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2021

  • September

    Post #20: Reflecting on 60 Years of Academic Excellence

    It occurred to me this week that it has been a few months since I wrote a blog post for my APDS 2020-2023 Strategic Growth Plan series. Given we are reflecting on Augusta Prep’s proud past this week, I wanted to take this opportunity to restart my series on Augusta Prep’s bright future.

    On September 1, we started celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Augusta Prep’s first classes by gathering students dressed in blue and gold for this APDS picture, singing “Happy Birthday,” and enjoying some cake. Classes actually began on September 5, 1961, on the third floor of The Hill Baptist Church, with 38 students in grades seven through nine. The 100 parents who provided the initial financial backing understood the need for an independent day school with a college preparatory academic curriculum, and they founded Augusta Preparatory School (APS) the year prior with that mission in mind. A grade was added each year until the first class of seniors graduated in 1965. In 1972, Augusta Country Day School (ACDS) was founded to address the need for an independent, non-sectarian elementary school with high academic standards. In 1973, the school leased land on Augusta Preparatory School's new campus on Flowing Wells Road. The two schools existed side-by-side for almost two decades before merging during the 1988-1989 school year, the first year of existence for Augusta Preparatory Day School (APDS).

    As we announced last February via our 60th Anniversary website, we planned a number of fun events to mark this milestone with alumni, parents, grandparents, and friends of Augusta Prep this homecoming week. Given the continued increases in new cases and hospitalizations in the Augusta area over the last five weeks, we made some adjustments in the interest of keeping everyone safe - to include cancelling this weekend’s party which would have brought together alumni and friends of the school from all over the country. 
    Forgive me for “recycling” this (next) paragraph from our message about the changes to our celebration plans, but it seemed appropriate for this blog post…

    Reflecting on our school’s beginnings, I am reminded that the year 1961 brought many challenges for Americans. The Berlin Wall was built that year, and American-based Cuban exiles failed in an attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The threat of nuclear war with the Soviets overshadowed everyday life. In 2021, the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic still overshadows our lives. At this moment, I am pondering these historic bookends of sixty years of academic excellence. Part of the Augusta Prep philosophy statement reads, above all, we seek to be a school that instills a genuine love of learning and teaches students “how to think, not what to think.” We will strive to live up to this philosophy for another sixty years and educate the next generation of leaders who will help this great nation weather new and unforeseen challenges.

    It is my honor to lead this institution into its immediate future. Look for me to restart my series with Strategic Vision #3 next month. Thank you for your continued support of this great school.
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  • June

    Post #19: Strategic Vision #2: Securing Stellar Students

    In my last post, I focused on the growth, development, retention of our fabulous faculty--the first priority in our new strategic growth plan. In this post I will focus on vision statement number two: 

    APDS will serve as a center of excellence for student development, attracting students interested in developing their talents in academics, arts, and athletics.

    Augusta Prep exists to develop intellect, talents, and character--that is the first part of our mission. In education, we call this a whole-child approach. In the fall of 2019, when we surveyed all students with the Southern Association of Independent Schools Value Narrative Survey, they all rated faculty as the area of the school which has the highest value and for which we perform at the highest level AND they ranked extracurricular activities in arts and athletics a close second and third. Augusta Prep attracts students and families who value the academic experience above all other factors. But if we ignore the interests of students in developing all their talents and/or the benefits of such activities then we effectively reduce the pool of talented children who might attend Prep.  We have students who want to be a scholar and an athlete, an actor and a coder, a singer and a scientist. Each of the objectives below are meant to increase the pool of talented students who might attend Prep in the coming years:

    1. Establish multiple feeder schools in the area. Augusta Prep has enjoyed a long relationship with Episcopal Day School as a feeder for our ninth grade, and we wish to continue that relationship as well as cultivate others, like Heritage Academy. This year we welcome three Heritage students, including the first W. Rodger Giles Merit Scholarship recipient (read the announcement here). We will continue to build relationships with other schools in the area to grow our Upper School.
    1. Increase and improve endowed scholarship marketing.  Due to cost, some families never consider Augusta Prep as an option. We will refocus our efforts to encourage eligible families who want the high-quality Prep experience for their children to consider applying for the Georgia GOAL program, our endowed merit scholarships, or financial aid (information on eligibility found here).
    1. Enroll well-rounded and diverse classes (grades), not just talented individuals.  School is a social learning setting, and our mission statement calls us to create diverse environments for students to learn from each other as well as our talented faculty. To achieve this vision, we want classes to be a healthy mix of students who excel in athletics, arts, and academics to create that rich experience.
    1. Increase arts and athletics staffing. Augusta Prep has incredible opportunities for students to participate in arts and athletics. As the popularity of those offerings continues to grow and we grow, we will need to add additional staffing in the performing arts faculty and coaching staff.

