Yesterday, Joe and I received a visit from Dr. Chris Proctor, a 20-year veteran in education who wanted guidance on how to include the Orton-Gillingham methods into his private school in my hometown of Roanoke, VA. Beyond the pleasure of seeing an old friend and the joy from the affirmation that Trident Academy is “The Leader” in Orton-Gillingham education, we were given a valuable gift of wisdom.
When given my overview on where Trident Academy stands in terms of enrollment weakness and financial urgency, he clinically replied, “It’s not complicated. You have to check your three master dials.” I internally replied “Huh?”
He explained that private schools all have the same three key factors that drive enrollment and their financial health. “If you can understand and focus on the factors you control, you can be successful.”
Dial #1 is the overall ability of the community in its constituent parts to pay the price your school needs to charge. Trident Academy has historically been about 20% more than Charleston Day, Porter-Gaud & Ashley Hall and all of those schools are at or approaching capacity. I mention this because while we can debate whether Trident Academy is still worth the ‘premium’, we cannot entirely blame enrollment weakness on our Tuition being at approximately the correct level. We can look at the ‘cost’ of Trident Academy but that doesn’t seem to hold all the answers.
Dial #2, the most important and only indicator the Trident Academy Community really controls, is THE PERCEIVED AND REAL VALUE of the educational and social experience provided by our school. This ‘value perception’ is what motivates a current or prospective family to choose Trident Academy over any other solution. Our tuition is a significant expense and we have much work to do if we want to make the following question an easy and enthusiastic “YES”: Does Trident Academy provide such a great experience for my child and family that the value received significantly exceeds the financial costs?
Dial #3 is the competition which are working to attract students away from Trident Academy. Certainly the public schools are trying to do better at addressing Learning Differences and others private schools are offering ‘extras’ such as assistance programs. We should view those efforts as a positive because they challenge Trident Academy to do better.
Which brings me back to our Dial, #2, we can and must aggressively work to find ways to use our energy and efforts to promote our ‘Health Indicators’ being positive, bright green ‘yes’ answers rather than cautionary yellow ‘maybe’ signals or even worse, flashing ‘no’ red lights. When a problem arises, which is inevitable in schools, we need to proactively and constructively engage one another to develop both a common understanding of the issue and a shared resolve to implement the solution. We all need to be leaders in creating a culture or shared responsibility to solve problems rather than assign blame or make excuses.
As of this date, March 6, 2012, we are fortunate that the efforts of past and current teachers, administrators and families have resulted in Dial #2 being strong enough to motivate prior Trident Academy families to pay for the buildings, to endow scholarships and to establish a reputation for excellence in learning differences education.
Now, the opportunity and responsibility to promote Trident Academy’s healthy indicators is ours. We have many green lights and the opportunity to address any red or yellow lights.
I look forward to witnessing our collective efforts to “ADVANCE” Trident Academy and to celebrate those bright green lights with the community at large!
Interim Advancement Director