2014 Strategic Plan
The 2014 Strategic Plan is focused on six key components of the School—Program; Community; Faculty, Coaches, and Staff; Communications and Marketing; Finances; and Facilities. Please click on any of the sections below for a more detailed set of action steps related to each goal. And, please check back often for updates regarding the implementation of these action steps.
Continue review of curriculum with emphasis on maximizing student engagement.
Our collaboration with Stanford University’s Challenge Success is now blossoming as a school-wide initiative. In addition to the ongoing work being done in the Upper School, the Middle School has made exciting progress and is continuing the effort this year. Specifically:
1. The Middle School has dug deep into research on best practices for homework, and as a result has made a concerted effort to keep the homework load under 90 minutes per night.
2. A Grading Committee has been charged with the task of researching grading schemes at middle schools throughout the country, in order to identify optimal grading practices that best support student development.
3. Faculty members are integrating a variety of authentic assessments of student progress and learning, with projects, presentations, experiments, and debates being woven into the curriculum alongside quizzes, tests, and papers.
Our Lower School has also recently launched their work for this year by attending the annual Challenge Success Fall Conference at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Lower School Head Jaki Ivins was joined by faculty members Pam Gagner (Kindergarten), Alvaro Otalora (Spanish), and Linda Drate (First Grade), along with Middle School Head Ben Sullivan, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Rich Rende, trustee/alum/Lower School parent Lou Werner, and Head of School Andy Rodin for the 2-day event, which included lectures, workshops, and a planning session for this year.
The PCDS Lower School will be emphasizing the implementation of mindfulness practices in the classroom, and faculty will be receiving training in Growth Mindset using materials from Mindset Works, a company founded by Stanford professor Carol Dweck. The focus on both initiatives is embedded in the overarching goal of optimizing student engagement.
In addition, the 4th and 5th grade faculty will engage in conversations to support the developmental needs of students as they transition from the Lower to the Middle School. —Dr. Rich Rende, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, November 1, 2016
Each year, Phoenix Country Day School supports its faculty/staff in the creation of new and engaging curricula for our students through Yellott Grants, a professional development program funding summer research to support new directions in our curriculum. This year, we asked faculty to explicitly address how their proposed efforts would translate into increased student engagement. We were able to fund four outstanding applications that will be bringing even more cutting edge methods to our classrooms this year. Here is a brief look at some of these curricular strides:
Engineering, Upper School (Sue Mazzolini): Ms. Mazzolini has built on the foundation of her already strong engineering course by learning to program in LabVIEW system design software. LabVIEW offers a robust programming and data-acquisition course, featuring options for project-based learning, creation of an audio equalizer, or programming Lego robots.
Advanced Latin Electives, Upper School (Robin Anderson): Ms. Anderson devoted effort to developing two new advanced electives: A Survey of the Origins of Medicine (Greek and Roman) and The Connection Between Magic, Mystery, and Spirituality: Occultism in the Ancient World. These courses will complement the Advanced Placement curriculum, and will emphasize research, a significant quantity of independent work, and much more individualized assessments.
Global Terrorism, Upper School (Dave Martin): Mr. Martin has researched a variety of complex texts and high-level sources of information (including video-based material) to devise a new history elective that complies with PCDS’s mission to develop “a curriculum that responds to the diverse and rapidly changing world” and to develop “global thinkers.” Students will emerge with an ability to conduct informed, intelligent discussions about terrorism, and engagement will be assessed through Socratic questioning, free forum discussions, and short, focused analytical papers.
Project Based Learning, Lower School (Heather Arguello, Shawn Ducusin, Valerie McDonough): Our fourth-grade team has been investigating best practices for project-based learning, which is being used to plan out a unit of cross-curricular study to maximize student engagement through hands-on learning.
—Dr. Rich Rende, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, September 3, 2015
This fall, the Lower School Faculty began an exploration into the creation of our Portrait of a Lower School Graduate. Led by Fourth Grade Teacher Valerie Doseck with guidance and support from Liz Olson, a member of our Middle School Faculty who was instrumental in the development of the Portrait of a Middle School Graduate, we opened the conversation. It has been a reflective experience for our staff, as we look to find those characteristics that we value and which are representative of our young learners who leave us at the end of fourth grade. We, as always, are focused on the whole child, and our Portrait of a Lower School Graduate will be focused on who that child is as an individual, a learner, and a member of our school community. Look for the completed document to be released later this spring. —Jaki Ivins, Lower School Head, March 3, 2015 Dr. Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, will be visiting PCDS on Monday, September 15, to launch our partnership for 2014-15. Dr. Pope will give two talks for parents to introduce the work done by Challenge Success and initiate conversations about this exciting collaboration between PCDS and Stanford. A first talk, offered from 2:00-3:00, will focus on the Lower and Middle Schools; a second talk, offered from 5:30-7:00, will center on the Upper School. Including all three divisions of PCDS is a unique feature of our evolving work with Challenge Success and speaks to the goal of the Strategic Plan to maximize student engagement at all levels of instruction. —Rich Rende, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, August 6, 2014 The Upper School continues to extend innovative elective opportunities to foster student engagement and pursuit of individual interests at all grade levels. A sequence in Engineering Design permits application of advanced mathematical concepts. Proficiency in Latin can be expanded in Advanced Studies in Classics. Computer science is merged into a Visual Arts framework in Media Arts & Technology: Coding As Art. Literary students have a range of advanced topics to choose from, such as Time Out: The Uses of Non-Linear Narratives in Literature. Words and Music: The Art and Craft of Songwriting gives students a chance to explore the complexities of composition. The Science department has expanded their focus by merging biology and psychology with Cognitive Science. And, while electives are typically offered to upperclassmen, the History department has offered choice to freshmen, who will select either American Government or Western Civilization as a component course in the Spring semester. —Rich Rende, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, May 21, 2014 The Middle School has recently taken two key steps toward developing strong writing and communication skills for all of its students: First, we have recently hired Kavita Tatapudi to work with our faculty to support our already strong writing instruction in Language Arts, but to also develop an overview of how we teach communication skills across all subjects and grades in the Middle School. Ms. Tatapudi holds two Masters Degrees in Communication and has recently served as Humanities Department Chair at the Rancho Solano Private Schools. Second, we have embarked on a year-long effort initiated by fifth grade English teacher Chris Eriksen to develop a program of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), requiring students to write extensively in every academic subject. Between Ms. Tatapudi’s hiring and the development of our WAC program, our curriculum will continue to ensure that PCDS Middle School students are best prepared to write and communicate effectively at every opportunity. —Mort Dukehart, Middle School Head, May 21, 2014 This year, the Lower School has been engaged in a year-long evaluation of our math curriculum. At the center of our conversation were questions about how we were meeting our students’ developmental needs, how to increase student engagement, and how to deepen student conceptual understandings of the math principles that we were teaching. Aligned with this evaluation, the teachers have been engaged in significant professional development, building deeper understandings of how children acquire new mathematical concepts. The process has been enlightening, energizing, and informative. We already see a change in the students’ level of engagement, their attitude toward math, and their ability to engage in dialogues about “how” they solved their problems. Next fall, our new curriculum will support all of these areas, as well as the traditional acquisition and application of math principles. The work that the Lower School teachers have engaged in reflects a learning community that is committed to providing students with the best education possible, and ensuring the deepest, genuine engagement of every student. I will share more during the “Coffee Chats” next fall. —Jaki Ivins, Lower School Head, May 21, 2014 Very recently, PCDS was selected to partner with with Stanford University’s Challenge Success Initiative, an internationally renowned program that works out of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. Challenge Success (challengesuccess.org) is a “research-based organization that develops refreshingly practical curriculum, conferences, and other programs for parents, schools, and kids looking for a healthier and more effective path to success in the 21st century.” While Challenge Success has worked with nearly 100 schools across the nation, Denise Pope, the program’s founder, will be our point-person—turns out Denise’s brother-in-law is a PCDS alum who’s been telling her for years that she needed to get to know our school. The relationship between PCDS and Stanford will begin in earnest next year as we send a team of teachers, administrators, students, and parents out to their campus in Palo Alto, California to help the Challenge Success team learn more about who we are, where our potential for progress rests, and what we’d like to become. MUCH more to come on this important and promising development. —Rich Rende, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, April 23, 2014
Convert appropriate textbooks and classroom materials to digital format.
During the 2014-15 school year, a successful, full-scale adoption of Canvas has occurred across grades 5 through 12. Making class materials accessible online is streamlining workflow for teachers while creating new, engaging opportunities in and out of class for students. By posting course outlines, assignments and digital resources online, Canvas has become an initial core element in meeting our strategic plan of converting appropriate class materials to a digital format.
Our second strategy has been to provide opportunities and training for teachers to scan paper-only resources and upload them to Canvas. What were once piles of photocopied handouts are now digital sets of materials available anytime/anywhere to students.
