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Ted Talks: Our People By the Numbers

By Ted Graf, Head of School

The first time I visited Headwaters (then The Khabele School) in December 2014 it was just days before the holiday break–it was quiet on the downtown campus as students and faculty prepared for mid-term exams, and, though I met a few folks from the Springs and Creek Campuses, I didn’t get to see the grace and wonder of those programs in action. The next time I visited was January of 2015, and the school was humming with activity. What struck me during that visit was the unique quality of relationships between guides and students, and between students and students; and I witnessed open and clear communication between guides and parents.  Some of that communication even required introductions as we weren’t used to gathering across campuses.

As I set my goals for the current year, I chose to look back at my notes and observations from that visit because my focus for this year will be internal, primarily–on the guides and the students, on the atmosphere and climate, and on the quality of the experiences for both. While we still have important institutional tasks to complete regarding the Creek Campus site plan, for example; or to make faculty compensation more fair and equitable, in my third year I am determined to see it and lead it from the inside out.

And, while we are known for our attention to the social and emotional lives of our students, another area where I can improve (and we can improve as a school) is in our use of numbers and data to capture, understand, and, where necessary, improve our programs. So, here are some numbers I find fascinating about our school, five weeks into a new school year.

About Our Students
Total number of students: 534
Total number of new students: 113 total–51 on Springs Campus, 28 on Creek Campus, 34 on River Campus
Number of international students: 17
Number of children served by our 2017 Springs Campus Summer Camp: 84
Number of 5th graders from Creek who joined us for 6th grade at River: 23 out of 28
Number of 8th graders who returned for 9th grade: 22 out of 38

About Our People
Total number of employees: 101 (92 full-time and 9 part-time)
Number of new employees in ’17-’18: 18 new faculty & staff
Number of families: 419
Number of trustees: 11

About Our Facilities & Logistics
Number of buildings: 14 (ranging in construction years from 1900 to 2015)
Number of vehicles required to get the Middle and High School community to The Forward (our annual trip): 5 buses + a Headwaters van + a pick-up truck
Number of Austin-area institutions and nonprofits we frequently support: 16 and counting
Number of Gaga Pits: 1
Number of regulation basketball baskets: 2
Number of darkrooms: 2 (wet & dry)

About Our Middle & High School Athletics Programs
Number of teams fielded: 12
Number of consecutive City League Soccer Championships: 2
Total number of high school students involved in Athletics last year: 57 out of 124
Total number of middle school students involved in Athletics last year: 47 out of 105

About Our Community
Community Participation in ’16-’17 Annual Fund: 70%
Number of Attendees at 2016 Community Picnic: 687

For me these numbers tell a story of engagement, of growth, and of progress. Atul Gawande, doctor and exquisite writer, in talking about improvement (in his fabulous book, Better) suggests counting something (just about anything) in order to improve. In this school year, I have decided to count classroom visits–how often am I in classes? Can I see, really see, every classroom and every teacher this year? So far, though the visits were brief, I have visited each classroom on the Springs and Creek campuses. On the River campus, I have seen, really seen, just two full classes. Counting class visits is important because through them I remain closer to our ultimate aim: the quality of relationship between students and guides and the life of the minds of our amazing kids. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes and what I learn.

If you’re up for it, please write to me and tell me what it is you will count this year–maybe the number of times you volunteer for the school, the number of athletic events attended, the number of times you are inspired by your student’s guides?

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