February 12, 2019

Trustee Weekend brings faculty honors, plus a look at academics and finance

Board endorses Academy’s revised statement of purpose and statement of values
by Tracy Sweet

Trustees and campus colleagues gathered for dinner in Davis Hall to celebrate five members of the faculty who were honored with instructorships. Unique in their talents and versatility, each awardee was consistently described as committed to student development and boarding school life.

In one of his favorite acts as Dean of Faculty, Pat Farrell, known for the care he takes to prepare detailed personal narratives for each recipient, presented the following honors:

  • Edwin Escobar, instructor in Spanish, Harkness #2 Instructorship
  • Allen Grimm, instructor in theatre and dance, Harkness #3 Instructorship
  • Monique Cueto-Potts, director of community engagement, Harkness #4 Instructorship
  • Lionel Amanfu, instructor in mathematics, Harkness #5 Instructorship
  • Emma Staffaroni, Sumner R. Kates ’38 and Marshall S. Kates ’39 Endowed Instructorship in the Humanities

Head of School John Palfrey congratulated the recipients and closed the evening by thanking Farrell as he prepares to complete a successful administrative term and return to the classroom next academic year. Expressing gratitude for his many contributions, Palfrey said Farrell is widely respected for his commitment to equity and inclusion and to hiring and developing faculty who are devoted to the pursuit of excellence across their many campus roles.

Escobar, Staffaroni, Farrell, Cueto-Potts, Amanfu, and Grimm

Mission, Values and the Academic Enterprise

Mission and Values: The board unanimously approved the school’s revised statement of purpose and statement of values. John Palfrey expressed appreciation to the campus working group for their thoughtful approach in recasting this important document. In an advisory vote to the board, he noted that 92 percent of the faculty also expressed support.

10-year NEASC Reaccreditation: Paul Murphy, coordinator of PA’s self-study, explained the process that will begin in earnest this spring. He described the next 18 months as a time for reflection, assessment, and an aspirational look forward. Among the next steps, the Dean of Faculty will appoint a steering committee and 15 standards committees. A representative from NEASC will address the faculty at a meeting in April.

Learning in a Digital Age: John Palfrey’s presentation on the digital lives of youth, drawn from themes explored in his book Born Digital, kicked off a trustee-faculty luncheon Friday afternoon.  Comparisons of national data on teen media use to that of Andover students sparked conversations on topics including multitasking or “switchtasking,” ways to curb time spent on devices, accountability online, social media’s exacerbating effect on teens who are struggling, and the benefits of technology in teaching and learning.

Palfrey’s presentation was followed by an interactive session with two seniors speaking about their Independent Project. Jeffrey Shen and Miles McCain’s analysis of Chinese censorship and Russian disinformation engaged trustees in conversations around fake online identities, political implications, and government suppression of information, among other topics. The seniors also demoed their self-built language analysis program, designed to distinguish possible Russian troll content from organic content on Twitter.

Tang 2.0: Placing student learning above all else, Andy Housiaux, Currie Family Director of the Tang Institute, shared his vision for a School within a School. Emphasizing interdisciplinary, project-based learning, he described an opportunity for five teachers and 15 to 20 seniors to converge on a single topic—food systems, for example—in spring 2020. In place of a typical course load, the group would approach this topic from a number of perspectives, including economics, biology, ethics, math and statistics, filmmaking and journalism. School within a School is an intentional approach to Connected Learning, Housiaux said. “If you really want to understand anything of deep worth, you have to have all these angles.”

In other trustee business:

Campaign Update: Thom Lockerby, secretary of the academy, reported that the Knowledge & Goodness Campaign is tracking very well. With momentum from the Andover Fund and recent leadership commitments, the campaign stood at $220 million in gifts and pledges at Jan. 31.

In addition to continued fundraising for new facilities, there is renewed focus on financial aid. Campaign co-chair Joe Bae ’90, P’21 is leading the effort to endow need-blind admission at 80 percent of cost. To achieve this ambitious goal, the campaign must raise $110 million toward endowed scholarships.

Trustees also discussed ways to engage donors at every level, underscoring the importance of the Andover Fund. The school’s annual foundation of support, over the course of the campaign, is expected to engage thousands of alumni and parents and collectively raise $85 million. On that note, Lockerby asked trustees to mark their calendars for PA Giving Day on March 27.

Finance and Budget: Reporting midway through the fiscal year, members of the finance team issued updates on PA’s budget and endowment. Among the highlights, Summer Session enrollments were up in 2018, leading to higher than projected revenue. The rising cost of health insurance remains a challenge, but the Academy’s new approach to funding should help stem those increases over time. Meanwhile, the endowment continues to benefit from prudent long-view strategies while weathering significant volatility in recent months.

Trustees approved the foundational elements of the FY 2020 budget, including need-blind admission for the 12th year in a row. The board also set tuition for the 2019-20 academic year and will release those figures in March. Final approval of the budget occurs during the board’s May meeting.

With an eye on long-term planning, Ferd Alonso, assistant head for finance and administration, presented, for trustee discussion, several possible new sources of revenue.

Jacques Hugon reported on the development of one source that is showing promise—EduCompass. A gateway to Andover Math Problems and Academy Compass, online tools developed by Andover faculty, EduCompass is now being used outside of PA, with a handful of schools already on board and others expressing serious interest.

College Counseling: Placing Andover in the context of national trends, Dean of College Counseling Sean Logan and Director Kassy Fritz offered a glimpse into the student and parent curriculum that begins in lower year. Come senior year, they said, that program now includes some form of early decision/early action for nearly every student. They see this approach as the “new normal” and hope that it does not detract from students’ continued focus on self-reflection and “doing Andover well.” With college decisions on the horizon, they discussed ways the CCO team works with seniors to help them navigate challenging situations while preparing to submit their final applications. 

Categories: Leadership

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