Finally, the initiative to move from printed textbooks to digital versions where appropriate is moving ahead in Middle and Upper School. Next year’s classrooms will see more digital options than ever before in a modern environment that greatly improves access to information, communication, and collaboration. More information on these digital options will be available at the end of the school year with next year’s textbook information from your respective divisions. —Joe Boehle, Director of Technology, March 3, 2015
This fall, the PCDS Information Technology Department will be fully implementing a learning management system called Canvas. This powerful online tool for students and teachers is the first major step in moving much of our course materials to a digital format. Teachers will begin digitizing course content for students to be available anytime/anywhere through Canvas, allowing PCDS teachers to become curators of online content, to manage and communicate information, and to create engaging interactions with students online that are effective, convenient, and fun. Students in grades 5-12 will begin using Canvas in the fall of 2014 to access class materials, submit work, take quizzes, participate in discussion boards, and more. These steps will help connect our school community in a way that is engaging, collaborative, and responsive to our students’ needs in a digital age. —Joe Boehle, Director of Technology, May 21, 2014
Seek alternative competitive sports league that better aligns with the mission and values at PCDS.
Through the years, PCDS has benefited from the strong leadership and organization of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), which oversees the athletic schedules and competition between virtually every school—public, private, or charter—in the entire state. However, with nearly 300 schools under their watch, the league is not able to be as nimble as it once was. As a result, a smaller, distinctively academically-focused school like PCDS has struggled in recent years with two main challenges:
1. Travel. Too often, league play takes our student-athletes far out of the metro-Phoenix area—sometimes as many as four hours away—and often on weekdays—with busses returning to campus after midnight. This takes an unusual toll on our kids, who routinely manage demanding academic schedules and a wide range of other commitments.
2. Safety. While our teams have certainly had a great deal of success over the years, far too often we find ourselves competing against schools that draw from a student body several times our size. Accordingly, PCDS freshmen and sophomores—who, to round out our line-ups, commonly enjoy significant playing time—line up against teams of full-grown seniors from other schools. Especially in more physical sports like soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, this can be dangerous.
The good news is that last spring, the AIA agreed to realign their entire membership, which will dramatically affect all of our teams (except soccer, which, for a variety of reasons, plays a unique league schedule). Starting this year, six conferences—each with multiple regions—have been divided up by enrollment and geography, allowing PCDS to play against teams that look like us and who are almost never more than 45 minutes away. Additionally, greater autonomy has been given to school administrators to work together to smooth out bumps that inevitably come up during the season.
Overall, the impact on our students—which is always paramount to us—is exceedingly positive. With these advances in mind, we’re looking forward to another strong year of Eagle athletics. —Shane Lewis, Director of Athletics, September 12, 2016
For thirty years, PCDS has been a loyal member of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, by far the state’s largest athletic organization, which serves schools of all types. Through the early years of the league’s existence, PCDS was able to manage its schedule and its opponents so that our mission—which is and always will be an academics-first mission—could remain our top priority.
In recent years, though, the league has ballooned to nearly 300 members, ranging from small public schools of 75 students at the outer reaches of the state to large Catholic schools of 2,000 right here in the Valley—and everything in between. And with this growth, PCDS has seen its ability to stay true to its core values compromised. Routinely, we are asked to travel, on a weekday, more than three hours to play schools that have next to nothing in common with us. Especially as we think about the encouragement from Stanford University and Challenge Success to engage our students in a healthy program of experiences, this path has begun to seem untenable.
After considerable outreach from our Athletic Department—and vast support from many other similar schools across the greater-Phoenix area—we are hopeful that we are beginning to see the early stages of positive results and a brighter future for our athletic teams. A recent vote taken by the AIA established a two-tiered system of play, essentially separating big schools from small schools. What remains to be seen is how the small schools are arranged; a vote later this fall will determine that.
What PCDS hopes for is a league that enables its student-athletes to participate at appropriate levels of competition against schools of similar size—all within a reasonable travel radius of our school. As information becomes available, we will continue to inform the community. —Shane Lewis, Athletic Director, October 7, 2015
Undertake school-wide self-study in preparation for ISAS re-accreditation.
From September 25-28, PCDS hosted an Independent Schools of the Southwest (ISAS) re-accreditation team of 18 faculty and staff members from other ISAS schools. This team visited classes and spoke with representatives from all school constituent groups in order to help us best assess our program and practices.
A detailed report on the committee’s visit and findings will be be presented to the ISAS Standards Committee for consideration at the ISAS April 7th Board Meeting. Once that’s clear, our re-accreditation should be officially approved, the report will be made public, and we can begin our work, in earnest, toward addressing their commendations and recommendations.
After the April accreditation decision, we will communicate more broadly about the report and its findings, so that we, as a community, can continue to develop as a first-rate ISAS school.
In the meantime, many thanks to our entire community for your diligence with the reporting process, your welcoming spirit with the visiting team, and, most importantly, the amazing work that you do on a regular basis at PCDS. Clearly, this extraordinary commitment was recognized by the team members who spent time on our campus. —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, November 1, 2016
As a part of the ISAS Self-Study year, current families were asked to take a survey covering all aspects of school life. In total, 444 families responded—an incredibly high percentage relative to similar studies at other institutions. Information drawn from the survey proved to be overwhelming positive and quite instructive. For a full summary of the Parent Survey responses, please click here. Many thanks to the families who took time to answer the questions. —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, December 7, 2015 Phoenix Country Day School is a proud member of the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), a non-profit membership association of 88 independent schools in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico. The main function of ISAS is to work with independent schools to complete an accreditation process, which runs in 10-year cycles. This coming fall, PCDS will begin its work toward re-accreditation with a period of self-study that will consume most of the school year—and culminate with an ISAS team visit around October of 2016 to give us final approval.
Through the self-study process, every aspect of school life will be considered, and all constituents of the school community will be involved. Taylor Nelson, former Middle School English teacher and current manager of special projects, will coordinate the entire process, from self-study through the ISAS visit. Key individuals will be identified over the next several weeks to serve on a Steering Committee, which will convene briefly before school releases this year. The goal is to ensure that the work is used to reflect most thoughtfully and constructively on what we do as a community. We will relay much more about self-study and accreditation in the coming weeks and months. —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, May 8, 2015
Continue to engage and build alumni base.
The 2016-2017 school year is off to an exciting start for alumni engagement. With well-attended Blue & Gold Alumni Tent and New York City events in the books, our fall regional events in Seattle and Portland will help to reengage our Pacific Northwest Eagles. With an appealing, new venue for the annual Alumni Holiday Party, and January events scheduled in Los Angeles and San Francisco (the first regional event in the Bay area in many years), graduates have much to look forward to in the coming months. Our second Alumni Masters’ Lecture Series will kick off in February 2017 with longtime Upper School English Teacher Lance Coon taking the helm, followed by an Alumni Association/Parents’ Association partnered event in March featuring Time Magazine correspondent Elizabeth Dias ’04.
Shortly thereafter, we look forward to Alumni Spring Weekend in April, which will include a welcome happy hour, alumni athletic game, student-led campus tours, Athletic Hall of Fame Induction, Outstanding Alumnus/a of the Year celebration, and Bridge-the-Gap. In the meantime, we have many newsworthy alumni-related stories that will be included in the winter edition of The Bridge Magazine, so please make sure to give it a look. —Leslie Feldman ’99, Director of Alumni Relations, November 1, 2016
Alumni programming and engagement was strong during the 2015-2016 academic year. Regional events in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston were well received, and highlighted local alumni and/or current faculty as keynote presenters. The Alumni Holiday Party had record attendance with over 200 alumni and guests, and we were delighted to welcome over 150 alumni and guests during Alumni Spring Weekend, which included a welcome happy hour, alumni soccer game, student-led campus tours, Athletic Hall of Fame Induction and Bridge-the-Gap.
Bridge-the-Gap also served as the forum for honoring our 2016 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year, Christopher Walker ’65.
In 2015-16 we hosted our first “Masters’ Lecture Series” for alumni and their parents, which featured beloved Upper School History teacher David Martin. This three-part series garnered wonderful reviews from attendees, and we plan to make the lecture series an annual alumni opportunity, with different faculty members taking the helm each year.
The academic year will conclude with the induction of the Class of 1966 into the PCDS Golden Circle, and the Alumni Association will welcome the Class of 2016 graduates as its newest members.