    Since our founding 60 years ago, Augusta Prep has provided an excellent education designed to inspire students and equip them for college and career success. We remain passionate about teaching kids how to think, not what to think. This second vision statement and its objectives are meant to increase opportunities for even more talented students to consider and commit to Augusta Prep.
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  • April

    Post #18: Strategic Vision #1: Fabulous Faculty

    In my last post, I gave an overview of our new strategic growth plan which establishes a vision of the future we want to grow into and use to grow the school’s enrollment by the end of 2023. In this post I want to expand further on vision statement number one:

    APDS will serve as a center of excellence for faculty development, where all faculty members are actively engaged in professional growth and professional communities.
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  • March

    Post #17: Our Strategic Growth Plan - An Overview

    In December of 2020, we released our new strategic growth plan to establish a vision of the future we want to grow into and use to grow the school’s enrollment between 2020 and 2023.

    This plan was the result of 18 months of collaboration with our Board of Trustees and a skilled consultant. Our consultant undertook market analysis, stakeholder surveys, focus group discussions, data analysis, and community presentations--and then the pandemic hit.  Despite the pandemic, we are moving forward and I want to use the next five or six blog posts to update you on that progress.
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  • February

    Post # 16: Our Innovation Journey

    Every year during the last week in February, leaders and educators from the National Association of Independent Schools gather in a major city to share best practices and innovative opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic meant this gathering moved online this year. Our Division Heads and myself applied for and were accepted to present at the virtual conference this year. Here is the brief descriptor of our presentation for the conference program: 

    All independent schools faced the challenge of opening school in the fall of 2020 in the face of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.  Learn how one small school, Augusta Preparatory Day School (GA), leveraged NAIS Strategy Lab processes and tools to focus innovation within two weeks and then spent the summer maximizing work time with a distributed leadership model and continuous project tracking.

    Below is the video of that presentation. I share it now with our community for several reasons. First, the presentation details inspiration and innovation required for us to reopen safely during a pandemic. Second, the presentation details the perspiration required across the organization during the summer to achieve our success this school year. I cannot thank my staff and faculty enough for their creativity and hard work. If you want to know how we did it then take 45 minutes to view this tribute to our team.
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  • January

    Post # 15: Progress

    Derrick Willard
    After ten long months of living with a pandemic in 2020, I felt like I was running on a treadmill in December--lots of effort but no forward movement. I was looking forward to the start of a new year. Then the first week of 2021 arrived with spiking COVID cases and chaos in the nation's capital. I am glad to see this final week of January 2021 bring some forward progress! 

    For the second consecutive week, we see the seven-day average for new cases and percent positive in Columbia and Richmond counties decline. After a peak in the first week of January, we are seeing a similar drop in the number of nurse contacts here at Augusta Prep. While the rate of local spread remains higher than anyone wants to see, it is great to witness a downward trend again. You can also monitor the Department of Public Health website for this data here: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report

    Another promising sign of progress is the arrival of vaccines in the community this month. We were blessed to have four of our six 65+ employees vaccinated last week. We do not know when the Governor will shift to group 1B and teachers under 65 will be eligible, but we are monitoring the situation weekly--and encourage you to do the same. 

    In the face of this seemingly endless pandemic, I remain so grateful for the continued cooperation by all our community members. We have endured six months of school under these conditions, and we have four more to go. We are over the halfway mark. Hang in there, keep your spirits up, and keep your mask on!
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Back 2021
Augusta Preparatory Day School is an independent, college preparatory school serving children ages 2 through Grade 12 from the greater Augusta-Aiken area.