What a joy it is to write this note at the conclusion of what was, by almost every measure, a blessedly normal year marked by the restoration of school traditions, programs, and student experiences. After navigating through the most difficult parts of the pandemic in 2020-21, we enjoyed a strong and successful 2021-22 school year, with the return of in-person chapel, seated family-style lunches, a robust performing arts program, one of our best athletic seasons in recent years, and a full week of in-person, end-of-year ceremonies in honor of our amazing senior class. I thank all of you for keeping faith with us, for continuing to believe in our mission, and for all of the ways you have supported St. Albans.
While much of our energy this year was focused on restoring the school’s traditions and reclaiming so much of what had been withheld from us during the pandemic, we have also been thinking about the road ahead. The summer of 2021, we released a new strategic plan with the theme of “St. Albans as a sacred space for all
.” This year, we identified our core initial priorities and began to move forward with several initiatives to begin implementing that strategic plan.
One of our first priorities is to renovate and expand the Little Sanctuary, the most sacred space on our campus, where boys and their teachers have gathered together in worship and community since St. Albans first opened in 1909. The goals of the project are to expand this beloved, iconic space so that it can accommodate the whole Upper School, while installing and upgrading HVAC, improving ventilation, updating fire protections and alarms, and addressing some structural issues to ensure the Little Sanctuary’s future physical integrity—all while maintaining the historic character of the school’s most important building. This will not be the first time the Little Sanctuary has been renovated and expanded; indeed it has undergone about ten major construction projects since it was built in 1902, always evolving to meet the needs of the school while staying faithful to its core mission and purpose. We are fortunate that Governing Board member and St. Albans alumnus Cal Bowie ’69, who worked on one of the previous Little Sanctuary renovations and who, as a principal at Bowie Gridley Architects, has extensive experience working with schools and historic buildings, has agreed to help us move forward with this project. Cal has expressed several times how we hope all who gather inside the renovated Little Sanctuary will feel they have returned to the familiar, beloved chapel they always knew.
Teaching and Learning Program
A commitment to academic excellence has always been—and always will be—at the heart of the St. Albans experience. Our strategic plan calls on us to reinvigorate our commitment to this ideal by reaffirming our longstanding tradition of intellectual vigor while also consolidating and enhancing our existing academic support structures. To do so, we are strengthening our teaching and learning program and creating a Teaching and Learning Center. The center will support and enrich every student’s academic experience, will reinforce students’ love of learning, and will help each boy to discover and reach his academic potential.
The first step in the creation of this center has been to work closely with our faculty to develop and deepen academic enrichment in each form, with a specific emphasis on the transitional years of Forms C, I, and III. A steering committee has been formed to spearhead this foundational work. Faculty have partnered to create specific programming focused on reading fluency and comprehension (Form C); the mechanisms of learning and pursuing mastery (Form I); and academic coaching, skills, and behaviors that lead to success in the Upper School (Form III). Our efforts in these transitional forms will ultimately travel across the entire developmental spectrum of a boys’ experience, informing future initiatives in other grades. The steering committee and the work done for this upcoming academic year will guide future new hires, including a director of the Teaching and Learning Center, and additional division-specific support.
The teaching and learning program will also provide faculty with expanded resources to fulfill an ideal that has always been at the heart of the St. Albans mission: to know, value, and support each boy meaningfully and effectively. As such, the program will be at the epicenter of faculty professional development. And the program will ultimately have a physical home on campus—a warm and inviting space with daily programming for students in every grade, a place where boys are eager to connect, come alive to the joys of learning, and become the strongest students they can be.
Several strategic initiatives from the strategic plan revolve around the idea of “community life” at St. Albans and how to invest in its continuing vibrancy and centrality. In the words of our strategic plan, a sense of community and togetherness “has always been the bedrock of the St. Albans experience, and we cannot know, value, love, and support each other unless we foster the belonging that allows us to bring our whole selves to school each day.” One way we create this sense of community and togetherness is by maintaining the shared experiences—chapel, seated family-style meals—that bring us together repeatedly and in different contexts and give our days at St. Albans their distinctive rhythm and meaning. Also important is enhancing our culture of belonging so that individuals feel comfortable living as their authentic selves, within the framework of shared values that bind us together as a community.