As we look toward the 2016-2017 year, we plan to continue building momentum with the PCDS Alumni Mentorship Program, as well as expanding our regional events to the Pacific Northwest and to the San Francisco/Bay area. —Leslie Feldman ’99, Director of Alumni Relations, June 2, 2016
The 2014-2015 year was rich in alumni engagement. With successful fall regional events in Los Angeles, Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C., the Alumni Association enjoyed the opportunity to see PCDS’ graduates from east to west. With over 130 alumni and guests attending the annual Alumni Holiday Party in December, as well as over 130 alumni and guests attending Bridge-the-Gap and reunion weekend in the spring, alumni event participation hit record numbers. We were also delighted to welcome several special graduates back to campus for their Athletic Hall of Fame Induction as part of Bridge-the-Gap weekend. In June, the members of the graduating class of 1965 were our very first Golden Circle inductees, and we welcomed the 60 Class of 2015 graduates as our newest members of the Alumni Association.
As we look toward the 2015-2016 year, we plan to build momentum with the newly launched PCDS Alumni Mentorship Program, as well as to strengthen our communication via the alumni E-newsletter. The fall programming calendar includes exciting events regionally in Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, and D.C., and local events including the unveiling of the Walk of Champions—honoring our past Athletic Hall of Fame inductees – and the Blue & Gold Alumni Tent. Special thanks to the PCDS Alumni Board for their leadership and guidance as we head into another engaging year. —Leslie Feldman ‘99, Director of Alumni Relations, September 3, 2015
The Phoenix Country Day School Alumni Board welcomed six new members in the fall of 2014, which brings the total number of active Board members to eighteen. Each Alumni Board member has committed to serving a three-year term, throughout which they are primarily focused on personalizing the connections between the interests of the School’s graduates and the needs of the institution. Two annual seats for current Upper School Seniors were also added to the Board. The individuals filling these seats will provide an important link between current students and PCDS graduates. A focus on continued engagement with our youngest PCDS alumni, specifically those in college, will be eased by future facilitation spearheaded by these students as they join the alumni body.
Further, a sincere effort to update Alumni contact information has been underway since the beginning of Summer 2014, primarily via a survey disseminated by Class Agents. As a result, contact information for over 600 members of the alumni body has been corrected, and we are now better able to engage with these individuals moving forward. Several local and regional events will be held during the 2014-2015 year, which will allow alumni to reconnect with friends, faculty, and staff. Planned events include a Los Angeles lunch in September, Reunion Weekend and regional events in Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. in October, as well as the annual Alumni Holiday Party in December. —Leslie Feldman, Director of Alumni Relations, October 1, 2014
Foster and expand relationships with local clubs and organizations. UPDATED April 7, 2017
The PCDS signature outreach program, Project Excellence, is soaring. Previously, we had stated three goals for the program: strengthen internal supports for on-campus PCDS Project Excellence scholars; build relationships with local schools and organizations to better identify potential Project Excellence scholars; and reimagine the slate of summer and weekend programs supporting both on- and off-campus Project Excellence students.
This year, PCDS is proud to have 18 Project Excellence Scholars on campus, in all three divisions. We’ve been able to provide support in the areas of extra-curricular participation, tutoring, and mentoring. One of our biggest sources of pride is the strong relationship we have with the parents of these 18 scholars. Our partnership with these families and students has led to an increase in the level of engagement in the community, as well as participation in school/family activities.
As we continue broader outreach to the Valley, we have solidified relationships with the four school districts that have been with Project Excellence since its inception, while building new inroads from several new schools this year, including Phoenix Elementary, Kenilworth, Alhambra, Garfield, and Sistem. PCDS is also pleased to have nurtured a strong relationship CASA Academy, a charter school in the valley. In addition to enrolling qualified CASA graduates to PCDS, we have been proud to offer our campus as the site for the school’s annual fundraiser.
For programming, we have created a “hybrid” summer program to best engage Project Excellence Scholars through a variety of academic and enrichment experiences. Select Project Excellence scholars are offered scholarships to participate in half-day programming at the PCDS Summer Camp, while spending the second half of each day within special Project Excellence-only supplemental programs.
—Molly Williams, Director of Project Excellence, April 7, 2017
Under the leadership of first-year Director Molly Williams, Project Excellence is poised to soar. As a major mode of PCDS community outreach, Project Excellence has for nearly 30 years been at the core of the School’s effort to foster and expand our relationships with local organizations. Over the next three years, Mrs. Williams hopes to accomplish three main goals:
- Strengthen our internal support system for students and families from under-represented backgrounds
- Establish and grow bonds with 5-7 local schools or organizations that could potentially help us identify students who might be a good fit for our PCDS program
- Restructure the slate of summer and weekend offerings so that more families from the Phoenix metro area can take advantage of an enriched program
PCDS has a responsibility to lead the charge to help our extended community become one that places a much greater emphasis on the need for good education. While the difference we can make may, at times, seem small, it actually has a ripple effect that touches the lives of scores of young learners who would otherwise not have the opportunity to expand their horizons. —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, October 7, 2015
Phoenix Country Day School has officially entered working relationships with two of the area’s highest regarded athletics entities: the Phoenix Swim Club (www.phoenixswimclub.org) and the Seth Korey Tennis Academy (sethkoreytennis.com). Both organizations have great appeal to our school because of their reach into the greater Phoenix community and their mission to build character in addition to athletic prowess. One of the area’s largest and most prolific clubs, with a highly skilled staff and a long record of producing successful high school and college swimmers, the Phoenix Swim Club will bring into the fold the Arizona Marlins swim program, which has been the key player in the PCDS pool for decades. For nearly 20 years, the Seth Korey Tennis Academy has enabled young learners to develop and foster the love of a lifetime fitness sport through daily classes taught by recognized instructors. Between the two programs, PCDS gains exposure to—and connection with—hundreds of new families, and offers our own families dynamic opportunities beyond the traditional school offerings. —Shane Lewis, Athletic Director, May 21, 2014
Create student internship programs to broaden and enrich student academic experience. UPDATED April 7, 2017
Project CIRI turned into a full-year course offering during the 2016-2017 school year. In the course, students are challenged to bring to life a solution to a cause with personal meaning. Students also create formal business plans complete with market analysis and financial modeling. As with their predecessors from Project CIRI, the culmination of their entrepreneurship boot camp is a public pitch to their ideas.
Students in the Upper School are also encouraged to create their own courses in partnership with a faculty member through our independent studies program. Students have the opportunity to delve deeply into niche material with faculty members serving as guides in this individualized approach to learning. Following a rigorous approval process, up to 20 independent studies are approved each semester. A few examples of projects during the 2016-2017 school year include learning accounting and finance, going beyond our curriculum in Mandarin language studies and computer programming, exploring postmodernism and existentialism, recording their own album (with the help of our amazing sound studio!), creating a photojournalistic study of the Yaqui, sharpening performances on the violin and the flute, and developing art portfolios.
To give these students a glimpse of life beyond PCDS, the career day program was reinvented, with the Parents Association leading the charge. The program, now called BEAM – Bridging Education, Ambition, and Meaningful Work, aims to expose students to a variety of careers, teach characteristics of employability, and prompt students to think about their future. This year students have heard from industry leaders in ice cream, mattresses, medical information, job placement, and office furniture with the ultimate take-away of what meaningful work looks like and how to look for it when it comes time for their own searches. —Lisa Culbertson, Head of Upper School, April 7, 2017
In the fall of 2014, the Upper School launched Project CIRI (Center for Internships, Research, and Innovation), a pilot program developed by alumnus Aashay Sanghvi ‘14, with assistance from Upper School faculty and administration. Project CIRI aims to increase engagement outside the classroom by providing the resources necessary for students to design innovative solutions to problems of personal significance.
All Upper School students were invited to apply, and 17 students were ultimately selected to participate in the program. The students spent the first semester ideating and selecting project targets, which include biomedical products, an environmental initiative, a new Upper School course offering, and social entrepreneurship endeavors. Guest speakers and design workshops have provided students with real world and hands-on experiences to apply to their own projects. Culminating the first phase of the pilot will be a formal event in January 2015 for students to present their work, receive feedback from industry experts, and seek support to continue their projects into the spring semester. As one participant noted, “Project CIRI supplies the right tool for the right person to create something truly fantastic.” —Lisa Culbertson, Head of Upper School, December 12, 2014
Assemble student population that reflects broad backgrounds.
During the 2015-2016 “season,” PCDS enjoyed exciting highlights in the areas of admissions and enrollment management, showing an upward trend during the past three years. First of all, the School will open in 2016 with an enrollment number of 750 students, the largest student body in the School’s history. Second, during the last admissions season, PCDS received a record number of admissions inquiries (571 inquiries, a 34% increase since the previous admissions cycle); the number of admissions applications has remained steady (334 applications, a slight increase since the previous year). Third, the School is enrolling 111 new students for the 2016-2017 year. In evaluating a broad and highly qualified pool of applicants, the admissions committees have been excited to enroll students with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds; students will be joining PCDS from 66 different schools, including local public, charter, and private schools, and including some of the top schools outside of the state of Arizona.
