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Ad Summum Volume 1, Issue 2

November 2013

Strategic Planning: At the Heart of School Excellence


n my office, I have a painting of a ship under full sail with a following breeze. Clearing skies push the storm clouds to the horizon as the windjammer makes steady progress on a set course to its destination. Just as a ship must, so, too, must a school chart its course if it is to reach its destination, no matter how distant or challenging. Where are the shoals? Are there tides and currents that push and tug at the vessel? Is the weather stormy or clear? Is the right crew in place? Is it the right season to set sail, and are the moon, the planets, and the stars in alignment? Most importantly, of course, what is the destination, and what is the next port of call? At The Kew-Forest School we have institutionalized a process of strategic planning that charts the School’s journey in three to four year increments. As a direct result, in the last four years we have improved Faculty salaries and increased funding for Faculty professional development to retain and attract top-tier Faculty; implemented an Early Childhood Development Program (ages 3 and 4) and English as a Second Language; developed and implemented educational travel opportunities in the Upper School; and determined and hired the senior administrative staff necessary to operate effectively and maximize management and instructional effectiveness. Additionally, we have continued rehabilitation of the physical plant, including basic maintenance and Union Turnpike façade restoration; developed an effective Admissions Office, increased funding

for marketing and public relations, and created increased demand for the Kew-Forest brand; and, developed balanced budgets and maintained hard income at or above 98 percent of all expenses while building a plant replacement, renewal, and maintenance fund, replenished cash reserves to 7.5 percent of our operating budget, and incurred no indebtedness, to name a few. Working with Independent School Management, an organization that works with over 3,000 independent schools worldwide, Kew-Forest has spent much of 2013 laying the foundation for this week’s Strategic Planning Retreat. Preparation for the current planning cycle includes the most ambitious and comprehensive evaluation yet of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, one that includes separate, anonymous surveys of current parents, students from Grades 5 through 12, the Faculty, the administration, and the Board of Trustees. For the first time, these paper surveys will be complemented by a series of in-person Faculty and Parent Focus Groups led by ISM Senior Consultant Terry Moore on Thursday and Friday, November 21 and 22. Mr. Moore will then meet with the Board and the senior educational administration all day on Saturday, November 23, and with the Executive Committee and me on Sunday. By Monday evening, November 25, a final draft of the 2014-18 Strategic and Strategic Financial Plans will go to the entire Board for review and approval.

— Headmaster Mark Fish, Ed.M.

Just as a ship must, so, too, must a school chart its course if it is to reach its destination, no matter how distant or challenging. With clear goals set and resources dedicated to them, the new Strategic Plans will chart a course for The Kew-Forest School that will propel it to its Centennial in 2018 and beyond. I look forward to sharing that plan with you and, then, with a steady hand on the wheel, continuing this journey together. Thank you to all for contributing to this process.


ditor’s Note: As a reminder, Ad Summum regularly features an article from Headmaster Mark Fish, alternating Board of Trustees or Parent Association news, and a profile on a teacher, a program, and a student.

— James David, Director of Institutional Advancement

PA News: Community Building and the Faculty Gift Fund

On behalf of the The Kew-Forest School Parent Association (PA), season greetings. I can’t believe it is already the end of the first quarter and that we are rapidly approaching the holiday season. The PA has had a very productive start! Our goal for this year is to strengthen our sense of community. To that end, we have hosted many successful community events – Parent Cocktail Receptions, Garden Day, Pumpkin Decorating Party and Potluck Bingo Night, to name a few. With the holiday season now upon us, I wanted to remind parents of my invitation to all families to make a one-time gift of $110 (suggested – your gift amount is

confidential) per enrolled child for all of our Faculty/Staff appreciation efforts this year. Every member of the Faculty & Staff will be acknowledged. This is a gift collection only, thoughtfully organized by fellow parents. Though encouraged, you are not obligated to participate. We use the funds to provide morning breakfast treats, a birthday cake celebration, and a gift in December and June with a card listing the names of the families that have participated, and a cake during National Teacher Appreciation Week. For me, this is a great way to show appreciation to everyone in the school who touches my childrens’ lives. I have three kids enrolled at K-F and, between them,

they have more than 15 teachers, plus all the staff and administrators that support them daily – the people that run the school, welcome them in the morning, make their lunches and snacks in the afternoon, and clean their classrooms when they are home. Each of them receives a personal thank you and a gift from my contribution. Please visit FacultyGift to learn how to contribute to the Faculty Gift Fund. I hope that all of you will join us for our next event – The Gingerbread House Decorating Party on December 4th. — Amy D’Amato, P ’18, ’19, ’21 Parent Association President

