Head of School Message
When making hiring decisions and fine-tuning our school culture, we turn to our compass.
Even though it was only established a short time ago, our Strategic Direction has already become integral to every aspect of Parker. When we get turned around or go down an uncertain path, we know we have our compass to guide us back to the School’s true purpose.
MAKING PURPOSEFUL STRIDES
WHAT IS SCHOOL FOR?
The experiences of the last few years have revealed to us the many roles that school plays beyond academic learning. School is where students find support and stability during uncertain times. It’s where they play and explore. It’s where they build meaningful relationships and leadership skills. It’s where they lean into difficult topics with empathy and thoughtfulness. It's where they discover new passions and strengths.
School is where adolescents develop the skills and knowledge needed to navigate an increasingly difficult world. When we realized all of this, we knew we needed something to guide Parker’s way forward. Something that would align all of our decisions with our larger purpose—preparing our students with the skills and knowledge they need to embrace purposeful opportunities and live joyful lives. What we needed was a compass.
FINE-TUNING OUR COMPASS
Parker's Strategic Direction has become that compass, always pointing us toward our true north. When designing curriculum and program, we turn to our compass. When assessing investments and development of our campuses, we turn to our compass.
Our compass has already led us to important changes and developments at Parker, like establishing the Division of Integrative Programs (page 10); making tremendous strides in supporting student mental health and well-being (page 12); bolstering the School’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (page 16); and protecting and growing Parker’s financial position (page 20).
As Head of School, I am proud of every step we take forward, from the small to the monumental. It is truly a testament to the dedication of the entire community—from families and students to faculty and staff—that we are able to follow our compass every day. It is through your support that we are able to continue to strengthen the Parker experience.
GRATEFUL EVERY DAY
Thank you for your continued support as we follow our compass and for your continued understanding of any growing pains throughout the process.
The future at Parker is bright.
Warm regards,Kevin Yaley, Ph.D. Head of School
Designing a flexible approach to the School's strategic direction.
Ensuring a rich student experience before, during, and after the academic day.
Supporting the whole child—mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally.
Reaffirming a schoolwide commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Bolstering the financial stability and longevity of the School.
26 Community increasing access to education across the greater San Diego area.
Board of Trustees
Diana Casey, Board Chair
Jeannette Aldous, M.D.
Will Beamer ’89
Estela de Llanos
Francis Parker School
Kevin Yaley, Ph.D., Head of School Editors
Lori Biggs ’94, Shara Freeman Hoefel
Roxanne Holmes, Annemarie Kaya, Arleen Rasing, Melissa Russell
Bauman Photographers, BE Studios, Dale Edwards, Rachel Galante, Courtney Ranaudo
Lori Biggs ’94, Annemarie Kaya
Francis Parker School is an inclusive community where diversity is welcomed and celebrated. We seek talented students, families, faculty, and staff from different backgrounds. The School does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, creed, or national origin in the administration of its admissions, tuition assistance, employment determination, or other procedures or programs.
Inclusive Language Statement
Francis Parker School is committed to the use of inclusive language. This pledge extends to our communications. We practice the use of writing styles and language that are free from bias and sensitive to people’s abilities, disabilities, ethnic and racial designations, cultural differences, and gender identities.
Samir Singh ’96
Kate Deely Smith
Kirsten Solberg ’97
Kevin Yaley, Ph.D.
The mission of Francis Parker School is to create and inspire a diverse community of independent thinkers whose academic excellence, global perspective, and strength of character prepare them to make a meaningful difference in the world.
Parker Magazine is published once per year by the Marketing and Communications Office as a School community magazine. Address correspondence to:
Designing a flexible approach to our strategic direction.
When Parker’s leadership team sat down in July 2020 to imagine the next version of our strategic plan, we were struck once again by the significance and urgency of the ideas of our namesake. Colonel Francis W. Parker fundamentally believed that the work of the school is defined by the needs of society. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and new social, civil, and political influences, the Colonel’s words became our north star as we acknowledged the need to dramatically shift our focus, our priorities, and how we plan for the future.
Accepting the new normal of continued change and growth of society’s needs, we entered the planning process with a newfound commitment to flexibility and agility. Most significantly, we shifted from the traditional exercise of creating a “to-do” list for the next five years to a mindset of strategic flexibility—orienting our future goals, objectives, and ongoing initiatives within a framework untethered to strict timelines and specific outcomes.
Strategic flexibility is not a new concept. In fact, the business world applauds organizations that nimbly react to new influences and industry changes. The tech sector praises agile management and production techniques—promoting high-performing teams that combine ongoing innovation and disciplined execution. Even our curriculum teaches students about flexibility through design thinking concepts.
It was only natural that Parker as a whole should adopt a flexible, innovative workflow.
We established a fierce dedication to pursuing a different path and examining the School from both a high-level and a granular lens. And from there, we set sail, aware that our ultimate route would reveal itself one nautical mile at a time.
