2017-2018 School Year
News and Financials
The mission of The Branch School is to inspire students to love, learn, and lead. We strive to live this mission every day, to model kindness and respect, and to teach our students to persevere.
The 2017-2018 school year was one of challenges and triumphs, from Hurricane Harvey to campus expansion. Our board chair, Ann Hightower, and I sincerely thank all of our families and friends for your support, whether monetarily, prayerfully, and/or through volunteering. The Branch School community has been greatly enhanced through your love and we are grateful.
This Annual Report offers some highlights, as well as transparency on our financials and development, from our 2017-2018 school year. Your generous gifts and support helped enable all of the success you see below; thank you for believing in and promoting our mission for your children.
Head of School
Harvey Challenges School Community
When Hurricane Harvey poured over four feet of rain on the Houston area in August 2017, the two key flood control reservoirs were just west and northwest of our TBS campus, and their emergency releases were disastrous for 20% of our school community's families, both students and staff.
Able to restart school, having lost nine days of class, we immediately set about finding a way to provide help to our community members. This vehicle turned out to be a new permanent Disaster Relief Fund. The Branch School community raised over $250,000 within two months, which was able to support living expenses, school tuition, and emergency needs for our families affected by Harvey. Per IRS rules, we have reserved some funds that we will be able to use for future disaster needs.
Our school spiritual goal for the 2018-19 school year is gratitude. As we helped our families recover and rebuild from Harvey's damage, we all certainly had plenty of practice at it.
Real Estate Purchases More Than
Doubled Campus Acreage
After at least half a decade of praying and pondering how to expand our campus and pursuing all available options, the way to grow unfolded quickly and effortlessly. Our neighbor, the Rainard School, put 2.5 acres of their campus on sale in December 2017. The available land touched our existing campus at one point only, but that was easily managed with an easement across the remaining Rainard campus. After that purchase was secured in February, our backyard neighbor, Houston Family Church (Family Federation for World Peace and Unification), offered us the opportunity to purchase half their land. This additional three quarters acre provided space for our sports program, and provided direct access to the Rainard purchase.
The first use of the new purchases will be remodeling one former Rainard building for use by our middle school students, thus freeing the Hightower West Wing for occupation by the business staff and Art and Music teachers. Our next step will involve our school community in developing a site plan for an entire new middle school facility.
Successful Fundraising Acquires Land Debt-Free
The total cost of the two TBS land purchases exceeded $3 million. As soon as our board heard from Rainard of the first parcel, within a month they raised almost $1 million toward its purchase from board members and one school friend. An anonymous donor who had learned about our school's mission graciously provided the amount needed to complete both purchases!
The Branch School Accredited and Voted in as Member of
Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS)
For the past several years The Branch School has been undergoing the rigorous process of obtaining accreditation with ISAS. This prestigious group provides a wealth of support and resources to help its member schools provide a high quality education to its students. While the process of obtaining membership was lengthy and thorough, it afforded us the opportunity to fully appreciate the depth of this group of independent schools in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The final accreditation visit took place in October of 2017 and full membership was conferred upon the school at the June 2018 Annual Meeting. The quality and volume of the feedback we received from their team has been pertinent and useful. We look forward to a prosperous future as a member of this prestigious organization, which also qualified us for membership in the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA). We are now recognized as being in the company of some of the most highly rated schools in Houston, the Southwest, and the United States.
Re-accreditation by AdvancED Results in Outstanding Evaluation
2017-18 brought TBS a re-accreditation visit from AdvancED, the largest community of education professionals in the world. This visit required extensive preparations by both administrators and teachers, and wide-ranging surveys and interviews of the school community. Curriculum and all programs were documented, and staff prepared for interviews and classroom visits. The end result of the AdvancED visit was a report that read in part, "All of the classrooms were warm and welcoming. Respect for others is the standard and was easily observed throughout the school. Students responded early to questions and were not intimidated by the fear of failure. Parents, students, and staff referred to the "family and community" relationship that is a hallmark of The Branch School." We are most grateful that our light was able to shine so brightly.
Gratitude abounds at The Branch School. Below we have included a breakdown of Giving for our 2017-2018 Annual Fund, Disaster Relief Fund and the Land Expansion Fund. The category for family includes: Parents, Alumni Parents, Grandparents, Alumni Grandparents and Alumni Students. The number of those donating within each group have been listed for the past year. Please note that in our next Annual Report, we will include names of donors within dollar ranges for this current 2018-2019 school year, unless donors notify us they wish to remain anonymous.
We are extremely grateful for the following companies that provided matching gifts for employees that donated to The Branch School, as well as funds for employees that provided valuable volunteer hours at The Branch School.
The BP Foundation, ConocoPhillips, Discover Financial Services, Exxon/Mobil, Occidental Petroleum, The Sherwin Williams Foundation, Shell Oil Company Foundation