State of the School 2018

Headmaster Scott Nelson delivered the annual presentation of the State of the School to the Parents Association on January 9, 2018. Here is a summary of his presentation.

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Financial Overview

Budget Revenue

Like most independent day schools, RCDS remains "tuition-driven" as 87 percent of income derives from tuition. The School annually draws 4 percent of a rolling twenty quarter average from the RCDS Endowment Fund. This year, the endowment will provide $1.9 million or 4.6 percent of the operating budget's income. The RCDS Endowment continues to grow through capital and senior gift campaigns. The School also is debt-free. This year, the School must raise $2.4 million in unrestricted annual giving in order to balance the budget.

Gross Tuition $35,573,000 86.8%
Student Services $245,000 0.6%
Endowment Income $1,875,300 4.6%
Other Income $902,250 2.2%
Total Revenue $ 38,595,550 94.1%
Unrestricted Annual Giving $2,400,000 5.9%
TOTAL$ 40,995,550 100%
Budget Expenses

Rye Country Day, like other educational institutions, is labor intensive and thus spends the major portion of its budget (66%) on salaries and benefits. The Board of Trustees is committed to attracting, supporting, and retaining an outstanding faculty and staff; therefore, competitive salaries and benefits are critical expenditures.

In addition, the Board continues to be committed to supporting the School's various diversity initiatives, including socio-economic diversity, through the RCDS financial aid program, which supports 143 students with $5.3 million in need-based aid. This financial aid program is funded through restricted endowment funds, the operating budget, the RCDS Parents Association, and several other annual giving donations specifically for financial aid.

Salaries $20,042,580 48.9%
Benefits $7,236,900 17.7%
Total Salaries/Benefits $27,279,480 66.6%
Financial Aid $5,335,950 13.0%
Administration $1,317,770 3.2%
Instruction $1,750,450 4.3%
Capital Repairs/Maintenance $3,024,600 7.4%
Other Expenses $1,387,900 3.4%
Physical Plant Reserve $899,400 2.2%
Total Expenses$40,995,550 100%

Annual Giving

Growth of Annual Giving

As shown in the chart above, RCDS relies on gifts from the community to help bridge the gap between total revenue and total expenses. The RCDS Annual Fund has grown from $827,503 in 1993-94 to $3.5 million in 2017-18. During this 23-year period, the annual giving program has raised over $60 million for the School, including over $9 million for the RCDS Endowment Fund through the very successful Senior Gift program.

Continuing Strong Participation

RCDS benefits tremendously from a strong culture of giving throughout the school community. According to National Association of Independent School (NAIS) statistics, RCDS participation levels in annual giving far exceed national averages for independent day schools. For 18 consecutive years, 95 percent or more of current RCDS parents have supported annual giving, compared to just 62 percent nationally. In addition, RCDS alumni participation of 31 percent is more than 21 percentage points higher than the national average for independent day school alumni.

Current Parent Participation


The School annually draws 4 percent of a rolling twenty quarter average from the RCDS Endowment Fund. This year, the endowment will provide $1.8 million or 4.6 percent of the operating budget's income. Over the last 25 years, the endowment has grown eleven-fold through capital and senior gift campaigns as well as prudent management of the Endowment Fund. One of the driving goals behind Advancing a Tradition of Excellence, the School's current capital campaign is to increase the endowment by $15 million.

Admissions Activity

The following chart compares admissions activity over the last 10 years. The School is fully enrolled and admissions remains highly competitive. The slight decrease in applicants for kindergarten coupled with the increase in applicants for grades 6 and 9 demonstrate a trend felt across independent schools of parents waiting until middle or high school to make the investment in private education. The average attrition rates for independent day schools hovers around 10 percent, more than double the rate at RCDS.

Grade 4655357
Grade 693100119
Grade 9164142242
Grade 10784138
Overall Applications759662816
Acceptance Rate23.5%20.8%22%
Enrollment Yield77%82%71%
Attrition 37 or 4.8%22 or 2.8%38 or 4.7%

Financial Aid

RCDS is actively committed to maintaining a school community of students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and our extensive financial aid program helps to make a Rye Country Day education accessible for highly qualified students whose families have demonstrated financial need. RCDS grants approximately $5.3 million in financial aid to 16 percent of the student body.

Financial aid grants consider the entire expense of attending RCDS including "extra" costs such as lunch, books, school trips, and other expenses. The financial aid program is a mission-critical facet of the school.

Number of Students122131143
Percentage of Students14%14.8%16%


Rye Country Day is actively committed to diversity. The percentage of the student body that identify as people of color is an indicator of our community's diversity, but not in itself a measure of our success in our diversity and inclusion initiative. The School acts consciously and deliberately in all divisions and offices to create and sustain a diverse, inclusive community. This applies from the admissions process to the curriculum to faculty/staff recruitment, professional development and much more.

Students of Color191238278
Percentage of Students22%27%31%

College Matriculation

In the past five years, the three most popular college choices for RCDS students have been Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard.

Five year matriculation list

While it is still early in the process for the Class of 2018, many students have already received acceptances as a result of "early action", "restrictive early action," and "early decision" applications. A complete list of their college choices will be posted on the website in June.

To date, 46 members of the Class of 2018 have committed to matriculate at:

Barnard College (2)

Boston University
Brown University
Bucknell University (2)
Colby College
Cornell University (2)
Dartmouth College
Duke University (4)
Emory University
Georgetown University
Harvard University
Lafayette College
Lehigh University (2)
Middlebury College

New York University (2)
Northwestern University (2)
Princeton University (2)
Rice University
Southern Methodist University
Stanford University
Tulane University
University of Chicago (2)
University of Miami
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania (4)
Vanderbilt University (2)
Washington University (3)
Wesleyan University (2)

Campus Updates

The RCDS campus map above shows the current campus layout.Beginning in 1997, the School acquired the following properties in order to relocate Grandview Avenue (2000), expand the athletic fields (2005-07), and add faculty housing (2014).

