Letter from Suzanne McCanles, Head of School
Some school years are more memorable than others. The 19/20 school year will be one I will never forget! As an educational leader, I have always voiced that I love a good challenge; complacency is not something I look forward to or enjoy. This past school year dealt Oakhill with its fair share of challenges, and the school came out better and stronger in heart, spirit and as a unified community.
The school year began with a fun theme, as usual, and last year’s theme was painting... creating a masterpiece... every day is a blank canvas. Throughout the year, with all the trials and tribulations including the onset of a global pandemic, we continued to paint! And, I believe we did complete a masterpiece!
I’m proud of the funds raised for the Titan Project. We focused our efforts on designing a secure front office vestibule, installing new doors throughout the main campus, upgrading security and camera systems, and having an on-site security officer. In just four months, we raised $500,000 to pay for these upgrades, renovations, and needs. As we headed into auction night, we still needed $75,000. During the Fund-a-Need portion of the night, we raised the additional funds to finish the campaign. It was amazing to see the community come through!
Then came COVID-19! We watched the community physically separate for months, yet come together - unified in August for a new start! In my 29 years in education, I have never had a first day that meant so much! All of our time, attention, effort and resources had gone into that first day. We had all of the appropriate measures in place to keep our campus, our faculty, and our students as safe as possible while at school.
Although our approved 2019/2020 budget... our roadmap... was no longer relevant or meaningful, our team set out to reinvent our budget and reimagine our programs; we had to find a way to keep the things that matter most to Oakhill in place. Our ingenuity, creativity, and determination led the way; and we are meeting the new challenges for 2020/21 head on!
As a school with no endowment or large cash reserves, we continue to find a way to survive and thrive. Our ability to quickly adapt and pivot will continue to be our strength.
Thank you for your continued support and trust in Oakhill. We will continue to make all of our decisions on behalf of the students and in the best interest of the school; to balance educating our children with running a six million dollar business.
Grateful and Humble,
Suzanne, Head of School
Letter from Kent Peterson, President of the Oakhill Day School Board of Trustees
Even before beginning my first year serving as President of the Board of Trustees, I knew that Oakhill was a unique and special school. As an Oakhill Alum and father to two wonderful Oakhill students, I can honestly say that this school is an essential piece of the Peterson family story. I have to be honest in saying that the 2019-2020 school year was an extremely challenging year for the Oakhill community. Still, I learned that this community is resilient. We are #OakhillStrong!
It is my pleasure to provide a few of my reflections as Board President over the last year.
When the Oakhill community sees a need, we work together to find a solution. We identified potential vulnerabilities in our school's infrastructure; old doors, dated security cameras, and lack of an entry vestibule. All of those things needed upgrading, but how were we going to pay for it? Through the guidance of our Head of School, the work of Oakhill's Administration, and the full support of the Board of Trustees, we implemented immediate plans for security upgrades to ensure our Oakhill community's safety, now and in the future. These enhancements required significant funding which prompted an emergency fundraising campaign, the Titan Fund.
The response of the community was beyond anything we could imagine. Alumni, parents, grandparents, and members of the community at large were extremely generous. In four months, the Oakhill community raised $500,000 in cash and in-kind donations for the Titan Fund, which covered construction costs, the purchase of a new visitor management system, and the initial costs of hiring full-time security. By the end of summer, the build-out of our vestibule, Front Offices, and Health Room was complete. Just in time for Oakhill to prepare for an unusual start to a new school year.
I continue to be amazed by the COVID-19 pandemic and our response as a school. In the early days of the pandemic, Suzanne McCanles quickly formed task force groups to take the Coronavirus head-on. We needed to be proactive and prepared. Suzanne and her crew did everything in their power to see Oakhill families safely back in school, in person, in the fall. In March/April, sanitation measures in both campus buildings began while teachers worked hard to deliver virtual instruction to pretoddler through eighth grade students at home. Oakhill hired additional cleaning personnel to help see that the school was clean and prepared for students' arrival in August. Here is just a recap of everything put in place to prepare for Back to School 2020:
- Purchase of two electrostatic sprayers to rapidly and effectively decontaminate common areas and classrooms.
- The installation of Merv13 filters in HVAC units to capture airborne viruses and bacteria.
- Additional thermometers and equipment to expedite temperature checks for all students and staff before entering the campus.
- Installation of touchless door pulls, plexiglass shields, and hand sanitizer stations in the hallways.
