Supporting Faculty and Strengthening Teaching

Our Commitment

Thacher’s faculty is its lifeblood; it fuels every aspect of community life and inspires our graduates for decades after they leave.
We know that the power of the Thacher experience has always been rooted in its faculty members, whose unflagging commitment and expertise ensure excellence in every quarter. Thacher has an outstanding record of allocating significant resources to guarantee that its teachers enjoy an exceptional work environment. Sabbaticals, professional development, and classroom resources have all been priorities. Thacher has also worked to provide competitive salaries, with the aim of providing teachers with a compensation plan that is in line with some of the most prestigious schools in America. All of this has allowed Thacher to build an exceptionally committed faculty. Our retention statistics are astounding—in fact, most years we’re only looking to hire one or two new faculty members.  

Ironically, the School’s greatest strength—the cadre of experienced teachers with long tenures at the School—looms as one of our most acute challenges. More than 40 percent of our teachers are over 50; we suspect that by 2025, Thacher will have to replace more than a quarter of its faculty, including many of our most celebrated and revered teachers. While our current students benefit from learning from a faculty that is, quite literally, one of the most experienced in America, the inevitable retirements of long-standing teachers will create the need to replace them with the next generation of equally strong teachers, coaches, and advisors. With your help, we can continue to recruit and retain a truly outstanding group of teachers, coaches, and mentors.

Fundraising Progress

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Percent Raised: 89%

Supporting Faculty and Strengthening Teaching

Master Teachers

We believe that the wisdom and expertise of our current faculty can and should serve as an essential resource as we support and advance a new generation of talented teachers.
As we prepare for many of Thacher’s most tenured and venerated faculty to retire over the next decade, a new Master Teachers program will be the centerpiece of the School’s efforts to manage this transition and steward the culture that lies at the heart of our community. It will support training and release time for the most experienced and capable teachers to coach and work with their colleagues in the classroom, provide guidance and feedback on pedagogy and classroom management, and, through professional development, expose teachers to the most effective strategies for cultivating the enduring learning that we know happens here at Thacher.

Funds for the program will also support professional development for all faculty—an essential element in sustaining the vitality of our teachers and the evolution of our curriculum. Providing our teachers with in-house and outside coaches who can help them improve their methods, delivery and, ultimately, their results is critically important.
 

Building the Program

The Master Teachers program will identify four of our most capable teachers and reduce their teaching load by 25 percent so that they can invest additional time coaching, mentoring, and supporting newer educators, in addition to offering increased professional development opportunities for all our faculty members.

Supporting Faculty and Strengthening Teaching

Fisher Fellows

It is critically important that we identify the next generation of teachers to inspire, mentor, and guide our students in the coming years. 
The new Fisher Fellows program will be an important part of these efforts. Through it, we aim to add two new full-time teachers holding two-year positions to our faculty. The fellowship will be nationally competitive and recognized as an opportunity for teachers who have established themselves in their young careers as rising stars to come to Thacher. The fellowship will provide a stipend plus housing, an allowance for moving costs, and professional development funds. Fellowships will be staggered, helping to ease Fellows’ orientation and give them maximum focus from their mentors.
 
The fellowships will also play a central role in our important efforts to attract a more diverse group of teachers to Thacher. While 40 percent of our students self-identify as a person of color, only 13.5 percent of faculty do the same.
 
To ensure the program’s success, we plan to leverage the distinction of the fellowships—a Fulbright model—to elicit applications from compelling candidates from around the world. The program will offer us the opportunity to witness these teachers in the classroom, on EDTs, with advisees, and on the fields; selectively offer full-time employment to the very best Fellows who are most capable and aligned with the values of the School; use fellowships as a tool to increase the diversity within our faculty; capture the energy and capabilities of these young teachers on EDTs, on the athletic fields, and in our Horse Program to offset some of the challenges our aging faculty have with these programs; and ensure that our Fellows are a central part of Thacher’s comprehensive professional development program.
 
Above all, the Fisher Fellows program will be an important tool in bringing teachers into our community who will have the same powerful and lasting impact as those who came before them.

Program Highlights

List of 3 items.

  • Establish two fellowships that bring exceptional young teachers to Thacher.

  • Structure the fellowship as a two-year long “interview," and offer full-time positions to fellows who: (1) most align with the values and needs of the School (2) contribute the most to Thacher excellence.

  • Provide professional development opportunities and build a cohort of fellows with other California boarding schools.

