This week marks the beginning of the second trimester. One-third of our school year is behind us, and our teachers are in the midst of writing reports on the progress of our students.
BCD, too, is in the midst of its own progress report. Last year, as part of the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS) re-accreditation process, we wrote our self-study. A self-study, akin to a whole-school progress report, is an important and rigorous part of our commitment to school improvement designed to identify our school and community strengths, challenges, and areas to explore. Sunday afternoon, we welcomed to our campus the eight members of our ACIS visiting team, who will be on campus for a total of three and one-half days checking to be sure we do what we say we do.
The last half of that last sentence is key to understanding independent schools. What we say we do is reflected in our mission, and independent schools are mission-driven. Each independent school serves a specific purpose, and, collectively, our purposes are quite diverse. Independent schools in Boulder include Montessori, Waldorf, and experiential missions, which differ distinctly from our country day school philosophy. No single mission is “better” than another, but, and this is the central belief of independent school educators, one might be more appropriate for a specific family or child.
Boulder Country Day provides a well-rounded, classical education of academic excellence and character development in a safe environment, inspiring our students to reach their full potential as lifelong learners and responsible, globally aware citizens. This statement guides our curriculum, the programs we offer, and the people we hire to fulfill it. BCD’s Board of Trustees holds our mission in trust and plans strategically to protect and nurture it so that future generations of students will reap its benefits.
Because independent schools are mission-driven, our school communities are full of like-minded families who care deeply about academic excellence, small class sizes, character education, and service learning. To a degree, our schools are learning laboratories. We are nimble and we are able to respond quickly to new pedagogy, cutting edge technology, and curricular innovation.
BCD, too, is in the midst of its own progress report. Last year, as part of the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS) re-accreditation process, we wrote our self-study. A self-study, akin to a whole-school progress report, is an important and rigorous part of our commitment to school improvement designed to identify our school and community strengths, challenges, and areas to explore. Sunday afternoon, we welcomed to our campus the eight members of our ACIS visiting team, who will be on campus for a total of three and one-half days checking to be sure we do what we say we do. Fundamentally, independent schools are also schools of choice, and we believe that “one size does not fit all.” We embrace choice as a concept that all families should be permitted to exercise. Choice makes us better. It teaches us to hone our curriculum and program, it provides competition that encourages us to rise to meet challenges, and it offers families the option to find schools that meet their particular needs. In Colorado, the public sector – specifically charter schools and open enrollment districts – combines with the private sector (private, independent and parochial schools) to offer our families even greater choice than in some other states.
Nowhere was this more evident than at BCD’s first annual high school fair. Designed to support BCD families, the fair highlighted the options our students will consider as they plan for their futures. Twenty-seven schools staffed booths in our gymnasium – public and private, large and small, day and boarding, parochial and non-sectarian. School heads, principals, guidance counselors, and curriculum coordinators impressed our families (as well as families from outside of the BCD community) with their programs, approaches, and course offerings. In turn, our visiting schools learned first-hand that they had to be excellent to attract the BCD students they desire.
To tie it all together, for the first time in our history BCD hosted an event where our families “shopped” for high school. Our families, like most consumers, seek some kind of guarantee that the school they choose will hold up. Organizations like the Association of Colorado Independent School provide that kind of guarantee. Its members are mission-driven, we think carefully about our futures, and we are committed to the process of school improvement. As we host our own ACIS visiting team this week, I know we will gain tremendous insight into and inspiration for our school and its community now and into the future, and I look forward to sharing those insights with you.
by John H Suitor III, Boulder Country Day School