As I reflect on the challenges from the past year, I also think of the good. We celebrated! When Oakhill comes together, it's a party, a celebration. No one in our community is a stranger; we are all friends, a family. And everything we do to celebrate is first-class, from the food to the decorations, and the entertainment.
In November, Oakhill hosted the first Global Celebration After Hours Party with food and wines from six continents.
In December, the Scott family generously opened the doors of their live jazz establishment, The Black Dolphin, for an exclusive Oakhill event. The Potts family hosted a Favorite Things pre-auction party at their home, and in February, we had our most successful auction in Oakhill history. Standing room only! A first-class event where we made many beautiful memories and raised lots of vital funds for Oakhill!
As I reflect on school operations, I look from top to bottom. Our Board is qualified, supportive, engaged, and generous. Our school leadership and administration work hard to ensure that the school runs smoothly. I have watched them pivot as challenging situations arise. The organization runs smoothly because its leadership develops layers of contingency plans to ensure Oakhill's financial and safety wellbeing. And where would we be without our incredible Oakhill faculty and staff? They are a fantastic bunch of engaged, dynamic, and dedicated teachers who put countless numbers of hours into loving and caring for our children day after day. There are not enough ways to tell them, Thank You!
As we work our way into a new school year, I am hopeful and excited. The more we put into Oakhill, the more we get out of Oakhill. I know the distance brought by Coronavirus will make it hard for many of us to give our time as much as we have in the past or as we would like to, but there are so many ways to stay engaged and connected. It's not one specific thing that makes Oakhill special and unique; It is all of the people at Oakhill, together, that make magical synergy. Parents, students, alumni, grandparents, the Board, administration, faculty and staff, and the community's generosity makes good things happen for our school. We are Oakhill, and we are ready to make good things happen in 2020 and beyond.
Kent Peterson, Board of Trustees President
The 2019/2020 Board of Trustees:
Kent Peterson - President
Dr An Le - Vice President
Stephen Anderson - Treasurer
Lindsey Carlson - Secretary
Letter from Leslie Gasser, the Director of Development
This year, the Annual Fund has been relaunched as the Mighty Oak Fund.
The Titan Fund
In November, 2019, in response to a school need, the Titan Fund was launched. The Oakhill Community responded with fervor. Cash gifts and pledges immediately started pouring in. $250,000 was received in a matter of weeks. The Board of Trustees held a phone-a-thon. In-kind gifts of labor and materials were provided.
The Masquerade Ball
After Winter Break, a team of Oakhill administration and parent volunteers came together to plan the 2020 Auction, Masquerade. Chaired by Amy Potts, it was standing room only in the transformed gymnasium. 233 bidders generated $252,281 in gross sales that included $76,000 for Fund-A-Need.
Thank you for the hard work and talent of the 2020 Auction Committee:
Natalie Amalani • Jan Carter • Erin Carver • Shari Fox • Haley Haar • Dina Hamilton
Aimee Kirkpatrick • Lori Kramer • Miralda Moreno-Mangum • Heeok Peterson
Amy Potts • Amanda Scott • Heather Versfeld • Michele Yager
Dorothy Beckham • Leslie Gasser • Michelle McDaniel
The 2021 Auction, The Black & Teal Ball, will be held on March 6, 2021. The Black & Teal Ball is open for auction item donations and sponsorships. Please contact the Development Office at (816) 436-6228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The PTO began the school year in a typical fashion with a successful Back to School Carnival - a great ice breaker event for the entire school community. PTO coffees and Parent Connect Lunches were sprinkled throughout the fall and winter providing great opportunities for conversation, reflection and growth. Our organization also enjoyed a rainy, but successful Red Barn Farm Event, as well as our first ever Holiday Hoopla, a vendor fair featuring local artists and proprietors to kick off the holidays. We ushered 2020 in with amazing Mother/Son and Father/Daughter Willy Wonka themed dances/events. When the school had to go virtual in mid-March due to the pandemic, PTO set out to find creative and meaningful ways to thank our teachers for their dedication to our children and keep our parents connected through virtual happy hours and car line coffees. Through all of the successes and challenges of the past school year, one thing was for sure - our community is strong and united! PTO is proud to represent the parent body in our partnership with the school, and we look forward to great things to come in 2020/2021. Creativity and innovation will be at the forefront for all of our events and goals.
Mick Freyermuth - PTO President