Welcome to Our 55th School Year

August 08, 2017

Dear Students, Parents, Past Parents and Alumni of The Colorado Springs School,

Inspired by our 55 year history and our commitment to innovation, our preparation for 2017-2018 has been guided by two simple ideas:

  • Improve the core elements of our work each year
  • Ensure that each CSS program and activity has a clear connection to our mission

Driven by that approach, in the last few months we have been hard at work on the most important elements of our school: our people, programs, facilities, communications, and school pride.

PEOPLE
As I announced in my last letter in July, we are very proud of the hiring class of 2017-2018. Please click here to review and welcome our new class of teachers. 

This July, Elaine Humphries, part-time Children’s School Counselor, made a decision to retire from her decade of work at CSS. We wish her the best in her future endeavors. Jon Cleckler is continuing his role as School Counselor. We are finalizing staffing assignments in this important area, and committed to continuing our Social and Emotional learning groups (Children’s School Friendship Groups), as well as offering counseling support as a resource for our students and families.

Path of Totality Image: Washington Post

PROGRAM
Making education real: As many of you know, the first day of Middle School and Upper School this year will coincide with a rare celestial event! Thanks to the advance planning and enthusiasm of Upper School Science Department Chair, Greg Johnson, Upper School students who have signed up for the optional Eclipse Mission Centered Seminar (MCS) will have (weather permitting) the chance to see the upcoming solar eclipse from inside the path of totality on an overnight trip to the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site near Guernsey, Wyoming. We are within driving-distance of the path of totality, a 70-mile-wide, 3,000-mile-long swath that lies directly in the shadow of the moon. Click here for more information on the astronomy of the event. MS students and US students remaining on campus for other Mission Centered Seminar courses will have the chance to view the eclipse from campus and eclipse glasses will be provided for all students and CSS faculty/staff.

National recognition for CSS: In order to drive school improvement and continue our 30+ year accreditation with both the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS), the faculty and staff have worked diligently over the last year to draft the 2017 CSS self-study report. This comprehensive document captures the current state of the school and will guide the work of a 6-8 person ACIS visiting team (on campus February 11-14, 2018). It is exciting to think that the actions we are undertaking now are facilitating the school’s regional and national accreditation through 2028.

As part of this process, the administration, Board, faculty and staff have begun the process of updating the school’s strategic plan. For more information on the accreditation process and the goals of the updated strategic plan, please attend the State of the School presentation following the Parents Associations Welcome Coffee on the 29th of August or watch the subsequent video webcast we will produce and disseminate.

Professional Development: Made possible through a donation from Lindsay and Mike Samora P’27, P’25, this fall and winter The Colorado Spring School PreK-8 teachers will be trained by Kagan and Responsive Classroom professionals with the goal of:

  • enhancing clear and predictable student-centered learning environments,
  • positively affecting students’ social well-being, and
  • increasing the level of engagement students have with the curriculum.

In addition, all CSS teachers, PreK through 12th grade (in two different groups) will receive training from the Learning Foundations team in:

  • multi-sensory teaching and learning,
  • processing speeds and learning styles, and
  • study skills for mastering topics.

These programs will benefit all CSS students, but, we believe that the emphasis on differentiated instruction will be especially helpful for students with learning differences.

Building new programs: Several CSS teachers have used the summer months to stretch themselves and enhance our programs. Anne Taylor (Cuba ECS) and Alex Schilperoort (5th Grade Colorado Expedition/Crow Canyon) have conducted on-site research this summer through the Seminar Preparation Fund. This donor-supported initiative started by Jen and Robert Hedden P’23, P’21 makes it possible for CSS teachers to conduct reconnaissance on future seminar locations and meet with local experts prior to arriving with students. These trips not only enhance the academics of these expeditions, but also, they improve the safety and diversity of our seminar offerings.