INNOVATION TAKES SHAPE
Admittedly, when we first raised our sails, it was challenging to avoid defaulting to our old way of planning. Even though we had changed the very foundation of our approach, the strong inclination to chart a specific course remained. We still felt called to rigidly define priority initiatives, specify action items, and design success metrics that would garner strong support from the ultimate approving body, the board of trustees.
Shifting from a strategic plan to a strategic approach leads to positive change and growth.
Assistant Head of School for JK-12 Strategic Initiatives Dan Lang ”
But as we tried to define discrete elements of the plan that would ultimately lead us to our destination, the more the growing unpredictability, instability, and uncertainty of the waters ahead prevented us from making concrete, definitive decisions.
Our “a-ha” moment came when we turned our attention away from the waters ahead and shifted to the boat on which we were standing. Rather than create a plan that tried to set a specific course through uncharted waters, we turned our focus to the vessel that would carry us through the currents.
Instead of trying to predict the needs of society both now and in the future, we chose to double down on what would endure no matter what the future held—the hull, the tiller, the rudder, the mast, and the sails. A commitment to fortifying our School as a whole would ensure that we effectively carried out our work even when faced with changing tides and unpredictable waves.
Rather than focus on sailing the boat, we would build a boat that could best sail itself.
DEVELOPING A STRONG FOUNDATION
The process of arriving at a dynamic, forward-facing strategic approach—our boat for the foreseeable future— took more than the leadership team's work. In fact, it involved nearly every member of the faculty, staff, and board of trustees.
We began our work by collaborating with visiting teams from the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) during our re-accreditation process in 2019. After an intensive assessment, the CAIS and WASC teams provided us with an honest and unbiased report of recommendations. Our team combined these findings with our own deep research—hosting focus groups, listening sessions, and feedback forums with families, faculty, staff, students, and other members of the Parker community.
The months of exploring feedback and recommendations through the lens of “what could be” culminated in our new strategic approach. Five agile themes were born that included the necessary flexibility to accommodate external influences, voices, ideas, trends, and perspectives and the unpredictable changes each might bring in the coming years.
After the final analysis, the team dubbed the collective themes “The Pursuit of Excellence: Parker’s Strategic Direction.” Our boat relies on the foundation created by these themes to navigate the current and future work of the School, although we remain fully prepared to turn the rudder or adjust our sails as we encounter what lies ahead.
During Parker’s 111 years as an educational institution, we realized that developing a solid foundation is only the first step toward growth and evolution. Since establishing the five themes of the strategic approach, we have begun the hard work of implementing these elements into our daily life and future plans. This Parker Magazine dives deep into initiatives under each pillar and how the Parker community is already making progress.
As we rededicate our focus to the words of our namesake Colonel Francis W. Parker, we ensure that our new strategic approach reflects market demand while maintaining the capacity to shift and readjust as the needs of society change.
Gone are the days of a rigid and frankly breakable strategic plan that left no room for risk and even less room for innovation.
As we continue to implement our five themes, further building the foundation of our boat, we have found great support from our community members. By balancing Parker's voices with outside, unbiased direction, our new programs and initiatives provide solutions and opportunities that address community needs in innovative, appreciated ways.
The global pandemic and the ever-shifting landscape spotlighted the fragility of uncompromising strategic plans. And while not without growing pains, shifting from a strategic plan to a strategic direction can lead to positive change and growth. It certainly has for our community.
Ensure Parker’s Financial and Operational Sustainability
Secure Parker’s Position as a Leading Educational Institution
Invest in State-of-the-Art Facilities for Parker’s Programs
INITIATIVE . Improve Technology to Meet Program Needs
Prioritize a Commitment to Parker’s Guiding Principles
Establish JK-12 Programmatic Alignment and Sustainability
Develop the Division of Integrative Programs
PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
INITIATIVE Center the Student, Parent, and Faculty Partnership
HEALTHY MINDS, HEALTHY BODIES
Elevate Physical Education and Athletic Programs
Support Student Mental Health and Wellness
Expand our Shared Duty of Care for Students
EQUITY & JUSTICE
THE NEEDS OF SOCIETY
Ensure Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging is an Integral Part of Parker’s Culture
Prioritize Inclusive Hiring and Recruitment Practices
FIVE MAJOR THEMES
Integrate Inclusive Curriculum and Programming
Leverage Parker Subject Matter Experts
Amplify Student Engagement in Real-World Experiences
Expand our Impact on Access to Education
The five themes of Parker’s strategic direction chart our path in pursuit of excellence. These themes serve as guideposts that direct our work strategically and tactically as we move forward as a School. These themes include:
Our commitment to creating and inspiring a healthy, collaborative culture, aligning Parker’s curriculum, programs, and practices.
Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies
A strengthening of support for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of Parker students, faculty, and staff.
