Greetings, Members of the Assembly and its Trustees, School Meeting and its Officers, and friends and dissidents alike. It is my great honor as Chief of Blogging Operations to report to you tonight on the State of Hudson Valley Sudbury School.
I would like to suggest that perhaps - just maybe - if more of our nation's children had the freedom, trust, and responsibility that students at HVSS have, other addresses given this week assessing states of affairs might have been more honestly positive. Perhaps, if children and teenagers were respected as complete human beings - inexperienced, but complete as they are at any age (imagine!) - many, many problems assaulting our nation and our earth would begin to soften and diminish. HVSS does not pay lip service to the aforementioned "freedom, trust, and responsibility," nor are they merely glittering generalities at our school: they actually form the foundation of the school: no compulsory curriculum, the freedom to move about the campus and interact with anyone of any age all day, and the responsibility of making good decisions about how to spend the school day.
As per usual, there's a lot of activity at school these days. At the moment, there is a sophisticated production of a play underway with the assistance of our new volunteer Trine Boode of the Wayfinder Experience. A script for a dramatic movie was written recently by a group of students, and production is planned for warmer weather. Cooking and language classes have been organized and carried out, and we appreciate very much our Assembly members who have agreed to offer their expert instruction. New Cooperatives have been formed, including a Source Coop, which has helped to organize classes and field trips. A Gardening Coop - which is gearing up for spring - was formed in response to the donation of our beautiful garden area. More recently students have reestablished a Music Coop and a Photography Coop. A few of our older students are busy preparing for Regents Exams, which they need to take to earn diplomas. School here is just feeling good.
On the first day of school this year, we had 50 students enrolled. Today, we have 59. We have conducted over 20 interviews with prospective students, many of them aged four and looking to enter a school next year. Our Open House this month was packed, and the response was very good. There were several families in attendance considering moving from outside the region in order to have access to the school. Thank you to all our Assembly members who recommend HVSS among their friends and in their communities; word of mouth is the most effective advertising for a place for this. There is energy swirling around us these days: people are calling every day, setting up interviews, asking to visit the school, asking someone to visit them, etc. We are in a growing kind of mood: recently an Expansion Committee was formed to develop ideas and establish subcommittees for a preschool, campus expansion, summer camp, and after school child and adult ed programs. As Barack Obama said in his 2013 address, "if we act together, there is nothing we cannot achieve." Lucky for us, we have a strong (and small) enough community to actually act together. From what I understand from my studies of HVSS history, that's what's gotten the school to this point already.
We've been getting some good press elsewhere, too. Did you see Jeff's interview in the Chronogram? The monthly Music Nights at the Old Glenford Church have given the school a very solid standing and reputation for quality in the Woodstock community. Our Winter Gift Sale was elegant, well attended, and very well stocked with beautiful and handmade local craft items. Our first print ad in several years appeared in the most recent issue of GoodLife Youth Journal. Also, I recommend the article on Sudbury Valley School in the New Republic.
I'd like to also share this report from the Finance Committee, too: The Assembly created an excellent budget last May, which is serving the school very well this school year. Our expenses are streamlined, tuition is affordable, and we've been able to offer financial aid to every qualified family who requested it. This latter point is very important to us; to be a private school, but easily accessible. Our desire is for any family who is interested in our model of education to be able to enroll. We would like to recognize and say thank you to the Fundraising Committee for their efforts, without which we would not be able to realize this goal. Their energy, creativity, resources and constant effort throughout the year are essential, and the efforts of all who participate in fundraising events is very much appreciated. I'd like to add that the wide, coordinated group efforts being made lend me a grand feeling, and I believe that our community members so willingly - even eagerly - make these efforts because we believe that what we are doing is vitally important, that we have, as George H.W. Bush said in his 1991 address, "a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light."
We would also like to recognize the Financial Aid Committee. This committee has the job of working with families who apply for tuition assistance, examining the family's financial statements and then preparing a Financial Aid proposal for the family.
Looking forward, progress is being made on the long term plans we have in place, and steps are being taken to improve the financial well-being of the school. One thing we're very excited about is that we will be investing some of our reserve funds into short term CDs, so that we can begin to realize more substantial interest earnings. Acquisition of the CDs will be staggered, so that funds remain easily accessible. Our reserve account is growing, slowly but steadily, and is on track to become a reliable source of funding for the long term maintenance of our facilities, as well as for managing unexpected expenses. Some projects that are in the works and will be accomplished in collaboration with other Officers include:
- More proactive marketing of building rental to individuals and groups during non-school hours
- Establishment of an Expansion Fund account
- Publication of a handy guide that describes simple ways to contribute to the school. Many of us know that the school is an Amazon affiliate, but did you know that you can get an HVSS credit card where the school receives a small percentage of every purchase you make? Last year the school received $662 from this program, and that was with only two families participating - imagine what that number could be if more people signed up! When you receive the guide later this year, please be sure to read it and take advantage of the ways in which the school can benefit, at no cost to you, but as a result of your participation.
One area where we have made improvement but we need to remain focused is staff salaries. We have attracted a great staff of amazing, creative, dedicated individuals who care deeply about our children, the school community, and the philosophy of the school, and who run the school effectively and efficiently. We don't want to lose these individuals because the income we offer is insufficient. We want to bring our salaries up to a level that is closer to what individuals with similar responsibilities earn in other educational settings.
In closing, I'd like to go way back to the beginning of our country, and quote our very first President in his 1790 State of the Union speech (again, with substitution): "The welfare of our School is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring our children the blessings which they have the right to expect: educational freedom, and equal voice in governance." Thank you again to everyone who contributes to HVSS, and let's have a great year.