A Letter of Gratitude on Sand Hill School’s Five-Year Anniversary
Dear Sand Hill Parents,
As we approach the 5 year anniversary of Sand Hill, I think it is important to reflect on where we started, take stock of where we are now, and continue to develop our vision for the future. Taking time to reflect allows us to see where we have been and inform where we are going–it is a strategic endeavor.
We are excited about what the future holds for Sand Hill and its students. We are inspired by quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.
Where we started
Back in 2010, the CHC Board decided to move forward on the idea of creating a new school at Children’s Health Council for kids with language-based learning differences (LD). One of the board members was so excited about the prospect of starting this new school that he and his wife became the ‘founding family’ of the school. They were instrumental in being able to offer financial aid to families when we opened the school. They have never stopped being strong supporters of the school – investing heart, time and financial resources.
In the beginning, the school was fondly called ‘CHIPS’ (short for CHC Primary School). The thinking at that time is that it would be a primary school (K-3) focused on early intervention. For that reason, a decision was made not to require evaluation or diagnosis for admission as most young children likely would not have a diagnosis and perhaps not have any testing. ‘CHIPS’ soon became Sand Hill School, and before we even opened the school, we made the decision to expand up to 5th grade.
We hired two great teachers and admitted the first 6 students to Sand Hill in February 2011. We had a small K-1 classroom of 6 students. We were successful, and saw students making progress as we added more students in July 2011. In the following school year, we increased to 26 students and then in 2013 to 37 students. That is a whopping 517% increase in enrollment over two years!
- The first ever Holiday Extravaganza, showcasing the talents of our students
- The first ever walk-a-thon, our Sand Hill community fundraising event
- The first ever spring performance—Just So Stories was a smashing success!
Taking stock of where we are now
The original 5 year plan we had for Sand Hill has been revised a few times now—which is to be expected. As with any start up, it is important to expect the unexpected. As AA Milne wrote,
Life can be surprising. Don’t just expect the unexpected—embrace it. Resilience is key. Go with the flow and adapt to life’s pounces.
We have grown to 60 students in 6 classrooms and a staff of 17. We are fortunate to have teachers who are specially trained and have heart and passion for teaching our kids.
What started as a K-3 school, and then became K-5 is now going to be a K-8 school. As we expanded the grade levels we serve, it also became apparent that we need to require evaluation and diagnosis (except for our youngest students who may not yet have a diagnosis). We are embracing Sand Hill as a K-8 school and excited about what is to come!
2015-2016 has been another big year of ‘firsts’:
- This year we officially launched the middle school program with 6th and 7th grade.
- Our assessment program has grown and we are piloting the first middle school report card this year.
- We had our first ever Sand Hill Outdoor Education experience last year and will continue that this year for rooms for our 5th, 6th and 7th graders.
We’ve also had our first two official transition groups—12 students transitioning in June of 2014 and another 12 that transitioned in June 2015. Feedback from these families include:
Just a quick note to let you know about our daughter. This past Fall she transitioned to middle school and she has had a smashing success of a year so far-not only has she been cast in two theatre productions but she received straight As on her report card. We really credit her incredible success with the skills and confidence she gained during her time at Sand Hill.
She has her eye on a great high school. We will keep you posted! Thank you again for all your great work!
Sand Hill was indispensable for confidence building because our child received (1) executive function skills, (2) understanding of who he was and the kind of learner he is, and (3) academic foundations in math and phonics and writing.
I’ve never known a child who can advocate for himself as well as my child can now. I could not be more proud of this boy who does not give up on himself. He did give up on himself before he entered Sand Hill, but he doesn’t anymore! He has high self-esteem, confidence, he takes risks, he is not afraid of failure.
Developing our vision for the future
We are in the process of revising our strategic vision for the next five years, with an eye on:
- Thriving students—We want our students to continue to build important academic skills and self-awareness—to understand that we all learn differently, and that’s good. Stay different.
- Excellent teachers—Teachers are the most important factor in student learning. We want to invest in our teachers—to support them in growing professionally to develop their expertise. The transformative power of an effective teacher can change a student’s life.
- Committed community—Parent engagement plays a vital role in student learning and in a school. We want to continue to develop a partnership with parents that is built on commitment to our common goal of success for all our students.
- Sustainable finances—It is important that we secure the future of Sand Hill School with a financial model that helps to keep the mission, the program and the expenses all aligned.
We will add 8th grade next year, and are developing a program especially for our 8th graders that will support them as they prepare for the transition to high school. We continue to understand the importance of early intervention with our young students—providing a program in which they experience success early that builds the foundation for their rest of their lives.
So, here’s to keeping our eyes on the stars and our feet on the ground!
Thank you for your continued support and partnership with us as we enter into this next exciting phase of growth for Sand Hill School!