Letter to Families About the Economy

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by Lark Palma, head of school

Dear Catlin Gabel families:

During this period of economic uncertainty, I assure you that Catlin Gabel is in an excellent position financially and otherwise to provide students with an extraordinary education. We are committed to preserving our current level of excellence. Our highest priorities are our students and families.

Our resilience has been tested in the past, and we have demonstrated that Catlin Gabel is a robust institution. We are grateful to generations of guardians—trustees, financial advisors, and school leaders—who have made our financial security a priority.

We are currently operating from a solid cash position and have no long-term debt. Although our endowment has sustained a loss, the funds are diversified and well managed by Angeles Investment Advisors. Our endowment committee members, selected by the board of trustees, have strong ties to Catlin Gabel and extensive financial experience. They take their stewardship responsibility seriously and have provided superb oversight of the school’s endowment.

Just like most families, we are looking for ways that we can cut back. We are redoubling efforts to spend our resources efficiently without compromising the quality of our program. Our annual budgeting process is transparent and is scrutinized by the finance committee of parents, trustees, and business office staff members. Given the imprecise nature of economic forecasting, we are working on several budget scenarios that position the school to meet any number of contingencies before committing to the 2009-10 budget.

Catlin Gabel has been ahead of the curve in planning for financial sustainability. Long before the economic downturn began, we knew that rising tuition poses a challenge for some Catlin Gabel families. For the past 18 months we have been working to address the financial squeeze by raising money for endowment and looking at ways to slow down tuition increases.

Recently, many parents received an annual fund appeal in the mail. While the timing may seem awkward, reaching our goal is as essential this year as in years past, perhaps even more so. Maintaining our robust program for students depends on the annual fund. We are optimistic that those who can give will give.

People have asked if it is appropriate to go forward with the capital campaign during the economic slump. I say yes. (As a reminder, the campaign is focused on raising funds for endowment and for an arts center.) Raising money for the endowment—especially to increase our financial aid resources—is more important than ever. Parents affirmed this priority in their responses to last year’s affordability survey. Economic volatility does not change our need for a new arts facility. The current Middle and Upper School arts classrooms and studios are inadequate compared with our other facilities. Today’s students and future students deserve an arts building that reflects the high value we place on creativity and discovery. That said, I assure you that we will not take on debt to meet our building needs. We will build the arts center when the time is right. Our donors will set the timeline.

Parents at independent schools consider education a long-term commitment to their children. If your family has experienced a sudden economic hardship we want to do everything we can to help. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. Also, Traci Jernigan Rossi ’83, director of admission and financial aid, is available to help you plan for the future. You can reach Traci at 503-297-1894 ext 346 or rossit@catlin.edu.

We will ride out this storm together, carefully stewarding our resources, adjusting as necessary, and doing what we do best: inspiring our students through innovative teaching and learning. Your confidence and support is heartening.

Sincerely yours,
Lark