RAISE Y[OUR] VOICE Capital Campaign Updates
June 2: As this will be our last Scoop letter this year, we thought we'd reflect back on some of the highlights from the first full year of the Raise Y[our] Voice Campaign's public phase. The year began last May with a hoot and a holler at our Barn Raising campaign kick-off. Margaret loved the chance to dress up like a cowgirl, and Brad just wore his regular everyday clothes. After a summer hiatus, the hard work really began in the fall, at which time we had approximately $4.5M of our $8M goal pledged and a 30% participation rate from current parents. Throughout the fall, winter, and spring, our parent, grandparent, and alumni volunteers have been busy contacting you, meeting with you, and asking for your support. Additionally, Brendan and the administrative team, faculty, and staff helped us pull off a series of six community gatherings in the fall, sharing with you their vision for The Barn and the impact it will have on the the lives of y[our] children.
As a result of all this work and the generosity the BDS community has displayed, we now have more than $6.45M pledged and a 59% current family participation rate. Another 16% of current families have been solicited and are considering their level of support. This is great news. We have surpassed the $6M minimum threshold the board of trustees set before construction could begin, and we are beginning to see the finish line on the horizon.
However, much work needs to be done. Every dollar we raise now will improve the final product of The Barn and our current facility. Every dollar we raise now will lessen the school's debt burden. Every dollar we raise now will relieve pressure for future tuition increases and keep BDS as affordable as possible. We want to give Brendan and his team all the tools they need to implement their vision for Belmont Day School. BDS has been a wonderful home for our families, and we know that it can be and will be even more so in the future. This is our charge together. This is our opportunity. Let's all raise our voices and seize it.
May 26: Why Does the Barn Matter to Y[our] Children?
When The Barn opens, BDS's current fourth, fifth, and sixth graders will be starting sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, respectively. As we have shown in this space over the last few weeks, The Barn project will improve student life for all BDS students in multiple ways. Arguably, the middle school will see the most significant enhancements. How so? Let us share with you some of our thoughts:
- An additional 10-15 students per grade level will expand the social and intellectual pool, while maintaining a strong sense of intimacy and community. This is, developmentally, the right thing to do at this critical juncture in our middle schoolers' young lives and is something our middle school parents have been asking for with each passing year.
- The addition of several new faculty members will keep Belmont Day's student/faculty ratio where it is and class sizes small, but will enhance opportunities for teacher collaboration and bring lots of new skills sets to the community as well as new curricular opportunities for our students.
- The juxtaposition of the visual arts, wood working, and innovation lab in The Barn will allow those teachers to collaborate more than ever before. Working together in this way, the whole will truly be greater than the sum of its parts.
- The creation of new gallery space in The Barn's mezzanine level will provide y[our] children a wonderful place to display their 3D art, watch their friends play a game, or gather for a club activity.
- The dedicated life science classroom will allow them to see their projects come to fruition over a longer time frame, with the science itself dictating the time frame rather than classroom space considerations. That paradigm shift—having program drive space, and not the other way around—is critical for healthy program and instruction.
- Interscholastic sports offerings can be expanded, with sports offered based more on what is appropriate for students and less on what space is available for practice and competition.
- New athletic spaces will allow more teams to practice and host games on campus, enhancing school spirit, building community, cutting travel time to off-site venues, and saving transportation costs.
We feel like we're just scratching the surface here. What we are perhaps most excited to see are all the ways this project (The Barn and the renovations to our current building) will allow members of the BDS community (students, faculty, and staff) to explore new and effective ways of teaching and learning. Y[our] children's education should not be constrained by space. It should be enabled by it.
May 19: Why Does the Barn Matter to Y[our] Children?
Last week we highlighted how The Barn will impact y[our] current pre-k and kindergartners, who will be entering grades 1 and 2 in the fall of 2018. This week we turn our attention to y[our] current first, second, and third graders, who will be our rising third to fifth graders a year from this fall. Adding The Barn and reconfiguring space in our current building will present lots of exciting opportunities:
- Most dramatically, grades 3 to 5 will have a whole new home in what is now the first/lower middle school floor (where grades five and six currently live).