On a similar note, two teams of teachers, Nicole Goyette - Sara Derr (Community Service) and Julie Hamilton - Lori de Juan (Student-Centered Learning) worked on separate Curriculum Advancement Projects over the summer. These projects, a new form of professional development at CSS, allow teachers to use time over the summer to create new developments in our curriculum (above and beyond normal curricular evolution) and be compensated for their time and talents. Our phenomenal teachers are the best agents of school evolution and improvement.

FACILITIES
Facilities enhancements: This summer, the Children’s Academic Center (1st-5th grade) received much more than a fresh coat of paint and improved lighting options. Our faculty and staff took this opportunity to rethink the décor and culture of these learning spaces. Be on the lookout this fall for learning spaces that highlight the strong academic and experiential program at CSS from themes to expeditions and our top-notch co-curricular programs.
 
Improved safety and play in the PreK playground: In order to ensure the safety of our children and comply with best safety practices and accreditation/licensing requirements, this summer we removed the small play structure from the Early Childhood Center playground. This year, the children will continue to have opportunities for gross motor development on the playground through the use of the scooters, bikes, and navigating the tiered areas of the playground, and we will incorporate ‘obstacle course’ items such as balance beams, tunnels, and tree cookies. We have also doubled the size of the ever-popular sand area allowing for more digging and water fun. New timbers are in place in the tiered areas of the playground as well as a new layer of bark. PreK students will continue to utilize the Big Blue Blocks and other areas of the campus.
 
New athletics website powered by VNN Sports
 
COMMUNICATIONS
New athletic website: CSS often earns praise for current communication practices. These include the ROAR, Kodiak Bulletin, Head’s Letters such as this, social media, and the CSS.org website. In order to better communicate with students and families and showcase the accomplishments of our CSS athletes, we are proud to announce that we are partnering with an outside athletics communication platform, VNN (Varsity News Network), to create a new CSS athletics website. This website will serve as a communication hub for athletics at CSS and allow varsity coaches to post schedules and scores. Our new Athletic Director, Vicki Vaughan, is at the helm of this exciting athletics website build out. 

K-12 Student and Parent Handbook unification: With the goal of better communicating with our families, this summer we integrated the formerly separate Children’s School, Middle School and Upper School Division Handbooks into a single Student/Parent Handbook. This new handbook will be a valuable reference during the 2017-2018 school year and throughout your student’s academic career at CSS. The Early Childhood Handbook will be maintained as a separate document in adherence with licensing protocols.

The 2017-2018 Handbooks will be shared out in the upcoming days. 

PRIDE
As many of you know, in recent years we have conducted a significant amount of market and brand research. As a result of these efforts, we’ve developed some new strategies to enhance our name recognition (as both The Colorado Springs School and CSS) in the community and to better tell our story as one of the top-ranked schools in the state with an innovative and relevant college preparatory program. Advertising and marketing are important, but we know that the single most effective way for the school to grow is for our current and past families to share their experiences with their friends and neighbors. Your stories are at the heart of what we do and we have so much to be proud of!

Below we’ve provided some talking points for you to share with potential CSS students and families. Click here for our Points of Pride.
  • Recently niche.com (a national school ranking agency) recognized The Colorado Springs School as the 2nd ranked college prep private high school in the state of Colorado (#1 in Southern Colorado). We were also ranked as the second ranked K-12 private school in Colorado (#1 in Southern Colorado). Our rankings improved even though the pool of reviewed schools grew by roughly 10%! Click here to take a look at our information. You will notice as you peruse The Colorado Springs School’s niche page, there’s ample opportunity on the site for parents, students, and alumni to answer poll questions about your experience at CSS. The information you provide is essential. There is no one better suited than you to capture the CSS experience and helps us reach new families. We appreciate you sharing your school pride!
  • This summer we captured the accolades of the Colorado Springs Business Journal with a repeat win as Best Private School from the Best in Business awards.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter and thanks for all you do to support The Colorado Springs School. I look forward to seeing you soon at the All-School Ice Cream Social and the many upcoming Back-to-School events.

Warmly,
Aaron Schubach
Head of School

 
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