2018-19 Annual Report | Letter from the Head of School

Fiscal year 2019 saw remarkable growth in our financial and physical footprints. There was upward momentum in the development of auxiliary programs, a strong surge in enrollment, and wonderfully successful philanthropic giving with our Annual Fund exceeding $400,000. Our campus grew in shape and size, supporting the first steps in the Master Plan. I am so grateful for the thoughtful support of our entire community this year, who showed what happens when the purposeful, dedicated generosity of our alumni, families, friends, faculty, staff, and students come together in support of our Solebury School.

Through a mindful, gradual approach, our boarding population has increased by 20% compared to just three years ago. In the past year, our enrollment inquiries have doubled and we are slowly growing our enrollment. A mere fifteen years ago Solebury had capacity for 64 boarding students; this fall we opened with capacity for 85 boarding students, and in the fall of 2020 plans are underway to increase that capacity to over 90 boarders. We are well on our way to achieving the goal of the strategic plan to grow our boarding enrollment to 150 students over the next decade.  

As a community, we are mindful to continue to curate a vision where respect for our past is balanced carefully with the needs of our present and the purposeful shaping of our future.

In late March, we transformed our campus with the acquisition of an adjacent 50 acres of land. This acquisition increased our campus footprint by nearly 50 percent, from 90 acres to 140, restoring part of our campus’ original footprint. Sitting in the midst of this reclaimed acreage is the home of one of Solebury School’s original faculty members, Stephen Hoyt, who joined Solebury during the 1926-27 school year. Originally the quarry’s limeburner’s cottage, Hoyt rebuilt the house and lived in it with his wife Stanis Hoyne, Solebury’s first nurse.

The Solebury campus was an important piece of the vision of our founders when they established Solebury School in 1925—and this rolling piece of Pennsylvania countryside was viewed as critical to the DNA of the community they imagined. With the reacquisition of the Hoyt House and its surrounding 50 acres, we have built a bridge from the past to the present, and created a new one towards the future. We can look ahead with confidence and know that, because of the leadership and courage of the Board of Trustees, along with the thoughtful support of so many members of our community, we have ensured the future of Solebury School. 

As our campus footprint has grown, so has our academic program. Our Global Education Concentration, for 9th through 11th graders, is a program unique to Solebury School. With an emphasis on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development set by the United Nations, the concentration is designed for students to deeply engage in, and reflect upon, cultural events, service learning and immersive travel experiences culminating in an independent study experience. 

We’ve successfully cultivated strategic partnerships with Delaware Valley University and Bucks County Playhouse (BCP). We are in the third year of offering a dual-enrolled math class with Delaware Valley University, allowing students who complete Solebury’s Multivariable Calculus class to earn both high school and college credit. Solebury and BCP share talent and resources during the summer months with BCP interns residing on our campus and working closely with our Starcatchers Theatre Camp.  

Thanks to the generous support from the Special Appeal at last May’s Dinner Auction, we expanded our science, math, and art programs by creating a dedicated space called the IDEA Lab (Innovation, Design, Engineering, and Arts).  New equipment, new computers, a 3D Printer, robotics equipment—all focused on offering our students a state-of-the-art space where they can pursue their passions in engineering, robotics, and digital art. 

This balancing of past, present, and future was on full display during the 2018-19 year, and the outstanding support of our community made so much possible—projects that helped maintain our past, improve our present, and make way for our future. During the past year, we focused on nearly all of our campus buildings and grounds; from new chairs in the Dining Hall, to equipment upgrades in the Main Office, fresh paint and a renovated entrance to the Performing Arts Center (PAC) along with the installation of a new sound system to support our many performances and assemblies. We completed Phase III of the Generator project which now guarantees power to all our facilities north of Primrose Creek. The Founders Library and Visual Arts spaces saw the installation of student-created mosaic walls, the creation of a new closet and sinks for photography, and installation of new cabinets and display walls in the main art room. 

Solebury has always been more than a school. It is a community, and it is a home for many of us—students, their families, faculty, staff and friends. Our home is big and welcoming. This year, we experienced its growth in many directions with many new faces and spaces, all the while maintaining a thoughtful attention to our existing ones.  

I remarked to a gathering of alums and friends recently that this is a magical time for Solebury School. We have a vision for our future, a plan to achieve this vision, and a foundation that is strong and unwavering. Our enrollment is healthy, our faculty outstanding, our alums, parents and friends supportive. With the addition of the land we have ensured the future of Solebury School, now unencumbered by land and building restrictions. Future heads, trustees, and faculty and staff are now only limited by their imaginations and by the resources they can bring to their ideas. 

For all that we have achieved, and for all that remains before us, we owe you a heartfelt thank you. Without your support, offered in so many ways, I would not be able to write such a letter. The generosity of our alumni, families, and friends allows us to think big and accomplish much. From all of us who live, work, and play on our corner of Phillips Mill and School Lane, we offer our deepest appreciation.
 

Tom Wilschutz
Head of School

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