A Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 12 co-educational independent day school in Westchester, New York

State of the School

Head of School Scott Nelson, joined by Board of Trustees Chair Leigh Geller and Parents Association President Victoria Maggard, delivered the annual presentation of the State of the School to current families on January 19, 2022. Below is a summary of the presentation.

INTRODUCTION

The RCDS Experience and Spirit 

Providing an excellent academic program, Rye Country Day supports students in reaching their greatest potential inside and outside the classroom. The School nurtures a love of learning in each and every student, and it prepares them to have a positive impact on their communities by demonstrating our motto, Not for Self, but for Service, in their choices and actions. Our core values bind us together and underpin our daily engagement as a united community.

Our Mission

Rye Country Day School is a coeducational, college preparatory school dedicated to providing students from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 with an excellent education using both traditional and innovative approaches. In a nurturing and supportive environment, we offer a challenging program that stimulates individuals to achieve their maximum potential through academic, athletic, creative, and social endeavors. We are actively committed to diversity. We expect and promote moral responsibility and strive to develop strength of character within a respectful school community. Our goal is to foster a lifelong passion for learning, understanding, and service in an ever-changing world.

Core Values

Respect and Responsibility

R

Commitment to Personal & Academic Excellence

C

Diversity within an Inclusive Community

D

Service

S
2020-21 THEME: COMMUNITY


The 2021-22 theme of COMMUNITY calls on each and every one of us to prioritize and strengthen our relationships with each other—and our commitments to each other—as members of an outstanding and supportive learning community. The theme builds on our motto, Not for Self, but for Service, as it guides us towards compassion and purpose-driven actions. It also serves as a reminder that when we are united, aware, collaborative, and empathetic, we can achieve incredible results.

Community Moments

The Parents Association partnered with RCDS administrators to help kick off the 2021-22 academic year with the Back-to-School Block Party. Hundreds of members of the RCDS community attended the beloved community event, welcoming new and returning students and their families and employees to the new year.

Over the summer, 15 Upper School students participated in Rye Country Day’s Community Engagement Fellowship program. Exemplifying the RCDS motto, Not for Self, but for Service, they partnered with various community organizations to develop and implement innovative projects that address each organization’s needs. 
 

At Opening Ceremonies & Spirit Day, all students, faculty, and staff congregated on the South Field to kick off the School’s 153rd year with Blue & Gold spirit. Resuming this all-school tradition, which was put on hold last year due to the pandemic, was an important milestone and a special opportunity to celebrate community. 

In the lead up to Wildcat Weekend, the Rye Country Day community rallied behind the annual Can-Do Food Drive supporting the Carver Center Market in Port Chester. 

The return of Wildcat Weekend was a joyous occasion. Students, families, and employees happily gathered on campus for this festive community tradition celebrating Rye Country Day and Wildcat spirit!

Fall 2021 marked the return of drama productions to the Black Box Theater. A talented group of 18 students put forth engaging and powerful performances in the Upper School Fall Play production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

In December, the Performing Arts Center was abuzz with the energy of the Middle and Upper School Choral and Instrumental Concerts.

 In July, Rye Country Day’s Academic ACTION program marked 35 years of Community Enrichment. Over 60 students from nearby communities participated in engaging project-based enrichment activities and classes in STEAM, leadership, robotics, playwriting and more. 

Continued Vigilance and the Return to More Familiar Routines

This year, all of us—teachers, administrators, students, and families alike—have been thrilled to be back to routines that feel a little bit more familiar. After the world’s experience with remote learning, the benefits of in-person learning cannot be affirmed enough. As an unalterable foundational attribute of our program, academic excellence has always been central to RCDS, and we are glad it is happening in-person once again. Still, the pandemic’s major disruption to education around the globe has not fully subsided. We must remain vigilant and determined to preserve the in-person learning we worked so hard to regain this past fall. With our entire community’s collaboration, we hope to continue learning in person, and we look forward to a future that holds relaxation of COVID restrictions at school and around the world.

"During this pandemic and the resulting global challenges, the Rye Country Day community has worked together to ensure that our students continue to thrive and succeed at school. We have been guided and united by our shared commitment to excellence, character, and service. The state of the School is strong because of the inspiring dedication of our students, families, employees, and alumni."
- Scott A. Nelson, Head of School

COVID-19 Protocols & Updates

The first half of the school year was successful in terms of COVID safety. 

  • Our extensive–and regularly updated–safety protocols have helped us ensure zero school spread from. We are grateful to the entire RCDS community–families, students, and employees–for their continued vigilance. 
     
