With warmth and enthusiasm, I welcome you to the start of our 2017-18 school year at St. Paul's School for Girls! As we are all connected with the school year calendar, we share the common joys of anticipating a fresh start, continuing our journey as lifelong learners, renewing and building new relationships, and fostering an inclusive and respectful "home away from home" for your daughters. I sincerely hope each of you spent summer enjoying a range of relaxing and energizing experiences in good health and with those you love. Here at SPSG, we are anxiously awaiting your daughters and the opportunity to continue our partnership.
During the summer months, our facilities team and the exceptional faculty and staff, with whom I have the privilege of serving, worked hard and purposefully to enhance and prepare for our school year. We look forward to introducing you to new faces, places, and programs at SPSG and beyond. Whether your daughters are brand new to the campus or "sandbox girls," as we call those students who began at St. Paul's Plus, we want your family to feel known, valued, and understood. As such, we look forward to many opportunities to communicate with you in person.
Each division will hold "Hopes and Dreams" conferences, and I urge you to schedule these and understand that this bridge-building with your child's advisor is essential. As a reminder for Middle School parents, there is still time to schedule with Kendall Hunter, Assistant to the Middle School Head for Operations, for tomorrow's conferences. As we reviewed the results from our Parent Satisfaction Survey, we were delighted to learn and affirm that 84% of our respondents expressed the high importance of an advisory program based on individual needs and interests of each student, as well as a focus on development of character and life skills. As such, our advisory program continues to receive our attention. Continual training and curriculum development for social and emotional learning are focal points for our professional development. Our summer read, Good Things To Do: Expert Suggestions for Fostering Goodness in Kids, edited by David Streight, serves as a catalyst for our ongoing partnership to strengthen your daughter's strengths. We are proud to share that Jen Cort is joining us as a consultant again this year. We know that this enhances our excellent academic program and, as such, we are committed to our mission of educating "hearts and minds in an inclusive community."
Numerous faculty and staff members modeled lifelong learning over the summer. Our SPSG team presented, attended, and led workshops around the country and the globe, from Nashville to Palo Alto, and Honolulu to Japan. They look forward to implementing and launching new initiatives to augment our offerings and deliver our mission with pride. Last week, our new faculty visited OpenWorks Baltimore for a hands-on MakerSpace experience, learning about laser-cutting and other opportunities of which our students could take advantage in our own relocated and improved MakerSpace. We're excited to introduce a new elective in Design Thinking this year, where students will design sustainable, human-centered solutions to real-world problems facing our population.
Our faculty were not the only Gators who continued their learning this summer. Many students took advantage of opportunities for internships, grants, and work experience. Thanks to our partnerships, students were behind the scenes with women in positions of power at Etsy, Ernst & Young, UNICEF, BuzzFeed, and IBM. Students and faculty traveled to Hawaii with peers from St. Paul's School to participate in the Student Global Leadership Institute. Exploring the theme of peace with students from around the globe, students from The St. Paul's Schools designed projects to affect change on campuses and in their local communities. On our very own campus, we welcomed back alumnae and current students who volunteered, worked, and led through their service at St. Paul's Plus, Bridges, and for SPSG's enrichment and summer programs. Their presence created vibrancy and kept the campus alive with laughter, learning, and activity.
As we return to campus in a few weeks, we are excited to continue fostering learning beyond the classroom with our Middle School Minimester, allowing students to participate in interdisciplinary activities related to the Mid-Atlantic region. We will also launch an Entrepreneurship Seminar for our Middle School students, aimed at exposing students to the ins and outs of taking an idea from dream to reality. In the Upper School, we look forward to welcoming Ambassador Elisabeth Millard, U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan, to campus in September and, Dr. Melissa Sparrow, Chief of Staff at GBMC, in October. In addition, Upper School students will have the opportunity to conduct industry visits at PayPal and The Walters Art Museum, as well as take advantage of many new course and co-curricular offerings.
Such experiences would not be possible without support for The Gator Fund, and we are thrilled to share the success of our fundraising efforts. During the 2016-2017 school year, we raised $812,026, exceeding last year's total by nearly 6%. New fundraising records were set both on Gator Day, with gifts totaling over $277,000, and at the Swamp Soiree, which raised $90,000. This year, with your help, we will aim to raise $825,000 for The Gator Fund. Mark your calendars for Gator Day, our ninth annual 24-hour social media fundraising drive, on Thursday, October 12! We are counting on you, and your support is greatly appreciated.
As announced last year, we are thrilled to have Catalina Keilhauer on board as our Upper School Head and Assistant Head of School. Catalina joins SPSG from The Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, where she served in a variety of roles since 1997. During her tenure, she was awarded both an endowed chair and master teacher recognition. A lifelong learner, Catalina has been pursuing an Ed.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in Organizational and Educational Leadership, with a Dissertation focused on Project-Based Learning. She has immersed herself into life at SPSG over the summer, and we are excited for our community to get to know her. Her daughter, Maya, will also be joining us in the 7th grade. We invite parents of students in grades 8-12 to meet Catalina over coffee on Wednesday, September 13 at 8:00 a.m. in the Crane Library.
We are eager to introduce our newest faculty and staff members to you as they begin the school year with us. Among them is Jim Shea, Director of Security for The St. Paul's Schools. Jim comes to the St. Paul's campus from Garrison Forest School, where he served as Director of Security for the past 11 years. Prior to his work at Garrison, he served in the Baltimore City Police Department for 19 years both as a patrol officer and training officer. You can expect to receive a message from Jim the first week of school and to see him on a bicycle regularly riding around campus. I am thankful to Joanne Bartlett, President of our Board of Trustees, and Liz Robinson, President of St. Paul's School Board of Trustees, along with our respective boards, who are in clear partnership to ensure a safe, welcoming, and wonderful campus.
Although campus was busy with our active summer programs, I am eager to welcome you and your daughters for the 2017-18 school year. Our 2016-17 year was incredibly strong, and the momentum at SPSG is exciting. We look forward to seeing you next week and continuing the journey together. Thank you for the privilege of partnering with you and for your shared commitment to our beloved St. Paul's School for Girls!
Penny B. Evins
Head of School