Good morning, Academy community!
It’s Monday, May 7, and Academy employees are still awaiting contracts for next year. We’ve been told contracts for full-time faculty should arrive in the middle of this week, with those for part-timers and administrative staff to follow.
For those who aren’t aware, normally contracts are issued in March, before Spring Break. Andy Watson has explained the delay this year as a result of a more legalistic redesign of the documents, as well as the need to divert his own attention to more pressing matters on campus. However, it’s worth reminding ourselves and the administration that this situation, which has now been drawn out two months past its usual timeframe, adds a great deal of stress and uncertainty to the lives of all of us who depend on the Academy for our and our families’ livelihoods. It’s also had a profound chilling effect on discourse regarding the troubles the school is facing; while no one has a guarantee of employment, no one is going to speak out about anything controversial.
In other news, I recently ran across this document which constitutes, as far as I am aware, the only real explanation of the “five-year plan” implemented by the Board and Andy in 2016 and referenced in Gary Gordon’s presentations. It’s not very long or very detailed, and it’s worth looking over.
A few important takeaways from this “budget plan”:
- The Board seeks to “continue to strategically reduce administrative, faculty and staff full-time equivalents (FTEs) through normal attrition.” This raises a question that’s also been posed in the Forums: Is it correct that the Academy is coming to rely more and more heavily on 1) part-time employees (who are often ineligible for benefits) and 2) teachers who are at the beginning of their careers and willing to work for substantially lower wages? If so, are these practices consistent with the school’s vision of itself?
- The announced “bottom-up” budgeting process is decidedly vague (like the whole document). We’ve asked this before: how is the Board running the school without a sustainable budget? And given the constraints on spending, how are the outsize salaries of top administrators excusable?
- The ongoing reliance on big donations: “We will continue efforts to increase philanthropic support of the school.” Hope, unfortunately, is not a funding strategy.
- Finally, this line from the last paragraph: “…we will celebrate the day when the level of our endowment spending again ensures that the Academy will be a perpetual institution.” We don’t find this statement terribly reassuring – especially since, according to Mr. Gordon’s presentation, we’re still a long way off from this goal.
This letter is not a budget plan. Like Mr. Gordon’s presentation, it’s lacking in essential details and inflated by misplaced optimism. We call on the Board and Andy Watson to share specific, reliably-sourced information about the school’s financial health, so that we may go forward as partners to turn the school toward real sustainability.