From Memberanda, Summer 2013
Profile on Flint Hill School in Oakton, Virginia, discusses the changes that they have made in the last five years, and their plans for the future.
Have you increased the size of the admission staff in the last five years?
No. The admission office actually decreased by a full-time staff member in 2009. We’ve incorporated technology to enable our office to become more efficient and have used members of the upper school faculty to help with student interviewing. Moving forward, we are considering changes to the current admission process to see if we can streamline it for families, while maintaining the same level of individualization and customer service. We do, though, have two new staff members who filled positions we already had, and whom we will orient and integrate into the school and office.
Have you changed the admission staff in the last five years (created new positions, eliminated others)?
No, we have not created any new positions since 2009, but over the last few years we have worked on cross-training, so that there is redundancy in the office. Specifically, data management has become increasingly important and, with our use of technology in the office, we needed to ensure that multiple people could help with processing online inquiries, applications, and recommendations, in addition to uploading supporting materials. This need for redundancy was especially apparent this past year when our director of enrollment services was out with the flu the week before new student notifications. Because of our training, we still managed to notify on time!
Does the admission staff have responsibilities outside of the admission office?
We see ourselves as full members of the school community, so we try and participate as much as possible. Members of our team coach, cover recess duty and carpool duty, attend field trips and weekly divisional meetings, and support the headmaster and development office with their events. By doing so, we better understand what is happening in the classroom and around the school, so when we need that last-minute favor, it is easier to find someone ready to assist us.
Do you have an admission office retreat to plan for the year?
We usually meet three to four times throughout the year for a mini-retreat (half-day). This gives us the opportunity to reflect on what worked well and what we would like to do differently. We generate new ideas and then develop a plan to execute them. We went to this model a couple of years ago, because the big end-of-year retreat was not working for us. We felt it was better to meet in the moment while things were still fresh. Our most recent retreat was particularly fun—we met in the morning off-campus, went out to lunch as a team, and saw Tina Fey’s movie, “Admission.”
Do you have a recruitment plan? A marketing plan?
FHS recently hired a new director of marketing and communications. He has been an amazing resource in his first year and has helped us tremendously. We are in the process of developing new materials, viewbook, and other collateral, as well as rolling out a new website this fall and expanding our social media footprint. However, we also have focused on our internal communications, because retention and current parent satisfaction is critical. We’re optimistic about the direction of our communication plan and its impact on new student enrollment and retention. One positive proof point from this year is that our development office reached 70% parent participation in the annual fund, an all-time high.
Have you/your team identified any specific skills that you would like to build/improve either individually or collectively to aid your work?
As a 1:1 school, we feel that it is important that our admission process reflect the experience of our current students and parents. Everyone at FHS either has an iPad2 (TK-Grade 4) or a Macbook Air (Grades 5-12), so we want to be in sync with how parents experience our school. Thus, having prospective parents submit online applications and recommendations and receive online admission decisions and re-enrollment contracts has enabled them to feel comfortable about who we are as a school and how we intentionally use technology as a tool for learning. We are always trying to stay ahead of the curve with technology, so that has been a priority over the last several years.
What are your professional development goals for the year? Are funds available to support this?
The school has a very generous professional development budget, and staff training is critical to our ability to provide the best experience for our students. Our office regularly attends local conferences, the annual SSATB conference, and all on-campus professional development opportunities. Recently, members of the team also have been to the NAIS Financial Aid Conference, Whipple Hill training, and ISM programs. The coming year is going to be unique, as we are shifting roles in the office and are integrating the new hires into previously established positions. Therefore, the focus will be more on internal professional development and team building than external professional development with conferences, although that will also be available to us.
Other than conferences/workshops/advanced degrees, what do you do to build skills?
With 250 faculty and staff, there is a lot of talent at Flint Hill School and we leverage that within the admission office. Our technology integration specialists host “Appy Hours,” where you can learn how to create a professional network on Twitter or how to use Evernote to organize your files. We also have an on-site Masters of Education program through the University of Virginia, so faculty and staff are able to connect with other educators and learn new skills. Additionally, we attend the pre- and post-school workshops, which range from assessment training to developmental design.
What is your greatest challenge for the coming year?
Our major challenge in the coming year will be staff training and cohesion. With new faces on the team and others moving into new roles, we will need to ensure that there is a lot of communication and collaboration. We have the right people in the right places, but this will be a year of change and a great opportunity to reflect on current practices.
What was your greatest challenge last year and how did you tackle it?
As a large independent school, we have the ability to manage enrollment in each division to ensure that we meet our annual goal of 1,100 students. Despite the weak economy, we have been able to open at or above our goal each year; however, the landscape has changed. In 2009, our lower school was completely full and the upper school had room for growth. Five years later, the upper school is at its capacity and our lower school is currently slightly under-enrolled.
In order to increase awareness, we developed a specific campaign to highlight the benefits of the program and hosted kindergarten-specific open houses. We also moved from the WISC-IV to the Gesell as an assessment tool. This low-cost alternative provides the information we need to make a sound admission decision. Our kindergarten is full for the coming year; however, we anticipate that we will need to find other ways to generate interest in kindergarten in the coming year.
Name of School: Flint Hill School
School Type: Non-denominational, Coed, Day
Enrollment Size: 1,100
Grades Served: Transitional Kindergarten (TK) – Grade 12
7 full-time members
Chris Pryor, Director of Admission—Chris is a graduate of The Lawrenceville School and Gettysburg College. Chris began his admission career in 2000 and has worked for Flint Hill School, Leysin American School in Switzerland, and Highland School. Chris returned to Flint Hill School in 2009 and earned his masters of education from The University of Virginia in 2012. Chris serves on the Admission Steering Committee for Independent Education and has presented at SSATB’s and the Virginia Association of Independent Schools’ annual conferences.
Michele Velchik, Associate Director of Admission for the Lower School and Director of Financial Aid—Michele attended an independent school in Australia and graduated from Sydney College in 1979 and Sydney Institute of Technology in 1983. In 1998, Michele joined the FHS community from a career in hospital administration. She has served in the development office and admission office and is a current member of the board of trustees at Foxcroft School.
Fé Vivas Patriciu–Admission Officer–Middle School and Director of Enrollment Services
McClain Bell–Admission Officer–Upper School
Ricki Coyne–Admission Officer
Jackie Kidwell–Admission Data Manager
Cathy French–Admission Assistant and West Campus Receptionist