The Needs of Society
Answering the charge to actualize Parker’s public purpose by developing meaningful partnerships and sharing knowledge with our local communities.
Lancers for Equity and Justice
Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) through deliberate and holistic efforts.
Our commitment to the research and design of institutional systems, processes, and plans that ensure Parker’s sustainability as a leading educational institution.
Lower School students enjoy sweet treats during the Halloween Carnival.
Ensuring a rich student experience before, during, and after the academic day.
While unique in many ways, one aspect differentiates Parker from most independent schools. Instead of three standard divisions—Lower, Middle, and Upper School—the Parker experience includes an important fourth division.
Initially established as a department, Integrative Programs evolved into a separate division two years ago as it began to manage more responsibilities and moving parts due to pandemic restrictions and processes. As we built Parker’s strategic direction, it became evident that further developing the division would be a key element moving forward.
The One Parker strategic theme focuses on developing this division. It ensures that the Parker student experience continues to be rich in program offerings before, during, and after the academic day.
The Division of Integrative Programs manages the in-between moments of student life. Among the initiatives that support students’ academic and social-emotional needs, the team oversees the Extended Day Programs, Summer at Parker, substitute teachers, and car line (student drop-off and pick-up).
“Our division bookends the day for every family,” explains Suzanne Barrow, Head of Integrative Programs. “We’re the first people kids and families see on our campuses every morning, and we’re the last people they see when they leave for the day.”
The now robust division provides a support piece to the community that was long overdue, allowing for a more streamlined and holistic student experience. The focus
of One Parker ensures that the Division of Integrative Programs will continue to collaborate with the other division heads and the leadership team to shape the future of the School. Here’s what they are up to this year.
EXTENDED DAY PROGRAMS
Parker’s Extended Day Programs allows students to explore new interests, receive academic support, strengthen social-emotional skills, and make meaningful connections with fellow students and teachers.
The Extended Day Program at the Mission Hills Campus includes a well-developed curriculum and programming, offering 12 enrichment classes each week to JK–Grade 5 students. The Linda Vista Campus program caters to maturing students, including time for homework, relaxing after the school day and before athletics, and hanging out with friends under safe supervision.
These programs extend the overall Parker experience for students as needed, providing more flexibility for families.
SUMMER AT PARKER
During Summer at Parker, students dive into new passions, sharpen skills, and get a jump start on the academic year. Parker welcomes all students from rising Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 to participate.
The program balances enrichment and academic activities with plentiful breaks for fun. Mornings are filled with classes and learning opportunities, and the afternoons are spent in a summer camp setting with games and team building.
Summer at Parker fills the time between the end of one academic year and the beginning of the next—providing continued learning and the chance for students to experience something new that they might not have the time for during the academic year.
During the pandemic, the department hired 45 associate teachers to ensure that the campuses remained functional as students cycled on and off campus and the entire community managed periods of peak absences.
In the post-pandemic era, hiring, onboarding, and managing substitute teachers is one of the most important ways the Division of Integrative Programs supports the Parker experience every day. This integral responsibility ensures that students’ days run smoothly and are free from hiccups caused by scheduling issues, absenteeism, or other unforeseen circumstances.
The car line tradition—complete with neon yellow vests worn by faculty and staff—began when Parker transitioned students back onto campus during the pandemic. Initially, the team used drop-off to check students’ daily Emocha Health results, allowing the School to minimize COVID-19 spread on the campuses.
Now, the Division employs faculty and staff volunteers to keep drop-off and pick-up running smoothly. True to the One Parker directive, car line helps every day start on the right path, setting the stage for an excellent student experience.
Under One Parker, the Division of Integrative Programs has exciting plans for the future. The Division hopes to expand the new Junior Counselor program that invites Parker Middle and Upper School students to volunteer at the extended day program on the Mission Hills Campus.
Similarly, this year the team will open Summer at Parker counselor positions to current Parker seniors who have turned eighteen. These new employment opportunities allow Parker students to experience the workforce in a familiar environment.
The team also plans to open the Linda Vista Campus to the community more often. For example, after the success of the recently piloted adult self-defense class, the Division hopes to invite assisted living residents to Campus to enjoy the facilities—whether to use the new Douglas Aquatic Center once completed or to participate in an enrichment course.
Middle School students consult class book notes to write their literary analyses.
Supporting the whole child—mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally.
HEALTHY MINDS, HEALTHY BODIES
While students' mental health has long been on Parker’s radar, the stress of the pandemic brought it even further into the spotlight. Thankfully, the School’s leadership team has been hard at work establishing and growing an adequate support system of mental health professionals and other resources.
Once a “nice to have” at academic institutions, mental health support is now a “must have,” and Parker has risen to the occasion by restructuring and growing its student support network over the past few years.
As part of the Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies strategic theme, the School deepened its commitment to supporting the whole child—mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally. This aspect of the strategic direction provides Parker students the emotional support they need to concentrate and apply themselves in an academically challenging environment, and assures that age-appropriate support and programming are available to every student.
