This week I will cover two sections of our NWAIS self-study: Enrollment Management and Administration.
The Enrollment Management section asks schools to describe and evaluate their processes for recruiting, accepting, and enrolling students. Since TIS does not have selective admissions, our admissions activities are based on two main concepts. First, we focus our events and communications to attract families who are interested in language, a diverse cultural environment, and inquiry-based learning. Second, since we value families with a variety of schedules, needs and questions, we offer a lot of personal communication and varied opportunities: daytime and evening open houses, structured information sessions, flexible tours, a robust web presence, electronic communication, and print-based materials.
An equally important piece of our Enrollment Management program supports reenrollment of current families. Since 2007 enrollment has risen by more than 100 students; most of that increase has come from retention. In 2004 there was close to a 20 percent annual attrition rate averaged over four years; that same rate has now dropped to below 7 percent. We attribute this to significant advancements in the school program with the International Baccalaureate (authorized in 2010), professionalism of school operations (reference administration section below), and facilities improvements (Stearns Hall opened in 2007, numerous renovations of the Hilltop building, etc). The admissions department supports reenrollment with Moving Up sessions for parents in preschool and kindergarten, information for all parents about their child’s next grade, and by managing the significant information flow for the reenrollment process.
The school’s financial assistance program is also a critical part of enrollment management. TIS financial aid is entirely need-based, and 15 to 20 percent of students receive financial assistance each year. Financial aid is capped at 30 percent of each student’s tuition costs for preschool, and 60 percent for K – 5. This differential helps with retention in the elementary grades where we are unable to enroll new students easily. These caps also enable the school to offer assistance to all qualifying families while still keeping within budget. The school has never had to deny a family that followed the application process and qualified for aid.
Overall, the school is targeting an eventual total enrollment of 525 students, as established by the 2008 Strategic Plan. That represents only 30 additional students than are enrolled today, an increase we expect to come partly from retention and partly from preschool enrollment at the TIS Early Childhood Center in John’s Landing next year.
The self-study’s Administration section asked us to examine the work and structure of our administrative staff. After many years of operating with a truly skeleton crew, the school’s administrative team has grown over the last few years. Newer positions include the school’s first human resources, technology, and development positions; two additional facilities specialists; a K-2 Principal; and two multi-focus operations positions (one for Summer Camp/Capstone/Transportation and one for Operations/Compliance).
Effective administrative staff communication is critical for school operations. The primary mode of communication between administrative functions is email, bolstered by many different configurations of regular and ad hoc meetings. All employees receive and may contribute to a weekly staff bulletin, “The Loop”, and an extensive staff web site is maintained with resources, links and updates for all employees. Staff members are all encouraged to communicate face-to-face as much as possible, which facilitates understanding especially with the diversity of employee languages and cultures.
Our administration-to-student ratio is still very low compared to NWAIS school averages, and that can make things stressful particularly during certain times of the year. The administrative team works collaboratively to help one another and prioritize the work. The biggest impediments for the administrative team are lack of office and meeting space, lack of certainly functionality in our school database, and some office equipment failures. Individual staff member service and contributions are recognized on an ad hoc basis; the staff aims to establish processes to ensure that employee recognition is part of our workplace culture.
Compliance with various state and local regulations and financial requirements is a big responsibility for the administrative team. In collaboration with other staff members, the Human Resources Generalist and Business Manager oversee compliance issues associated with their respective departments. The school’s financials are independently audited on an annual basis. The Operations and Compliance Manager manages compliance with the Oregon Childcare Division (CCD), fire prevention and safety procedures, and immunization law.
I hope this gives you more insight into the school’s enrollment and administrative functions. Please stay tuned for more information about the self-study in next week’s ITK.
- Robert Woods, Head of School, RobertW@intlschool.org, 503-226-2496 x122