  • Our community’s high vaccination rate is a central piece of keeping our community safe and learning in person. 
    • Employees - 99%
    • Upper School - 99%
    • Middle School  - Grades 7/8 – 95% 
    • Middle School - Grades 5/6 – 74%
    • Lower School - 72%
      (Vaccination rates as of 1/18/22)
       
  • RCDS Vaccination Requirements*
    • All employees are required to be vaccinated and boosted.
    • All students 16+ are required to be vaccinated and boosted.
    • All students 12+ who wish to participate in athletics, performing arts, and off-campus trips/competitions are required to be vaccinated and boosted.
    • Students aged 5 - 15 are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and RCDS will require vaccination of this age group upon full FDA approval.
      *Individuals may apply for medical/religious exemptions
       
  • Our weekly surveillance testing program testing allows us to effectively mitigate risk by detecting cases and stopping school spread.
     
  • Our proactive, real-time approach enables us to pivot and adjust our policies as needed. The Medical Committee continues to carefully and consistently monitor the news regarding the state of COVID-19 in our area, including unfolding developments such as the Omicron variant.
     
  • Our dedicated team of nurses work around the clock to support the health and safety of our students, overseeing contact tracing, individual follow-up, and return to school logistics.
     
  • Our consistent, weekly messaging to our entire community to get vaccinated, remain vigilant, and follow safety protocols emphasizes that safety is a shared commitment in our community. 

Thank you to our Nurses and the Medical Committee for their hard work and dedication to making sure our community can safely learn in-person.

Campus Safety & Security

The safety and security of schools is a topic of national urgency. At RCDS, the safety of our students and security of campus are our highest priorities. This year we have added a Director of Security,  which has increased security presence on campus throughout the day. We are reviewing and planning upgrades to the live  monitoring systems of our facilities. The Main Entrance door, as well as various doors around campus, are locked throughout the school day. In addition, we work in partnership with the Rye Police Department to ensure security amidst potential threats within the local community. Lastly, RCDS cultivates a culture of upstanding and responsible vigilance, one in which parents, guardians, students, and employees are asked and encouraged to report any information that may be of concern to the safety and well-being of anyone in our community.

FINANCIAL OVERVIEW
 

Budget Revenue

Like most independent day schools, RCDS remains "tuition-driven" as 86.5% of income is derived from tuition.
 
The Board continues to be committed to supporting socio-economic diversity through the RCDS Financial Aid program, which supports 146 students with $6.3 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. The majority of families who receive financial aid receive grants of 75% or more. 
 
The School annually draws 4% of a rolling twenty quarter average from the RCDS Endowment Fund. This year, the endowment will provide $2.12 million or 5.1% 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.
 

 

Budget Expenses

Rye Country Day, like other educational institutions, is labor intensive and thus spends the major portion of its budget (72.4%) 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, as well as professional development funding, are critical expenditures.

 

ENDOWMENT

The School annually draws 4% of a rolling twenty quarter average from the RCDS Endowment Fund. This year, the endowment will provide $2.1 million or 5.1% of the operating budget's income. Over the last 29 years, the endowment has grown more than seventeen-fold through capital and senior gift campaigns, as well as prudent management of the Endowment Fund. 

 

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 $4.26 million in 2020-21. During this period, the annual giving program has raised over $75 million for the School, including over $14 million for the RCDS Endowment Fund through the very successful Senior Parent Gift program. 
 

Tradition of 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. 
  • Last year’s current parent participation was 89%, well above the national average of current parent participation of 60%. 
    • (Pre-COVID it was 98% or higher for five years 2014-15 - 2018-19)
  • RCDS’s alumni participation of 17% is almost double the national average of alumni participation participation (9%) for independent day school alumni.

2021-22 Legacy of Excellence Annual Giving Campaign

In the fall of 2021, the Office of Advancement launched the Legacy of Excellence Annual Giving Campaign, which supports two important funds: The first is the Annual Fund, which covers day-to-day school operating expenses, and the second is the Scott A. Nelson Scholarship Fund, which honors Head of School Scott Nelson's visionary leadership and carries on his commitment to making the RCDS experience possible for capable, dedicated students, regardless of financial status.

Legacy of Excellence Annual Giving Campaign results (as of January 11): $3.96 million from over 606 donors, which includes 53% of our current  families. Incredible! Make your gift today www.ryecountryday.org/give 

We are extremely grateful to our community’s generous support and thrilled with the many meaningful tribute gifts in honor of Mr. Nelson’s outstanding tenure leading our school.

ADMISSIONS ACTIVITY

Current Enrollment and 2022-23 Admissions Update

Rye Country Day is fully enrolled and admission to the School remains highly competitive. The School continues to offer an admissions experience that is positive and informative for prospective families with both in-person and virtual opportunities. Campus tours and in-person interviews resumed this year, as have select events, such as the Reflections on RCDS alumni panel. In addition, we have continued bimonthly informational events via Zoom and extensive digital and print communications to ensure that the admissions process is warm, welcoming, and comprehensive.