EVOLVING TO MEET THE NEED
The School’s first step in supporting student mental health was hiring a head of student support. Dr. Bridgett Besinger joined Parker as the counselor and program manager for JK-Grade 12 and served in that capacity for a decade. She retired in 2022
As time went on, it became clear that in order to stay true to Parker’s value of putting students first, the School needed to bolster and broaden the structure of its student support services. One person managing a caseload across all divisions and shepherding the administrative side of the program was proving to be a monumental feat, even for someone as dedicated as Dr. Besinger.
“We wanted to separate the responsibilities of overseeing the program and being a direct counselor to the kids,” explains Dan Lang, Assistant Head of School for JK-12 Strategic Initiatives. “That meant looking at the staffing structure and asking, 'if we start with students first, what do we really need here?'”
In alignment with the new Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies strategic direction, Parker's leadership team concluded that students would be best supported through an individual counselor for each division in combination with someone to oversee the entire program—growth that would require a large investment of resources to achieve.
“We decided if we really wanted to build a wellness program, we had to first hire professionals who were experts in their area. That was the biggest investment,” Head of School Kevin Yaley, Ph.D. reflects. “We invested heavily in people, in terms of time, and we found ways to include this work in the daily schedules of the kids.”
True to the strategic direction, the School now offers a mental health counselor at each academic division—Lower, Middle, and Upper School—and the entire program is overseen by a separate staff member. The Parker leadership team looked far and wide for the right person to fill Dr. Besinger’s shoes when she retired, someone who could handle the administrative aspect of both the wellness and the academic resource sides of student support while optimizing the entire program.
“We are super lucky because we found that person,” Dan says, speaking of Dr. Megan Story Hallam, the new Head
There is so much collaboration at Parker that no part of our work feels like it’s happening by itself. It’s really thoughtful and reflective. We’re thinking of the whole child.”
Head of Student Support and Wellness
Dr. Megan Story Hallam
of Student Support and Wellness who joined the School in 2022 . A great fit for Parker’s needs, Megan had previously created a similar position at two other schools. On arrival, she performed a complete evaluation of the student support program, finding ways to increase its effectiveness and ensure access for all students.
“I’ve been really excited to do the work in other schools, and Parker has so many amazing resources,” Megan testifies. “There is so much collaboration at Parker that no part of our work feels like it’s happening by itself. It’s really thoughtful and reflective. We’re thinking of the whole child.”
With Megan’s hiring, the restructuring process is complete. Now in alignment with the Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies strategic direction, the program can focus on fine-tuning its offerings and supporting Parker students across all aspects of their social-emotional growth.
It's no secret that student mental health diagnoses have risen, exacerbated by the challenges and difficulties of the pandemic. Thankfully, the stigma around mental health has decreased in recent years. “Students are more likely to selfadvocate as well as be open to support,” says Megan.
Even in light of this cultural shift, supporting student wellness still requires a collaborative effort between the School and Parker parents. “It’s always going to be a collaboration because the School is not in a position to make a diagnosis,” Megan reminds the community. “We are always going to be working with families as part of a larger team.”
Similarly, if it becomes apparent that a student requires further support, the team maintains many external partnerships. “We can connect parents to different community liaisons, psychologists, or evaluators,” Megan explains. “We see connecting parents to external support as part of our role because that can be really challenging to navigate as a parent.”
While there are limitations to what Parker can provide for students in terms of mental health and wellness support, the team is available to answer questions and work with parents to guide them on the next best steps.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Now firmly in place, Parker's student support and wellness department will focus on deepening the program’s impact on the everyday classroom experience.
“I see the program evolving so that it’s not a separate piece that students only come to when they need support,” Megan elaborates. “Rather, the team will grow to work closely with faculty at all times and the community at large to really build a culture of wellness at Parker.”
Similarly, the program is committed to continuing to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health while simultaneously increasing student-wide understanding. Mental health counselor offices are located in high-traffic areas of each division on both campuses to normalize visiting them. Teachers are educated on how to address issues within their classrooms and how to identify when to bring in support. And the student support team regularly attends faculty meetings to answer questions and provide advice.
“We are going to continue to make sure we have the people, resources, and programming in place to ensure that our students feel well,” Megan emphasizes.
The School is fully dedicated to supporting the whole child—mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally—in a collaborative way to allow students to truly thrive.
The team will grow to work closely with faculty at all times and the community at large to really build a culture of wellness at Parker.
Head of Student Support and Wellness
Dr. Megan Story Hallam
Girls varsity soccer team celebrates a win during their standout season.
Reaffirming a schoolwide commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
A strategic theme close to the community’s heart, Lancers for Equity and Justice outlines guidance on how Parker will advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) through deliberate and holistic efforts.
