At the recent PTAA annual meeting, I shared some information regarding the State of the School. As has been our practice, we use this time to share highlights from the past year and look towards the future.
Any such presentation regarding Cary Academy must begin with the most important item: Our students continue excel inside and outside of the classroom. They are taking full advantage of the rich learning environment at CA through participation in extracurricular activities, athletics, and service projects. As we know from our own experiences, these opportunities allow for real-life skill development that serve as an essential complement to the good work happening in our classrooms.
The last year had many highlights:
- A number of our Science Olympiad students placed in the top 10 in their respective events at the state tournament last April. Our mathematicians continued to represent themselves and CA well in state competitions at all levels. Our Varsity robotics program was profiled in the News and Observer this fall. Our MS Lego robotics had an extremely good showing in competition and just missed qualifying for the state tournament this December. Our JV FIRST Tech Challenge team qualified for the state tournament to be held later this winter. Finally, this fall, CA introduced a new researched-based science competition, sending a team to the USA Young Physics Tournament in Virginia at the end of January.
- In 2014-2015, our athletic teams had their second best year ever, placing 4th (out of 21 schools) for the top overall program award — the Wells Fargo Cup — which was helped by state championships in boys swimming and boys tennis. This was on the heels of our best year at the state level in 2013-2014, where we bested all our Triangle rivals. This fall, our boys and girls Cross Country teams won state championships, and in between more teams than can easily be listed here took home TISAC championships and runners-up trophies at the state tournament. At the end of the fall season, Cary Academy sat in 5th place in the Wells Fargo cup.
- Two highly successful theatrical productions held in our Black Box Theater, in the fall it was Metamorphoses for the US and winter A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the MS. The US also held its first joint performing arts presentation at Meymandi Concert Hall between the orchestra, band, and chorus.
- On November 6th, 2015 we held a Celebration of Creativity and Innovation as part of our regular Grandparents’ Day. Students presented in the morning, a Speaker Series (featuring students and alumni guests as well) took place midday, and a series of hands-on art, athletic, music, and dance opportunities were available in the afternoon.
- Students continue to excel in their commitment to the wider community, serving others individually, in clubs, and by grade level. Cary Academy employees held their second all-employee service day this fall, working with Stop Hunger Now. Among many other grade-level activities, the full community participated in our Community Service Day in honor of MLK by sorting coats for at the Salvation Army this January.
- Cary Academy continued to play host to many groups coming from schools around the world, and this fall we hosted Dr. Peggy McIntosh, who spoke on the topic of diversity and inclusion to educators from around the state. For the second year in a row, CA students hosted their own educational conference, this time focusing on the “ideal educational program” with students from around the Triangle.
As an institution, Cary Academy continues to thrive. We measure the health of the organization in several ways:
- Interest in what we offer. Our applications remain at the top-end of recent averages, and last year 88% of students offered a place at the school enrolled — well above peer school benchmarks. Our attrition rate last year was a remarkably small 3%.
- Inclusive in our environment. Overall, students of color make up 32% of our enrollment and faculty of color are at 22%, again exceeding our peer school benchmark group.
- Value for your tuition dollar. Cary Academy is debt free and a generous endowment supports 85% of our financial aid budget, allowing us to keep our tuition below our peer schools and allocate more of those dollars to support top-rate faculty and innovative programs.
- Strong program performance indicators. This year, 89% of parents and past parents told us that they had a positive (22%) or very positive (67%) view of the school. Parents also are showing their support by making CA a top priority in their philanthropic giving. The Cary Academy Annual Fund has seen a remarkable 68% increase in the last two years, and this year’s effort will again set a new record. A huge thank you to the parent chairs the last three years: Greg and Liz Sanchez, John and Christa McElveen, and Jeff and Jill Wilson.
Student outcomes, as measured by standardized test scores, AP exams, and college admissions remain remarkably strong. We are particularly proud of our acceptance rates at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In the past two years, CA has also had three alumni recognized by Forbes in their “30 under 30” publication — Philip DeSimone (‘07), Travis May (‘05), and Uzma Rawn (‘02).
A quick note on a few major initiatives:
- Strategic Plan. We have begun the implementation of our newly approved strategic plan. A new website has debuted at http://blogs.caryacademy.org/CA2020. Initiatives for this year include:
- establishing a shared language for innovation through the use of design thinking,
- forming a cross-divisional schedule study team,
- instituting a curriculum review cycle, starting with math, science, and health,
- launching a Research and Development team,
- auditing our external communications,
- connecting with the internal and external communities through our creativity and innovation showcase; STEP Conference; Peggy McIntosh presentation,
- conducting a successful feasibility study to assess financial support with the community for our strategic plan and our master facilities plans.
- New student information system implementation. We have had started rollout of Veracross, which replaces our old system by Blackbaud and connects demographic, academic, and business functions.
- We continue to move forward with the work identified by our master facilities planning process. We updated classroom furniture in 11 rooms this summer. We are planning a major update of our main chiller unit, as part of needed HVAC work. This summer, we expect to conduct a pilot renovation in the top floor of the US building, to test some new concepts for offices, classrooms, and collaboration spaces.
On a personal note, I am in the fortunate position of working regularly with employees, students, parents, alumni, and past parents. All I can say is: Wow. Those interactions never fail to leave me impressed and humbled. Cary Academy is a special place, and it is an honor to play my part in its wonderful story.