Welcome Back Animas Families, Please read the attached letter from our administration and Board of Directors, articulating our vision and goals for the year ahead.  We are already off to a strong start and we are so appreciative of all that each one of you do to help make Animas High School the unique learning community it is.  We welcome your feedback and look forward to working with you in the 2014-15 school year!
August 26, 2014
Dear Osprey parents, students, volunteers and supporters,
Welcome to the start of Animas High School’s 2014-2015 academic year! We are thrilled to be entering our sixth year as a top-performing college preparatory school of choice for all students in the Four Corners region. We are proud of the many accomplishments our school, students and staff have achieved. We have now graduated two classes, and each year have had 100% of our graduating seniors accepted at an institution of their choosing. Last year, our students earned more than $1.6 million in scholarships and gained admission into a wide range of colleges in both the United States and abroad. We have earned the highest rating from our state authorizer, “Performance with Distinction”, due to our strong student performance on standardized assessments. Overall, Animas High School is succeeding in its mission and our future is bright. We are honored that each of you, in your own way, has chosen to be a part of this wonderful community.
As we begin the new school year, the Animas High School Board of Directors and
Administration would like to re-examine our goals and share our vision with you for the 2014-
2015 academic year and beyond.
We are a progressive charter school which aims to prepare all of our students, regardless of socioeconomic, racial or ethnic background, for college and post-secondary success. We do this through an innovative, student-centered model that seeks to engage students through a challenging and relevant project-based curriculum.
We believe deeply in the extraordinary potential of our students to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of the 21st Century. We are committed to facilitating our students’ development intellectually, socially and emotionally, and believe that attending college is an important step in reaching one’s full potential. One of the primary goals at Animas High School is to prepare all of our students for admission into the four-year college of their choice. Our dedication to this is rooted in the belief that each of our students, regardless of socioeconomic, racial or ethnic background, can be successful in college. We exist to give all students in Southwest Colorado the opportunity to attend college and be successful while they are there.
While we emphasize attending four-year colleges, we honor and celebrate our students who choose alternative paths after high school graduation. One former Osprey is currently serving in the Marines, several of our graduates have made significant contributions during gap years and others have chosen to attend two-year community colleges rather than begin their post-
secondary academic experience at a four-year institution. While we recognize that there is not one “correct” path after high school, we can say with confidence that all of our students develop into critical thinkers who make their own informed decisions regarding how they embark on their post-secondary careers. We are here to serve all students in this region and we celebrate the diversity of their choices after high school.
Our educational model relies on four core design principles:
1) Personalization: We are committed to developing classes and projects that allow for students to explore their unique passions, skills and interests. To facilitate this aim, we prioritize our student-teacher relationships in a way that enables teachers to better engage students on an individual basis.
2) Adult-World Connection: Our program strives to provide a challenging curriculum consisting of meaningful, relevant work which fosters a school environment characterized by inspiration and enthusiasm rather than boredom.
3) Common Intellectual Mission: Animas High School serves a diverse student-body with a wide variety of talents, interests, and prior educational experiences. Research has shown that all students perform better when in heterogeneous classroom environments rather than tracked classes (citation to Stanford study: http://stanford.io/1thKO0c). For this reason, we promote an integrated, inclusive school environment in which students work together with a common set of concepts, questions and challenges.
4) Teacher as Designer: One of our greatest assets is the outstanding group of professionals that make up our teaching and support staff. We believe we can best
serve our students by giving these accomplished educators significant ownership of their
classes, both in design and execution. For this reason, we empower our teachers to design curriculum informed by a combination of their passions, state standards, and student interests to provide meaningful, relevant, content-rich learning experiences for our students.
The Year Ahead
The 2014-2015 academic year will be an important one for us. We are engaged in refining all of our programs and dedicated to developing a realistic plan for long-term sustainability.
Specifically, we will focus on the following areas:
School Culture: We are passionate about maintaining and strengthening our school culture. Our aim is to create a learning environment that is both supportive and inclusive, in which all students feel known and appreciated. To this end, we have created an additional administrative position this year, and welcome Libby Cowles as
Assistant Head of School. Libby is an exceptionally talented educator who will focus much of her time on fostering our unique school culture and sense of community.
Ensuring and Measuring Student Growth: We are committed to helping our students grow intellectually, socially and emotionally during their time at Animas High School. High rates of graduation and college admission, as well as numerous scholarships awarded to our graduates are some of the measures of the success of the Animas High School program. While we have always seen strong academic growth from our students, this year we plan to develop effective in-house systems to enable quantitative measurements of each student’s growth in one-year’s time. This will both enable the celebration of our students’ academic progress and allow targeted refinement in areas that are found to be lacking. Because we do things differently at Animas High School, we need to approach student assessment differently as well. Teaching and learning using an alternative model necessarily requires alternative assessment strategies to measure our success, in addition to more traditional methods of determining growth, such as standardized test scores.
Establishing our Plan for Sustainability: Members of the Animas High School community are passionate and want to ensure that our school exists to serve students for many years to come. As an under-funded public charter school, we face serious financial challenges. Primary among those is the cost of our facility, which, when mortgage payments, operations, and maintenance costs are combined, comprises a full
10% of our total annual budget. Charter schools across the country are facing the same
challenge; Colorado and other states have yet to provide equitable facility funding for charter schools. As a result, we face annual budget shortfalls which we have to resolve by relying on fundraising and marketing for strong enrollment. For five years we have been blessed with amazing community financial support that has allowed us to make this dream a reality. At the same time, we must break this cycle of struggling from year-to- year to make our finances work. As a Board and school leadership team, we are committed to realizing our plan for long-term sustainability. Over the next 12 months, we will engage you, our school community, in explorations and conversations of how best to do this. Naturally, our first approach will be to carefully evaluate our options for partnering with other local educational institutions, including Durango District 9-R and Mountain Middle School. We are proud to have strong working relationships with both entities. We look forward to working closely with each of them in order to identify ways
in which we may mutually benefit one another, with an eye toward financial
sustainability. If neither of these associations appears to improve our long-term financial viability, we will seek alternative strategies. Rest assured, however, of three things: 1) we will do everything possible to lay the foundation for a long future for Animas High School, 2) we will only engage in partnerships that allow the preservation of our autonomy, our mission and our values, and, 3) the Animas High School community, consisting of parents, students, faculty members, administrators, and Board of Directors members will all play a strong role in determining the path we take.
Thank you again for being a part of the Animas High School community and welcome to the
2014-2015 school year. This promises to be an exciting and formative time in our school’s history.
Melissa Youssef Jake Lauer Libby Cowles
Board of Directors Head of School Assistant Head of School