In keeping with the School’s strategic planning and goals, PCDS is making strides in the arenas of admissions, retention, and financial aid, thereby enhancing the culture of the school community. At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, the school had record low attrition (under 5%, a dramatic improvement from 11% two years earlier). Furthermore, the current student body includes 37% of students who identify as non-white. Also, the School is expanding the socioeconomic diversity within the community. Through our need-based financial aid program, along with the help of tax credit donations to Student Tuition Organizations (STOs), PCDS will assist approximately 170 students (23% of the student body) in meeting their family’s demonstrated financial need in the 2016-2017 school year. Finally, nine of our newly enrolled students will join the existing group of Project Excellence Scholars – Project Excellence is a long-standing and growing program at PCDS that identifies and supports students who will need assistance during their time on campus (academically, financially, and/or culturally). From next year’s Pre-Kindergarten, the Class of 2030, all the way to the 18 new freshman entering the Upper School, PCDS is thrilled to welcome all of the amazing new students and their families to the school. —Roz Abero, Assistant Head of School, September 12, 2016
The admissions “season” at PCDS recently wrapped up after enrolling just over 110 new students, who will begin their time at PCDS in August. This year, PCDS received a record number of applications, with a 46% application increase over the last three years. In evaluating a broad and highly qualified pool of applicants, the admissions committees were excited to enroll a wide variety of students who will benefit the School in every way. Students will be joining PCDS from other local public, private, and charter schools, as well as from some of the top schools outside of the state of Arizona.
Through our need-based financial aid program, as well as with the help of tax credit donations to Student Tuition Organizations (STOs), PCDS will assist approximately 160 students in meeting their family’s demonstrated financial need in the 2015-16 school year. From next year’s Pre-Kindergarten, the Class of 2029, to the small handful of high school transfers joining the sophomore and junior grades, we are thrilled to welcome these amazing students to the School. —Patrick McHonett, Director of Admissions and Marketing, May 8, 2015
After a record-breaking admissions season, including a 20% increase in applications from last year, the Office of Admissions is set to welcome 134 new students to campus for the 2014-15 school year. As directed by the Strategic Plan, these students and families reflect a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses— and will significantly enhance our academic and social experiences on campus. Of the 134 new students, 40% identify as persons of color, 30% come to PCDS from a public school setting, and approximately 20% of these students are receiving need-based financial aid from the School and Student Tuition Organizations. We are thrilled to welcome these fantastic students and families to the PCDS community! —Patrick McHonett, Director of Admissions and Marketing, August 6, 2014
Faculty, Coaches, and Staff
- Define PCDS pedagogical philosophy: The Portrait of a PCDS Teacher.
Build a culture among faculty and staff that embraces observation, documentation, feedback, goal setting, and improvement throughout the school year.
In March, we launch of the application process for Yellott grants and Master Teacher appointments—two opportunities at PCDS for faculty to hone their craft and share their skills.
Each summer, several faculty projects for curriculum development are supported through the Yellott Grant Program, funded by an endowment that honors the memory of John I. Yellott, PCDS Headmaster from 1966-72.
The purpose of the Yellott Fund is to provide grants to faculty for the development of projects with ongoing value for both the School and the teacher. In most cases, these projects are expected to be implemented into the school program or to directly influence teaching methodology. To this point, an explicit focus on addressing the goal of maximizing student engagement is strongly encouraged.
This year’s crop included two new courses in the Upper School (a history elective called “Global Terrorism” and a foreign language offering called “Beyond Advanced Placement: The Origins of Medicine”), a new way of engaging Upper and Middle School engineering students, and a pursuit of project-based learning in the Lower School.
Similarly, the Master Teacher opportunity recognizes the unique contributions and skills of our most distinguished faculty members. The goal of the Master Teacher is to complement the work of the Department Chair by assisting each teacher to be as engaging and as effective in the classroom as possible. To that end, Master Teachers spend as many as 10 additional hours each week observing the work of other teachers and having conversations with them about their connections with their students.
In 2015, we were fortunate to be able to introduce the first three Master Teachers: Andrea Avery (Upper School), Liz Olson (Middle School), and Nichole Pope (Lower School). —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, February 19, 2016
Over the past year-and-a-half, under the leadership of Director of Curriculum and Instruction Rich Rende, we have been assessing and re-defining the role of the Department Chair. The most poignant outcome was re-establishing Department Chairs as experts in curriculum, rather than instruction. Hence, their efforts moving forward are targeted at looking critically at what we teach from pre-k through 12 and rallying their department around their decisions.
Accordingly, we have launched a parallel endeavor: PCDS is in the process of elevating a handful of current faculty members to the role of Master Teacher. These Master Teachers will work alongside the Department Chairs; however, their primary focus will be instruction, rather than curriculum. Master Teachers will quietly and confidentially work one-on-one with our entire faculty, looking carefully at how we teach, so that each teacher can grow and gain strength in the classroom with their students.
Later in the spring, when we begin to announce new hires and new roles for next year, we will highlight our first-ever cohort of Master Teachers. —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, March 3, 2015
Evaluate compensation and benefits packages to ensure we remain competitive in local, regional, and appropriate national markets.
The strength of any great school lies in the quality of its faculty and staff, and nothing is more important to a school’s ability to achieve its mission and strategic goals. PCDS offers highly competitive salaries and has been able to provide a benefits package that is considered well above average in our nation-wide industry.
Phoenix Country Day School has recently hired an outside adviser to review our 403(b) benefit plan to assess the breadth and quality of our offerings through TIAA-CREF and Fidelity. Employee education will also be offered to help employees understand the importance of focusing on retirement early in their careers and making wise choices to maximum their plan earnings.
Not only do we strive for our employees’ current financial wellbeing; we hope they will be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement after they have dedicated years of service to the enrichment of our students.—May 8, 2015
Recruit and retain exceptional teachers, coaches, and staff.
We’re proud to announce the following new faculty/staff members will join PCDS beginning in the 2016-17 school year.
Dr. Lynetta Binger (US Science): Dr. Binger comes to PCDS with recent experience at Episcopal High School and The Madiera School, two highly regarded independent schools just outside of Washington, DC. She holds a B.S. in Biology from The University of the South, as well as an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Melinda Flores (Upper School Science): Ms. Flores joins PCDS from St. Peter’s Preparatory School in New Jersey, where she has been both a department chair and faculty member. Ms. Flores holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.A. in Education from St. Peter’s University.
Dr. Michael Gordon-Smith (US English): Dr. Gordon-Smith joins PCDS from the English Department of Emory University, where he has been a Visiting Professor of English. Dr. Gordon-Smith holds both a B.A. and an M.A. in English from BYU and his Ph.D. in English from Emory University.
Kelsey Knutson (5th Grade Social Studies): Ms. Knutson joins the PCDS Middle School after most recently teaching in the Tolleson Elementary School District. Prior to her work in Tolleson, Ms. Knutson worked as an Early Education Spanish Instructor in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ms. Knutson holds a B.A. in Global Studies, minoring in Spanish from the University of Minnesota, as well as an M.Ed. from ASU.
Tina Pitts (Advancement Coordinator): Ms. Pitts joins the PCDS Advancement Office after holding similar positions at the Arizona School for the Arts and Gonzaga Preparatory (Spokane, WA). Ms. Pitts has a B.S. from ASU and an M.S. from the University of Oregon.
Gina Saltonstall (3rd Grade Teacher): Ms. Saltonstall comes to PCDS from Dover, Massachusetts, where she has most recently worked in the Wellesley Public Schools. With prior experience at the Potomac School in McLean, VA; Dedham Country School in Dedham, MA; and The Grammar School in Putney, VA, she’s well versed with independent school elementary education. Ms. Saltonstall holds a B.A. from the University of Vermont, and an M. Ed. in Elementary Education from Seton Hall University.
Kim Wass (Learning Specialist): Ms. Wass joins PCDS from the Litchfield Community School District where she served as an Instructional Coach and previously was a 4th Grade teacher. She holds her B.S. in Elementary Education from Iowa State University, and has continued education from both Iowa State University and Drake University.
Hannah Willis (Middle School Spanish): Ms. Willis joins PCDS from BASIS Scottsdale, where she has taught both English and Spanish to middle school students. She holds her B.A. in Spanish and English from Hillsdale College.
Joanna Wisniewska (4th Grade Teacher): Ms. Wisniewska comes to the PCDS 4th Grade after most recently working at the Candeo Schools in Phoenix. She holds a B.A in Education from ASU with a focus in Early Childhood Teaching and Leadership. —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, June 2, 2016
We’re delighted to welcome to following new faculty and staff members to PCDS for the 2015-16 school year. As you can see, they’re an impressive group!
Kelly Blackson (Pre-kindergarten): Ms. Blackson joins the PCDS pre-kindergarten after teaching kindergarten at Cochise Elementary this school year. She has extensive experience teaching early childhood education, and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from ASU.