- This clustering will allow a new community within the larger BDS community to be born, giving all of these students a stronger sense of community identity. Additionally, it will more logically align fifth grade as the upper end of the lower school, providing them more opportunities as leaders of the lower school.
- A more robust athletics program will be available for our students in these grades due to the space of The Barn. Just get our athletics faculty started discussing the possibilities....
- Additional space allows for more flexible scheduling which, in turn, leads to more curricular opportunities for y[our] students.
- The Barn is designed first and foremost with y[our] academic and athletic programs in mind. Program drives space, not the other way around. Perhaps science projects can live on in the lab for a complete life cycle, rather than to be sent home to make space for the next curricular unit. Perhaps BDS could have a volleyball team. Perhaps sculptures, wood working projects, and other 3D objects could be publicly displayed, rather than sent immediately home for lack of gallery space. Perhaps our visual arts faculty could collaborate continuously, rather than having to trudge throughout the school to do so.
As parents of current middle school students, we are a little sad that our own children won't be able to experience The Barn during these critical, formative years. However, we are thrilled to be playing a part in making this vision a reality for generations of BDS kids to come.
May 12: Why Does the Barn Matter to Y[our] Children?
From its conception, The Barn has been designed to impact the lives of all BDS students in multiple ways. Over the next few weeks, we thought it would be fun to ruminate on the different ways y[our] new facility will touch the lives of y[our] children over the course of their time at the school. We'll start with y[our] pre-k and kindergarten children and work our way up.
In the fall of 2018 the current pre-k and K students will be members of the first and second grade classes. As first and second graders y[our] children will:
- See how the things they are learning in the life science classroom spiral into the projects they will be working on as they grow up. Their projects can "live" in the classroom longer, and they can make better sense of where they've been and where they are going.
- Benefit from a more immediate connection between the outdoor classroom and garden and their work in the life science curriculum.
- Experience learning in an innovation space that encourages students to collaborate, take chances, make mistakes, experiment, build, and make cross-curricular connections that bring together their understanding of math and engineering with art and reading.
- Be able to work off more energy on rainy days with double the space for indoor recess.
- Learn new sports and games and run and play in PE classes in the new gym.
- Proudly show off their 3D art with prominent displays in the mezzanine gallery.
- Spend more time in the larger and lighter woodworking studio and less time in transition. The studio can accommodate 1/2 the class rather than 1/3.
- Walk the shortest distance between their homerooms and The Barn.
This list is just the beginning. We're excited to see how things play out when their little sneakers cross the threshold of The Barn for the first time.
May 4: While the process of securing building permits for The Barn and new driveway may not fall within the purview of our role as co-chairs of the Raise Y(our) Voice campaign, we are certainly interested parties and have had the opportunity to witness firsthand how our community has faced the inevitable challenges of the town's political process. We couldn't be prouder of what we've observed. The outpouring of support from BDS parents, former parents, alumni, grandparents, neighbors, and friends is truly inspiring. This has come in the form of dozens of personalized letters to Belmont's Town Planning Board, several Belmont residents making impassioned comments in person at the Planning Board meeting, and countless conversations on the topic throughout the community. Clearly, Belmont Day School means a tremendous amount to a whole lot of people.
Leading the charge for us in the permitting process, Brendan Largay and his team have been fantastic. They have demonstrated an empathetic, patient, inclusive, and clear-headed approach in the face of what, at times, must be quite frustrating and challenging situations. Throughout, they have held firm to Belmont Day's core values and interests and have articulated the school's case beautifully. We look forward to the day when our students are enjoying the benefits of our beautiful new building, a facility that will have truly been made possible by his steadfast leadership. We will owe this team a big debt of gratitude when that time comes.
As you read this, the permitting process is ongoing. Please stay informed and engaged, and look forward to the excitement of construction commencing at the end of the summer.