When we think about community and belonging at St. Albans, we do so as a church school committed to living out, in both word and deed, our spiritual calling and obligations to others. This vision of St. Albans, deeply rooted in our Episcopal identity, as a “sacred space for all” is especially important as we continue to think about who we are and what we believe in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Our Governing Board DEI Committee, led by Perry Fergus and DEI Director Kristin Elliott, has admirably directed our continued efforts in this area, both gathering information about the school today and working on a new DEI mission statement that renews our focus on inclusion and anchors our school’s DEI work in our spiritual values as a community of faith. This past year, St. Albans conducted a school-wide survey of parents, faculty and staff, students, and alumni and assembled focus groups to discuss DEI at St. Albans. The results of this assessment, which are now under review, will guide us in taking tangible steps to help us better understand areas of strength and areas of growth for our community in our ongoing work to be a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just community, worthy of our highest spiritual ideals.
Every ten years, the school undergoes a rigorous self-evaluation as part of its re-accreditation process with the Association of Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS), a member organization of 120 area schools. We are in the midst of the one-and-a-half-year re-accreditation process, which is aimed at holding schools accountable to specific accreditation standards while supporting efforts to strengthen teaching and learning. Each faculty and staff member partakes in the self-evaluation process, which examines every dimension of life at St. Albans (e.g., school climate, school and community, academics, finance, personnel, facilities, etc.). The results of our self-study will include an updated philosophy statement (and mission statement), a new diversity statement, and an accounting of priorities—by department (academic and non-academic), division, and school-wide. The comprehensive self-evaluation directly supports and works in conjunction with our strategic planning efforts, providing direction for the school for several years ahead.
The Finance Committee, chaired by Anthony Bruce ’85 and supported by Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations Erin Summers, successfully managed the 2021-22 budget through the continued pandemic and set its sights ahead on initiatives that support the strategic plan in formulating the budget for 2022-23. With considerable attention to the total cost of education to families and a focus on greater equity, transparency, and opportunities for the boys, for the twelfth consecutive year, the tuition increase for 2022-23 is less than 4.0 percent and will now include many “extra” costs that were historically charged back to families throughout the year. The school’s endowment remains over $100 million despite volatile market conditions this past year thanks to the expertise and diligence of our Investment Subcommittee and new contributions from donors.
In addition, the Development Committee, led by Brendan Sullivan ’93, and the Development Office, overseen by Assistant Head of School for Advancement Bobby Cpin, exceeded expectations for Annual Giving, raising an unprecedented $3.3 million dollars. Thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers, both parents ($1.8 million) and alumni ($1.3 million) set all-time records for total giving amounts. A special kudos to our director of annual and leadership giving, Kavon Akhtar, as he propelled the Annual Giving program to new heights.
It is my honor to welcome the new Governing Board Chair William Sonneborn, Vice Chair Cal Bowie ’69, and the new trustees: Grant Brown (Lower School faculty representative), Jason Cross ’95 (Alumni Association president), Leland Lim ’93, Luke Russert ’04 (Annual Giving chair), Tushar Patel, Karen Sauers (Parents’ Association president), and Rachel Sheridan. I am thrilled to work with such capable leaders and look forward to their future contributions. I thank our departing board members Tate Cantrell, Al-Hassan Koroma ’09, Carter Mitchell ’93, Richard Parrino, Irasema Salcido, and Martin MacIntyre ’05 for their years of dedicated service. I give special thanks to Board Chair David Marriott ’92 for his wise leadership and steadfast commitment to St. Albans. I am proud of all that we have achieved and am deeply grateful for the blessings of this past school year. My sincere thanks to all of you for your support, continued faith in our mission, and for believing in the promise of our school.