Michael Coxon (Middle School Spanish): Mr. Coxon will serve as a new Middle School Spanish teacher, after working as a Spanish teacher at Desert Vista High School in Tempe since 2009. Previously, he taught at schools in Illinois, where he also supervised multiple international trips with students. Mr. Coxon holds a BA from Illinois State University, and is completing a Master’s from the University of Northern Iowa College of Education.
Anne Duffy (Upper School Science): Dr. Duffy joins the Upper School science department this fall, after most recently teaching at BASIS Scottsdale. She has previously worked at the renowned High Tech High School in San Diego, where she developed innovative new curricula in math and sciences. Dr. Duffy holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemistry, and Ph.D. in Math and Science Education, each from UC-San Diego.
Duane Freeman (Middle School Counselor): Mr. Freeman joins PCDS as a Middle School counselor after serving in the same position at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, Illinois. There, he developed a health curriculum for the middle school grades, and led classes quite similar to our very own YO courses. Mr. Freeman holds a BA from Columbia College, Chicago, and an M.Ed. from DePaul.
Katharine Halsey (Upper School Counselor): Ms. Halsey will be the new Upper School Counselor, beginning in the fall. She has previously worked with community-based non-profit programs in the Bay Area, a community behavioral health program in Philadelphia, and with the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut. Ms. Halsey holds a BA from Carleton College and an MSW from Southern Connecticut State University.
Meg Hathaway (Assistant Director of College Counseling): Ms. Hathaway joins PCDS by way of Nashville, Tennessee, where she has recently completed her M.Ed. at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody School of Education. She has worked at Harpeth Hall and University School of Nashville as Counselor and College Counselor, respectively. Ms. Hathaway holds a BA from UNC-Chapel Hill and an M.Ed. from Vanderbilt.
Blake Howard (Assistant Director of Admissions): Mr. Howard joins the PCDS Admissions Office from the Potomac School in McLean, VA, where he has spent the last seven years as an Upper School English faculty member, and prior spent five years working for the Potomac School’s Office of Admissions. Mr. Howard has a BA from The College of William and Mary and an MA from Georgetown University.
Paul McClernon (Upper School Science & Math): Mr. McClernon joins the Upper School, after teaching at BASIS Scottsdale since 2010. Prior to his time at BASIS, Mr. McClernon saw the real-world impact of math and science as a chief engineer with Intel at the Ocotillo site surface analysis labs. Mr. McClernon will support our Upper School students to bridge the gap between teaching and application, preparing them for the many challenges facing the STEM-related fields of the 21st Century. He holds degrees from the University of Missouri, including an M.S., focusing on Physics.
Claire McLoone (Lower School Counselor): Ms. McLoone joins the Lower School as Counselor after having worked locally with the Aurora Behavioral Health Hospital. She has also worked extensively with early childhood and adolescent psychoeducational programs in Arizona. Ms. McLoone holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from ASU.
Nicholas Plaska (Third Grade): Mr. Plaska is the newest member of our Lower School third grade team. Most recently, he has worked with third and fourth graders as a Teach for America instructor in the Phoenix Elementary School District. Mr. Plaska holds a BA from Aquinas College and an M.Ed. from ASU.
Suzanne Pressley (Employee Resources Officer): Ms. Pressley joins the PCDS Business Office with over twenty years of experience in workforce planning and employment resources. Most recently, she worked in HR roles at Creative Communications Sales & Rentals, Inc., a Phoenix-based company in which she supported over 130 employees in five offices statewide. Ms. Pressley has multiple certifications in HR management, and continuing education from Scottsdale Community College.
Meily Riehle (Upper School Spanish): Ms. Riehle joins PCDS as an additional Spanish teacher, after having most recently taught at Desert Vista High School. She has over twenty years experience teaching at the secondary and post-secondary levels in Puerto Rico and the US. Ms. Riehle holds a BA from Inter American University (Puerto Rico) and an MA from the University of Phoenix.
Jeff Sachs (Technical Theatre): Mr. Sachs joins PCDS by way of Childsplay Theatre where he has been a Teaching Artist, working with students in Improvisation and Musical Theatre. He has previously worked as the Education Director of ASU’s Adopt-a-School program with Arizona School for the Arts, as well as Actors Theatre of Louisville, and a public middle school in Evanston, Illinois. Mr. Sachs holds a BS from Northwestern University and is in progress on an MFA focusing on Theatre for Youth at ASU.
—Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, May 18, 2015
The search for a new Head of Middle School has begun to take shape. A Search Advisory Committee comprised of Middle School faculty and school administrators has met to define the characteristics that we would like to see in an ideal candidate. Additionally, the consulting team of Independent Thinking, who facilitated the process that helped us hire new Head of Upper School Lisa Culbertson, was on campus before Thanksgiving to interview all school constituencies, including Middle School students. With our approval, Independent Thinking will compose a Position Description for the opportunity that will be circulated nationwide. Ultimately, we will cull down a list of viable candidates to three or four that we would like to meet in person, and each will be invited to campus, likely in February, for a full day of interactions. Our goal is to have a new Head of Middle School selected and contracted by Spring Break, with a start-date set for July 1, 2015. —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, December 12, 2014 The hallmark of the PCDS experience is found in the strength of the relationship between teacher and student. These relationships serve our graduates for years after they leave our campus, and are routinely celebrated at alumni gatherings all over the country. Accordingly, PCDS strives to deepen those relationships by hiring teacher/coaches—unique, multi-talented individuals who are able to engage our students on both academic and athletic levels. The 2014-15 school year will feature what we believe to be the most on-campus teacher/coaches in the history of our athletics program—over 60% of the coaches in the Middle and Upper School programs come from our very own classroom ranks. This means that the vast majority of the people your student-athletes will interact with know them in a profound way. We’re thankful to these professionals for their commitment to the School, both during the school day and beyond. —Shane Lewis, Director of Athletics, October 1, 2014 For the 2014-15 School year, we are proud to welcome a cadre of new teachers who journey to PCDS from far and wide—but who all share the critical traits of a keen intellect, a passion for working with children, a high level of comfort in functioning as a team member, a calling to constantly hone their craft, and a sense of humor. Very intentionally, we have endeavored to hire individuals who have a variety of experiences, including a desire to serve as a teacher/coach. A full list of new faces—and familiar faces in new places—is available here. —Andrew Rodin, Headmaster, August 6, 2014
Communications and Marketing
Launch comprehensive campaign for improved facilities and endowment growth. UPDATED April 7, 2017
Sometimes it’s easy to forget the astounding progress we’ve made in recent years. After all, it was just four short years ago that we shuffled across the dusty parking lot in the southeast corner of our campus, tape-measuring out areas where the new pool might go.
Thanks to that overwhelming generosity of over 150 parents, alumni, past parents, grandparents, and friends—totaling nearly $23 million so far—we’ve been able to provide our students and teachers with facilities that, quite frankly, rival those at any of the top schools in the nation. And the early returns have been outstanding—from the first-ever state championship for our Varsity swim team to record numbers of students in Middle and Upper Schools participating in court sports to the spirit of academic inquiry I feel every time I pass through the Shin Center.
Maybe best of all, we’ve seen our community gain extraordinary strength and pride around our successes. The galvanizing nature of the THRIVE Campaign has been undeniable, and I’ve been honored to be even a small part of its momentum.
So much has been accomplished, and we are now in the enviable position of looking toward the close of the THRIVE Campaign…but there’s still one final step left to take.
Soon, we will commence construction on the final physical element of THRIVE: the Shepard Welcome Center, which will stand as a new front door to our campus. The Welcome Center will bring together our Head of School, Admissions, and Advancement offices, and will also feature a signature Master Teacher classroom and alumni suite.
More information on the THRIVE Campaign and its progress can be found here. —Andrew Rodin, Head of School, Gay Firestone Wray Chair for Leadership, April 7, 2017
This August, PCDS opened its newest academic space, the Shin Center for Art, Science & Innovation in the Upper School. As a complete remodel of the former Hormel and Madden Halls, the goal of this project was to foster the creative, collaborative, and investigative approaches in arts, sciences, technology, and engineering. The former academic spaces were completely gutted, with a new state-of-the art facility taking shape in the previous space.
While the building previously housed nine classrooms and approximately 11,000-square foot of teaching space, the Shin Center now hosts thirteen classrooms and teaching spaces, two instructor preparation spaces, three private “huddle” rooms for students to collaborate, and a large faculty office space in which all art and science faculty can collaborate on best practices within their teaching and research. Finally, the new space added an 80-person presentation room to host guest speakers, college presentations, and student activities. These changes added approximately 2,000 additional square feet of teaching spaces in the building.
