State of the School 2019

Headmaster Scott Nelson delivered the annual presentation of the State of the School to the Parents Association on January 16, 2019. Here is a summary of his presentation.

Jump To:


The 2018-19 school year is particularly special at Rye Country Day School as we are celebrating the sesquicentennial. The year began with the opening of the Cohen Center for the Creative Arts and a Wildcat Weekend gathering for which an unprecedented number of alumni returned to campus. The passionate pursuit of learning and character which has long defined an RCDS education continues as the hallmark of the school experience. The state of the school in 2019 is strong because of the steadfast dedication of its community past and present.

Financial Overview

Budget Revenue

Like most independent day schools, RCDS remains "tuition-driven" as 86.5% of income derives from tuition. The School annually draws 4% of a rolling twenty quarter average from the RCDS Endowment Fund. This year, the endowment will provide $2 million or 4.7% 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 $36,553,100 86.5%
Student Services $210,000 0.5%
Endowment Income $2,003,162 4.7%
Other Income $1,070,700 2.5%
Total Revenue $ 39,836,962 94.3%
Unrestricted Annual Giving $2,400,000 5.7%
TOTAL$ 42,236,962 100%
Budget Expenses

Rye Country Day, like other educational institutions, is labor intensive and thus spends the major portion of its budget (66.6%) 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 socio-economic diversity through the RCDS financial aid program, which supports 142 students with $5.5 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. The majority of families who receive financial aid receive grants of 75% or more.

Salaries $20,838,418 49.3%
Benefits $7,295,736
Total Salaries/Benefits $28,134,154 66.6%
Financial Aid $5,482,965 13.0%
Administration $1,363,900 3.2%
Instruction $1,728,400 4.1%
Capital Repairs/Maintenance $2,486,700 5.9%
Other Expenses $1,643,500 3.9%
Physical Plant Reserve $1,397,343 3.3%
Total Expenses$42,236,962 100%

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 25-year period, the annual giving program has raised over $63.5 million for the School, including over $9.5 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 19 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 32 percent is more than 22 percentage points higher than the national average for independent day school alumni.

Current Parent Participation

150th Anniversary Annual Giving Challenge

On October 17-18, 2018 the RCDS community - current families, alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents, faculty, staff, and friends - came together to support the Annual Fund in special recognition of the School's 150th year. During these two days, RCDS challenged the community to raise $1.5 million in gifts and pledges, with a generous $150,000 challenge grant from an anonymous donor as incentive.

The result: in total, 1,058 donors raised $2,643,830, and a second anonymous donor doubled the challenge grant incentive to $300,000. Incredible!


The School annually draws 4% of a rolling twenty quarter average from the RCDS Endowment Fund. This year, the endowment will provide $2 million or 4.7% of the operating budget's income. Over the last 26 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 School is fully enrolled and admissions remains highly competitive. In an increasingly competitive market, Rye Country Day admissions is focusing on making sure that prospective families know about the School's many opportunities, that the admissions process is warm and welcoming, and that the School maintains its current strong position in the years to come. Nationwide, independent schools have seen a decrease in applications in the early years as parents wait until middle or high school to make the investment in private education. Rye Country Day competes directly with excellent public schools available in the area and with boarding schools, which are a popular choice in this region.

The major entry points to Rye Country Day School are Pre-K, K, and Grades 4, 6, and 9. A few students are added in Grade 10. Entry into all other years depends on the number of spaces available. Applications for 2019-20 have exceeded last year's totals at every major entry point except for Grade 4. The application pool this year is very strong. The average acceptance rate of independent day schools hovers nearly 40 percentage points higher than RCDS, and the average attrition rate is double the rate at RCDS.

Grade 45443
Grade 6107122
Grade 9168195
Grade 104745
Overall Applications (All Grades)667749
Acceptance Rate30%
Enrollment Yield65%
Attrition 4.6%

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 $5.5 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 Students113142
Financial Aid Grant Totals$2.77 million$5.5 million

Diversity & Inclusion

About ten years ago, Rye Country Day School made a small but significant change to its mission statement, amending "Rye Country Day School values diversity" to read "Rye Country Day School is actively committed to diversity." The School formed a Diversity & Inclusion Initiative that has led the school in this work since. Over the course of the 2018-19 year, a school-wide diversity & inclusion task force comprising students, alumni, parents, board members, faculty, administrators, and staff is working to research and plan for the future. They will share their results and next steps.

Schools often cite, and indeed we are often asked to report, the percentage of the student body that self-identify as people of color. This 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 and inclusive community. This applies from the admissions process to the curriculum to faculty/staff recruitment, professional development, and much more. The school is committed to sustaining a diverse student body across multiple identifiers.

Students of Color191278294
Percentage of Students22%31%32.6%

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 2019, most students have already received acceptances as a result of "early action", "restrictive early action", "rolling", and "early decision" applications. A complete list of their college choices will be posted on the website in June.

Please note: RCDS only posts matriculation decisions once they are final. Many students have received acceptances that are not reflected below, but are waiting to make a final decision because the acceptance they have received is non-binding. It is important to the school and to our students that we respect and preserve the privacy of the college decision-making process by only posting matriculation selections when they are final, and we will never post a list that identifies individual students.

