Since our last Board meeting many things have transpired, variously good, entertaining, or on the onerous side. Here are summaries in sections. Please read them all before the July Board meeting, tentatively set for the 23rd at 1:30 PM. There are action items for all of us, which I’ve highlighted by using bigger bold text in green (green highlighting would be better, but I have to learn a little CSS coding to do that, later). There are nine of these action items so highlighted.
Thanks, and see you soon!
Sidelights and amusing things
Katie Bushma, our EK-K teacher, is now married! Lou Ellen, Yulin, Yolanda, and Vince attended the wedding and party at the Red Hawk Golf Course on June 16th!
Family member and Board member David has a new job with a startup, Happy Health, based in Austin, TX. He can work from home in Sunnyvale!
A very odd request: A fellow N. Nyugen, a Vietnamese working for the Ukranian military has requested to be added to the emailing list for our school’s public newsletter. Huh?
Vince’s second knee has been replaced, with great success. In three days he abandoned the walker, in 10 days the cane, and he found at three weeks post-operation that he can walk down stairs without pain and at speed, for the first time in 12 years! Kudos to Ugonna Ezeh, a great surgeon. Vince will be able to teach tennis very actively this coming school year.
Vince’s podcasts for KRWG are running along well, with 221 broadcast since December, 2018 and 15 more recorded and ready. You can find them at krwg.org/show/the-science-digest and also, with a guidebook, at https://science-technology-society.com/1248-2/science-digest-all-the-podcasts-2/.
Stuff running in the background – of interest to the Board without the Board needing to do anything
The report cards for the fourth quarter of this recent school year are coming along. Lou Ellen is assembling them for parents from the reports of all the teachers. It’s a lot of work!
The teachers, exhausted by the crazy year (crazy for other schools, too), are recharging their batteries. Lovely summer! Even so, planning for next year is going on.
Recruiting students and recruiting teachers for the future is running at a good pace, with the help of Hubbli.com, a contract service that we engaged in May, following the Board’s approval at the April meeting.
- The service costs nearly one tuition’s worth per year. We got a $2500 discount, so it’s less. There are also charges from Facebook for the ads that Hubbli runs.
- Hubbli is very professional and works in a timely fashion. Sanadh Sageer designed a fine website that links from our website. He worked with us to tune it in detail.
- We have had 16 families book tours of the school as of 24 June, with 5 tours completed to the point of the families submitting application for admission.
- We have two inquiries from potential teachers, though the link from Hubbli is not certain. We don’t need to expand our faculty yet but it’s good to have candidates!
The long-deferred write-up of the curricula for several teachers is, well, deferred a little more. We offered a contract to semi-pro writer (and student, mother, business owner!) Cheri Pearson. She is moving to new digs and a new job but will get back to work on our curricula, come the fall.
Revising our Articles of Incorporation: at the April meeting Vince agreed to draft new Articles. He hopes to have the draft before the July meeting but readiness of the draft will not be required for the meeting to proceed.
Ditto, on completing the Policies Handbook.
Tidying up the QuickBooks company file: There are some messy items such as bills to be paid being recorded but bypassed because Vince just writes checks directly (physical or electronic). He began working on this with former Board member Kimberly Cichuniec as a leg up on prep for an audit. This can be worked on slowly with help from our accounting firm, Fristoe & Co.
Finding a replacement for QuickBooks as our bookkeeping method: Vince is finding QB increasingly annoying with new charges and increased charges. He looked at about 5 alternatives, with no clear winner. Pritish offered to explore the options after the April meeting. Pritish, have you found anything?
Board duties for immediate attention
The minutes of the 22 January meeting still need Pritish’s signature in DocuSign. I re-sent the minutes.
The minutes of the 23 April meeting still need signatures from David, Elizabeth, and Paul. I re-sent these minutes, too.
We all need to submit new conflict-of-interest statements again.. Let’s all get these in before the upcoming Board meeting in July. Vince has sent the form to everyone via DocuSign. You can add text to complete your version of the form and sign it.
Nominating and electing officers… and possible new Board members. By our By-laws and Articles of incorporation we need to have elections annually.
- We may assume that the current Board members are willing to continue on the Board; let Vince know if it’s otherwise.