This directive ensures that DEIB is central to every level of the School’s organization and an integral part of decisionmaking. It supports student academic success and wellbeing through a sense of belonging, and it works to help students see their identities reflected back to them in Parker teachers, coaches, advisors, administrators, and staff.
While there is still much to be done, Parker has already taken significant steps to uplift DEIB work at the School and establish a community-wide commitment to it. Here are a few ways the School is making progress in advancing DEIB through student education, faculty and staff education, parent education, and student support.
DAY OF UNDERSTANDING
In 2015, Parker student Marisa Turner ’ 17 had an idea for an event that would promote DEIB growth, and she reached out to the newly hired Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Christen Tedrow-Harrison to make it happen. Eight years later, the Upper School Day of Understanding has become a staple of the Parker community and a graduation requirement.
The one-day conference includes, on average, 26 workshops run by Parker students, faculty, staff, and outside presenters; a keynote speaker; and a variety of films and documentaries, all of which explore topics under the umbrella of DEIB. Each Day of Understanding ends with a celebration; last year, the celebration included the unveiling of the student-created Martin Luther King Jr. mural on the Linda Vista Campus.
Past workshops included "Allyship and Understanding Dominant Identity," "Managing Racial Stress," and "Advocating for LGBTQ+ Equity in Schools." More than half the workshops in 2023 were led by student presenters. Past keynote speakers include diversity speaker and trainer Rosetta Lee, racial stress and trauma expert and professor Dr. Howard C. Stevenson, and author and transgender advocate Alex Myers.
The program develops student leaders who engage with the world around them with empathy, understanding, and cultural humility and leave it more equitable and just. Participating in the event during all four years of Upper School helps students grow their self-awareness and the intercultural competence needed to live in a multicultural society.
Now solidified as a Parker tradition, the Upper School Day of Understanding will continue to develop leadership skills within the School and promote a greater understanding of DEIB across the community.
Every year, faculty and staff at Parker participate in several professional development days. Over the last four years, the DEIB team has worked tirelessly to guide Parker faculty and staff through training on racial literacy during these growthcentered opportunities.
Racial literacy training explores one overarching theme— the understanding that we are all racial beings and how we understand our own racial identity impacts how we interact with other human beings. Understanding this theme helps educators as they assess their curriculum, classrooms, representations, and language from a racially literate perspective.
As a result of these trainings, faculty and staff have been able to critically examine the representations shared in readings, films, and activities and to become more cognizant of the language used in their classrooms. Even nonhumanities subjects like math and science have integrated these ideas into their coursework.
Faculty and staff across Parker now have the tools and resources to think critically about the frameworks, coded behaviors, and implicit biases that might have previously been accepted as the norm. Professional development days will continue to include DEIB training to support Parker’s commitment to creating a sense of belonging for the entire community.
“WINDOWS, MIRRORS, AND COFFEE” BOOK CLUB
Launched in November 2020, the “Windows, Mirrors, and Coffee” (WMC) Book Club aims to connect parents from diverse backgrounds through shared experiences and conversations that stem from book discussions. The group was originally established for Lower School parents by Associate Director of DEIB at the Lower School Veronica Scott and Lower School Culturally Responsive Literacy Specialist Rebecca Bellingham.
“Windows and mirrors” is a phrase coined by educator Rudine Sims Bishops. It was chosen as the book club’s moniker with the belief that children—and their parents—need exposure to books that provide windows into the diverse experiences of other people, times, and places, as well as mirrors that honor and reflect their own lived experiences.
In its second year, the book club expanded to include parents across all divisions. Veronica and Rebecca choose different books for Lower, Middle, and Upper School families as well as books for everyone to read and discuss. After the meetings, parents are encouraged to share the books with their children and create a space for courageous conversations about DEIB.
Over the past several years, the DEIB team at Parker has established and fostered student affinity groups across both campuses. Affinity groups provide support for students as they explore identity development in relation to various identity markers.
These groups include NIA (Nurture, Inspire, Achieve) which supports Black, African American, multiracial, and transracial adoptees across all divisions; SPEAK (Shaping Peer Empowerment; Advocating Knowledge) which supports first-generation college-bound Latin@/x/e* students at the Upper School; and the Gender Sexuality Alliance, which supports LGBTQ+ students at the Upper School.
Faculty and staff members serve as group facilitators and go through training to better understand themselves and their own identity and how to best support students. These group leaders create lessons that walk students through identity development with the goal of meeting six to ten times each year.
Affinity groups bolster a feeling of belonging for Parker students—a key value of the School’s community. And while they work to support racial identity development, the groups also honor individuality.
The DEIB team is working on expanding and adding affinity groups and hopes to extend the programming to Parker alumni as well.
Middle and Upper School students, faculty, and staff gather for the Convocation ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the new academic year.
Bolstering the financial stability and longevity of the School.
One of the most integral pillars of Parker’s strategic direction is aptly named Future Forward. Centered on the stability and longevity of the School, Future Forward focuses on researching and designing institutional systems, processes, and plans that ensure Parker’s sustainability as a leading educational system.
