I hope all CFIS families had a peaceful and relaxing holiday, as well as an opportunity to recharge batteries and spend time with family and friends. Please see below for my message in this month's Notre Monde newsletter:
I am aware of a number of CFIS families who are suffering a reversal of fortunes due to job loss, illness, and other factors, and I want to take a moment to remind those families about the CFIS bridging bursary program for the 2017-18 school year. Applications can be made online at https://applefinancialservices.ca/.
When parents suffer financial setbacks due to the economic climate, this generally translates to a negative impact on enrolment at independent schools. The 2017-18 bridging bursary program was approved by the CFIS Society’s Board of Directors in order to ensure that CFIS does not lose families to what we hope will be a short-term economic set-back.
Budgetary levers to maximize resources
Independent school administrators have three main budgetary levers to use as we work to maximize resources dedicated to student learning while maintaining the physical and administrative systems within our schools. The fine balance of setting tuition fees comes down, in large part, to number of students per class and pupil-to-teacher ratio (PTR), employee salaries and benefits and tuition fees.
As the Head of School, I work closely with the CFIS Society Board to carefully adjust these three connected levers while at the same time ensuring that key indicators for educational success are upheld. At CFIS, our key indicators include quality of instruction, ability to differentiate instruction, and student academic performance and assessment.
Lever 1: Number of faculty and staff/PTR
Research clearly indicates that optimal class size is between 16 and 24 students. Additionally, my preference as an educator is to have low pupil-to-teacher (PTR) ratios in addition to optimal class sizes.
Pupil-to-teacher ratios provide an additional dimension of clarity about the amount of support available to a student. Student supports and low ratios are key to meeting our mission and ensuring individualized learning for each unique CFIS student. Our learning strategists, literacy coaches, principals, and art, music, PE and Spanish specialists combine with faculty to allow CFIS to achieve the quality of individualized instruction and attention on each unique student that comes with a low PTR.
Supports for students have increased significantly during the life of the current strategic plan, and continue to be priority within next year’s budget.
Lever 2: Employee salaries and benefits
CFIS’s faculty and staff are its greatest assets. As part of CFIS’s strategic plan, the school strives to be an employer of choice on the Calgary independent school landscape. CFIS is fortunate to have a low faculty attrition rate, which reinforces the level of employee satisfaction expressed through annual staff surveys. The cycle of attraction, selection, retention and growth of excellent faculty and staff includes paying them competitively, as well as providing opportunities for professional growth and robust annual performance appraisals.
Over the course of the past four years, salary increases at CFIS have averaged only 0.5% per year (1% percent in 2013-14 and 2015-16, and 0% in 2014-15 and for 2016-17.) Having said that, CFIS teachers who are on the teaching salary grid do receive annual guaranteed increases. The salary grid is part of each CFIS teacher’s contract, and is based on a combination of post-secondary years of education (up to a maximum of seven) and between zero and eleven years of teaching experience. For example, a teacher with five years of post-secondary education and five years of teaching experience earns just over $76,000 per year. The next increment on the salary grid, for six years of teaching experience, is just over $80,000. That teacher’s salary must be increased to the next grid level for the next year.
In addition to salaries, our school’s benefits plan also strives to be competitive with that of other local independent schools. Over the last three years, an Employee Assistance Program was implemented, along with a modest Health Spending Account for each eligible employee.
Lever 3: Tuition fees
The CFIS Society’s Board of Directors is focusing on creating a strategic financial plan which will enable tuition fee increases at CFIS to be tied to the organizational strategic plan.
Please see Dr. Dianne Gereluk’s message for additional information about tuition and the Board’s strategic financial plan.
As with any other business, the creation of the school’s annual budget always considers the Consumer Price Index (CPI). During our recent work with the highly-regarded Independent School Management organization, we learned that independent schools must have an annual tuition fee increase of, at minimum, CPI, plus the cost of the above-noted annual contracted teaching salary grid increases. For the past few years, this would have equated to an approximate two per cent increase.
As our school building ages, its expansive physical spaces require increasing ongoing maintenance. Students also benefit from modernization of their classroom spaces. As well, long-term sustainability of the school is dependent on how we maintain our building envelope, and the cost of facility maintenance is built into each annual budget. The implementation of improvements to the school structure, as well as additional programming and other strategic initiatives, also have an impact on tuition setting.
Our spending compared with other independent schools
The CFIS senior leadership team is skilled at creating ways to maximize student learning while holding the line on expenses.
One benefit of being a part of Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) is that we can compare our spending with that of other independent schools. When CFIS compares its administrative costs, we are often far below our peer group schools. Prioritizing student learning and stretching administrative dollars allows the quality of CFIS’s academic and co-curricular programming to meet and exceed that of schools charging higher tuition fees.
I can promise that CFIS will continue to put its students first, providing a world-class independent school education for each unique CFIS student while maintaining one of the lowest tuition rates among similar independent schools in Calgary.
If you have any questions or comments about the above, I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mme. Margaret Dorrance
Head of School