April 14: Belmont Day School is a product of a charitable giving tradition in which community members work together to create, build, and sustain the independent institutions that make our civil society strong. BDS was founded by families who wanted their children educated in a rigorous and joyful environment dedicated to the growth of the whole child. The families who invested in the school at the beginning knew they were creating a human institution, flaws and all. They were investing their money and efforts philanthropically in the promise of better educational opportunities for their children and for generations of children to follow. And so it goes today.
We hope you will join with us in supporting BDS not because it is a perfect school but because this educational community is always striving to improve, always striving to perfect itself. BDS's administration, its faculty, its staff, its volunteer board, and its very active parent body are all dedicated to providing the best education possible to our children, with a strong eye to our core values of honesty, caring, joy, responsibility, respect, and excellence. We ask those of you who have not yet done so to consider making a generous investment in the Raise Y[our] Voice Campaign, so that we can continue to move closer to the ideal BDS families and supporters have always been striving towards together.
Click here for the most recent Raise Y(our) Voice donor list!
April 7: Last night was an exciting one for Belmont Day School, as Brendan and our architectural team presented the school's application to the Belmont Planning Board for the Barn's final construction permit. They were professional, measured, and very well prepared. Because of the careful consideration BDS has put into this plan and the sensitivity with which the planning board wants to treat the neighbors who will be affected by this construction project, the board decided to delay it's final decision until its upcoming May 2 meeting to allow for further discussion.
It is clear that lots of people care deeply about Belmont Day and the precious land on which it sits. Certainly change can be difficult, and there is no doubt that a few of our neighbors have sincerely felt concerns that The Barn and our new driveway will adversely affect them. We as a community need to be especially sensitive to this and do everything we can to address their concerns and maintain good relationships with them. In the end, we hope that all of Belmont will recognize the considerable benefits accruing to Belmont by having BDS in its midst, in general, and that The Barn project will produce, in specific. At the very least, there are lots of families on Day School Lane who will be thrilled by the new traffic pattern!
I was particularly heartened to see the tremendous show of support from within the BDS community at last night's meeting. We were a large group of parents, grandparents, faculty, staff, and other supporters united behind this plan. It was fun to see each other and share in our enthusiasm for this project. Of course, we will have this opportunity once again on May 2 for the continuation of the discussion. This will be another opportunity for the school's Belmont families to show up once again to voice their respectful and enthusiastic support. We look forward to seeing you there and then getting shovels in the ground on time this summer.
March 24: Let the construction begin! This week the Raise Y[our] Voice Campaign is officially over the $6M pledge threshold the board of trustees set as the minimum requirement to begin construction. We could not be more thrilled. As you can see by our creative barn and ladder graphic, our total now stands at $6.35M. While this allows us to take a deep breath, there is still much heavy lifting to do to get us over the $8M goal threshold. In a sense, this is "crunch time." Our participation rate among current families stands at 46%. For this campaign to be successful, we need that number to double by the end of this school year. Our parent-to-parent volunteers are out there contacting folks and excited to meet. Please respond to them, grab a cup of coffee with them, and think about how you can contribute to making The Barn a reality.
We are looking for as close to 100% participation in this campaign as possible. Why? Because 100% of the community will benefit from it—both our lower school and our middle school.
- Every student will benefit from the new and improved arts, woodworking, and technology spaces and the teacher collaboration they allow.
- Every young scientist will be impacted by the dramatically improved life sciences classroom.
- Every student will benefit from the spaces freed up in our current building.
- BDS educates the whole child from pre-k to eighth grade and The Barn will be great for the mind, body, and spirit of ALL of our children.
March 10: It came to our attention that many families missed our recent message about the campaign's Grandparent Challenge, so we thought we'd revisit it and share with you some good news. Grandparents are a special part of the Belmont Day School community, and they have become a very important part of the Raise Y[our] Voice Campaign thanks to the leadership of grandparent co-chairs Ronald and Joan Pokross Curhan ‘49 and David and Jane Otte and a $250,000 matching challenge gift to the campaign made by an anonymous donor. This donor will match, dollar for dollar, every grandparent donation up to the $250K limit. Wow! So far we have raised...AND THIS IS THE NEWS...$75,000 towards this goal. Let's not leave any of this very generous challenge donation on the table.