- Everyone, please nominate yourself or others for these positions:
- Vice-Chair – almost a new position; Paul is the current holder
- Treasurer – recall that Vince does all the bookkeeping and acts as Deputy Chair, conveying the relevant info to the Treasurer, currently Pritish
- Secretary – maybe a formality, as Vince keeps the communications going
- Committees – we haven’t had formal committees to date, though our By-laws and Articles say we do. We agreed at the last meeting that we all act on a committee of the whole for these functions:
- Executive – this we define fixedly as a committee of the whole
Since Finance and Nominations are committees of the whole, let’s each be sure to:
- Peruse the Treasurer’s report; ask for any clarifications of terms and methods that you feel are needed; keep in mind the big expenditures for the next several years, for accreditation, buying the building, and finding paid administrators to take over for Lou Ellen and Vince
- Finding new Board members. We would benefit much from one or more additional Board members and specifically from better gender balance. In the meeting of April 23rd, we agreed to approach NMSU faculty member Graciela Unguez (to be done soon!) and to invited former LCPS Board member Maria Flores to sit in on our Board meetings to see if she’s interested in being on the Board. Lou Ellen and Vince met Maria on a walk a month ago. She may be too busy, but she may be available. We will invite her for this July meeting.
Reviewing the performance of Lou Ellen as Director. Vince will draft a format that we might follow, and have it distributed to everyone at least two weeks before the Board meeting.
Reviewing our own performance as a Board. In our By-laws we state “It shall annually review the performance of all Trustees, particularly those incumbent Trustees eligible for reelection.” The accreditation standards that we aim to meet say the same thing, in a bit more detail. Before the July meeting, please send Vince any suggestions about making a “scorecard” for ourselves.
How the school is running and will run
Teachers: they’re all coming back, woo-hoo. Yolanda notes that this may be her final year teaching for us. We have two teacher applicants who might take over.
Enrollment: As every year, we are losing students, 5 to 8 this time. We have 6 new students already accepted, with more applications coming in – up to the last minute, we expect, as every year. We may be up in enrollment again, by a modest amount.
Our finances are rock solid. Vince will soon have a draft of the Treasurer’s report for vetting by the Treasurer. This will include an analysis of the 2022-23 budget and a new budget for 2023-24.
- The Annual Fund again topped its goal of $30K. Parents are grateful for all we do.
- For the new year starting in August we have raised tuition 5.5%, covering most of the increased expenses. We raised teacher salaries 5%. There’s no inflation in our rent, thanks to our great landlords. Inflation in other expenses averaged about 10%, with some items tripling! Lots of businesses are gouging. In any event, we’ll still run a surplus that goes toward our long-rane plans of buying the building, getting accredited, and going to paid administration.
- We had no defaults on tuition or other untoward actions.
- Vince is ready to submit our financial info to our accountant, Norm Fristoe. He has reconciled in full all the credit union accounts and our credit card account.
- He’ll post our recent federal form 990 (tax return) on the website at an appropriate place. We’re mandated to do this, and it can help show everyone, donors especially, that we’re responsible for.
Classes, classes, classes; after-school activities: We’re always tuning and improving our programs.
- Elizabeth did a masterful job of scheduling classes, as ever.
- For the coming academic year, we discussed new classes in our May faculty meeting. We’re giving prime consideration to elective classes for older students to amplify their interest – and likely retain one or more students who are considering moving to the public schools for their offerings that have been broader than ours.
- We may be revamping computer programming, with parent Wei Tang proposing that another parent teach the earlier grades 3-5.
- This year teachers Elizabeth, Arielle, and Lou Ellen offered well-appreciated after-school clubs, respectively in theater and Legos/engineering and choir chimes, American Sign Language, and board games. Parent Wei Tang ran a small but eager math club.
A plethora of activities in April and May
- The end-of-term performance, three student plays, a field day for athletics, a science demo, the Iowa Assessments (national test, with spectacular results), STEM Day, a visit by the kind people who run the “Insect Zoo” or Arthropod Museum, and a field trip to Fort Selden
- Check it out in the posting Vince made, https://lascrucesacademy.org/academics-and-fun-finish-the-school-year/
Alas, discipline: We won’t go into personal details but we note that student behavior was less acceptable this year, as teachers and administrators in schools across the country also found. We’re working on new policies. Some parents were also very difficult; we’re working on new parent-student contracts that we give out each year to head off some problems.