The Shin Center also represents key pedagogical goals for the PCDS community—engagement and collaboration. Each day, students will walk by or meet with teachers in a workspace modeling these tenets. In their labs and art studios, students will have the opportunity to apply for and be trusted with use of some of the most high-tech materials in any educational environment—high school or college. And, students will be able to evaluate and tackle real-world problems utilizing life skills of analysis, interdisciplinary thought, and teamwork. In short, the Shin Center will support PCDS students’ growth as academics and individuals better than any other high school’s academic space in the state.
Additionally, the Shin Center is highly representative of our unique environment in Arizona. Every classroom is named for an artist or scientist who did his or her work in the state—from Rose Collom to Philip Curtis. Also, each huddle and presentation space is named for an Arizona national monument, including Agua Fria and Vermilion Cliffs. The color palette utilized throughout the building is drawn from desert ecology, and there are graphical installations that highlight Arizona land features like Camelback Mountain and Arizona flora and fauna from Saguaros to Banner Tailed Kangaroo Rats. Our hope is that these touches empower our students to understand that their education is predicated on action, including real-world application in our own back yard.
As the third of four major construction projects supported by the School’s THRIVE Campaign, the Shin Center was made possible by a lead gift by Valley philanthropist Christopher Cole and his wife, Jennifer Mee Cole. Through their $2.5 M donation, Mr. and Mrs. Cole pledged to support the next generation of leaders in PCDS students. Named in honor of Mrs. Cole’s mother, Shin Hyun Soon, Mrs. Cole notes, “My mother was and is an example of wisdom, strength, and graciousness for me. My hope is that the Shin Center can help develop and reinforce these qualities in all who enter this new place of learning at Phoenix Country Day School.” —Lisa Culbertson, Head of Upper School, September 12, 2016
As the year draws to a close, progress on the THRIVE capital campaign front remains very strong - we now stand at just over $18 million in gifts and pledges toward a $22 million goal. In addition to yielding first-rate and much needed facilities, the THRIVE Campaign continues to be more of a community-wide endeavor than any campaign preceding it, with almost 150 families having contributed thus far.
Since our last strategic plan update, we celebrated the grand opening of the Najafi Gymnasium and Garvin Family Walk of Champions with an all-community basketball night called Game On!. It may not be a coincidence that after their first season in the new gym, the girls’ basketball team made a deep run in the state playoffs, and the boys’ basketball team went all the way to the state championship. The same outstanding results were celebrated by the swim and dive teams as well after their first season in the Dady Aquatic Center, proving that outstanding facilities can inspire outstanding results.
Speaking of inspiration, we can’t wait to see how our students thrive in our newly renovated arts and science classroom space, which will be open when students return to campus this August. What has been referred to as the Cole Center will now be called the Shin Center for Art, Science & Innovation, and it promises to be one of the most academic facilities in the region. Look for information about the building’s grand opening at the start of the school year.
Our fourth and final THRIVE project will be the new Welcome Center administrative space. As always, we are available to speak to anyone interested in the THRIVE Campaign at any time – there’s more to do, and we still need our entire community’s help. — C. Ryan Joyce, Director of Advancement, June 2, 2016
Less than one year after the public launch of the THRIVE Campaign, we are proud to stand at $16.25 million in gifts and pledges, with almost $4 million having come in within the first few weeks of the ’15-’16 school year. This puts us at roughly two-thirds of the way toward our goal of $22 million.
We are also happy to announce the naming of several new facilities on campus:
- The Arts & Sciences renovation project, the project next up in the THRIVE Campaign, just recently received an incredibly generous gift from local businessman Chris Cole and his wife Jennifer Mee Cole, and it will be called the Cole Center for Art, Science & Innovation. You’ll be hearing more about that project soon.
- The new gym, slated to open in less than a month, will be called the Najafi Gymnasium, named for Jahm and Cheryl Najafi, along with their children Cameron ’19, Olivia ’19, and Sophia.
- The new pool and tennis center that opened at the beginning of last year will now be named the Dady Aquatic & Tennis Center, named for Don and Dominique Dady and their children Cole ’16, Samantha ’18, and Jessica ’20.
- The thoroughfare between our current gym and the Najafi Gymnasium will be called the Garvin Family Walk of Champions, named for Sam and Rita Garvin and their children Sam ’16, Allison ’19, and Lauren ’19.
- And speaking of our current gym, we have decided to recognize the decades of alumni who know it as their only gym by calling it the Alumni Gymnasium.
Compared to national independent school campaign standards, we are achieving our mission with exceptional speed, thanks to our remarkable donor support. What’s more, the energy behind the THRIVE Campaign has galvanized our community in a way only seen at the very best schools across the nation. For a brief but powerful video highlighting what has happened because of the Campaign thus far, click here. —Roz Abero, Assistant Head of School, October 7, 2015
The THRIVE campaign officially kicked off at the 47th Annual Blue & Gold picnic, highlighted by the “THRIVE-in” movie, on October 17, 2014. With an ambitious $20 million goal, the largest in the School’s history, the campaign will have a transformative impact on campus. The first phase was completed in August 2014, with the opening of the Aquatic & Tennis Center. Given the amount of funding secured through the beginning of December, the Board of Trustees recently gave the green light to move the next phases: completing the athletics portion of the campaign with the Indoor Athletic Complex, and renovating Upper School math and science facilities—both of which are slated to be completed by the fall of 2015. For more information on these projects and how you can get involved, visit www.pcds.org/THRIVE. —Roz (Bolger) Abero ‘89, Assistant Head of School for External Affairs, December 12, 2014 You’ve likely heard that we’re embarking on the most comprehensive fundraising campaign in our history, which we’re calling THRIVE. The first phase of this campaign is the new aquatic center and tennis courts, which are on track to open as the new school year kicks off. There are also a few other projects that you will notice in the coming weeks and months, including the renaming of the Administration Building as Shepard Hall, thanks to an incredibly generous anonymous donation from one of our families. In the quiet phase of our campaign, we’ve had a few small gatherings with various constituencies, and if you’ve not yet heard from us, you will! We expect to go forward with a public launch of our campaign in conjunction with our Blue and Gold Weekend in October, at which point we will engage our entire community of parents, students, alumni, and friends in this important effort that will take our school to a new level and allow our students to continue thriving. We look forward to sharing more details with you in the fall. —Roz Abero, Assistant Head of School for External Affairs, April 23, 2014
Assemble experienced and capable Advancement team to support short- and long-term fundraising endeavors.
The advancement office had an incredibly strong year, coming together as a new team to generate significant support for the School. This support has come in many forms, from alumni engagement to fundraising to volunteerism. In addition, we have stepped up our game in how we communicate with our various audiences. Some achievements include:
- The introduction of a monthly alumni e-newsletter and quarterly THRIVE e-newsletter
- Record alumni participation at signature events, including regional reunions (Boston, New York, and Washington, DC), Blue & Gold, Athletic Hall of Fame, Bridge-the-Gap, and class reunions
- On track to eclipse last year’s record Annual Fund participation
- Over $12.5M raised toward a $20M THRIVE Campaign goal, having publicly launched the campaign – the largest in School history – just this past October.
The team is primed and ready for a great year next year! —Roz Abero ’89, Assistant Head of School, May 8, 2015
As PCDS continues to THRIVE, so does the Advancement Office. We have recently assembled an almost entirely new Advancement team to continue engaging students, parents, and alumni in their support of PCDS. Joining our Director of Advancement, Ryan Joyce, are the following professionals: Katie Charles, Director of Annual Giving and Stewardship; Leslie (Kornreich) Feldman ‘99, Director of Alumni Relations; Kaitlan Cady, Assistant Director of Operations for Admissions and Advancement; and Lydia Rodin (part-time), Advancement Events Coordinator. Patrick McHonett oversees marketing and communications for the School, in addition to his work as Director of Admissions. The team, led by Assistant Head of School Roz (Bolger) Abero ’89, has over 40 years of experience in the advancement and communications field and brings tremendous positive energy and professionalism to PCDS each day. Stop by the Advancement Office to say hello anytime! —Roz Abero, Assistant Head of School for External Affairs, May 21, 2014
Expand school’s online presence.
Through an increased effort to promote many of the events, news, and accolades of PCDS students and faculty through relevant and accessible outlets, PCDS has expanded its use of social media communications. More specifically, the School has managed active accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, each highlighting the PCDS experience in a unique way.
The PCDS Facebook account provides relevant updates, news, and highlights for PCDS families and the greater Phoenix community. The PCDS Instragram gives followers an “inside view” of campus life, with occasional photos of campus events, classroom discussions, or other pertinent slices of the PCDS experience. Finally, the PCDS Twitter account is devoted specifically to our Athletics program—even providing in-game scoring updates during some of our most important events.
With a variety of outlets available, and understanding that not all members of the PCDS community are active on social media, there is plenty of redundancy for those who may solely read The Latest or view our Campus News page on the PCDS website.
