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Letter from the Head of School

Survey Says? Part III


Dear Friends,

Last month we published the second in a series of three letters sharing the results of the Head's Entry Survey that was sent out last May in anticipation of my transition to The Albany Academies. It asked the following questions:
  1. Please indicate which constituency you represent. If you represent multiple constituencies, please select all that apply.
  2. In your opinion, what are the traits and characteristics of the ideal Albany Academies student?
  3. If you have a child who attends or attended The Albany Academies, why did you choose The Albany Academy and/or Albany Academy for Girls? If you attend or attended the Academies, why did you or your family choose the School? If you are an employee of the Academies, why do you choose to work at the School?
  4. How do you think The Albany Academies are perceived in the local school market? How are the Academies different than the other available options? What does the School do better than any other school?
  5. What is THE most important issue facing The Albany Academies today? How does it impact the School?
  6. What is the SECOND most important issue facing The Albany Academies today? How does it impact the School?
  7. What is the THIRD most important issue facing The Albany Academies today? How does it impact the School?
  8. What MUST NEVER change about the School?
  9. What COULD change about the School?
  10. What SHOULD change about the School?
  11. Are there continuous issues that the Academies are perpetually addressing? Why do you think these are continuing issues?
758 constituents responded to the survey, and the information they provided has informed me, the School’s Leadership Team, and the Board of Trustees about our community’s perceptions of The Albany Academies’ strengths and opportunities for improvement.

This final letter in the series shares the results of questions 8, 9, and 10. Question 11, which asks about continuous issues, yielded many individual answers, but without enough consistency to present statistically-significant themes. While I provide a brief discussion of “change themes,” you will likely notice that there is no accompanying commentary about what these results might mean. This is deliberate because this work is being done collectively and collaboratively in the Academies’ various standing committees and ad hoc work groups, particularly the Strategic Planning Committee.

That said, I invite your comments and observations about these data should you be so moved and can best be reached via email at LauricellaC@albanyacademies.org.

What MUST NEVER change about the School?
Traditions/History
184
24%
Sense of Community/Supportive Environment
165
22%
Single Gender/Blend Construct
108
14%
High Academic Rigor/Standards
104
14%
Excellent Teaching/Challenging Curriculum
97
13%
Mission-Driven/Focus on Character Development
84
11%
Exceptional Faculty
61
8%
Small Class Sizes
47
6%
Individual Attention
33
4%
Class Bonds/Belonging
31
4%
Unique Identity
30
4%
School Uniforms
30
4%
Athletics
27
4%
Leadership Development
25
3%
College Preparation
16
2%
Wide Range of Student Opportunities
16
2%
Academic Freedom
14
2%
Advising
14
2%
Food Service
13
2%
Facilities
10
1%
Reputation
10
1%
Arts
8
1%
Alumni Engagement
7
1%
Financial Aid
4
1%
 
What COULD change about the School?
Improved Coordination Between Schools
60
8%
Academic Schedule
35
5%
Facilities (I.E. Campus Traffic, Climate Control, Renovations )
30
4%
School Uniform Policy
29
4%
More Focused Faculty Development
28
4%
Food Service
24
3%
Communications
23
3%
More Curricular and Co-Curricular  Opportunities
20
3%
Affordability
17
2%
More Support for the Arts
17
2%
Less Focus on Athletics
17
2%
More Attention to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
16
2%
More Consideration of Constituent Voice/Collaboration
15
2%
Updated Instructional Technology
13
2%
Increased Academic Rigor
12
2%
Consistency/Address Perceived Inequities
12
2%
Workload/Homework/Effect on Student Wellness
12
2%
School Leadership Style (More Consistent and Considerate)
11
1%
More Cohesive Community/Culture
9
1%
Different Community Engagement Requirement
9
1%
Enhanced Compensation/Budgets
8
1%
Alumni Engagement
7
1%
Enhance Community Service
7
1%
 
What SHOULD change about the School?
More Attention to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
35
5%
School Leadership Style (More Consistent and Considerate)
35
5%
Facilities (I.E. Campus Traffic, Climate Control, Renovations )
26
3%
Consistency/Address Perceived Inequities
25
3%
More Cohesive Community/Culture
22
3%
Food Service
20
3%
Teacher Quality/Faculty Development
19
3%
Communications
15
2%
School Safety/Security
13
2%
School Uniform Policy
12
2%
Workload/Homework/Effect on Student Wellness
12
2%
More Support for the Arts
11
1%
Updated Instructional Technology
11
1%
Better Approach to Bullying Interventions
10
1%
Improved Coordination Between Schools
9
1%
Human Resources/Employee Engagement
9
1%
Insure Relevancy of Academic Program
9
1%
Affordability
8
1%
College Placement Process
8
1%
Less Political Activism
8
1%
Academic Schedule
8
1%
Enhanced Compensation/Budgets
7
1%
Less Focus on Athletics
7
1%
Improve Alumni/ae Engagement
5
1%
More Consideration of Constituent Voice/Collaboration
5
1%
Clearer Identity/Value Proposition
4
1%
 
