Talk of school reform and innovation sometimes makes it seem like this is a recent concept in education, but at School Growth we've had the privilege of visiting two schools in the last week who have managed to effectively understand economic and education forces in order to stay relevant and grow.
Pine Forge Academy
Pine Forge is unique in its mission to serve a very specific target market: African-American families with high school students who want a Christian boarding school experience. The property on which their campus is located has a powerful historical significance, having been part of the "underground railroad" in the 19th century that enabled many slaves to escape to freedom.
Over the years the leadership at Pine Forge has found more effective ways to recruit families from across the U.S. and around the world. They have continued to work closely with the church conference with which they are affiliated to innovate while also staying on mission.
Under the leadership of Superintendent Judy Dent and Principal Nicole Hughes, the school recently successfully completed its re-accreditation. Rather than revert back to business as usual after finishing that extensive process, however, they have engaged School Growth to advance their talent pipeline, faculty culture, and operational sustainability. They are committed to finding new ways to improve their value proposition to faculty and to families in order to sustainably grow.
The Bolles School
Following up on my interview with Nancy Greene, CFO at The Bolles School, regarding her expertise as a Consultative Business Officer, I had the privilege of touring their school and learning more about the story behind their success. The main campus is stunningly beautiful, situated on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida.
Bolles has a unique history that is captured in a custom designed statue in front of the main building. The basic time-line goes like this:
- 1933: Founded as a military school for boys in grades 7-12
- 1962: Dropped the full military component in favor of being a private school for boys with an ROTC program
- 1971: Opted to allow girls to enroll becoming a coed campus
- 1981: Added lower school grades
- 1991: Acquired a separate campus that enabled boarding for girls
What was significant about these major transitions is that the board and administration didn't wait until enrollment declined to make the reinvention decision. They intentionally sought to learn from the social and economic trends of the day in order keep their value proposition relevant and to sustain momentum. That's why Bolles is such a highly successful school today--because of governence that utilized accurate forecasting, innovation, and leadership to achieve school growth.
The decisions your board and administration make today regarding your school design will determine your success for the next decade and beyond. That long-term view is transformative for everyone involved, and motivates your leadership to truly become a learning organization.