The Next Peak

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Plan for the Worst...

Lisa Kirkland, trustee and co-chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, on funding tomorrows building maintenance—today.
Tell us about your specific role on the board of trustees, especially as it relates to the facilities on Thacher's campus.
 
I joined the Board in the summer of 2012. Given my interests and experience, I was assigned to the Finance, Investment and Buildings and Grounds Committees. After my first year, I offered to serve as the Board’s liaison to the newly created Sustainability Council, and I have been so gratified to see the progress to date (the solar array and battery backup, the implementation of a water management plan, large scale manure composting and an organic food initiative, to name but a few). In 2014, with many potential capital projects on the horizon, I became the Co-Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee and we have been working at top speed to bring the Strategic Plan initiatives for the physical campus to fruition.

Which upcoming facilities projects are you most excited to see completed?
 
I am especially excited about the way the designs for the new academic space, specifically the Creativity and Technology Center, are unfolding. The concept for this building came from a very thorough internal study of the ways in which a 21st-century learning environment will require spaces that are adaptable and flexible in order to best serve all students. The design will allow numerous opportunities for students to interact with faculty and each other in both a formal and spontaneous way. Students will be able to get their hands dirty on a maker project, or program a robot in a tech lab, or convene in open areas surrounded by student art. In contrast to the current Humanities building, with its inadequate light, cramped spaces, and lack of internal connections, this building will serve as the crossroads for the academic part of campus, with indoor and outdoor access on all sides and levels. It will truly be a jewel on campus.

What are some of the things that you think make Thacher's campus so unique? Where's your favorite spot?
 
There is no separating the Thacher School from its place. In my view, Thacher could not exist anywhere but here—on this saddle of land overlooking the Ojai Valley. I love the contrast of the green fields against the rugged mountains, the sweep of oaks in the center of campus, and the peace and solemnity of the Outdoor Chapel. I have so many happy memories of watching my Toads on the fields and on the stage, but my favorite place on campus is the lawn just below Old Main and the Library—Thacher’s own village square. From there you can watch the patterns of daily life at Thacher unfold: the hurried morning rush to the Dining Hall, the solitary pace of a faculty member making their way to the classroom, the afternoon dash to change into riding clothes and athletic uniforms, and finally, the stream of students in ties or heels as they head to Formal Dinner.

The board of trustees has decided that building maintenance costs need to be part of the endowment for any new construction on campus. How did that come about? What will this new policy do for Thacher and its future?
 
In 2014, the School commissioned a detailed study to determine the projected useful life of each building on campus, as well as the estimated cost for future and deferred maintenance. The numbers helped guide the administration and the Board to prioritize the most pressing of the campus physical needs and highlighted the need to ensure a more stable financial model for repairs and renovations. Once included in the Strategic Plan and the Statement of Needs, the resolution to require a maintenance endowment for all new major capital projects was adopted by the Board in 2015.

As a rule of thumb, we are assuming that 40 percent of a project’s capital cost will be needed to provide an endowment for a building’s maintenance over its useful life and thus we have added that number to our targeted fundraising for that project. This thoughtful approach to a capital project will ensure that future administrations are not hampered by a lack of funds to maintain new buildings to the highest standards for years to come.

Learn more about Thacher’s plan for ensuring financial robustness.
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A coeducational college preparatory boarding high school
The Thacher School