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From the Lower School to the Board, we're always working to improve

September 14, 2018
By Billy Handmaker

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
--Stephen Hawking

One morning last week, I had the pleasure of listening to several Lower School students advise parents on how to help their children navigate the world of Kindergarten through 4th grade. As one would expect, these exceptional bright and motivated children gave thoughtful tips for how to be a better student and things to avoid in order to be successful. As I heard their wise counsel, my thoughts ranged from Stephen Hawking to Psalm 8.2, “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength,” to Art Linkletter’s old show and book, “Kids say the darndest things.” Perhaps the most humorous comment was “aftercare is where your kids go when you don’t want to pick them up.”

However, I also considered their wise counsel as the Keystone Board of Trustees engaged in a day-long retreat this past Saturday, September 8th. Exceptionally dedicated and devoted trustees were joined by members of the Administrative Council to consider what we do well and where we could improve. In the spirit of continuous improvement that will characterize our Independent Schools of the Southwest (ISAS) self-study this year, we started by acknowledging that Keystone is an amazing school. There is an energy and dynamism in our student body and in our faculty/staff that produces something extraordinary. Having visited many schools over the past thirty years, I can tell you that what occurs at Keystone is exceptional and admirable and understandably inspires the passion that members of the community feel toward our school..

In the same way that our students and our teaching can always get better, so can Keystone, and we are continually looking for ways to improve. For example, we’re looking at substantive changes to our Keystone Summer Scholars program to make it even more invigorating. In addition, at a time when harassment is so prominent in the news, we integrated the latest thinking into our new policies, because it is the right thing to do. Similarly, although we had an extremely positive financial audit for the past year, we are still making changes to our fiscal policies to help Keystone not only be more efficient but also more effective. It was heartening to hear how well we’re doing in general and in comparison to other schools and non profit organizations; nevertheless, we can always do better. An example in the area of Development is our alteration of Keystone’s gift acceptance policies to be in closer accordance with what is considered best practice.

As we hope you’ve noticed, we are making changes in the way we tell the Keystone story. For 70 years, Keystone students, and subsequently alumni, have done amazing work and literally changed the world. While we don’t want to brag, we don’t want to hide our light under a bushel; we want to share the stories of our students and alumni. During our retreat, we discussed the school’s admissions philosophies, and how we’ve remained selective in an era of increasing competition and refused to compromise our standards. At the other end of our student spectrum, we also learned how well Keystone seniors perform in the college admissions process in the face or more and more students domestically and internationally applying for the same number of slots.

Over the course of seven decades, Keystone has challenged and supported children and adolescents in an inclusive community to perform at a high level. After all this time, it is woven into our DNA. While the challenges our school and students face may change over the years and we continually work to improve, we remain rooted in our core values of academic excellence, ethical growth, community involvement, and responsible leadership. As we move forward toward our next 70 years and beyond, we can best honor our history by continuing to produce outstanding alumni who will make us all proud.