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Chair’s Report to the GNSS Board AGM October 2018

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The 2017/2018 school year, our 105th year in operation, was another remarkable year. Our students continue to impress with their efforts, accomplishments and community mindedness. It was another year that resulted in our graduates being accepted into the universities of their choice, many with well-earned scholarships. There is no better proof that GNS is delivering on its promise to our families. One of the most important goals that was adopted by the Board at the beginning of last year was to finalize, approve and advance a new 5-year strategic plan for 2017 to 2022. As you know, this was accomplished in the fall. The plan contains 6 Key Success Factors, or goals, which Dr. Zederayko and the leadership team focused on to develop what was the first in a series of annual operational plans. Having subsequently received input from the Board, during the course of the year, Dr. Zederayko provided governors with updates as to progress against these key success factors, and more specifically, the individual efforts initiated to further each goal. In his Head’s report, Glenn provides an overview of 5 of the 6 key success factors that drive our strategic plan. I would like to take this opportunity to focus on the other key success factor which is to improve our facilities in order to transform our campuses, to better support the high level of teaching and learning that is occurring at the school. I will do this, not just because I really enjoy discussing what modern and inspiring facilities can do for our students, but because this key success factor directly relates to the Board’s other significant goals it established at the start of the school year. Moving ahead with improving our campuses necessitates working cooperatively and collaboratively with our Foundation Board. Their ownership of the school’s lands and buildings requires this. However, alignment in purpose and mutual understanding of potential risks and rewards, within this governance structure, means that appropriate strategies are pursued to ensure the long term success of GNS. Over the past two years, guided by our fundraising consultant Ross Marsh, the school has been working towards fully preparing itself for the upcoming major capital campaign for both campuses—The Wonder Campaign. In the meantime, during this organizational phase, individual governors and directors and their families felt it was critical to the ultimate success of the upcoming campaign to demonstrate leadership and be the first financial contributors. Additionally, long-standing supporters of the school were consulted prior to engaging with every family in our GNS community. Even though we are still to launch the official campaign, we have received exceptional support—so much so that we have been able to commit to the construction and completion of the fully-funded Phase I of the Beach Drive transformation. Although circumstances beyond our control led to a slow start of our first structures, I would like to re-assure our families at the Beach that a more expeditious construction timeline is taking shape. Additionally, thanks to early financial support, we have committed to next summer’s start of Phase II, the Main School Building. We are not anticipating the same kind of construction timing challenges that we experienced in the first phase! An important Board goal we identified was to work with the Foundation Board to coordinate a financing strategy to facilitate the phased construction projects. The financial support we have already received, and will continue to receive, comes in the form of cash or sometimes pledges committed over a two- to three-year time frame. A joint ‘bank financing committee’, made up of experienced members from both boards, evaluated and recommended the approval of a line of credit to bridge the timing gap between pledges made and monies received. A favourable new banking relationship ensures that any phase initiated can be entirely funded through to its completion. Another Board goal was to “approve a Pemberton Woods Master Plan update and initiate a school, municipal and public engagement process.” I am pleased to report that we have made a great deal of progress here. The planning process has been methodical and extensive and I would like to share this with our GNS community:

  1. Guiding principals and design elements inherent in the final Beach Drive Master Plan, where appropriate, were evaluated for Pemberton Woods.
  2. Planning considered the most current national and international philosophies regarding education and learning.
  3. Comprehensive tours of six competing schools, located in and around Victoria, gave the planning team the opportunity to evaluate precedents, to see what really works well in schools.
  4. A master planning consultant with over 40 years experience, Les Andrew, was brought on to the team. His role includes engaging with constituents to document their hopes, sharing successful design principals and ideas gained through his own experiences, and acting as a peer reviewer for the benefit of our chief architect Christopher Rowe.
  5. Recent focus groups consisting of staff, faculty, students, board members, and families provided valuable additional input.
  6. All of the information gleaned from these exercises was then evaluated in terms of:
    1. How can these campus aspirations support the IB approach to education and learning?
    2. How can facilities support new ways of learning?
    3. What are the types of facilities, and equally important, how are they organized, in order to respond to GNS’s unique community and culture?
    4. How can a plan ensure long term success for the school and at the same time become a welcome improvement to the neighbourhood and a source of pride for its neighbours?
  7. Current work includes the creation of a detailed Space Needs Program; a listing of all required spaces and their functions measured against current spaces. Every element is then benchmarked against similar spaces in other Canadian schools.

During the month of November the design team will be graphically updating the site plan, showing any modifications to our Pemberton Woods phase I, which will be the Senior School block featuring science labs, class rooms and learning commons, as well as future phases. We look forward to engaging members of the GNS community with our latest plans early in the New Year. This will be followed by consultation with the local community to ensure we are well prepared to approach the City of Victoria for the approvals required. Most of last year’s Board goals remain relevant for the current school year. Another area of focus for the Board is exploring potential sources of supplemental revenue. Given one of the Board’s prime responsibilities is to carry out financial oversight of the school’s operations, we recognize and appreciate that the Administration is working extremely hard to contain rising costs while maintaining high quality programs. However, in light of the challenge that we are continuing to face, and indeed practically every similar independent school, we recognize the importance of exploring additional strategies that may allow us to reduce the degree to which annual tuition fees increase. This of course speaks to another important role of any board, which is to ensure the long term health and sustainability of its organization. Accordingly, the Board has formed a special ad-hoc committee whose role is to consider ideas, prioritize them, and make recommendations for the Administration and the Board to consider for implementation. Finally, I would like to conclude this Chair’s Report by sharing how excited I am about the future of GNS. Dr. Zederayko and his faculty and staff continue to offer an unparalleled IB program within an exceptional community. The transformation of the Beach Drive Campus will create the finest junior school learning environment in Canada. I am equally excited about what lays ahead for our Pemberton Woods Campus, building upon its unique village-like qualities, with modern, forward thinking facilities. On a personal note, I have decided to step down from my current role after serving five years as Chair. I am very pleased with the new leadership forming on the Board and our latest members are no exception. This is not to say that I am stepping away from volunteering at the school. My intention is to focus my attention more acutely on the upcoming Wonder Campaign. As we count down to our official launch in October—less than a year away—we look forward to sharing some exciting news, commencing with a celebratory announcement this December, and additional announcements throughout this school year. Thank you, Chris Denford Chair, GNS Society