HH Community Update, April 2, 2020

Posted on: Apr 02, 2020

April 2, 2020

Dear Holland Hall Families,

I hope this letter finds you well and with hopes of enjoying this afternoon’s beautiful weather.

Today would have been an almost perfect day for the beginning of the 2020 ISAS Arts Festival. While it was not to be this year, please join me, again, in thanking Steve Dyer, Jayme Ostroski, our parent volunteer leadership, our arts faculty, and our maintenance, communications, and business offices for all they accomplished in the 18 months of preparation. Undoubtedly, I know we all wish the circumstances were different and we were welcoming our 3,500 guests from across the southwest to Holland Hall and Tulsa.

I also want to address two important questions that emerged from last week’s survey: grades and tuition.

First, grades…

Ms. White, Ms. Fondren-Bales, and Mr. Hart have been working with our faculty, and in consultation with other independent schools like Holland Hall throughout the country, over the past week or so to define our grading concept for the coming weeks. They have also received guidance from our college counseling office on how colleges are thinking about this grading period for all students. We all understand, certainly, that it cannot be business as usual.

In the shortest form, we are adopting a No Harm philosophy as, what we believe to be, the most respectful and understanding position. It honors our students’ efforts prior to spring break and affords opportunities for improvement of grades while learning remotely — and doing no harm for students not performing optimally in this new temporary paradigm.

I can also share that, regardless of whether we are back on campus together or not, we will not hold regular final exams for students in classes. Where and when appropriate, faculty will work to define culminating projects or other types of assignments for students.

A No Harm hypothetical example:

Let’s say one of our venerable and distinguished fifth-graders entered the remote learning period — grades taken and recorded prior to spring break — with a solid 90 in Ms. Nida’s math class. As they delve into single and double variable algebra, said student continues to confuse the variable X with one of the symbols for multiplication, lowering his grade during the remote learning period to, say, an 87. At the end of the academic year, his final grade would be a 90 — offering No Harm to his grade. On the contrary, let’s say he figures out this mistake fairly quickly and finishes the semester in math with a 95. His final math grade would be entered as a 95.

In short, a grade can only be improved with a No Harm policy. That is, of course, as long as a student is closely attending to assignments and staying in touch with teachers. This is no time for my least favorite spring affliction: Senioritis — especially with fifth-graders.

Now, to the topic of tuition…

A few families have reached out to ask if, in light of the circumstances, Holland Hall would be offering some sort of tuition relief. The daily interactions are not the same and the academic experience quite different Also, many families are incurring additional childcare costs, even with remote working expectations at their own place of work. All of us are also watching budgets closely with an eye on the short- and long-term economic ramifications of the virus. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment, and, again, I hope you will reach out as you need to. We want to keep the Holland Hall community intact and supportive.

I understand and respect the question, wholeheartedly.

As I have shared at our annual State of the School address and through Parents’ Association meetings, along with many other information venues, we are a tuition-driven school. Our faculty salaries are largely funded via tuition dollars with the difference for full operation coming from our endowment returns and the Annual Fund. We are doing all we can to watch our costs even more carefully. Holland Hall has always tried to remain lean: Our annual operating expense is roughly 35% lower than the average operating expense for our benchmark group — K-12 day schools of academic distinction throughout the U.S. ($36M is our benchmark mean and Holland Hall is just lower than $23M.)

I also attest that while things are much different for the time being, our faculty — all of our employees — remain committed to your children and to this community. They are focused on keeping all of us safe and healthy, on delivering instruction that is relevant, meaningful, and aligned with our college-preparatory and distinctive curriculum. They are reinventing how we all help one another do school so we are just as strong and just as thoughtful as we would have been otherwise. Because the vast majority of our positions are hired on an annual basis, we want to honor the commitment we’ve made to their salaries and benefits. Next to our students, the soul of this place emanates from our faculty and the many sacrifices they make for the children in our care.

I hope we can all agree how much we need to stand beside our community and do all we can to bridge the troubled waters we find ourselves in, and, again, I also hope you will reach out to our business office.

Our gratitude for your support — for the collective sacrifice and solidarity shown — is unending.

In community,

J.P. Culley
Head of School