  • The application pool for the 2022-23 school year is robust and it comprises impressive students who reflect the excellence we strive to preserve and cultivate at RCDS. The Admissions Committee is currently in the process of reviewing applications and is confidently optimistic about the potential new additions to our community. 
  • The major entry points to Rye Country Day School are Pre-K, K, and Grades 4, 6, and 9. A few students are also added in Grades 5,7, 8 and 10. Entry into all other years depends on the number of spaces available. While the application deadline is December 15, the School does receive applications each year in the second round/rolling process for Middle and Upper School. 
  • According to NAIS, the average acceptance rate of independent day schools hovers at nearly 65%, nearly 36 percentage points higher than RCDS (29%), and the average attrition rate of 12% is more than double the rate at RCDS.
     

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 $6.3 million in financial aid to 16% of the student body (146 students).

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. We believe strongly that our excellent education should be accessible to dedicated, capable students, regardless of financial status.

The Financial Aid Advocacy Team continues to spearhead robust and responsive support for families and students who receive aid at the School. The team meets weekly and employs a holistic approach to supporting each student and family, including direct outreach and programming to ensure that students have access to the materials, supplies, and equipment they need; can access support in areas that might be overlooked; and receive necessary academic and socio-emotional support.

COLLEGE MATRICULATION

While it is still early in the process for the Class of 2022, 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 (not reflected below) and 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.

To date, 40 members of the Class of 2022 have committed to matriculate at:

​​Amherst College
Bates College
Boston University (2)
Brown University
Colgate University (2)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Cornell University (2)
Dartmouth College (2)
Duke University (3)
Georgetown University
Johns Hopkins University
Lehigh University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Middlebury College
New York University

Northwestern University
Princeton University
Rochester Institute of Technology
Skidmore College (2)
Stanford University
Syracuse University
Tufts University
Tulane University of Louisiana (4)
University of Chicago
University of Pennsylvania (2)
University of Rochester
University of St. Andrews, UK
University of Virginia
Washington University in St. Louis

LEADERSHIP SEARCH & TRANSITION UPDATES

Leadership Searches

Upper School Principal Search: The search for this position is underway, and it is being guided by John Faubert, a senior consultant for the leading educational search firm Carney, Sandoe & Associates. The candidate pool is outstanding, and we are currently interviewing finalists. The School hopes to complete the search in February. 

Director of Admissions & Enrollment Management: Since the departure of Matt Suzuki, the School engaged Courtney Doucette as an interim director of the admissions effort. Now, the School is interviewing finalist candidates for the permanent Director of Admissions & Enrollment, who will work closely with incoming Head of School Randall Dunn, as well as the Assistant Heads of School Meredith deChabert and Pam MacAffer, to ensure that Rye Country Day maintains its leading status among independent schools, locally and nationally, by attracting, enrolling, and retaining outstanding students who reflect the School community’s values and our collective dedication to excellence and service. The School hopes to complete this search by the end of January.

Head of School Transition

The Head of School Transition Committee is developing a schedule of opportunities for RCDS constituents to connect with and get to know incoming Head of School Randall Dunn. Mr. Dunn’s tenure will begin on July 1, 2022, after Scott Nelson’s planned retirement.

"All great institutions have chapters. As we prepare to transition from Scott Nelson’s 29 year tenure, we want to recognize him for his strategic and visionary leadership. It is this leadership that has built an incredible foundation for the School’s continued future success. With outstanding teachers, students, and staff; a sprawling campus with state-of-art facilities; and a robust financial outlook, the future for RCDS is bright. As we look forward to Randall Dunn’s tenure and his many achievements in our school’s next chapter, we are extremely grateful for Mr. Nelson's incredible contributions to Rye Country Day."
- Leigh Geller Chair, RCDS Board of Trustees

RCDS 2025 STRATEGIC PLAN

The “RCDS 2025” strategic plan aims to sustain Rye Country Day’s position as a leading independent school in cultivating excellence and developing tomorrow’s leaders. This plan was drafted and in the process of Board approval when the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the landscape of education in 2020. As a result, the Strategic Planning Committee initiated a comprehensive revision process to ensure that this strategic plan can effectively guide RCDS through 2025, taking into account the School’s mission and vision, and the lessons learned during the pandemic. The goal in developing the plan was to ensure that RCDS remains a school that is ever-evolving and able to provide students with an excellent education that will prepare them to succeed in college and become leaders in their fields and communities.

CLICK TO VIEW RCDS 2025
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The next phase of the strategic planning process is implementing the priorities outlined in the plan. Implementation will be spearheaded by the Strategic Plan Steering Committee.

Many thanks to the many dedicated stakeholders—administrators, faculty, parents, students, and alumni—who were part of the thoughtful and thorough analysis and visioning it took to produce “RCDS 2025.” The process was a powerful testament to the fact that excellence is a Rye Country Day hallmark because of our community’s incredible commitment, diligence, and collaborative spirit. And thanks in advance to the members of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee for the extensive work they will do to implement “RCDS 2025.”