State of the School February 10, 2011
Good evening and thank you for coming here this evening. Tonight, I want to start out by thanking everyone for our most successful auction in the history of the School. It was a demonstration of a community coming together for the success of O’Neal. It involved parents, past parents, local businesses, past board members and people with no affiliation with the School beyond an appreciation for what O’Neal does for this community. I want to thank the faculty and staff for all of their hard work and continued efforts to maintain the excellent reputation of the School. We have weathered a great storm that encompassed the world. We are seeing signs that maybe our storm is dissipating. The pre-kindergarten is full with a waiting pool in both the three’s and four’s. At the Open House last month, we had our largest turnout in years of families interested in The O'Neal School across all divisions. While these are great signs, you are still our best salespeople for the School. At the Alumni basketball game during homecoming week, we had participants representing classes from 1995 to 2010. Homecoming was a packed house alive with excitement. The Class of 2001 came home in November to revisit their alma mater and catch up on good times spent on this campus and marveled at the new look of the campus. Last spring O'Neal performed its first full theatrical production in the new theater. You will see two plays this spring, one from the Upper School and the other from the Middle School. Lower School classes have been performing on the stage all year long as an introduction to being on stage and in front of an audience. We have some really good natural actors in the Lower School who are at home on stage at this age. The athletics programs have had a great year so far. Middle School won both the soccer and volleyball tournaments in the fall. The boys and girls both won their first round in the Middle School tournament yesterday. Varsity boys’ soccer went to the state playoffs. This season saw the return of Don Woodfield to the basketball courts as head coach of the varsity girls’ team. Our swim team continues to dominate across the region. I see the O’Neal name and its students more and more in the newspaper. *Articles about the first day of school *Athletics *Prefects *Students involved in activities outside of school People are able to see and read about the good things happening at The O'Neal School.
Many of our seniors have been accepted to college and to their first or second choice. We launched the new website this year. It takes time to integrate something like that into a school culture and I am very pleased with the progress of it. We will continue to explore ways to utilize the website in our lives. I have started a blog that is available off the main page under The ‘ABOUT” tab. My first entry will be a transcript of this address. We are preparing for the 5 year SACS/SAIS reaccreditation visit at the end of March. Jim Miles has led the way on this endeavor and I am confident we will have a great report from these agencies. Recently I sent out a letter explaining our current challenges still facing the School. Enrollment is down from past years. We continue to evaluate and re-evaluate every dollar spent. Our programs and our faculty continue to be the highest priorities. We will continue our efforts to increase enrollment and reduce attrition. We will stay to our model and only accept those who are mission appropriate, those families who want what you want in an education experience. Private school is not for everyone and neither is public school. We are an option, an alternative experience. The Board of Trustees and I work diligently to keep tuition manageable and accessible for families. We are aggressive in our financial assistance and work with families to make O’Neal an option for them across all income levels. That said, we are a tuition driven school. Our endowment is very modest. Tuition is what pays for the quality of our programs, facilities upkeep, the education, and the faculty. More mission appropriate students make us stronger than we already are right now. We need your help in finding those families that can help enhance our school and reflect better the community at large. The other issue facing the School is the outstanding debt on the new facilities. We did successfully restructure the debt this past fall to reduce some of the burden on the school. Aggressive major gift fundraising efforts will continue as we address the debt annually. These two challenges go hand in glove. More students help reduce the pressure of the debt on the school. I already spoke about the encouraging news about the current admissions season. The other good news was the announcement of the BRADSHAW CHALLENGE. Jean and Stan Bradshaw answered my call and have offered to match all gifts and pledges to the school in the Capital Building Fund up to JUNE 30th. They challenge the O’Neal community to give 1 dollar so they can help make it 2 dollars. We currently have received over $45,000 in unmatched funds. This is a wonderful gift, an exciting opportunity for all of us to make a difference right now in the School. I want to thank the Bradshaw’s for coming forward for the school not only for students today but for their children in the future. We are celebrating our 40th birthday next year. With continued support like the Bradshaw’s and other families, we will be here in another 40 years stronger than ever. What is on the horizon for The O'Neal School? The Future…NOW