Although only one piece of the direction, Parker’s financial stability is a topic that often draws the interest of parents, donors, and other supporters of the School. Those that support the community understandably want to know if their investments are safe, stable, and stewarded appropriately.
In alignment with Future Forward, the financial team partnered with Head of School Kevin Yaley, Ph.D. to review and improve the school’s budgeting, reporting, review, and forecasting practices. Ensuring long-term financial stability came down to two important financial elements—the School’s budgeting model and the School’s endowment. Specifically, transitioning to a five-year budgeting model and growing the School’s endowment have greatly contributed to the ultimate goals of this pillar. These two recent endeavors have already proved effective at securing Parker’s financial future.
STABILITY AND FLEXIBILITY
Kevin explains, “We need to think five years down the road because the decisions we make today in terms of the budget will have an impact in the subsequent years.”
One of the most significant financial changes that Parker has undergone in recent years, transitioning from a one-year to a five-year budgeting model provides more stability and flexibility while helping those involved to plan and manage interconnected needs across divisions and programs.
The Parker financial team found that a one-year financial model offered insight only into the six months ahead. By the time budget requests were reviewed and approved, the team found themselves already halfway through the year. After establishing Parker’s strategic direction, it became clear that this short time frame did not align with the goals of Future Forward.
Enter the five-year budgeting model. “The main benefit of a five-year budgeting plan is to map out the financial resources to support the strategic direction of the school,” states Dan Lang, Assistant Head of School for JK-12 Strategic Initiatives.
We take the dollars that parents and other supporters invest very seriously, and we steward those dollars as best we can.
Head of School
Kevin Yaley, Ph.D.
This longer-term view encourages Parker decision-makers to ask, “What does this program or endeavor look like in five years?” and then work backward to what they need today. This approach allows people to see what steps to take now in terms of financials and budgeting to achieve the strategic plans of their department, team, program, or the School in general.
With the recently started Parker Forward construction project, this new budgeting model allowed Parker's financial leadership team to plan for the School’s financial needs and anticipate future increased costs stemming from the programs and upkeep associated with the expanded Silberman Student Life Center, gymnasium, and pool. The five-year perspective allowed the bank to confirm the School’s long-term planning and thus loan Parker the necessary funds at a very favorable fixed rate of 2 . 5%. The financial team was able to avoid the exorbitant and continually growing interest rates of today’s market.
While not fully implemented yet, the transition to a longer-term budgeting model has sparked useful conversations—encouraging Parker faculty, staff, and administrators to look beyond their immediate needs and focus on growth and working together.
GROWING PARKER’S ENDOWMENT
Along with the new budgeting model, the financial team identified growing the School’s endowment as another important opportunity to support Parker’s strategic direction. “The endowment hugely strengthens the balance sheet for the School. It gives us a resource to support ongoing programming and innovation so we don't have to always rely on tuition," shares Assistant Head of School for External Relations Shara Freeman Hoefel.
Every year, Parker draws down from the endowment fund to fill the gap between tuition and the cost of running the School. Bolstering financial stability, the endowment drawdown at Parker is a conservative 3. 5% annually—most independent schools, colleges, and universities typically have a drawdown closer to 5%.
“The goal is to grow the gap between what it costs to educate a child at Parker and the amount of tuition we use,” Kevin states. “One way to grow the gap is to grow the endowment. Growing the endowment means you have more money to draw down and put into the operating budget, meaning we can rely less on tuition.”
Growing the Parker endowment is well underway and will continue to be a long-term strategic goal of the School. Ten years ago, the Parker endowment fund was at approximately $10 million. As of the end of 2022 , the endowment contains more than $ 40 million.
Augmenting the endowment supports the Future Forward theme by boosting the stability of Parker’s financials. The more the fund grows, the less dependent the School is on tuition and the more independent the School becomes from outside sources of potential volatility.
PARKER’S FINANCIAL STATUS IN RELATION TO GLOBAL FINANCIAL STABILITY
As the economic realities continue to become more unpredictable, Parker’s financial status remains solid. The School’s conservative financial approach has paid off over the years—Parker has historically remained unaffected by recessions and other financial fluctuations.
“We are in a very solid position to weather whatever lies ahead,” Kevin states. “We are locked into low-term debt, we have sufficient cash reserves, we have emergency funds, and we don’t spend in excess or unnecessarily.”
Parker has a strong repeat customer base and very low attrition rates. Since the School has tuition as its primary financial resource, it is able to meet its expected annual expenses. One potential sense of financial uncertainty in the face of a recession occurs if current families suddenly find themselves unable to afford or unwilling to pay tuition.
“We have a strong waiting list, we have strong applications, and the value of a Parker education remains high enough that we haven’t seen a drop in our retention in recent years,” says Director of Admissions and Financial Assistance Chris Sanders. “Even when the economy gets tighter, the families who are here are choosing to invest their dollars in Parker.”