We would be delighted if BDS parents would discuss The Barn project with their own parents to let them know how meaningful their participation in this endeavor would be to their grandchildren and to Belmont Day School. We would be very happy to speak with grandparents about this matching opportunity, so please contact us, the grandparent co-chairs, or Mary Merrill in the development office. Mary can also provide parents with packets of information regarding the campaign to pass along, if this makes the discussion easier.
March 3: One of the important and exciting elements of our impending construction project is the new driveway that will enter campus from Concord Avenue on the north side of Far Field and create a one way loop through campus. This point of ingress will initially be the service drive during construction and will be paved and opened to BDS families upon completion of The Barn at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. As parents who have been navigating Day School Lane during drop-off and pick-up times daily for the last ten years or more, we couldn’t be more excited about the prospects of the new traffic pattern. Gone will be backups to Concord Avenue. Gone will be trying to work our way around cars waiting to pick up children at the front door to get to Coolidge or the Walkway. Perhaps most importantly, gone will be the school's vulnerability to being cut off if and when another tree falls across Day School Lane, preventing even emergency vehicles access to campus. Our new driveway will not only be safer and more convenient, it will provide a beautiful entrance to the school lined by trees, a stone wall, and playing fields.
Our special thanks go to all BDS community members who have participated in the community forums introducing the idea of the driveway to the neighbors, as well as to those Belmont residents who wrote letters on the school's behalf to Belmont’s Office of Community Development. It takes a village to raise a Barn.
February 17: Grandparents are a special part of the Belmont Day community, and they have become a very important part of the Raise Y[our] Voice Campaign. We are thankful for the leadership of grandparent co-chairs Ronald and Joan Pokross Curhan ‘49 and David and Jane Otte and thrilled that an anonymous donor has created a $250,000 matching challenge gift to the campaign. This donor will match dollar for dollar every grandparent donation up to the $250K limit. Wow! So far we have raised $50K towards this goal. Let's not leave any of this very generous challenge donation on the table. If your child's grandparents would like to discuss this matching opportunity, please contact us, the grandparent co-chairs, or Mary Merrill in the development office.
February 10: The Raise Y[our] Voice Campaign is in full swing. We are closing in on the $6M we need to secure before shovels hit the ground this summer and on our way toward our ultimate goal of $8M. Raising the remaining $2.5M will be no small feat and will not come easily, but we can do it with the help of every family in the BDS community. Broad participation is crucial.
To ensure success, we have been joined this year by an outstanding cadre of volunteers who are busy reaching out to and trying to meet with every family in the community. This group includes 25 parent-to-parent volunteers led by Catalina Guillermety and Connaught Colbert '79 and terrific co-chairs for grandparent (Ronald and Joan Pokross Curhan ‘49 and David and Jane Otte) alumni (Stephanie Kadnar '84 and Johanna Mendillo '90), parents of alumni (Susan Duff Kostro ’75 and Julie Jalelian), faculty (Amy Sprung, Larissa Rochford '93, and Nancy Fell), and past trustee (Charles Styron) outreach.
In total, our parent-to-parent team has a goal of meeting with 202 families. These folks are volunteering their time to do the fundraising work that needs to get done to make the Barn a reality. So, when you hear from a parent, grandparent, or alumni volunteer, please take the meeting and be prepared for a nice chat discussing y[our] children and Belmont Day's future. Meeting with BDS families has been both interesting and fun for us; we’re sure you’ll feel the same. Of course, if you would prefer to meet directly with the development office, we encourage you to contact Director of Development Mary Merrill.
February 3: We thought this would be a good time to share some of the most commonly asked questions we’ve addressed in our campaign meetings and neighborhood receptions.
1) We understand we are being asked to support both the annual fund and the Raise Y[our] Voice Campaign. How would Belmont Day like us to prioritize these gifts?
