Parents Hear from School Leadership on “Your Most Important Investment”

Parents Hear from School Leadership on “Your Most Important Investment”

Members of St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s Board of Trustees and administration offered parents an in-depth examination of the school’s finances and how investments in independent school tuition and philanthropic giving directly impact students and faculty. Head of School Virginia Connor, Board Treasurer Amy Starr, Director of Finance and Operations Peter Ganzenmuller, and Director of Development Kathryn Collins presented at the November meeting of the Parents’ Association.

“We understand that St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s represents one of our parents’ largest investments financially, and certainly the largest investment emotionally,” said Ms. Starr, P ’17, 20. “The Board of Trustees is committed to managing that investment in a transparent way.”

Ms. Starr explored the ways that the Board of Trustees has strengthened the school’s financial health in recent years. “The school is debt-free, and with the completion of our chapel renovation this fall, the facility is fully renovated and modernized. We own the building and the land outright, along with 100 acres of land in Brewster, N.Y., for which we have no property tax obligation,” she said.

“Additionally, the school has been able to cover operating expenses without an endowment draw, allow cash reserves to grow to $13 million. We currently hold one year’s operating expenses in reserve.”

Among the priorities of the Board of Trustees are to maintain the school’s historic commitment to financial aid and to offer faculty compensation that is competitive with peer schools, while preserving the strength of the school’s academic program.

“Faculty salaries and benefits make up the majority of our expenses, as it should be,” said Ms. Starr. “Financial aid makes up the second largest budget item.”

The school’s historic commitment to financial aid has been a major influence on the school’s financial status. “We have granted approximately $40 million in financial aid since our founding in 1950,” said Ms. Starr, noting that if the school had not provided that level of aid each year, the endowment would be more in line with other independent schools who have not historically given significant aid. “Our alumni are our living endowment.”

Ms. Connor explained the Board’s strategic decision to offer faculty tuition remission, which covers the cost of tuition for one child in each faculty family that is enrolled. “Eighteen years ago,” she said, "we started losing teachers because they could not afford to raise children in the city. Instituting this program has helped us to build a strong and loyal faculty.” In fact, almost half of the faculty have been with the school for more than 10 years, and six members have more than 20 years tenure.

Parents, faculty, and trustees make philanthropy to St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s  an important priority each year. Unanimous participation in the annual fund for 11 consecutive years has helped to build the school’s program and to facilitate important initiatives, including ongoing building renovations, faculty professional development, need-based student support, fully funded field trips, student productions, and more.

A focus for the school in the coming months, said Ms. Connor, is the development of the school’s endowment. “We must create a self-sustaining, income-generating fund to enable long-term planning, ensure the financial health of the school, and support our core values,” she said.

The 2018-2019 annual fund campaign is now underway, said Ms. Collins. “Be sure to check your mail! The St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's Fund appeal was mailed this week, along with our printed Report from the Head of School.”

This presentation will be offered at various times throughout the year; parents who were not able to attend the November meeting are encouraged to attend future sessions.