Highlands Blog

First Interim Board Update

John Michael Bodnar
This Fall has been unseasonably warm; but the air around our school is comfortable and calm. The Board of Trustees has made a great plan for our work this year and is preparing to put forth some hard work to accomplish our plan. And it sure does make our work easier (and more fun) with the likes of Margret Camp, Roger Torbert and Gareth Vaughn – our newest Trustees. Margaret is a small business owner and an alum of Highlands (’83); Roger is the VP of Education at the Birmingham Zoo and was a past faculty member of Highlands (’98-’05) and Gareth is the tremendous former Head of School at Indian Springs.  Great additions to an already diverse Board – we thank them for their dedication and sacrifice and their willingness to progress this amazing place.  They have joined Dicki Arn, Jim Dixon, Maye Head Frei, Maria Katz, Eileen Markstein, Kathryn McDonald, Midge Miller, Randall Minor, William Morrow, Dottie Pak, Lenus Perkins, Rod Reisner, David Schwebel, Bart Stephens, Al Vance and myself to make up the Highlands Board of Trustees.  Trustees are stewards of their school; and they warrant or ensure the existence of the school [and its Mission] for students of today, and the students of tomorrow.  We are proud of our Board!  Our Trustees come from a variety of backgrounds, work in a wide range of professions and thus contribute diverse thoughts, ideas and work in advancement of our goal – nailing our Mission every day.  We are made up of alums, parents, past parents, past faculty and other community members who have a connection to Highlands.    

We booted up this school year with Kavita and Robert with a dinner at our house on Friday, October 20th then followed it up with the Annual Board Retreat all day on Saturday at the offices of Stewart Perry Construction.  Merrill Stewart, a past Board member and past parent, has graciously allowed us access to his amazing office complex to us for the past four years which has provided an absolute perfect atmosphere to do Board work.  During the Retreat, we participated in Trustee training, listened to speakers on various independent school topics such as Trustee training, marketing and enrollment, school finances and strategic plan implementation.  We had open forum “round table” discussions on the future of our school and tried to answer questions such as “what are the biggest challenges Highlands will face in the next 5 years?” and “what was the most important problem the Board has faced in the past few years?” and “what lessons did we learn from those problems?”.  We set goals for ourselves and laid out a framework to accomplish those goals.  We appointed Trustees to serve on the various standing committees such as Finance (chair Rod Reisner), Nominating (chair Al Vance), Development (chair Maye Frei), Governance (chair William Morrow), Strategic Planning (chair Eileen Markstein), Buildings and Grounds (Lenus Perkins) and Executive Committee (chair John Michael Bodnar). 

So far, we have had two Board meetings following our annual Retreat.  In September we reviewed our annual budget and we were presented the Feasibility Study by Alexander Haas which measured the feasibility of accomplishing the different levels of potential future progress. In October we met with the SAIS re-accreditation team and received a Director report (and for some, an introduction) from our newest family members, Janey White and Trey Adams.  Also, this month, Kavita and myself battled through the traffic of Atlanta to participate in a SAIS conference about Board Chairs and Heads of School where we participated in independent school case study discussions. 

Lastly, we have given.  The Board has achieved its goal with 100% participation in the Annual Fund as of September.  We challenge all Highlands families to demonstrate and solidify their belief in our Mission, and to give (any amount) so that we might reach our goal.  We are looking forward to this school year.  Our stage is set.  Passion for our Mission.  Plenty of resources to support that Mission.  Parents who believe in our Mission.  And a tireless Head of School whose tenacity of purpose is unmatched.  
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.