The school's ongoing top priority is to maintain strong annual giving. The annual fund is a line item in the annual budget, so BDS needs everyone in the community to contribute as generously as they can each year. As many of you know, tuition does not cover the entire cost of educating students. The real cost is approximately $3500 greater than tuition. Think of your gift as an annual expense to maintain the school’s current level of operation.
Schools periodically have to make investments in their physical plant or other long-term priorities that go beyond what can be covered in the annual budgeting cycle. This is why they have periodic capital campaigns. The Raise Y[our] Voice Campaign to help construct The Barn is one such effort. In addition to regular annual fund contributions, we are asking families to invest in the school’s future, as have families throughout Belmont Day's history. While The Barn will directly benefit the great majority of our current students, the campaign gives us all a chance to make an impact on the school that will endure for generations of students to come.
2) Can pledges to the campaign be paid over time, or do they need to be paid in one lump sum?
Pledges to the Raise Y[our} Voice Campaign can be paid over five years. For example, a pledge of $10,000 could be paid in a lump sum of $10,000 or over five years with a pledge payment of $2,000 a year. Payment schedules may be worked out directly with Mary Merrill, Director of Development. BDS is happy to accept a variety of payment forms, including appreciated securities.
3) What is the construction schedule for The Barn?
We are on schedule to break physical ground on the project mid-summer 2017, with completion by September 2018, prior to the opening of the 2018-19 school year. After years of thoughtful planning, the construction process will actually be quite quick.
January 20: Making the whole greater than the sum of its parts has to be one of the holy grails of building design, and the thoughtful process through which the Barn is being designed makes us believe that this project will be a triumph by that measure. It is not by accident that the visual arts, life sciences, and technology are slated to move into these new academic spaces. Widely spread now in the current building, bringing them together in close proximity will facilitate much easier and more robust collaboration between our excellent teachers in these fields. You can view the current designs of the Barn here.
It doesn't take much effort to imagine projects modeled in Mr. Robinson's tech lab and prototyped in Mr. Smith's woodshop, or vice versa. It isn't difficult to imagine the sparks of positive and creative energy that will fly between Mrs. Armstrong and Ms. Solomon when their classrooms are connected. Likewise, the proposed dedicated life science room will foster even greater cross-graded collaboration, as the facility itself will support and highlight BDS's intentionally spiraled life science curriculum. The student experience has been the central feature of the Barn's design work from its initial stages, and we couldn't be more excited by how much Y[our] children will benefit by the hard work the entire community has put into constructing a space that will so effectively release our faculty's creative energy.
January 13: One of the great pleasures of co-chairing the Raise Y[our] Voice campaign is having the opportunity to meet so many folks associated with BDS. We are a small community, 178 families, and we are attempting to accomplish big things together. Last Thursday the campaign team completed the final of six community gatherings hosted by families in the various nearby towns. They were all very special events, with 60% of our families attending at least one event. In addition to hearing from some of our amazing faculty about how “The Barn” is going to impact their lives and the lives of our children, we all found it fun to gather with neighbors. Usually, parent groups at BDS gather by grade, so these get togethers were a lively change of pace.
We’d like to thank profusely our hosts for these events: the Lyttons, the McEleneys, the von Gottbergs, the Wallach/Viney family, and the Guillermety/Gauld family. You all were most welcoming. We’d also like to thank all of the faculty who devoted their evenings off to share with us their passion and wisdom about the possibilities the new space will bring: Anne Armstrong, Deborah Brissenden, Diane Foster, Carl Geneus, Liz Gray, Meg Lloyd, Kaleen Moriarty, John O'Neill, Larissa Rochford, Bill Smith, Kathy Jo Solomon, Dean Spencer, Leigh Twarog.
Lastly, we’d like to thank everyone who attended. Beyond being fun for us, it renewed our faith in the strength of the BDS community and our potential to accomplish the amazing task ahead of us. Please take a moment to complete our four-question survey by clicking here.
May 11: Campaign Update, May 11
May 7: The BDS Barn Raising and Kick Off was a BAA-eautiful night of community celebration! Check out the fun in our BDS Barn Raising photo gallery.