Above, Head of School Kevin Clark greets students on the first day of school this year.
June. It's the month when one can imagine the voices of children diminishing in a school. Loud at first, then quieting until only a few chuckles can be heard, then maybe a whisper as hallways are left with only the echoes of empty cubbies. Thankfully, at Aidan, this quiet will barely last a weekend... because Aidan's Village of Choice Summer Camp will kick off the following Monday! Let's face it: A school needs children.
At schools, June is also a time of reflection and a time for planning. As the whirlwind that was the school year nears dissipation, those of us who administer schools consider the past while planning for the future. Often, the work that an administrative team does goes unseen... and, that's usually a good thing. The more smoothly administration works, the less noticeable it is. Here are some of my thoughts on this past year (my first here, at Aidan) and some planning for the future.
The year has been full of wonderful events that have given me many opportunities to see the community come together. From Popsicles in the Park to Parent Association Meetings, from APF events to the Auction, the life of our community is vibrant and full, and I have enjoyed every time that we've gathered together. This year started with small meetings for coffee to share your thoughts about Aidan Montessori School with me. The coming year, we will also have the same sort of meetings, so please keep an eye on the calendar so that I may continue to learn from you about your experiences at and hopes for our school.
Now long taken for granted, the facilities underwent a nice facelift at the beginning of the year. From brickwork to the chrome-faced columns, to "the early humans' shelter space" and one additional parking space, the school felt refreshed. I look forward to other visible improvements over the summer and throughout the coming year. Starting in August, we will have an onsite Buildings and Grounds Coordinator, who will be here at least three hours each day to take care of our overall environment. We are also close to a five-year capital improvement plan, which should put us on a course to make sure our systems and facilities are proactively maintained and improved, as well as budgeted.
With our new Director of Communications, Cassie Sherman-Marks, in place this year, we fully implemented our new website, got our classroom portals up and running, created communications plans for every classroom, and overhauled our main communications pieces: School Notes and This Week at Aidan. It would be a foolish school that decided communications were off the "to do" list so we will continue to refine and improve these. I do hope, however, that your experience with the way we communicate was a good one this year.
There are several signs of a healthy school, and increased interest in Admissions is one of them. Many of you noticed the visible increase in attendance at our Open Houses. What is likely not obvious is that our application pool increased by fifty-five percent this year. For those of you unfamiliar with admissions statistics, please know that this is remarkable. Many schools hope to increase their applications by 3 – 5% year over year. Our online marketing efforts, hand-in-hand with the work of our new Director of Admissions, Grace Lee (under the expert tutelage of Ms. Antonucci), resulted in this incredible uptick in serious interest in our school. Aidan Montessori School continues to be the sought-after gold standard of Montessori education in the Greater Washington DC area, and we are all humbled by this.
Also invisible to the passerby might be the dedicated work that our Board of Trustees does. I am always in awe of the people who spend their free time working hard on behalf of our school. The Board is comprised of many committees -- Buildings and Grounds, Finance, Expansion, Trustees, Executive, Advancement, and Diversity. These folks go about their tasks with the healthiest levels of commitment that I have ever seen at a school. The work that they do maximizes the impact that we have as a school and makes our children's experience all the better.
While the most obvious face of any school is its teachers, there is also much that the teachers do that is not in the public eye. From professional development to faculty meetings, from meeting District regulation requirements to providing parent education, our teachers are amazing in and out of the classroom. The tip of the iceberg is what we see teachers doing daily while oh-so-much of what they do lies deep below the surface.
The beginning of this year saw a larger than average number of new employees at Aidan. This many months later, new faces have become familiar. Similarly, children, teachers, and parents alike have become familiar with our new extended Elementary schedule. When I first visited Aidan, I was struck by this. Aidan, in its commitment to the Montessori work cycle – and its commitment to enriching activities such as foreign language – actually added an hour to its Elementary schedule in order to keep the Montessori work block intact and continue to offer the enriched programming that we know families crave for their children. I had seen many Montessori schools grapple with this, yet nowhere had I seen such a radical yet sensible solution implemented. I am happy to say that – one school year later – the children have not only adjusted but are thriving within this rich experience.
For the coming year, some goals that we will be working on include:
- Helping families to better understand their children's experience at school.
- Continuing to provide the best Montessori education available.
- Continually strengthening our curriculum and programs.
- Helping our community to understand our curriculum and expectations.
- Incorporating best practices.
- Enabling families to be the best that they can be.
Thank you for entrusting your children to our school. We are conscious every day of the honor that we have to work with them. My summer wish for you and your family is good health, laughter, time with family and friends, and even a little boredom. See you in September.
Head of School