Hello Osprey Community,
Last year we started a tradition of wrapping up the year with a reflection from the Nest with the goal of providing a synopsis of the year. This year’s reflection is particularly important as we will celebrate our 10th anniversary next year, which will certainly call for celebration among our founders, alumni and community. However, until then let us reflect on the year that was 2017-2018.
To kick off I would like to highlight a first in our school’s history in terms of enrollment–we anticipate that our sophomore and junior classes will be completely full for the 2018-19 school year. Our school will have the highest retention rate it has ever had, with roughly 96% of our current students choosing to re-enroll for next year. As you read in my reflection last year, the AHS Board of Directors tasked us with determining the best size for our school to fully support our mission and our financial stability, and we are now at that point. Four years ago we needed to fundraise roughly $1,400 per student in order to achieve a balanced budget. With the help of our right-sizing effort and additional funding from the state, our fundraising goal for next year will be roughly $120 per student–a far easier target to meet. Thanks to the hard work of our staff and faculty, enrollment is strong, families and students who come to AHS choose to stay at AHS and our institution is financially sound.
I also would like to highlight the continued successes of Animas High School alumni, which reflect the hard work and expertise of our College and Career Department as well as the strength of our teachers. Once again this year, 100% of our seniors have been accepted into college, and the AHS Class of 2018 received over $3,000,000 in merit-based scholarships. We are also proud that 90% of our alumni who enroll in college stay in college. While there are robust national debates about what constitutes effective college preparation, we can all agree that we want students who choose to go to college to stay in college and obtain degrees and at the end of the day, college persistence rates are the true measure of whether students are ready for college or not. Our students stay in college because they have the skills that allow them to find success there and our students receive intentional support in determining which schools are a good fit for them as they navigate the college application process. Jess Adams and Janae Hunderman have continued to develop and refine our College and Career Department’s programming to better serve our students and we are fortunate to have them both at AHS. Their work developing the 9th Grade Career Exploration Days received recognition from the Colorado Department of Education this year as one of the 8 best ICAP (Individual Career and Academic Plan)programs across that state , and it is clear that our students are receiving meaningful support in grades 9 through 12 that helps them find success in in their postsecondary college and career life.
At the beginning of each school year in our State of the School Address, I outlined three celebrations, two areas of growth, and one lingering question inspired by the feedback we receive through our annual parent, student and staff surveys. Let us take a moment to look at those areas of growth that we were working on this year: Communication and our Math program.
This past year, we made several changes to improve communication with our community so that families and students were able to stay better informed and connected. We piloted a monthly grade-level letter, with support from a newly formed Marketing and Communications Committee chaired by Board Member Mary Polino. Three parent volunteers were enlisted to write a synopsis of each month’s grade-level activities to better support dialogue at home. This is a new tradition that we would like to continue moving forward; please let us know if you’d like to serve as a grade-level liaison next year. We also revamped communication around attendance to provide more contact points with our families when students are missing classes. While this may have seemed unnecessary for families who were proactive in their communication with us about extended absences, our goal was to ensure that no student slipped through the cracks and to make it clear that we notice and care when a student is absent from school. We continue to strive for honest, clear and proactive communication between school and home and we are open to your feedback about ways we can continue to improve upon this goal. Please reach out to mary.polino@animashighschool.
We want to commend our Math Department for the work they have done this year to continue to develop and refine our math program. We acknowledge that the way we approach math instruction at Animas is nontraditional and that shifts in our program have led to some confusion and concern among our students, families and greater community. Our use of integrated math curriculum at grade-level, paired with the option to take math electives, provides a comprehensive math program that supports a wide range of learners and our ability to dive deeply into interdisciplinary projects. We are seeing markedly improved satisfaction with our math program among both students and parents and positive shifts in math mindsets among our students. Our math teachers, like all good instructors around the nation, are deeply engaged in the work of determining how their curricula is setting students up for success on the SAT and ACT, preparing them for college, supporting a wide range of learners, developing positive math mindsets and teaching critical thinking, not just rote memorization. This past year we achieved, for the first time and with the support of tailored consultation, a fully vertically-aligned curriculum that spirals throughout the four years so that the curriculum is low floor, high ceiling allowing for an equitable heterogeneous classroom. It is based on NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) standards, therefore is college and SAT/ACT preparatory. We are excited to build upon the success that we have had and refine the areas that need improvement.
Lastly, I would like to highlight the strong work the Board of Directors and AHS Staff have done over the course of this year. The Board began the year with the goal of creating a Strategic Plan outlining our vision and direction for academics, culture, and facilities over the next five years. This summer we will be wrapping up the process.. The most visible, flashy area of the Strategic Plan will be unveiling our plan towards procuring a new facility for the school. This summer we will continue to develop our master plan for building Animas High School’s permanent campus. The process we are launching of designing, funding, and preparing to build a new school takes roughly 18-24 months and our timeline coincides with the 9-R Bond that is currently slated to go before voters in the fall of 2019. This is an exciting project and one we are well-positioned to embark upon, thanks to the stability of our organization and all of the dedicated people who support our vision of providing innovative project-based learning to prepare young adults in our community for college and postsecondary success. We are actively recruiting new members for the AHS Board of Directors and its working committees to help us achieve this goal; please reach out to our Board President, Jeff King, if you are interested in learning more at [email protected]
While the purpose of this annual reflection is to provide a small sampling of what we were working on this year, Animas’ culture of critique, reflection, and refinement means that we are a constant mechanism of change. Rather than work towards a state of perfection that causes our students to posses obsolete skills as soon as they leave our doors, it is our goal to give our students the skills to adapt to an ever changing world so that when they encounter barriers they know how to work their way around them. We have a winning recipe for turning out adults who are engaged, knowledgeable and critical-thinking citizens. It is a dash of our mission, vision, and values, a sprinkle our habits of heart and mind (PAPER), topped off with the small school feeling (with our average class size of 13 and a school the size of most high school’s 9th grade. View our School Profile that is sent off to colleges for more examples). Through this recipe, our students are given the chance to figure out who they are in a safe, welcoming environment that truly helps them thrive once they spread their wings and leave the nest. Afterall, it should be the goal of education to not just help our students survive but to thrive once they leave high school. Thank you for the support that you give us in this innovative approach to learning. An approach that was visionary in the Durango community almost ten years ago and still remains as a highly functioning beacon of education innovation pushing the boundaries of what is possible.