Parents, donors, and other supporters of the School can be assured that Parker makes every effort to safeguard their investment and to continue to provide a quality studentsfirst education and community. Reworking the budgeting model, growing the endowment, and, overall, working toward the objectives of the Future Forward campaign will ensure that Parker’s legacy remains stable for years to come.
The goal is to grow the gap between what it costs to educate a child at Parker and the amount of tuition we use.
Head of School Kevin Yaley, Ph.D.
THE STRATEGIC DIRECTION
Sixty hours of literacy and math; 540 minutes of life-saving swim instruction; 10 field trips; 45 hours of electives. These are just a few opportunities that students in the Horizons at Francis Parker School program soak up during their sixweek summer learning experience and meet-ups during the school year.
The ultimate goal is to promote all Horizons at Parker students year after year and have them graduate from the program after completing their Grade 8 year.
The program guides students as they set academic and social-emotional goals and provides opportunities to build the skills needed to reach them. But perhaps most importantly, Horizons at Parker aims to build a joy of learning throughout the greater San Diego community.
ADVANCING EDUCATIONAL EQUITY
A nationwide network across over 70 program sites, Horizons works to put students on a path to success by advancing educational equity. One hundred percent of Horizons students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch, and 75% perform below grade level at point of entry.
Day-to-day activities include project-based learning, literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), music, and art studies; field trips to local institutions; swim lessons and swim time; lessons in healthy living, including sports and movement; and confidence and community building
experiences. These out-of-school experiences focus on minimizing the gap in education and resources while establishing a deep love of learning.
In the summer of 2021, Horizons at Francis Parker School welcomed its first class of 15 kindergarten students from Nye Elementary. The following summer, the program expanded its partnership to include Valencia Park Elementary and welcomed an additional 30 students. The chapter will continue adding a new kindergarten class of 15 students each year, reaching 135 students by summer 2029
Head of Horizons at Parker Erika Assadi
“There are a lot of programs that seek to support students, but what makes Horizons unique is the long-term partnership,” Head of Horizons at Parker Erika Assadi states. By making multi-year commitments to students and families, Horizons at Parker extends the likelihood of having a long-term impact on these students and the community as a whole.
“The ultimate goal is to promote all Horizons at Parker students year after year and have them graduate from the program after completing their Grade 8 year,” Erika states.
PARKER'S PUBLIC PURPOSE
The Strategic Direction identifies the Needs of Society as a theme intimately tied to the School’s values. This pillar actualizes Parker’s public purpose through the development of meaningful partnerships and through sharing knowledge with the local community.
After a thorough review of options, it became clear that establishing and growing a Horizons chapter at Parker was an excellent opportunity to support the San Diego community. It was also timely. Research continues to highlight the detrimental impact of the pandemic on learning loss and retention, and there was no time like the present to provide a program like Horizons that focuses on students’ academic, social, and emotional recovery and success.
“We are in an educational crisis in this country, and Horizons at Parker allows us to be part of the solution,” Erika says. “We are impacting the future of our society by supporting students in early childhood.”
In two short years, students in the Horizons at Parker program have already achieved impressive academic and social-emotional goals.
Literacy rates are up 14-27% (depending on the class), with average student literacy at 84% according to the STAR assessments used to measure progress. Similarly, math progress has increased by 14-68% across classes and concepts, with average scores between 73-86%. The STAR model describes Secure Mastery as scores of 80% or higher.
Similarly, 100 % of Kindergarten students increased their knowledge of high-frequency words by at least one grade level. Nine out of 15 Kindergarten students began the program at an “urgent intervention, intervention, or onwatch” status for literacy. But by the end of the summer, 14 out of 15 students were at or above grade level.
And while the numbers are remarkable, parent feedback sheds even more light on student growth. A Grade 1 parent reflects, “My son has already started this school year with much more confidence and is well prepared for first grade. He is able to sit and pay attention to instructions well. He wasn’t able to do this last year!”
Overall, 100 % of parents/guardians reported being “completely satisfied” with their child’s summer experience.
“While we went into it knowing that Horizons chapters have had a lot of success, it was astonishing to see the impact the students gain from this experience in person,” says Erika. “Even more important, the students are falling in love with learning, and that’s been something we’re really proud of.”
As a non-profit program, community involvement is essential to Horizons. The School provides facilities and in-kind support; volunteers, donors, local partners, and foundation grants keep the program tuition free. Philanthropic gifts to Horizons at Parker allows the program to be tailored to each student’s individual needs and interests; it is approximately $6, 500 to educate one student a year. “Every dollar that’s raised is invested in students,” says Erika.
Volunteers support day-to-day activities during the summer program and Saturday meet-ups throughout the school year. Parker Upper School students also enjoy getting involved; robotics club members teach coding, and others share their athletic passions and provide academic support.
