On Jan. 26, 2024, Dr. Rodney Glasgow hosted a virtual Parent Open Forum with the Head of School, which was followed by an all-school Parents Association meeting. In addition to asking questions during the meeting, parents and guardians were also given the opportunity to submit questions in advance. Read below to see highlights from the meeting; the full virtual meeting recording (including the PA meeting) is also available from the Parent Portal page in Veracross.
Thriving Community Spirit
Rodney began the meeting with an interactive check-in, enabling real-time feedback from families asking how their school year was going. The overwhelmingly positive responses shared by families showed a deep connection to the School and an appreciation for our nurturing, academically stimulating, and community-rich atmosphere, as shown in comments like:
- "Great! My child wants to be at SSFS forever."
- "Wonderful. Son has made fabulous new friends! Also he's finally academically challenged"
- "safe place to grow"
- "Terrific. We feel welcomed, supported, and a strong sense of community."
In addition to soliciting feedback from our families, Rodney reflected on our efforts to breathe new life into our beloved traditions, adding more joy in a post-pandemic time. Rodney celebrated our generations-old traditions like all-school assemblies, the Community Play, and Upper School Intersessions. He also highlighted new rituals born from 2020 on, such as the Lower School Gratitude Museum and Senior Passion Projects—events that showcase continued innovation amidst tradition.
Through the feedback, as well as the increased SSFS spirit fueled by preserving old traditions and embracing the new, SSFS is committed to fostering an environment that feels like a second home for our students.
Balancing Financial Accessibility with Financial Stability
A question was submitted in advance asking about projected tuition increases for the next 3-5 years. Rodney used this as a jumping-off place to give a 50,000-foot overview of school finances and some of the thinking around how the Board of Trustees determine the appropriate tuition increase each year.
Thoughtful tuition rate increments for upcoming years maintain a competitive range compared to peer institutions | Rodney shared that although tuition rate percentages for SSFS have increased from the 2022-2023 through 2024-2025 school years a bit more than in previous years (4.85%, 6.98%, and 5.43%, respectively), the overall annual tuition for most grade levels continues to be lower than the average cost of tuition of our peer schools.
SSFS outshines its peer schools in offering substantially more financial aid, emphasizing a commitment to accessible quality education. | Rodney shared numbers around financial aid awards from 2021 to the present in the context of average financial aid given at AIMS peer schools, with the numbers showing that SSFS awards significantly more in financial aid (measured both in total dollars of aid given and the number of students who receive aid) than our peer schools.
"That's the heart of us as Quakers, in talking about community, equality, and stewardship," Rodney shared. "I just put it up there to say that as we increase the tuition of the School, we are appropriately increasing our commitments to financial aid, and we have a big commitment to financial aid relative to our peers and the size of our school."
Building a Sustainable Legacy at SSFS through Philanthropy
Charting a sustainable future for SSFS is our primary goal. We are not just working towards surviving; we're gearing towards thriving year in, year out. Key to making this future a reality is the Annual Fund, and its importance cannot be overstated. While tuition helps us deliver high-quality education, it doesn't cover all our yearly expenses. That's where the Annual Fund steps in, filling in that financial gap and ensuring that SSFS continues to thrive and offer transformative experiences to our students.
Rodney shared that, whereas in recent years the Annual Fund goal was between $350,000-$400,000, this year our goal has increased to $610,000. To illustrate the community's remarkable response to this lofty goal, Rodney presented a graph showing annual giving participation rates. The varied groups contributing, from the Board to faculty and alumni, from parents to grandparents, are all making their mark, underlining that this is a team effort. However, when compared to the Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) averages, Rodney highlighted a disparity: while SSFS enjoys robust support in terms of community contributions, the actual dollar amounts gathered do not follow the upward trend seen in the AIMS statistics.
"Annually, we are a strong school... This isn't about year-to-year; this is about being a sustainable school 25 years from now. But what it means is that there's not a lot of wiggle room in the tuition we have to charge in order to be a sustainable school year to year." To this end, efforts are underway to construct a strategic five-year financial plan with consultation from a top-tier independent school economist. We're looking far beyond the immediate future, creating a plan that secures SSFS's vibrant presence well into the future.
Wrapping up, the forum was an excellent platform for addressing the questions of our SSFS families. As we continue to navigate post-pandemic times with energy, tradition, and financial acumen, we're fortified by the resolve to embody SSFS's values throughout every step of this journey, fostering an enriching learning environment for our students. As a community, we look forward to working together to cultivate an SSFS experience that is characterized by academic passion, community spirit, and philanthropic strides.