Amy Byrnes: Student-Centered Teaching

After working in six schools, some as far away as Switzerland and Japan, Fourth Grade Teacher Amy Byrnes now finds a new home during her first year at The Kew-Forest School. While teaching at Lycée Français de New York, she met Headmaster Mark Fish and Lower School Dean Katie Rayer at a job fair. Upon

The Kew-Forest School

By the Numbers:

meeting, she noted that both had a clear set of values and vision for the position, which Ms. Byrnes really respected. In describing her approach to teaching, Ms. Byrnes explains she is a realist. “I like to teach things that matter,” she said. “I like to find student-centered ways for kids to develop their own opinions. I prune things out here and there. If it does not make kids empowered, I contemplate if I should bring it to them.” For Ms. Byrnes, academics are at the forefront of her teaching. In Fourth Grade, the students undertake a lot of writing and work that sharpens their critical-thinking skills, which builds off of the preparation they had the year before. As she is prioritizing learning, she


Cans collected during the Food Drive

underscores her care for the whole child. She says, “I want to help the little diamonds grow into the sparkling ones that they can be. I want to have those conversations that spur emotional growth and celebrate life as they grow and mature.” Ms. Byrnes enjoys the School’s diverse community and extremely supportive Administration, but points to school size as being one of the highlights of Kew-Forest. “There is something special about the size of the school,” she said. “I am coming from a school where there were 1400 kids, but here at Kew-Forest, I know all the kids’ names. It’s important to be able to stand outside of the classroom, recognize each child and help them start and end their day in a warm way.”


Students dedicated their time at the Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP)


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Akilia Jackson ’15: Finding Yourself

Akilia Jackson ’15 is an active participant in Model UN and Mock Trial, as well as a member of the Girls Volleyball Team. Entering The Kew-Forest School in seventh grade, she knew this was the high school that she wanted to attend. “I’ve been able to develop and focus on the individual I am going to become. You have a stronger sense of who you are, but who you are as part of a community.” Akilia


has fantastic things to say about her relationship with the Faculty at Kew-Forest. “You have your teacher-student relationship, but you get to the point where you have a mentor-student relationship.” Akilia says that she has been able to nurture her curiosity criticalthinking skills because of the faculty. “Reasoning is something that’s a part of me and I didn’t realize it, so now it’s coming out. Even in history, I’m reasoning. I’m not just accepting something as fact. I’m thinking and I’m challenging ideas. I think that’s more important than memorizing, and that is something that is going to be a part of me, even as I go into the real world.” Although she is in her Junior year, Akilia has already started thinking about college. “It’s definitely a college preparatory school. Classes are challenging, and I feel like I know that once I go on to

Visitors Attending Grandparents and Special Friends Day


college, it can’t be any harder than Kew-Forest. I know things I want to continue in college. I’ve been able to figure out my interests. I have direction.” Akilia’s final thoughts about her time at Kew-Forest are a reflection of the community at the School. “There are so many kinds of people. Being in this small school, it’s like being in this perfect little place where you can interact with so many different people. I think at a time where you’re still developing, and still learning who you are, it should be taken at a much calmer pace. If I were to send my kid here, I would, because I don’t want them to be overwhelmed, I want them to actually take time and look at who they are.” To read the full transcript of our interview with Kew-Forest Junior Akilia Jackson, visit

Final score of the Championship Soccer Game


Thankful mobiles created in buddy pairings

119-17 Union Turnpike Forest Hills, NY 11375

Welcoming Grandparents & Special Friends For the first time in many years, The Kew-Forest School was pleased to host Grandparents and Special Friends Day. Visitors from near and far had the opportunity to spend time with our students, both in the classroom and in the Gym for an all-school craft project. Kew-Forest is looking forward to hosting this event annually for years to come.

November Ad Summum Newsletter Draft