Notes From Chairman

Good morning everyone,

On behalf of all of the Trustees I would like to welcome you to the Open House and Grandparents Day. I am so happy to see such a large turnout this morning for this celebration of a wonderful school and community.


To start this morning, I would like to acknowledge and thank Jeanne Schultz and Mary Gale – our Director and Assistant Director, and all of the teachers and staff for the hard work that they put in every day to create a special learning environment for our children. Without their passion for Montessori teaching, their professionalism, and their dedication to the well-being of every child in this community RVCS would not have enjoyed the success it has continued to have over the past 12 years.

 

Jeanne has just shown you the new RVCS website – I hope you agree that it will provide a significantly improved platform for sharing information about RVCS with parents and students, as well as with the wider community. On behalf of the school and the Board of Trustees, I want to thank everyone who put in long hours developing and testing this new communication tool for RVCS. In particular, I want to thank Nik Barkley, Kinderhaus parent of Ava and Lily, who created all of the new graphics for the site and additional branding materials for the school, including the poster for this open house. I also want to thank Pam Jones, who did most of the tedious work of collecting information, formatting it, and uploading it to the site. Finally, I want to thank trustee Tomas Havrda, who provided leadership and technical expertise to get the project started.

I won’t take much of your time today, but I want to say a few things about the Board of Trustees and the work that we do. Charter school boards are unique entities empowered by the state to provide governance to charter schools. They are, in fact, a hybrid between a district school committee and a non-profit board of trustees, but they perform a similar function to that performed by the school committee for a traditional public school or school district.

The Board currently has 14 members and includes both parents of RVCS students and interested individuals from outside of the immediate school community. The officers of the Board include the Chairman – which is me – Vice Chairman Steven Brzozowski, Secretary Kate Donlin, and Treasurer Eric Powers. Board members are elected to three-year terms, which can be extended. We strive to maintain a balance of skills and perspectives on the Board. Current Trustees include engineers, educators, and business people.

The Board of Trustees sets policy for the school and is accountable directly to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure that RVCS continually meets the terms of its charter. The Board hires the Director of the school, who, in turn, hires the rest of the teachers and staff. Working through the Director, the Board ensures that all laws and regulations are being followed and that operations are consistent with the mission of the school as stated in the charter.

In consultation with the Director and staff, the Board develops and approves the annual budget and long-term capital budget for the school and provides regular fiscal oversight throughout the year. The Board is also responsible for raising supplemental funding for the school via an annual giving campaign and other fundraising efforts.

The RVCS Board does most of its work through a number of standing committees, including the finance committee, the development committee, and the accountability committee. You don’t need to be a board member to participate on these committees, and we encourage anyone who is interested to get involved. All committee and Board meetings are open to the public, and meeting times are posted on the RVCS calendar on Edline and the RVCS website. We welcome your input and I encourage everyone here to attend a board meeting.

If you would like to learn more about the Board, please visit the governance section of the new RVCS website, where you will also find contact information for myself and the other board members.

One of the most important roles the Board plays is to provide financial oversight for the school, and I am happy to report that RVCS is in good financial shape. Many of you know that the vast majority of our funding comes from the State of Massachusetts in the form of per-student quarterly tuition payments. The amount of funding is set by state law, and we have virtually no control over it. Nonetheless, over the last 12 years, conservative fiscal management has allowed RVCS to maintain a strong academic program while accumulating a small reserve to allow us to weather changes in annual tuition levels without disruption.

Over the last several years, annual tuition payments have been relatively flat, but we have still been able to give our teachers a salary increase this year. Projected tuition payments will increase by about 4 percent next year, which should allow us to give teachers and staff another raise. We believe this is important to be able to retain our wonderful staff and to attract the best teachers in the future.

While our financial situation is good, unfortunately tuition payments simply do not allow us to provide everything that we would like to for our students. This is why the Board of Trustees is charged with raising supplemental funds– to that end, I would encourage all of you to participate in the annual giving campaign at whatever level of giving is comfortable for you. The funds raised every year go toward supporting the extras that cannot be accommodated by annual tuition payments. Rest assured that we are not just looking toward the immediate school community for fundraising, however. Jeanne and the development committee are, for example, actively pursuing grant funding from local foundations and businesses to develop a dedicated science room at RVCS, to include both a physical space and new equipment and teaching materials. This new space will allow us to improve the teaching of science and ecology at all levels within RVCS.

Finally, I want to tell you about a very important strategic initiative that the Board of Trustees has started this year. We have begun to investigate the possibility of purchasing the current school building. Many of you probably know that the school currently leases this building – when the school opened, it was the quickest and easiest way to get up and running, but it was not necessarily intended to be the permanent home of RVCS.

Over the years, there have been several formal efforts to identify a new, better home for the school. Unfortunately, none of those efforts were successful in identifying an appropriate site – which could provide an improved physical environment, in a centralized location, at a price that we could really afford. The most recent effort resulted in a decision to expand the school at this current site, by creating the gym that we are now sitting in, along with a new library, art room, and some additional classroom spaces which I hope you will take the opportunity to see on a tour later this morning. Completed early last year, I hope that you all agree that the addition has proven invaluable in supporting the RVCS academic program and has brought the facility to a condition that will allow it to fulfill RVCS’s long-term needs over the next 10 years.

The Board of Trustees believes that the time is right for us to take the next step and to evaluate purchasing the building. We believe that doing so will provide several significant benefits. First and foremost, it will be a sound financial decision that will allow us to reduce our total annual facility costs – our second biggest expense after staff salaries. Given the current real estate market and historically low interest rates, now is the perfect time for us to complete a purchase. Reducing our facility costs will allow us to devote more resources to our academic program within the constraints of annual tuition payments.

Second, owning the building will give us greater control over the property, and along with investigating financing options for a purchase we will be exploring the possibility of making modest investments to reconfigure or upgrade both the interior and exterior spaces. Our highest priority will be to try to resolve the drainage problem at the front of the property, as well as to maximize outdoor play space on the site.

We are early in the process, and no final decisions have been made, but our intent is to move expeditiously and to complete the purchase as early as next year. The Board will provide regular updates as our efforts progress. We hope that the entire community will join together in supporting this effort, which represents an important step in the continued growth and maturation of the school and its mission – Montessori made public.

I started my talk with a thank you to the teachers – I would be remiss in closing without thanking the children for their inspiration; the parents who dedicate so much time to the school in and out of the classroom; and of course – the grandparents who nurtured all of them.

Thank you all again for coming today and for continuing to support this incredible school. I hope that you enjoy the rest of the program this morning.


Thank you.