Publicity: We gain students, and now and then teachers and donors, from our publicity.
- Word-of-mouth publicity is very effective, having brought in many students over the year. By and large, parents are so happy.
- Our website brings in inquiries that can turn into enrollment. The aesthetic improvements by parent Leah Messina and her group at Sinuate.com have been very rewarding. Vince has learned the tricks and trade of editing it in the Divi theme. The companion website, lascrucesacademy.Hubbli.com, is working well. Lou Ellen and Vince have worked closely with Sanadh Sageer at Hubbli to make it channel visitors accurately and to make it reflect our own work (pictures of our own students, teachers, classrooms, etc.).
- At our April meeting we had a lot of discussion about our entries on national review sites. This prompted Vince to add or upgrade our presence on:
- GreatSchools.org: see https://www.greatschools.org/new-mexico/las-cruces/2004-Las-Cruces-Academy
- US News & World Report: see https://www.usnews.com/education/k12/new-mexico/las-cruces-academy-318579
- NCES: see https://nces.ed.gov/globallocator/sch_info_popup.asp?Type=Private&ID=A1190066
- Vince made a two-minute video to highlight the many things we do at the school. Feel free to share it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsxiW5ld-1A&t=3s
- See also https://lascrucesacademy.org/how-we-stand-out-as-a-school/.
A big issue in the near term: succession planning
Lou Ellen and Vince readily admit their ages and the need to have paid administrators take over all their functions – acting as principal, managing resources and employment for teachers and our custodian, writing the report cards and the newsletter, maintaining the website and other publicity, keeping the books and creating the budget and Treasurer’s report, recruiting students and teachers, dealing with school families in both good and bad interactions, and so on. Nearly a full year ago in a Board meeting we discussed how we can move to replace Lou Ellen and Vince with all the associated challenges:
- Their work encompasses about 1.5 FTE’s worth of time.
- Unfortunately, there are no plug-in positions, since they fill a unique blend of capabilities that are unlikely to be found in fewer than, say, four employees – a Head of School, a bookkeeper, a webmaster/publicist, a technical writer… We can’t expect that four people hired each at part-time will be happy with the pay and will stay.
- We need to explore alternatives. One is outsourcing some functions such as website maintenance (“easy;” Sinuate.com has nearly agreed to this for a year and could continue on a paid basis), bookkeeping (this may be up to 5% of the budget)
We know that we will also need to find new teachers, both to replace current teachers who retire and to add teachers for new sections. Here we have a similar problem, with teachers covering multiple classes and other duties. Elizabeth teaches English and writing, social studies, music, and PE, while also creating our class schedules (a very complicated task) and being Deputy Head of School. Arielle teaches grades 1 &2 and math from grades 1-8. Katie teaches EK-K, as a model of patience, while also covering part of grades 1 & 2. Consider Elizabeth’s efforts: she is one of a kind. We could need to hire 2 or 3 teachers part-time each to cover her teaching and other duties. Yes, we run lean with people covering many functions, and this lets us do well financially in the near term, but this makes it very challenging to find anyone (is “anyones” a word?) to step in, especially on short notice, should it ever occur.
Here’s from the 10 July 2022 Board meeting:
“Vince will write an outline of the succession plan and circulate it to all Board members. David, Sue, and Elizabeth cited the need for prominent links on our website for prospective teachers to apply for employment. Lou Ellen noted that we’ve already had inquiries.
The Web homepage used to have a link to Careers in the footer, but that was clobbered by increasing flaws in the Zeal Pro theme that organizes the website in WordPress. (🡨 fixed in new webpage) The website should have a prominent place or places for prospective teachers to submit resumes. (🡨 also fixed) “
- Vince hasn’t created the outline, yet.
- Is the plan adequate? Candid.org says there are lots of other steps. Let’s all review them. Vince put the planning document on another non-public webpage. Let’s all read it before the Board meeting.