DISCUSSION OF CHANGE THEMES.
As explained in March’s letter, analysis of previous questions revealed some consistency in three broad
“important issues” themes that constituents suggest should be examined: Quality of Academic Program,
School Culture, and Faculty Turnover, Retention, and Morale.

This final set of questions move from these broad issues to more specific ones by asking respondents to consider orders of change, from “never,” to “could,” to “should.” To do so, respondents had to make a mental shift to more concrete thinking about operationalizing and prioritizing changes.

In making sense of what must never change, respondents continued to share concepts that were aligned to the three broad “important issues” themes. However, when asked to make the mental shift to considering what could and should change, the response rate dramatically decreased, particularly when respondents were considering what should change. A significant number of respondents expressed discomfort with expressing change in such a definitive way. Some believed that the current state of the School did not require change. Some cited a lack of current familiarity with the School (mostly alumni/ae) and did not feel qualified to suggest changes. Others cited a lack of expertise and deferred to the School’s leadership. 

Such is the nature of change, which is both inevitable and uncomfortable. For the smaller group of remaining constituents who did offer suggestions about change, it is worth noting the strong likelihood that they have high levels of investment in the changes they suggest. Given the Academies’ wide range of stakeholders, it’s also not surprising to see that some change themes are in tension or opposition with others.

NEXT STEPS.
As previously discussed The Head’s Entry Survey, which includes quantitative survey research and stakeholder focus groups, is one part of a much larger data-gathering effort that is currently underway. All of this information is being digested and analyzed by a small strategic planning committee comprised of trustees, administrators, faculty, alumni, and alumnae, that will then present key findings from this data to the Board of Trustees in late spring. This information will help inform the development of strategic goals and objectives over the summer.

We will also use the feedback provided to inform ongoing refinements to our daily operations. I see such
continuous improvements as imperative to maintaining our position as a market leader and maintaining the trust of the various constituents who support the Academies.

Please know that some of these continuous improvements are already happening, particularly in the area of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The reason for this is simple and, I feel, compelling. Within the data-gathering process we found that there are a small number of students at the Academies who do not feel like they fully belong to the School’s current culture or community. My assumption as the School’s leader is that when we admit students, we assume the responsibility of creating a culture that fully accepts them. If there are organizational refinements that we can make to enhance our ability to help all students feel included in our community, I believe we should institute them with all deliberate speed.

THANK YOU!
As I conclude this series of letters, I want to thank all of the respondents to the Entry Survey who so generously shared their thoughts and opinions with me. Your wisdom has significantly flattened my learning curve about the Academies and provided the School a trove of knowledge from which to make informed decisions about the next few years. We are now truly poised to “grow together!”

Sincerely,

Christopher J. Lauricella, Ed. M.
Head of School
What must never change about the School?
What could change about the School?
What should change about the School?
    • Introducing Head of School Chris Lauricella


List of 1 items.

  • Transition Committee

    Chris Bender '78, P'15, '20, Co-Chair of Transition Committee
    Eileen Considine P’08, Trustee, Co-Chair of Transition Committee
    Jennifer Amstutz P’19, ’21, Trustee
    Dave Ashton P’17, ’21, ’21
    Nancy Carey Cassidy P’13, ’15, Trustee
    Tom Cassidy P’13, ’15
    Adam Collett P’32
    Karin Epstein P’18, ’21
    Anna Flik P’18, ’20, ’23, ’26
    James Hart P’09, ’10, ’13
    John Hayes ’87, P’16, ’18, Trustee
    Donna Keegan P’06, ’10
    Robert LuPone P’24
    Sandra Miorin P’10, ’12
    Wendy Muhlfelder ’67, P’94, ’98, ’99, ’00
    Timothy Owens ’83, P’15, ’19
    William B. Picotte ’67, P’01, ‘04
    Jim Poole ’68, P’02, ’14
    Shelly Reid P’12, ’23
    Susan Sneeringer '72, P’01, ’04, ‘08
    Kaari Stannard P’20, ’23, Trustee
    Ann Wendth
    Vince Zabinski P’99, ’03, ’04, ’04

The Albany Academy

Albany Academy for Girls

Schellenberger Alumni/ae Center