ideas, and my hope is that our teachers can visit our guests' schools as well. My plan is to have a review of one discipline each year, inviting informed observers from other schools to our campus for constructive feedback.

The strategic plan also included a commitment to "recruit, retrain, and reward the best teachers and ensure they are the best fit for Aspen Country Day School professionally and culturally." I am excited for you to meet the new teachers who will join our outstanding current faculty next year. In all disciplines, we have experienced faculty and staff from all over the country with advanced degrees, independent school experience, and a love for Aspen. It is important to note that the recruitment process was thorough and inclusive of many different voices. We have made an effort to reach outside the valley and also realize there are terrific educators in our backyard. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Board of Trustees for valuing teacher salaries as a priority. When building the budget, this is a crucial line item, and I will advocate for it every year that I am here. The classrooms at ACDS are inspiring and excellent by all measures, and it is the teachers who make that happen.
Another important element in our strategic commitment to faculty is professional development for faculty. In my last letter I commented on specific highlights, but I want to quickly mention how lucky we are to have had so many teachers attend the Orton-Gillingham training and to think about how we can best teach reading, spelling, and early writing.
In addition, our plan addressed ways for faculty to take on more leadership opportunities, and I want to highlight a few examples. 
  • First, I asked Alexandra Hughes to lead the implementation of a teacher fellowship program. The idea here is for our teachers to train newer teachers to the profession and have ACDS be a place where young motivated teachers can train to lead their own classrooms. This program will employ three full-time associate teachers who will take the place of our former part-time assistants. I am excited that this year's cohort will get started soon. For more information, please see:
  • In addition, I have asked Annie Garrett to lead a coordination of our Third, Fourth and Fifth Grade language arts classes. She will work with the respective homeroom teachers and lead a discussion of what books are being read and writing projects assigned. This will help prepare students for the rigor of our middle school program, which in turn sets them up for success in high school and beyond.
  • Audrey Sherry Gunshor will be leading a global initiative that will include coordinating our program in Peru with World Leadership School. The goal is to add the WLS leadership curriculum to ACDS and have its presence felt throughout the school. Audrey is very excited about this opportunity, and I have great confidence that she is the right person.
Increasing leadership opportunities for our faculty is a goal of mine, and I look forward to more ideas and programs over the next few years to initiate and implement.

Also as part of the strategic planning process, there were many school-wide discussions around school size and "growing carefully and intentionally." We are well on our way to the target enrollment established in the strategic plan: 288 students by the year 2020, with double sections in each grade. Our PreK and Kindergarten classrooms are full; the foundation is set. Each year we see interest from prospective families during the month of August, and this year we hope for the same. There is room in a few grades, and I encourage you to  be in touch with me or with our new Director of Admissions Susah Glah  if you hear of families who  want to learn more about ACDS and possibly having their child start in September. We are thorough in our admissions process, and whether in summer or during the year, the same deliberate, thoughtful application steps are required. 
We expect to welcome 260 students to the first day of school on Tuesday, September 5. This is an incredible number, and we should all feel proud; five years ago our enrollment was 192. Independent schools across the country are experiencing downturns, yet Aspen Country Day is a case study in responsible growth. I want to especially that Gretchen Cole, Pippa Klumb and now Susan Glah for their leadership as Directors of Admission.

Another priority in the strategic plan is to build the institutional strength of our school as we approach our 50th anniversary in 2020. A critical element in this is the leadership provided by the Board of Trustees. I personally want to thank Scott Russell for his leadership as board chair and for all of the time and energy that he gave to the school over the last few years. Starting this year, Soledad Hurst will begin a two-year term as chair. She and I have already starting working together to plan for the coming year. We are lucky to have Soledad's experience, history, and love for ACDS, and I am looking forward to her term as chair. The Board of Trustees is in the strongest position it has ever been, with a committee structure that serves the school well. A list of trustees is posted on our website , and I hope you will join me in thanking these individuals for their commitment to ACDS. 

Lastly, I want to thank and commend the entire community for the generosity and support you have given this school. The strategic plan counsels us to align our policies with our philosophy as we properly steward the school's resources and manage our assets for the benefit of our mission. The school is in an enviable financial position, and we would not be where we are today without those who have stuck by us over the years as well as those who are newer to the community. There is more work to be done, and now, with the campus redevelopment complete, we turn our attention to securing a permanent endowment for the people and programs that bring our mission to life. You can read more about this inspiring campaign, called Our Children Our Futureat this link .
The vision of the strategic plan is that of a "thriving community of engaged learners whose Aspen Country Day School experience will help them construct lives of meaning and purpose." Please join me in celebrating all we have accomplished towards this vision in the past year. I want to thank my Leadership team, and they join me in thanking YOU for being part of the ACDS community.

Enjoy August,

Josh

Balance is a recurring theme in Wolman’s educational philosophy. He writes, “I believe that the finest schools are places that balance both quality and humanity, high productivity and high sensitivity. We need to make certain that students work hard and enjoy their work; that we expect our students to be taught basic skills and allow for individual, creative expression; that we value individuality and community; work and play.”

Aspen Country Day School
85 Country Day Way Aspen, Colorado 81611
Phone: 970.925.1909
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Our PreK to Eighth Grade school in the mountains of Colorado

The Way School Should Be

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