If you haven’t already, please “Like” PCDS on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter, while checking out many of our highlights on the Campus News section of the PCDS website. —Patrick McHonett, Director of Admissions and Marketing, March 3, 2015
Continue to build and market a consistent school brand. UPDATED April 7, 2017
Phoenix Country Day School has, once again, been ranked the top private school in Arizona by Niche.com. Additionally, PCDS has been recognized in the top-50 of private K-12 schools nationally. The additional recognition on a national scale is good for PCDS, as well as Arizona. PCDS strives to elevate the local and national conversation on education, and we are proud to be highlighted as a national leader in this space. Our alignment with some of the most respected schools in the country— from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles— continues to push the conversations about what it means to prepare our graduates to be leaders in an ever-changing world.
The school earned these rankings based on a variety of factors, including SAT/ACT scores, student-teacher ratio, college matriculation, and student/parent reviews. The statistical information used in the ranking was provided by the US Department of Education. Over 1,500 K-12 private schools were ranked nationally, and PCDS came in at #48, competitive with or ahead of many renowned private schools, some of whom were hundreds of years old.
The national rankings underscore what we already see as evident around us— PCDS is in a strong position, with record numbers of applications from prospective families and as a sought-after environment for prospective faculty and staff searching to be a part of an engaging school community. We’re proud of this recognition and look forward to continuing to elevate the School’s brand on a national level. —Patrick McHonett, Associate Head of School, April 7, 2017
A vital component to strengthening the PCDS school brand is ensuring the appropriate, timely, and dependable communication from the school to its internal constituencies. While always striving to strike the right balance between informing families of news and events at PCDS, while not inundating folks with emails, PCDS worked closely with the Parents’ Association this year to develop an internal communications strategy which will allow current PCDS families to dependably find the information they need, and also keep up to date with the many happenings at PCDS. That communications strategy is outlined in this document, Communications@PCDS.
In addition to refining its internal communications methods, PCDS begins a new print advertising campaign this fall, celebrating the unique nature of being a Pre-K through Grade 12 community in the Valley. The campaign will feature students, alumni, and faculty embracing the transformative impact that PCDS has had on individuals and the community around us. The first ad, which will run in various newspapers, Phoenix Magazine, and in the playbill this season at ASU Gammage, features Class of 2015 alum Bryeson Rodgers. You can get a sneak peek of the ad here. —Patrick McHonett, Director of Admissions & Marketing, September 3, 2015
As guided by the Strategic Plan, PCDS has made a conscious effort to be proactive and consistent with is branding and marketing. Any branding effort must first begin with internal constituencies, and as such, a detailed Style Guide was rolled out to PCDS faculty and staff this fall, outlining appropriate use of the PCDS logos, standardized fonts for communications and signage, and a set email signature which includes the PCDS seal in all communications. Externally, the School has designed a marketing plan aimed at capitalizing on most highly-read publications, including Phoenix Magazine and The Arizona Republic, as well as mobilizing a strategic social media plan for communications. All constituencies are encouraged to “Like” Phoenix Country Day School on Facebook, follow the School at @Phoenix_Country_Day_School on Instagram, and receive athletics updates on Twitter by following @PCDS_Eagles. Additionally, alumni are encouraged to receive targeted updates from the School via its Alumni Facebook page, PCDS Alum. —Patrick McHonett, Director of Admissions and Marketing, October 1, 2014
Consistently present balanced budget around stable enrollment of 720, low tuition increases, and draw on endowment between 2-6%.
In concert with our ongoing efforts to keep Phoenix Country Day School accessible to our community, we were pleased to announce a 2.92% tuition increase for the 2016-17 school year. This increase is relatively low compared to annual NAIS school increases of approximately 4-5%, yet it continues to incorporate many of the “add-ins” charged separately at other institutions, such as excellent lunch options for LS and MS students and grade level trips of all types, lengths, and locations – think of the 4-day trip to Boston for the entire 7th Grade!
Our projected enrollment of 740 students for next year is a clear result of the local, regional, and national recognition of our school as a leader among independent schools and the confidence you have placed in us to provide the exemplary education and community support your students both desire and deserve. Such solid enrollment allows us to achieve a strong, balanced budget that includes a moderate 4.59% draw on our endowment, while continuing to offer financial assistance to our families in need.
While market volatility continues to affect the global economies, we feel confident that the financial underpinning of PCDS is stronger than ever. Your support of the Annual Fund, the Individual and Corporate Tax Credit Programs, and the amazingly successful THRIVE campaign has created opportunities to expand our campus facilities, significantly enhance our program offerings and enrich your children’s education experience beyond what we previously imagined. For all that and so much more, we say “Thank You!” —February 19, 2016
We are incredibly pleased to present a very modest 1.13% overall tuition increase for next year’s 2015-16 school year. Such a low increase is the direct result of PCDS’ strong enrollment history over the past several years, as well as the generosity of our parents in support of our Annual Fund, as well as the Arizona Individual and Corporate Tax Credit Programs.
We have created a strong balanced budget for FY 2015-16 that projects a moderate 4.88% draw on our endowment, allowing us to continue providing the highest level of educational excellence for which PCDS is known. We are projecting enrollment for next year at 726 students, which is a conservative estimate given our current enrollment of 735. We will continue to provide financial assistance to the greatest degree possible, as we look forward to another year of solid financial stability.
Our ability to THRIVE fiscally is made possible through your continued confidence in Phoenix Country Day School. We send you a heartfelt “Thank you!” —March 3, 2015
Grow Annual Fund beyond 80% parent participation. Lend greater emphasis to individual tax credit and Student Tuition Organizations.
PCDS is grateful to the generous supporters who donated to the 2014-15 Annual Fund – another record year with $815,682 raised and 75% parent participation (up 5% from last year). In addition, we celebrated another year of 100% participation from PCDS faculty and staff, Board of Trustees, and Alumni Board. Thanks to your support, PCDS continues to be able to hire the best faculty and provide a first-rate academic and extracurricular experience for all our students. PCDS remains the most dynamic school in the Valley because of your generous investment and dedication.
Keeping with tradition of breaking records, the 2014-15 individual tax credit hit an all-time high with over $606,00 raised (an increase of $108k from last year) and a 14% increase in contributors – parents, grandparents, and friends of PCDS. With 21% of PCDS students on a need-based scholarship, the no-cost state tax credit is vital to the school’s ability to further the education of 151 students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to matriculate. —Katie Charles, Director of Annual Giving and Stewardship, September 3, 2015
We are excited and exceedingly grateful to have had yet another record year in contributions to the Annual Fund, with gifts from over 70% of our parents. We raised $732,421 from over 1,500 donors: a 40% increase over the number of gifts last year. In addition, we celebrated a remarkable 100% participation from PCDS faculty and staff, Board of Trustees, and Alumni Board. These Annual Fund dollars allowed us, among other things, to assemble a student body that brings to the table a wide range of dynamic experiences; to attract, nurture, and retain a faculty and staff that are second-to-none; and to maintain the most beautiful campus in the city. The momentum continues to build, and we are thankful for such widespread community support. —Roz Abero, Assistant Head of School for External Affairs, August 6, 2014
Identify opportunities for raising non-tuition revenue.
Generating non-tuition income from education-related activities continues to be a major focus at PCDS. Our summer program efforts, under the direction of Jennifer Cherilla and Kristie Berg, resulted in over $410,000 of gross income, while annual rental income primarily from our swim partners and other sports programs resulted in over $43,000 of gross income. As we continue to engage new revenue streams from outside activities, we remain proud of the current partnerships that strengthen both the School and our surrounding communities. —August 6, 2014
Consider more fiscally viable alternatives for school Health Care benefits plan.
PCDS is honored to attract the highest-caliber faculty and staff the nation has to offer. As evidenced by a local, regional and national salary and benefit benchmark study performed at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, PCDS’ faculty and staff salaries continue to rank favorably with national averages, and the School’s benefits package exceeds that of most other independent schools.
The School’s long-standing employee wellness program has been well received and highly successful, resulting in a 2% reduction to our already moderate annual health insurance renewal rate. The strength of this program has provided us with an invitation to join an exclusive group of Arizona companies consciously focused on improving the health and wellness of their employees. Within a year, we anticipate our participation will result in a 4% reduction to any renewal rate increase - a remarkable achievement for an organization of our size!
As the review of our 403(b) retirement plan has continued, an outside adviser is assisting us in changing providers, resulting in lower fees and more robust fund choices for our participants. At the same time, we will be providing retirement planning education to our employees and encouraging them to actively plan for their future, no matter what their stage in life. — June 2, 2016
PCDS remains committed to offering a rich employee benefit package to help foster the recruitment and retention of the highest caliber faculty and staff possible. From 2005 to 2014, PCDS incurred a 4.25% average annual increase in health insurance costs while maintaining the same carrier and plan design. The average increase was attributable to an engaged and healthy workforce, the implementation of a High Deductible Health Plan with a coordinated Health Savings Account (HSA), and strong employee benefit broker negotiations with insurance carriers.
