Board of Trustees envisions new gym, auditorium for The Urban School

Board of Trustees envisions new gym, auditorium for The Urban School

Jenna Waldman, staff writer

Urban has great academics, committed teachers, an energetic parent association and students who don’t quit. One of the only things we’re missing: A complete campus.

Though Urban’s current Gumption auditorium is uniquely Urban, it is an example of the lack of facilities that prevents us from growing. This year at the peer education show, students and parents spilled out of the Gumption.

“It was crowded. People were sitting and climbing on the walls. It was a fiasco,” said Ben Burlock (’13).

The board of trustees is striving to tackle this issue. On April 1, trustees presented the strategic plan for Urban called Vision 2013: Creating a Sustainable Future. Creating new facilities for Urban is one of the board’s top priorities. The plan, which was initiated in 2008, addresses six key areas of development for our school: accessibility, diverse and inclusive community, education for the 21st century, financial stability, working at Urban and facilities.

“You can think of a strategic plan as, at the highest level of the institution, its to-do list,” said Mark Salkind, head of school.

Click here for an edited version of the Vision 2013 presentation, courtesy of Mark Salkind,

Salkind told parents and community members assembled at the meeting about the importance of learning about the school and what’s going on behind-the-scenes.

“(At Urban), you take on responsibilities beyond just meeting your own needs,” said Salkind. He added that this type of “stewardship” was also necessary for parents.

The Vision 2013 presentation highlighted two key areas, financial stability and facilities. Salkind, and Urban parent and board member, Glen Shannon, explained these crucial areas of development. With a PowerPoint at hand and an enthusiastic audience ready to listen, the two outlined the direction of the school’s future.

However, before they got into the details of the plan, Salkind went back in history and shared a bit about Urban’s origins. On the PowerPoint, Salkind showed a timeline of Urban throughout its 44 years, including pictures of old locations, and critical moments in the history of the school.

The point of the retrospective was to “look at some of the key changes and transformations that have happened,” said Salkind.

Salkind also discussed Urban’s mission statement. He emphasized some major themes of the school such as enthusiasm, engagement, learning how to learn and how to create an environment that is inspiring.

Salkind and Shannon also addressed the concerns and areas that needed improvement in the school. The first area was facilities.  The Vision 2013 information pamphlet states: “Urban will acquire and develop athletic and performing arts facilities within the neighborhood of the campus … the school views these facilities as critical to the success of a comprehensive educational program.” Though this might seem like a big goal, the board is very dedicated to making it happen.

There are currently two different options that the board is looking at in terms of adding facilities. Though neither is completely available quite yet, Urban is planning for the future.

The first option is the Boys and Girls Club at Haight and Stanyan streets. At 33,000 square feet, the Boys and Girls Club is a large building, and is already equipped with a full-size gym, swimming pool, and space for development.

The other option would be to develop St. Agnes, located on Page Street directly across from Urban. Currently, Urban uses St. Agnes as the primary gym for practices and some sporting events. However, the gym is not big enough for a varsity basketball game. Consequently, Urban basketball players are not able to practice where they play.

Along with boosting athletics, developing these options would also benefit Urban’s arts program. Salkind and Shannon discussed the opportunity for a new theater to replace the Gumption.

Some students, though, are adamantly opposed to about changing the Gumption facilities.

“I love the Gumption. Yes, it’s small, but that is part of the magic,” said Virgil Taylor (’11).

Student input would be a factor in the board of trustees plan, according to Salkind.

Both of these options could expand and enhance many of programs Urban already has, and make room for new ones. However, both also require a lot of money. It is estimated that developing new facilities would take approximately $12 million. In this weakened economy, the board is not clear if raising the money is doable.

Just as raising money is vital for the development of new facilities, money also is needed for the financial stability of the school. Currently, tuition accounts for approximately 90 percent of the school’s revenue, and the other 10 percent is raised through the annual fund, the auction, and other donors. Through creating better financial stability for the school, the board of trustees is hoping to depend less on tuition as source of revenue. The chief way that the board is proposing to do this is through Urban’s endowment, which now lags behind those of other schools.

An endowment is similar to the school’s permanent savings account. Each year, the school makes interest off of the money that it invests in the endowment. By enlarging this pool of money, the board hopes that it can create alternative sources of money to fund programs that they would otherwise have to raise the tuition to cover. An example of this is financial aid.

Whether a student is an athlete, a musician, a singer, a dancer, or just about any other Urban student, the work of the board of trustees is likely to have an impact. Reporting assistance by Cody Siler (’13)