To date, 43 members of the Class of 2019 have committed to matriculate at:

Barnard College
Boston University
Brown University (3)
Bucknell University (2)
Columbia University
Cornell University (4)
Dartmouth College
Duke University (4)
Georgetown University
Johns Hopkins University
Lehigh University
New York University (2)
Northeastern University
Northwestern University (2)

Princeton University
Skidmore College
Stanford University
Tufts University
Tulane University
Union College
University of Richmond
University of Pennsylvania (6)
Vanderbilt University
Wake Forest University
Washington University
Williams College
Yale University

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)
  • US and MS Art Room Renovations (2018)
  • MS Air Conditioning (2018)
  • Athletic Center Lobby Renovation (2018)
  • Campus Hardscape Completed (2018)
  • Replacement of Artificial Turf on West Fields (2018)

Bold Vision 2020 Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan (PDF)

There is a longstanding tradition of excellence at Rye Country Day. Our shared vision and commitment to the future of our school demand that we routinely ask ourselves, How can we make our school better? The School undergoes a strategic planning process from vision to implementation in approximately 5-year phases. In 2015, the School adopted its current Strategic Plan, Bold Vision 2020, which can be read in its entirety above.

Over the last 4 years, the school has worked hard to implement the priorities identified in the School's Bold Vision 2020 strategic plan. As we approach the 5 year mark, we have accomplished the priorities we established and are now ready to begin the process of thinking about what comes next, something you will hear more about in the coming months.

Goal 1: Program Excellence and Innovation: Ensure that the School engages in rigorous curricular renewal reflecting a vibrant educational community and balancing innovation with the foundation of a core curriculum.


  • The RCDS Institute for Innovative Teaching and Learning, now in its third year has advanced 15 innovative projects to support our strategic initiatives, coordinated professional development for faculty and staff, and led the community-wide project of developing a new mission-level document: the RCDS Portrait of a Graduate.

  • Committees in technology; STEAM; Global Studies; Character, Leadership, and Ethics; Balance and Wellness; and Scope and Sequence have each presented new programs and methods to advance their initiatives.

Goal 2: Teaching for Today and Tomorrow: Continue to attract, support, and retain outstanding faculty, staff, and administrators who are committed to the School’s values, mission, and strategic goals.


  • Increased salaries and benefits
  • Cohen “Excellence in Teaching” Awards
  • Increased Professional Development funding
  • RCDS Institute projects
  • Expanded leadership opportunities for faculty and staff

Goal 3: School Culture: Balance and Well-Being: Foster a balanced lifestyle that allows students to thrive in a unified school culture that offers varied opportunities in academic, social, extracurricular, and service arenas.


  • Review of Support Services
  • Schedule review
  • Mindfulness training
  • Advisory review
  • Independent School Health Check
  • Alumni Programming
  • Faculty/Staff Balance & Wellness

Goal 4: School Community: Enrich our diverse and inclusive community by building on the wealth of talents students and families bring to the School, and teach effective ambassadorship by “building bridges” with neighbors near and far.


  • Financial Aid
  • Diversity and Inclusion Task Force
  • Student and Faculty/Staff Recruitment
  • Parents Committed to Diversity
  • Alumni Multicultural Events
  • Public Purpose initiatives

Goal 5: Preserve the Financial Health of the School: Sustain the current financial health of the School and position RCDS to take advantage of future opportunities.

  • Culture of Philanthropy
  • Annual Giving
  • Growth of RCDS Endowment
  • Facilities
  • Capital Campaign
  • Future – Thruway Property

Advancing a Tradition of Excellence

As of January 2019, the Advancing a Tradition of Excellence capital campaign has raised $32.9 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:

2. In 2018-19, the School is able to offer 142 students financial aid grants totaling $5.5 million. A decade ago, the School was able to offer $2.77 million in financial aid grants to 113 students. The increase in the number of students whose families receive financial aid is significant; even more significant is the increase in the amount of need-based aid the school is able to extend. Further, the School is deeply committed to ensuring that students who receive financial aid are able to participate fully in the life of the school, which means the financial aid budget covers much more than tuition grants alone.

Construction Projects

Fifteen million dollars of the capital campaign has been dedicated to advancing campus facilities to support excellence and innovation.

The Dunn Performing Arts Center underwent a major renovation and was opened in the spring of 2018. The renovation included 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.

The Cohen Center for the Creative Arts opened in the fall of 2018. The creative arts programs at Rye Country Day is benefitting 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 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.

Thruway Property

After construction of the Cohen Center, the RCDS campus has 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. The School is in the best position yet to move forward with this possibility. Governor Cuomo signed a bill sponsored 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. The School is highly optimistic that those negotiations will result in a deal that benefits both the school and the city, and will have a tremendous positive impact on our campus footprint and facility opportunities.

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

Celebrating our Sesquicentennial: 1869-2019

2018-19 marks the School's 150th year and has provided an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate Rye Country Day. Explore the School's history at

The festivities began at the start of the year with a community-wide block party.

Wildcat Weekend brought alumni from all years back for a special reunion, which also included the Alumni Hall of Fame celebration, and the 25th reunion of the famed WildScats.Save the date: On April 13, 2019 RCDS will host the Blue & Gold Ball as the final celebration in our sesquicentennial celebration. All parents and alumni are invited to attend. Keep an eye out for the invitation.


During the 150th year of Rye Country Day, the state of the school is strong. It is so because of all of you, and the many thousand members of the RCDS community past and present, who have dedicated so much to the school and served as ambassadors of the school throughout the broader community.

It is an honor to serve as headmaster.

Scott A. Nelson

State of the School