Last weekend, the Academy Board of Trustees met for their May meeting, holding committee meetings Thursday and Friday and strategic sessions on Friday and Saturday. As always, the meetings and sessions were lively, thoughtful, and fruitful, and we emerged from the weekend with a clear vision of our strengths, challenges, and future directions. The Trustees found the school to be in a strong position financially and as a leading educational institution not only in the state and region, but in the nation and world, as well.
It is important to recognize the role that independence plays in our school’s success. Because we are independent in governance, we can select the best teachers, regardless of whether they have a license approved by a State entity. Likewise, we can set our own educational standards and build our own curricula. We can set educational directions in accord with our understandings and beliefs about best practices, in line with our teachers’ strengths, and in response to our student’s needs, despite what might be promulgated by outside agencies. By hiring exceptional educators and giving them the freedom to do as they see best, we have provided exemplary service to our students and their families. By emphasizing performance-based assessment instead of standardized tests, we have been able to better equip young people for their lives after the Academy. In these ways and others, freed from the shackles that hamper our public school colleagues, we are able to provide a superior mission-based education that has earned us international renown.
Our independence has enabled us to do several things on the local level that public schools cannot do. We have been able to construct a multi-million dollar campus entirely through private donations. Likewise, we have provided millions of dollars in aid to needy families, including dress-code clothes, educational supplies, test fees, computers, internet access, and extracurricular opportunities—again, all through private funding. Most recently, we have been able to fund a summer program for local eighth-grade graduates that will give them work experience and pay them $300 while training them in communication, leadership, and financial management—again through private funding. If we were not an independent school, we would not have been able to solicit or obtain these funds, and our local communities would be that much poorer.
In some circles, independent schools have the reputation for elitism and exclusivity, for being places where the privileged get more privileges. For St. Johnsbury Academy, that is hardly the case. For us, our independence allows us to live out our mission—educating young people to be men and women of good character, scholarly inquiry, and responsible citizenship—not only in their home communities, but also right here in ours. For 170 years, as fiduciaries of the Academy, the Trustees have safeguarded that mission and the reputation of the school. Our current Board continues in that work, and given the state of the school at the moment, they should be congratulated on doing an outstanding job.
—Tom Lovett, Headmaster