Our Future. Our Endowment. Our Parker.
Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise. —Horace
It has been nearly a year since I accepted the role of Head of School at Parker, and I continue to be humbled by this opportunity. I remain grateful for the continuing support of the Parker community.
During the past year, I have listened to the Parker community: your hopes, your dreams and your concerns. It is my obligation to honor the mission of the School; accordingly, it is important for me to benchmark other great schools, both regionally and nationally, in order to learn what makes schools exceptional.
Compared to leading independent schools nationally, Parker ranks near the top of the list on some of the most essential benchmarks, including student and parent satisfaction, college matriculation and depth of program. Yet when it comes to endowment, Parker ranks in the bottom half of its peer schools. Even as Parker’s regional and national reputation continue to grow, our dependence on tuition revenue, a relatively low participation rate of giving, and the current size of our endowment reminds us that we are not in as financially secure a position as a school of our standing should be.
We know with certainty that the real costs associated with providing the highest quality education will continue to rise. Rather than relying solely on tuition increases to offset rising costs, we must look to increasing our endowment for revenue generation. In short, a substantial endowment is essential to the School’s future. A healthy endowment provides the resources necessary to allow Parker to plan confidently and strategically for the future in support of our educational mission.
While Parker remains among the most affordable of all independent day schools in California, it is clear that the real costs associated with providing a quality education will continue to rise. In ongoing budget discussions, we have identified opportunities to reduce expenses, maximize budgets, streamline duties and increase efficiencies – while not sacrificing the quality of our program or instruction. Yet to sustain excellence in program, to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, to expand and enhance our ability to make financial aid available to deserving students, and to offer a comprehensive curriculum that prepares students for success in college and beyond, we must put ourselves in a stronger financial position.
To this point, we have relied almost exclusively on tuition to underwrite operating expenses. We realize that this financial model limits our ability to engage in vital strategic planning and makes the School vulnerable to the unpredictability of the larger economy.
The School’s recent decision to focus its fundraising efforts on building endowment is both bold and wise. The rationale for making this change and eliminating the Annual Fund in favor of investing every dollar of every gift received in our endowment is a timely one. This new strategy lays a foundation that protects and grows the investment made by so many before us. It fortifies our longstanding mission of excellence and ensures that current and future students receive the finest independent education available anywhere. It also vastly simplifies the practice of making gifts to the School. It encourages every member of the Parker community to participate in the endowment. Most important, this new strategy will help to sustain our three greatest assets – the students, the faculty and our learning community.
Endowment Preserves our Three Greatest Assets
The finest independent school education.
While Parker is a terrific place for students to learn, reflect and grow, the School must not remain static and unchanging. In order to best prepare students and to cultivate those qualities essential for success in life, we must position ourselves to design, innovate and refine our program, our curriculum and our instruction as appropriate. In order to preserve and enhance the innovative programs developed in recent years (e.g., Robotics, Math in Focus, Mandarin, Discovery Week, and the Interim Program) and create new and innovative educational initiatives, a substantial new financial commitment is called for. Parker cannot continue to meet its mission unless we are able to adjust and adapt as the academic horizon changes.
A talented and diverse student body.
Parker remains committed to recruiting and enrolling students from a broad range of financial means. This diversity of background, experience and perspective enriches all aspects of school life – for students and teachers alike. The costs associated with a robust financial aid program cannot be met solely through tuition and annual funding sources. Independent schools elsewhere have demonstrated that the most effective model for sustaining a vibrant educational enterprise defined in part by its strength and diversity is an enduring endowment. A healthy endowment provides a permanent and a reasonably predictive revenue source, crucial to awarding financial assistance to deserving students.
An exceptional and accomplished faculty.
A school is only as good as its teachers. A school can boast a brilliantly conceived curriculum supported by an impressive physical plant; yet only if the teaching is extraordinary will the school be regarded as extraordinary. For it is the teachers who challenge, inspire, and develop the students – in the classrooms, in the studios and on the athletic fields.
Compared to regional benchmarks, Parker’s median faculty salary is well below average. In order to remain competitive in the marketplace (both regionally and nationally), it is imperative that we offer salaries either commensurate with or in excess of our peer schools. Through the creation of endowed chairs, we can honor the very best of our teachers, who will in turn, inspire and mentor less experienced colleagues. At the same time, endowed chairs provide Parker with the opportunity to attract new teachers of the highest caliber.
In short, Parker cannot afford to remain at a competitive disadvantage when recruiting and holding its faculty and staff.
Endowment: For Today and for Tomorrow
Investing in the endowment provides each of us, as stakeholders, the opportunity to provide a compelling legacy and to share in the achievements of our students of today and students of future generations. Further, investing in the endowment enables us to safeguard our most precious resource – a Parker education – and thereby, preserve all that distinguishes the School.
I hope that each of us views this as a call to action to help strengthen an already great school and accept our role in building the endowment. Over the next few weeks you will be asked to contribute to the Parker endowment. Together we will mark the growth of our endowment, provising a meaningful and enduring source of revenue.
Head of School
Friday November, 11, 2011 at 03:21PM