A history lesson from the Head of School

Dear Meadowbrook parent,

By now you’ve heard the news:  Imagine More is an audacious campaign.  It will transform our campus and our financial underpinnings, paving the way for us to prepare our students for an ever-changing future.  

Since our launch event in September, many people have asked me:  where does this campaign fit into the history of the school?  Where did it come from?   

As I’ve said countless times:  I’m a history guy.  You can’t ask me questions like that without my wanting to give everyone the complete context!  And I thank each and every one of those people who asked me the question -- because it gives me the opportunity to tell you all the story.   

The school's first capital campaign ("Meadowbrook 500") after the school was built was launched as far back as 1977; this campaign seeded the school's first significant endowment and built the current Lower School building.  In 1989 the Campaign for Meadowbrook added to the endowment and built the Grinker Gym.  A similar campaign was launched in 1996, increasing the endowment and building the current Library.  In 2000 the school raised $8.5 million to build the Middle School and the building that is now called The Vinik Family Center.  The last complete campaign was launched in 2006; the Pillars of Excellence campaign provided $18 million to build the MacDowell Center, the soccer fields on the other side of Farm Road, and increase the school's endowment.  In short, almost every square foot of our current students' facilities has been created for them through past giving.  In addition, today’s tuition rates are at the mean compared to our peer schools even though student/teacher ratios continue to be low, and our programs are robust and innovative; this is all due to 40 years of endowment and Annual Fund fundraising.  A few weeks ago I was talking with a couple about a campaign gift.  They said it best: “we keep talking about the future of Meadowbrook, and we really should -- that’s what this campaign is about.  But in reality, our kids today benefit from what yesterday’s families built for us.  We get that.”  

So what about the more current history of the Imagine More campaign?

The seeds of Imagine More were planted all of three years ago, when the Board of Trustees and I started taking a close look at our campus.  Even with all the improvements, there were storm clouds.  Some of inner workings -- electric, gas, etc. -- were old, and we had to think about whether we should replace them.  When the Middle School was built, it was planned for smaller class sizes than we had now.  When we added a classroom for Mandarin, we had to carve it out of the faculty room!  We were clearly “bursting at the seams.”

At around the same time, the Board initiated a new strategic planning process.  This might be letting you in on some inside baseball (!), but back then there was some debate about the scope of our plans.  The last strategic plan had been approved in 2010, but it was an updated version of an older plan.  Should we just keep updating the existing plan, taking into account some minor changes on campus?

Then something fascinating happened.  We knew we wanted to move fast on the plan -- after all, that’s the Meadowbrook way! -- but the trustees, in their infinite wisdom, stopped the process.  They were reading the same media stories we were, and many of them, working in industry, could see firsthand:  the world for which we are training our children is not only different, but almost unrecognizable to the one we inherited.  Schools, corporations, universities -- so many of them were adapting to this new world.  There were new ways of thinking, of learning, of collaborating with each other, of defining and solving problems.  What better time to stop for a moment, go out into “the market” and learn about all of these advances?

So we spent the spring and summer of 2014 going on “environmental scans” -- groups of faculty, alumni, parents went to California, New York, Connecticut, and of course even here in Boston in our own backyard.  We talked with K-8 schools, companies like Facebook and Google, some new models of for-profit schools, and universities like Harvard, MIT and Stanford.  We wanted to know how they foster collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, and flexibility.  

And we came home, totally fired up and excited.  Filled with ideas for Meadowbrook.  We quickly came to the realization:  our plan for the campus, our plan for our strategic direction, just couldn’t be mere updates on the past.  To serve our students, both current and future, we need to transform our facilities.  We knew we had the curriculum already.  Our EurekaLab lessons taking place across all subjects, our outdoor education, our performance groupings, our long-held belief in hands-on learning -- it was all here.  We just didn’t have the space.

So the master plan and the strategic plan came together in a beautiful symmetry, both centered on our excellence in learning, teaching and community.  In those plans you can find the seeds of our campaign goals.  And in our campaign goals you can see the natural next step of all of our fundraising initiatives that came before.  

I couldn’t be prouder to be leading this charge.  Beyond the decision to create the Meadowbrook School in 1923 or to add a Middle School in 1998, this is the most important decision in our community’s history.   The rear view mirror having been aligned, it is time for us to drive forward into a most promising future.  

With gratitude,

Steve Hinds