David Baad discusses the future of school curriculum, budget and leadership

Abby Baughman

Head of School David Baad addressed ESD faculty, staff and parents on Jan. 26 in the second annual community meeting. Baad covered the school’s annual operating budget, the endowment and the findings of the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest report, which is a combination of internal and external reports about all aspects of the school. He also shared plans to add to the curriculum, develop more landscaping and hire the new head of upper school.

Typically, private schools have an endowment of around two and a half times the size of the operating budget— the operating budget is made up of tuition. ESD’s operating budget is about $40 million, so the endowment would ideally be about $100 million. Currently, ESD receives around $30 million annually in donations.

“We are a young school; however, we’re competing in schools that are much larger in Dallas,” Baad said. “For us to maintain our excellence, we have to continue to think about the size of our endowment, so we have three strategic priorities [with the endowment]. First, that we’re putting forward is that we want to create what we’re calling an intentional curriculum of purpose. Second, we want to make sure that we are attracting, developing and retaining exceptional employees to work at ESD. Third, we want to attract, develop and retain a talented and diverse student body.”

Baad was accompanied by Mary Adair Dockery, the chair of the ESD Board, in the address, as she explained the school budget, financial needs and the board’s role in ESD’s management. The meeting was well attended, with 75 percent of the Bray Theater filled.

“It is important as a community to have transparency from the executive team and board about the state of the school,” Dianne Nealon, eighth-grade parent attendee, said.“For me, I expect others as well, it is reassuring to see that the school is in the very capable and experienced hands of the leadership team and board.”

The meeting also announced some potential new classes like personal finance, Spanish for professionals, philosophy and religion, the science of wellness and introduction to law.

“Rebecca Brady, our new chief academic officer, has been hard at work on a lot of academic initiatives with the department chairs,” Baad said. “Every year, we think about new electives to add to the upper school curriculum, and the creative faculty come up with these ideas. It’s a real wide range of possible intellectual interests that kids can spark in those classes.”

Associate Head of School Ruth Burke recently secured ESD the right to develop the land East of Eagle Family Way. Baad also introduced plans for the campus landscape. They are planning to add a full rock road, Holly Trees along the East Stadium fence along Midway Road and six to eight large caliper trees on the southern border of our campus.

“We’re going to start doing some work to beautify the south side of campus, as I know it’s a little ragged right now over there,” Baad said. “We had this zoning proposal that we got approved recently, so later this spring, you’re going to notice some landscaping improvements along the eastern and southern borders.”

ESD is planning to change out the stadium lights to LEDs. In addition to helping reduce ESD’s carbon footprint, the new lights will lessen light pollution.

It is important as a community to have transparency from the executive team and board about the state of the school.

Dianne Nealon

“We also know that through our zoning application that we had permission to install two cell phone towers, and we’re going to do that on campus here this spring,” Baad said. “What we’re really excited about is that in tandem with the cellphone towers, it’s going to also allow us to install new green LED lights in the stadium. Meaning higher quality lights in the stadium and less light pollution out into the neighborhood in our effort to be a good neighbor.”

This year, ESD is adding a health curriculum for middle school. There will be a required course for the seventh graders to take in the second semester.

“We recognize the need amongst our middle school students for health [to be taught], so we have developed and started to implement a formal health and wellness curriculum,” Baad said. “The content is focusing on learning skills to maximize students’ physical, mental and emotional health.”

Current Head of Upper School Henry Heil is leaving ESD at the end of the school year to become the Head of School at Brookstone in Columbus, Georgia. ESD has begun its formal search for the new head of upper school.

“We are so thrilled and proud of Henry,” Baad said. “As I said in my letter, it’s a real sign of institutional strength when we send leaders off to go be leaders in other independent schools.”           

ESD hired Educators Collaborative, a nationwide search firm which specializes in executive searches for independent schools. Sixty candidates were found before being narrowed down to 10.

“These 10 applicants that we got were really wonderful,” Baad said. “Their current jobs ranged from a sitting head of school, many heads of upper school at various independent schools around the country, high school principals and chief academic officers who had been heads of upper school before that. A really wide variety of folks. There were five men and five women in the pool and one person of color. Everybody had an advanced degree: eight with Masters, one with an MBA and one with a Ph.D.”

This week Baad and the search committee have been meeting in person with the four finalists. “We are very, very excited about the group,” Baad said. “The finalists obviously will have an opportunity to talk to a broad cross-section of the faculty, but also with students. And we also plan to have a small group of parents meet with them. To try to give them a really broad experience while th

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