In each issue, The Yield profiles The Enrollment Management Association member schools, asking how their office tackles processes and procedures and integrates trends and data into their decision-making process, marketing, recruitment, and retention strategies. In this issue, Sarah Jallo talks about her unique market, The St. Andrew’s Schools’ move to an enrollment management model, and her experience as its first director of enrollment management.
BRIEFLY DESCRIBE THE THREE SCHOOLS AND PROGRAMS AND HOW THEY ARE CONNECTED.
The St. Andrew’s Schools comprises St. Andrew’s Priory School for Girls (The Priory), Hawaii’s oldest all-girls school founded in 1867 by Queen Emma; St. Andrew’s Preparatory School for Boys (The Prep), Hawaii’s only all-boys elementary school; and Queen Emma Preschool for boys and girls aged 2-5. The St. Andrew’s Schools draws inspiration from Queen Emma, whose progressive vision greatly expanded educational equality for Hawaii’s young women. The three schools of The St. Andrew’s Schools offer a holistic, values-based education rooted in the inclusive Episcopal tradition.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH THE “COORDINATE MODEL”?
This is an excellent question and one that I’ve been asking myself during this first year—essentially, are we stronger together? For instance, The Priory is the most well-known of our schools on the island, so do we leverage that brand recognition by marketing it side by side with The Prep, our newest division? The name of “The St. Andrew’s Schools” and the idea of a coordinate school is still so new in Hawaii that we continually need to educate the public on what that means and reinforce that we are two single-gender schools with a coed preschool. When the Prep opened, many people translated that as The Priory going coed because it is a unique concept. I find the greatest challenge lies in how we market ourselves. It is important for us to build the brand of The St. Andrew’s Schools, but it can be difficult to have clear, concise messaging when marketing one institution composed of three distinct schools.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT INDEPENDENT SCHOOL ADMISSION WORK IN HAWAII?
I previously worked in Los Angeles, which is a very competitive and saturated market—but it has nothing on Hawaii. First, we suffer from the same national trends as the rest of the country: economic downturns, low birth rates, the rise of charter schools, etc. On top of that, we are on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Oahu is approximately 597 square miles—just a little bit larger than the city of Los Angeles. As of 2012, there were 77 private schools on Oahu, enrolling just under 29,000 students. Approximately 16,000 of the 29,000 students are enrolled in only 10 of the 77 schools. In addition, the cost of living is 157% higher than the national average, and our wages are only 15% higher than the national average.
WHAT PROMPTED THE ST. ANDREW’S SCHOOLS TO MOVE TO AN ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT MODEL?
The school underwent an extensive strategic planning process about two years ago with the help of the consulting firm Ian Symmonds & Associates. Like many schools, The Priory had been suffering from a decrease in enrollment, and the time was ripe to reevaluate admission efforts and invigorate the academic offerings to introduce innovative, experiential programs that go beyond traditional academics and campus boundaries.
It became clear that the school needed to restructure and refocus efforts to address the many facets of enrollment. Admission work in its purest form is about the act of admitting new students: processing applications, holding events, recruitment, etc. Yet, the work of enrollment management is holistic and broad—it’s where all facets of school life converge: academics, student life, finance and operations, advancement, and communications. These are all important areas that affect and influence total school enrollment.
HOW IS YOUR TEAM STRUCTURED?
Our team structure is fairly traditional. Braelyn, our admission assistant, handles daily communication with inquiring families, sends information out, manages the call load, and handles all the administrative tasks that keep us running. Steph handles most of the day-to-day management of admission functions: tours, interviews, database, family communication, processing of applications and inquiries, outreach to schools, etc. Sue Ann manages international student admission, prepares financial aid communications and documents, and is vital during re-enrollment season. I tend to focus on more broad-based issues such as marketing, retention, data analysis, implementing and assessing strategy, and the business of communicating and reporting with our school community, the other members of the executive administrative team, and the board of trustees. Because school climate and culture are so directly related to recruitment and retention, I am consulted on most areas of school life and operations.
LIKE MANY INDEPENDENT DAY SCHOOLS, THE PRIORY NOW ENROLLS INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. DO YOU TRAVEL INTERNATIONALLY TO RECRUIT?
Last year, we enrolled 27 international students from 11 different countries. Once the international student program was solidified as a key piece of the strategic plan, there was some initial travel to forge relationships with consultants. Sophie Halliday, our director of studies, and I have worked to create a five-year plan for international student enrollment and programs to be implemented this year, which includes the necessary travel costs associated with meeting our goals in target markets.