However, in response to a proposed 29.5% increase from our carrier in 2015, our account was taken out to bid, resulting in an 8.5% increase with a new carrier and no major plan design changes. To increase participation in the High Deductible Health Plan option, the HSA subsidy was continued and coupled with a robust employee education campaign. HSA enrollment increased by 78% and the net increase in health insurance costs was reduced to 6.1%. Life and disability coverage was renegotiated which further reduced the overall net increase in health benefit costs to 4.9%. —October 7, 2015
Complete comprehensive facilities projects as directed by Board of Trustees and Facilities Planning Committee.
A very special event took place on our campus this past August — the grand opening of our new Aquatic and Tennis Center.
For those of you who haven’t seen it firsthand, it includes a 50-meter competition pool, a 25-meter teaching pool, 3 dive platforms, separate adult and children’s locker rooms, coaches’ office and classroom, 4 advanced surface tennis courts, expanded parking, ground and landscaping enhancements and updated infrastructure.
Eighty-eight thousand square feet of the southeast portion of campus was transformed in a mere eight months — a significant upgrade to both our program and campus that has already created fantastic opportunities for our students, athletes and the community.
Thanks to the generous donations and commitment made to the THRIVE campaign thus far and full support of the Board of Trustees, we are ready to break ground with the next phase of development — completing the athletic portion of campus and renovating the Upper School arts and sciences classrooms.
Over the holiday break demolition of our old pool will start, which will be the ground where a new gymnasium will soon stand. Adjacent to the new gym will be a Walk of Champions — an arterial walkway and gathering place linking both the athletic and academic areas of campus. Updating the current gym (new roof, floor, paint and bleachers) is also part of this component.
Over the past three weeks, Head of Upper School Lisa Culbertson and a team of colleagues researched and visited 20+ target schools throughout the United States to gather and study data on the collaborative spaces of arts and sciences. In conjunction, we are interviewing architects specializing in Pre-k-12 design, with plans to select a firm by mid-January. Ground breaking for this project is planned for May 2015.
Both projects are slated to open Fall 2015.—Michelle Hosmar, Trustee, Chair of the Facilities Planning Committee, December 15, 2014
At Phoenix Country Day School, we take tremendous pride in providing the finest buildings, equipment, and infrastructure to support the outstanding education of our students. As you may be aware, we are continuing the construction of a world-class aquatics center, but there are many more projects taking place on campus. In addition to the more routine upgrades such as roof repairs and the replacement of HVAC units, we will be remodeling the College Counseling office to create a more appealing environment for our Upper School students and college visitors. Additional equipment purchases are planned for the Robotics and Media Lab spaces, as well as the purchase of iPads for our faculty as we look ahead to greater use of digital textbooks. We are excited to enhance our Music Department with new pianos and numerous additional instruments, as well. —May 21, 2014
Adhere to schedule of long-range facilities needs and maintenance requirements.
As you have probably noticed, we have an amazing new Aquatic and Tennis Center on campus. While this facility was the result of a comprehensive campus master planning process several years ago, the school regularly identifies, schedules and updates our facilities needs and maintenance requirements from both a current and long-range perspective. Our physical campus is Phoenix Country Day School’s most significant financial asset, and as such, we pride ourselves on having little to no deferred maintenance. We have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy developing and refining a detailed analysis of all projected plant repairs and replacements for a twenty-year period, with more specific focus on the next five years. Our current schedules project through FY 2018-19 and anticipate everything from new A/C units to replacements of school buses and repairs to sewer lines. While these items may not sound exciting, every aspect of our facilities is considered essential in providing the most effective learning experience for our students. As our new Aquatic and Tennis Center demonstrates, we hold ourselves to the highest standards in everything we do! —October 1, 2014
Care for existing structures with appropriate staffing and replacement reserves line item.
As part of the School’s annual analysis of campus maintenance and upgrades, a number of issues were identified last year as requiring attention. The opening of our exceptional new Najafi Gym made it apparent the Alumni Gym was in need of its own refurbishments. To accomplish this task, a portion of scheduled maintenance reserves were used to renovate the Alumni Gym, which included new flooring, bleachers and a dividing curtain, as well as upgrades to the fire sprinkling system and locker rooms. Stucco patching and painting was also completed to maintain and enhance the building’s exterior. Campus security was heightened with the addition of a rolling gate to reduce access to the fields behind the tennis courts. In addition, planning and design work was initiated with the Town of Paradise Valley, Maricopa Flood District and the Army Corps of Engineers to secure fencing and reduce campus access along the Stanford wash, west of 40th Street. Completion of this project is anticipated during the current 2016-17 school year. We are confident these campus enhancements will continue to serve our students by providing the highest caliber of facilities to enhance their excitement for learning! —September 12, 2016 As discussed in an October 2014 Strategic Plan update, the School regularly identifies, schedules, and updates its facilities needs and maintenance requirements from both a current and long-range perspective. As part of the Provision for Plant Renewal, Replacement and Special Maintenance (PPRRSM) policy, PCDS maintains two types of reserves: an annual reserve which covers current needs anticipated in each fiscal year, as well as an ongoing reserve maintained at an average rate of 2% of total plant replacement cost. This reserve is within the recommended industry range of 1.5% to 2.5% of the replacement value of the entire campus facilities.
In addition to managing these maintenance and replacement needs, PCDS carefully ensures appropriate staffing of its Facilities Services Department. These dedicated individuals are responsible for everything from daily bus transportation and campus drop-off and pick-up traffic management to repairing HVAC systems and maintaining the gorgeous campus grounds that we all enjoy. We are incredibly grateful to have such qualified staff taking tremendous pride in their efforts to maintain our campus to the highest standard possible – all in support of providing a phenomenal educational environment for our students! —December 12, 2014
Seek opportunities to make our campus and our practices more sustainable.
As guided by the Strategic Plan, PCDS has taken multiple steps to be more environmentally conscious, specifically in our consumption of electricity and paper.
- Energy Efficiency: Our buildings and grounds team is installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs for all outages, including recent replacements in our parking lots, Dorrance Auditorium, campus walkways, offices, and classrooms. Additionally, all new buildings have included occupancy sensors so that lights will turn off when no one is present. These changes represent a significant reduction in energy use and cost.
- Reduction of Printing: PCDS has also taken significant steps to reduce our consumption of paper. Since the introduction of our online learning management system, Canvas, in the Middle and Upper Schools, teachers have been able to make learning resources digitally accessible, reducing the need for printing handouts for every student in class. Additionally, we have changed the ways in which our faculty print on campus, moving from inefficient laser jet printers to printing to faculty work room copy machines via our on-campus network. These two changes have yielded staggering results: Three years ago, PCDS used over 588,000 pages of black and white prints. Last year, we used 343,000 pages—a 42% reduction of paper, saving approximately 30 trees according to one study that equates a 40-ft tree to roughly 8,300 sheets of paper.
- A “Paperless” Process: This year, the PCDS Admissions Office has also chosen to “go paperless” in its review of applicants. Gone are the many pages of application materials, essays, transcripts, notes, and letters of recommendation for each applicant. All student application files are now being reviewed online, with support materials sent electronically to the school from most feeder schools. If each application averages roughly 35-pages, the school will save printing nearly 10,000 pages of materials over the course of this year’s admissions cycle.
—Brandon Perry, Director of Facilities, Joe Boehle, Director of Technology, and Patrick McHonett, Director of Admissions & Marketing, February 19, 2016
Sustainability continues to be a point of emphasis at PCDS, and our work with the new Aquatic and Tennis Center is no exception. Though the new pools are significantly larger than the old ones, the new facilities are extraordinarily efficient. Our pumps have VFDs, or Variable Frequency Drives, which allow us to directly control the pump output and flow rate. For example, in the competition pool, we’re maintaining a flow rate of approximately 2,100 gallons per minute, and our pumps only need to run at 71% of capacity—compared to our old pumps having to work at 100% all the time. We can turn over the entire 750,000 gallons in six hours and use 25-30% less energy in doing so—great news for our consumption of electricity. Additionally, because they do not have to work at full capacity, the pumps will last much longer. Our boilers, too, are state-of-the art, heating the pool at 98% efficiency—versus less than 50% in our old pool, and 65-70% in most typical newer units. We expect to see 15-20% savings in our natural gas bill just from this equipment. Finally, and probably most effectively, our thermal blankets have a dramatic effect on our energy use—as much as a 70% reduction in costs simply by trapping the heat in the water. —Brandon Perry, Director of Facilities Services, October 1, 2014