There is a great conversation between Alice and the Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland… Alice: “One can’t believe impossible things.” Queen: “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” “When I was your age I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” We are on the verge of the impossible, a true “paradigm shift” and this shift will be developmentally healthy for children. Independent Schools have always led the way in education. We will be no different. The O'Neal School will be an example of a 21st Century school. Every nation on the planet is reforming education. Why? EconomicsCompetiveness How? By improving what we have always done in the past. It is like putting heated seats in a car or adding an iPod player where the tape deck went. What do the vast majority of schools look like today? Well, much like they did 100 years ago but with more stuff. What was the last “Game changer” in education? Introduction of the Blackboard to the U.S in 1846. Schools took out the tables. Educators went to Prussia to learn from the best system in the world. The column method was introduced using desks facing front with a lone teacher and a blackboard. Nothing has changed since. All are variations. The purpose of education was to enable children to enter into the workforce as young adults and be productive to the best of their ability. Schools determine what needs to be learned in order be succeed in that purpose and at what age and in what single subjects. Therefore education today has 4 components First – Utility-An economic term that means usefulness. Your education must be useful to everyone. We all need to know how to read, write, and do certain levels of math. Second - Linearity-everyone is taught the same material in the same manner at the same time. Example: In 11th grade…US History… in April… “I teach The US dropped the bomb on Japan to end the war.” Problem: Students can now pull out some device, read a multitude of theories and come away with multiple different perspectives. “Excuse me Mr. Barr but these 3 authors say there are other reasons we dropped the A Bomb.” “Yes but on the correct answer is to end the war because that is the correct answer on the test key…that I wrote or someone published.” This is the 3rd component…Conformity. There is only one way to learn literature and this is it. Why?
The 4th component…Standardization. There are standards both state and national levels that dictate “best practices” and the right way to educate. And one test to determine if you got the standards right We call these: End of year state tests AP Exams SATs (Standard Aptitude Test) ACTs When I was a dean I would always ask seniors what are they good at and what do they love to learn about. I’m surprised they didn’t say “Why are you asking me this now? I spent the last 12 years learning and loving what you told I am supposed to learn and love in order to get into college and a job.” We are at a time of the next game changer in education. I do not say this lightly. Students today see the world differently. We decided what was utility…now they do. Why, because they have a better idea of what the future looks like than we do and what is needed to be successful. How many of you are wearing a wristwatch right now? Go give a teenager one as a gift and watch the response. “Really, you spent money on this? It only does one thing, why would you use this?” Teenagers see no point in wearing a wristwatchno utility-when technology provides the information for them and so much more. They have the same view of the current education model. “Why do I have to learn THIS, and why now?” “Why do I have to learn it this WAY?” “Why can’t I find the answer, my answer, my way and with input from others around working on the same problems?” “You are teaching me about the A-Bomb and Japan but how will this be useful to me?” Access to technology + utility of information= a change in the process of education. Technology is moving faster than our minds can comprehend-this is a scientific fact. We are in the Digital Age and there are 3 groups. 1. Digital natives-anyone under 22. 2. Digital immigrants-anyone over 22 3. Digital pilgrims-those who pop in from time to time to check email and shop online. Our students are natives…no doubt about it. They speak the language.
The President said in the State of Union speech that America must reform education so we may be more competitive in the world. To be competitive we must be innovative and entrepreneurial. The 4 components I went over do not promote those skills. They suppress them. Steve Jobs-dropped out of Reed college his freshman year Steve Wozniak-dropped out of UCLA Michael Dell-dropped out of the University of Texas Bill Gates-dropped out of Harvard These are some of this nations premier innovators and entrepreneurs. I am not saying a college education is in question; the guy who bankrolled Apple in the beginning was an electrical engineer who made millions in superconductors. But the current system does not promote what we need to be competitive if some of our most innovative minds are walking away from education and finding answers on their own on their terms. EDUCATION must be for everyone. Independent schools are listening, learning, researching, and leading the way in real education reform. We are changing the model, not just improving what we have always done. Here at The O'Neal School, we are part of that group of schools leading the way. At the auction I asked for help in raising the funds we need to expand our professional growth and development for faculty so we may do research and transform the new model. You answered with $44,000. Incredible! Wait till you see the return on that investment. With this faculty, this administration, this leadership, we will be a proud example of a 21st century school. What will not change our: Mission Values Practices Traditions OR Relationships For these we hold dear. We have always been and will continue to be The O'Neal School. Thank you and good night.