WHAT IS YOUR GLOBAL PREP PROGRAM?
As you can imagine, Hawaii is seen as a vacation destination, not necessarily an education destination, by international families looking for competitive U.S. high school programs. Global Prep takes international students who may not be ready for a competitive or elite boarding school and offers them an opportunity to improve their English language abilities, while also earning credits toward a U.S. high school diploma. Students can enter at any time of year, and we will act as placement counselors if they choose to apply out. The benefit has been that once students begin with us, they generally do not want to leave, and they end up re-enrolling with us each year.
HOW DOES YOUR HOMESTAY PROGRAM WORK?
If applicants indicate they need a homestay, we contact our homestay provider once it appears a student is going to enroll. She has a wealth of contacts and families, so she proceeds to procure a family who can provide a loving, stable home for a high school student. Our homestay provider constantly checks in with our students and ensures they are doing well. She attends parent-teacher conferences and school events and remains in constant contact with us.
HOW DID YOU ONBOARD NEW STUDENTS AND FAMILIES THIS YEAR?
We held a new family orientation this year, which the school had not done in a while. With our small numbers, we have always been able to provide individual support and information for incoming families and students, but I felt it was important to have an orientation for two main reasons. First, we wanted to welcome new families and reaffirm their decision to enroll at the schools. Second, we wanted to ensure all families understood the ways in which we communicate with them, whether it is through e-newsletters, the school website portals, learning management systems, or online grades. We walked them through logging into the sites and showed them how to access information. We saw it as being proactive to any communication concerns that may arise, particularly between teachers and parents.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST ENROLLMENT CHALLENGES YOU FACE?
In addition to the challenges of the marketplace, Hawaii is a culture that takes great pride in history and tradition. I believe this plays out for schools in the idea that “what has always worked for generations must still be what is best,” but education has changed and schools are doing new and innovative things to address different learning styles and student needs. Change can be scary, but it is also necessary. We work to educate families on the benefits of the best practices we have implemented, and how we address individual student needs and prepare students for a future of possibilities. Not every school is right for every child, but people can cling to an outdated perception of what is best. Again, due to the demographics of the island, we also struggle with our families having significant financial need. And, of course, we cannot meet that need for everyone who is interested in the school.
WHAT KIND OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT DID YOU OFFER YOUR ADMISSION TEAM THIS YEAR?
As I complete my first year at The St. Andrew’s Schools, I will say that it has been a year of assessment and reflection. We have been determining where people’s skills and natural talents are best put to use. Due to our location, it can be difficult to take part in national conferences and workshops, but we listen to a lot of webinars through The Enrollment Management Association and other leading organizations. Steph and I will also be attending the The Enrollment Management Association annual meeting in Las Vegas in September, which we are very much looking forward to! I think it is extremely important to stay up to date on national issues and trends in our field and learn from our colleagues. Together, we make the profession stronger and more meaningful.
Name of School: The St. Andrew’s Schools
Enrollment: 470 across all three schools
ESL/International students: 27 Grades: PK-12
Type of school: Coordinate day school (Queen Emma Preschool is coed, The Priory is all-girls, and The Prep is all-boys)
Sarah Jallo, Director of Enrollment Management—Sarah has worked in admission for eight of her 12 years in independent schools, which have included day, boarding, coed, single-gender, and religious schools. Growing up in Pasadena, California, Sarah attended independent schools from kindergarten through 12th grade and is a proud alum of Clairbourn School and Flintridge Preparatory School. Sarah has a B.A. in writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College in Boston, and a master’s in educational leadership and administration from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Sarah is beginning her second year at The St. Andrew’s Schools.
Stephanie Jones, Assistant Director of Admissions—Stephanie is beginning her third year in admission at The St. Andrew’s Schools. Admission is her second career, after nearly 10 years in the hospitality industry and raising two children. Born and raised in Towson, Maryland, Steph attended the University of Delaware, where she earned a B.A. in English. She has been in Hawaii for 25 years and has two children who attend The Priory.
Sue Ann Wargo, International Admissions and Financial Aid Coordinator—Sue Ann grew up as the daughter of an Air Force officer, and after earning her B.S. at the University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma and M.Ed. in elementary education at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, she taught first grade for 23 years, mostly at her alma mater, The Priory. In 1996, she was appointed to the office of admission and has served in all areas of marketing, admission, enrollment, and financial aid.
Braelyn Prior, Admissions Assistant