Erika also emphasizes the importance of spreading the word. “By talking about Horizons, we help to mitigate inequalities in the education system and increase understanding about the availability of resources students need to achieve their goals and be prepared for life after high school.”
Right now, the program partners with two local schools— Nye Elementary and Valencia Park Elementary—and will add a new kindergarten class each year. By 2030, Horizons at Parker will have its first graduating Grade 8 class, and over 150 students will have received opportunities that support their path to economic stability and personal well-being.
In the long term, the program will expand its impact across the greater San Diego area. “We hope to create a city-wide organization called Horizons San Diego, with Parker being just one of those affiliate sites,” Erika explains. “Our goal is to provide enough no-cost community resources to ensure that the opportunity gap and educational gap is lessened year after year.”
THE JOY OF LEARNING
Horizons students experience new challenges, collaborate with one another, make friends, have fun, and build new skills, all while working to achieve their own goals.
Perhaps most important, students are provided a space to fall in love with learning. “Inspiring a joy of learning is in both Parker’s and Horizon’s vision,” Erika says. As Horizons at Parker continues to grow, the program will continue to use the Needs of Society strategic direction as a guidepost as it builds access to education for students across the San Diego community.
Head of School Kevin Yaley, Ph.D. Receives
CASE District VII CEO Leadership Award
Head of School Kevin Yaley, Ph.D., was honored with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
District VII Chief Executive Officer Leadership Award. CASE established the award in 1999 to honor institutional leaders for their outstanding contributions to their campus communities, their support of advancement at their institutions, and for their outstanding efforts to promote a public understanding and support of education.
Language, Culture, and Identity Week
Lower School celebrated Language, Culture, and Identity Week. This year's theme was "Celebrating Together."
Parker Student Publication The Scribe Wins Awards
For the second year in a row, Parker's Upper School studentdriven publication The Scribe earned the American Scholastic Press Association (ASPA) "National High School Magazine of the Year" and "First Place with Special Merit" awards.
Parker Magazine Wins Brilliance Award
Parker’s Marketing and Communications Department was awarded the InspirED School Marketers Gold Brilliance Award for Magazine
Overall Design for its Spring 2022 issue. The award recognizes inspiring examples of independent school marketing and communications work worldwide.
Spirit of Excellence Award
Faculty and staff are honored for going above and beyond in their support of students and colleagues with the Award.
Celebrating Arts Students
Five National Art Honor Society and Parker Ceramic Club students received accolades for their 2023 arts achievements.
A roundup of events, highlights, and good news from around the School
Poetry Week Welcomed U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón
Parker welcomed U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón to the Linda Vista Campus in March 2023 for the School’s annual Poetry Week celebration.
Grandparents and Special Friends Days
For the first time since 2019, Parker hosted Grandparents and Special Friends Days in person for the Lower School in Nov. 2022 and the Middle and Upper School in Feb. 2023.
Parker Hosts Annual Pollyanna Conference
Pollyanna conference engages a broad and diverse community of educational leaders whose perspectives and experiences will bolster our collective efforts to identify best practices and real-world strategies and solutions to support our students living and leading in a wonderfully diverse and global society.
Global Programs and Discovery Week Travel
Global perspective is an important part of Parker’s mission that is experienced by students during our travel programs in Middle and Upper School. This year, Upper School programs visited Alaska, Argentina, Kenya, Morocco, and Singapore. Middle School programs traveled to Costa Rica, France, New Zealand, and Singapore.
Lancers Return for Alumni-Student Games
Parker hosted the Alumni-Student Games at the Linda Vista Campus in Jan. 2023. Parker alumni, current students, friends, and families joined the inaugural games to play or cheer on their teams.
Robotics team leaders show new club members how to safely use the lab equipment and tools.
HEAD OF SCHOOL CIRCLE RECEPTION
Diana Casey, Board Chair and Parker parent, graciously hosted the Head of School Circle Reception at her home in fall 2022 . Donors gathered together for an evening of live music, delicious food and drink, and wonderful conversation. The reception honors donors who have taken a leadership role in their support of Parker.
JOIN TEAM parker forward
by june 30www.parkerforward.com/give
MAKE YOUR MARK home of the lancers donor wall
Parker families have the unique opportunity to add their family name or student’s name to the Home of the Lancers donor wall with a gift of $2,024 per name (or $1,000 special pricing for alumni, juniors, and seniors). This donor wall will be prominently featured on the main entrance of the Silberman Student Life Center.
The Vassiliadis Family Million Dollar Challenge
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SUMMER AT PARKER Track Offerings
Every student is unique. Summer at Parker provides a plethora of course options to engage, inspire, and enrich the learning experience across three tracks.
Each track is three weeks in length; students may choose a different track for each session (Session I, Session II, and Session III). This allows students to experience a variety of summer courses while also remaining with the same group of students during a given session.
Learn more at www.francisparker.org/summer