  • 1 Grandview Avenue (1997)
  • 11 and 17 New Street (1997)
  • 25.5 New Street (1999)
  • 86 Grandview Avenue (1998)
  • 60 Grandview Avenue (1999)
  • 86 Hillside Road (2002)
  • 84 Grandview Avenue (2002)
  • 50 Grandview Avenue (2007)
  • 29-39 New Street (2014)

Major facilities improvements during the past 20 years include:

  • LS/MS Science renovations (1998)
  • New Pre-K addition (1998)
  • Relocation of Grandview Avenue and creation of pedestrian campus (2000)
  • Athletic Center (2000)
  • US Science renovations (2000)
  • Main Building addition providing new classrooms K-5 (2001)
  • Pinkham Building elevator (2003)
  • Artificial Turf Athletic Fields (2005-07)
  • Pinkham Building addition and renovation (2010)
  • New Senior Parking Lot (2010)
  • Klingenstein Library renovation (2014)
  • LS Dining Room and MS/US Dining Room renovation (2014)
  • US Art Room renovation (2014)
  • Dunn Performing Arts Center renovation (2018)
  • Cohen Center for the Creative Arts (2018)

Advancing a Tradition of Excellence

As of January 2018, the Advancing a Tradition of Excellence capital campaign has raised $30.2 million towards its goal of $35 million.

Campaign Goals

Advancing a Tradition of Excellence seeks $35 million in capital gifts to fulfill four primary goals:

  1. Advancing the endowment to attract and retain outstanding faculty and staff. $7.5 million
  2. Advancing the endowment for financial aid. $7.5 million
  3. Advancing campus facilities to support excellence and innovation. $15 million
  4. Advancing the RCDS student experience through school-wide initiatives and innovative programs. $5 million
The Case for Endowment

Increasing the Rye Country Day School endowment is central to the success of the Advancing a Tradition of Excellence campaign and to the long-term financial health of the School. This additional endowment will support the School’s two greatest resources – its faculty and its students. It will also provide RCDS with improved financial flexibility, enabling the School to take advantage of future opportunities, while sustaining it in the event of unforeseen financial difficulties.

A main objective of the Advancing a Tradition of Excellence campaign is to raise an additional $15 million for endowment. To date, the funds raised through the campaign have allowed significant progress toward the two endowment related goals:

  1. To attract and retain outstanding faculty and staff, the School has implemented two new programs:
  1. In 2017-18, the School is able to offer 143 students financial aid totaling $5.3 million.
Construction Projects

Fifteen million dollars of the capital campaign is dedicated to advancing campus facilities to support excellence and innovation. Two major projects are currently under construction with scheduled openings this year.

The Dunn Performing Arts Center is undergoing a major renovation that will be completed in March 2018. The renovation includes a conversion to tiered seating for 480 people to accommodate the entire Upper School – students and faculty; an extended two-story foyer for access to the upper seating areas and more gathering space; improved sound and lighting for music and drama performances; and improved sight lines for the entire audience.

Rendering of the updated Performing Arts Center lobby

Scaffolding inside the PAC - January 2018

Progress on the PAC - January 2018

Construction on the Cohen Center for the Creative Arts is well underway,and the building remains on schedule to open in the fall of 2018. The creative arts programs at Rye Country Day will benefit greatly from the increased collaboration facilitated by a dedicated, centralized location. The Cohen Center features digital art studios for photography and videography; two large studios for ceramics, sculpture, painting, and drawing; an innovative design MakerSpace, which is a creativity lab for projects that encompass RCDS’s commitment to STEAM and design thinking; an experimental, state-of-the-art black box theater, with seating for 200, which will act as a learning space for students in all three divisions as they develop critical 21st century skills, including collaboration, leadership, public speaking, and creativity.

Rendering of the Cohen Center for the Creative Arts

Rendering of the black box theater

The black box theater - January 2018

Cohen Center for the Creative Arts - January 2018

Thruway Property

After construction of the Cohen Center, the RCDS campus will have just 10,000 square feet of buildable space remaining on the current campus. Therefore, the School is actively exploring other potential property acquisitions that would allow for further expansion of facilities.

For the better part of three decades, RCDS has expressed interest in the 9-acre parcel across Boston Post Road. As of early 2018, the School is in the best position yet to move forward with this possibility. Governor Cuomo recently signed a bill presented by State Assemblyman Steve Otis that allows the Thruway Authority to sell the parcel to RCDS for recreational use contingent on a shared-use agreement with the City of Rye.

Below is an example of how the property might be developed to provide additional athletic facilities and parking. Stay tuned for more updates.

Strategic Planning Updates

Several steps have been taken to implement the priorities identified in the School's Bold Vision 2020 strategic plan. Committees in technology; STEAM; Global Studies; Leadership, Character, Ethics; and Balance and Wellness have each presented new programs and methods to advance their initiatives. In addition, the RCDS Institute for Innovative Teaching and Learning has granted a total of 10 fellowships to support faculty-led innovation. For more information, please explore the initiatives section of the website; in addition, recent RCDS Bulletins, the Annual Report, and the upcoming capital campaign newsletter all provide updates on these new initiatives.

Looking Forward

2018-19 will mark the School's 150th year and provide an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate Rye Country Day's long tradition of and commitment to learning, understanding, and service. The state of the School going into the sesquicentennial year is strong, and we look forward to continued growth in the years to come.

State of the School