Supporting Faculty and Strengthening Teaching

Sabbaticals

Thacher’s sabbatical program is an opportunity for long-term professional growth, reflection, and rejuvenation for our teachers. It’s also an essential recruiting tool.
The sabbatical is a year away from campus with full salary and benefits and a small housing stipend. It’s a chance for Thacher’s teachers to earn an additional degree, take courses in a new field of study, travel to regions of the world most connected to their discipline, work at and learn from other schools and institutions, and bring back to Thacher’s campus fresh points of view, expanded knowledge, and renewed energy. It’s also a critical offering as we compete with peer schools for quality teachers, almost all of which have a robust sabbatical offering. It also helps us keep talented teachers once they’re here; we know that a fully supported year of professional development, which often falls midway through a teacher’s Thacher career, contributes to our faculty attrition rate of 4.5 percent over the last decade and our median tenure of 20 years.

But we can and should be investing more in this important program. Lacking adequate dedicated funding, our sabbatical program is vulnerable to the vagaries of the market. In 2008, the recession and its impact on our finances meant that Thacher temporarily suspended the program. Though it has since been reestablished, our growing faculty means that the program is no longer sufficient. If we don’t make adjustments, a typical faculty member would most likely only get one opportunity over the course of their tenure, and they wouldn’t be eligible for their first sabbatical for close to 20 years. Additionally, the housing stipend is currently just $8,000—not nearly enough to cover housing costs for the year.

Program Highlights

List of 3 items.

  • Fully finance the sabbatical program.

  • Structure new program with the flexibility to offer summer sabbatical options to faculty eligible for their second sabbatical and to those faculty for whom a year away does not work.

  • Increase housing and professional development stipends for faculty during their sabbatical.

Vision for a New Sabbatical

A stronger endowment for sabbaticals will significantly reinvigorate and redesign this meaningful program. Teachers will enjoy a first sabbatical after 12-14 years with Thacher; a new “second sabbatical” will be offered to senior faculty, along with flexible summer sabbatical options for these faculty or those who can’t take a year away. Increased funds for housing and meaningful professional development opportunities will deepen the impact and extend the opportunities of this program.

Supporting Faculty and Strengthening Teaching

Compensation

The Thacher community is built and sustained on the wisdom, knowledge, and ingenuity of our exceptional educators. 
We know how important it is to properly compensate our facultys extraordinary contributions to the School, in both traditional and nontraditional ways. The primary piece of Thacher’s comprehensive compensation package includes competitive salaries and standard benefits, including a generous retirement plan and 100 percent coverage of employee costs of medical, dental, and vision. There are also less tangible forms of compensation, which we know have enormous value for our teachers: the level of respect they receive from parents; the collegiality that they enjoy among their peers; professional development opportunities; the relative freedom they are given with their curriculum; and the beautiful place in which they live and work.

While we remain competitive for now, we’re at risk in certain areas. Our statistics are skewed by the age of our faculty—we are disproportionately represented by faculty over 50 years of age, whose salaries are higher. Our younger and middle age teachers aren’t compensated as competitively as they need to be. There’s work to be done in order to continue to attract—and retain—the best teachers and to offer a compensation package that will provide all our teachers with a respectable, middle-income lifestyle, in which they can provide for their families and build successfully toward retirement after their years of service.

Program Highlights

List of 3 items.

  • Provide resources to help Thacher remain competitive with our salaries as compared to our peer schools.

  • Make material improvement in the early and mid-career competitive position of our compensation package.

  • Continue to invest in the other forms of compensation in which teachers place high value.

Supporting Faculty and Strengthening Teaching

Housing

The availability of our teachers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is a crucial part of the teacher-student relationships at Thacher.
The housing program makes our tight-knit community possible. Right now, our campus currently holds 42 faculty homes, 38 of which are on or near the main campus.

Today, the School is facing an acute housing shortage due to the growth of our faculty and other factors. The situation is so tight that in recent years, some unrelated faculty members doubled and tripled up in what should have been single-family homes. This tough situation will be exacerbated by the loss of another apartment when the Hills Building is renovated. On top of all this, a number of homes on campus require major renovations or complete overhauls. As we look toward the costs of these projects, we aim not only to fund building and renovation costs, but to endow ongoing maintenance and operational costs in order to ensure that we don’t burden the School with these unfunded, but essential, expenses in the future.

Thacher is a school—but it’s also a community and a home for our teachers and the students they guide and inspire every day.

Program Highlights

List of 4 items.

  • Build four new faculty homes for the school year starting 2016-17.

  • Undertake upgrades to many faculty homes.

  • Endow the capital maintenance of the new homes.

  • Complete major renovations to three existing homes.

Campaign News

A coeducational college preparatory boarding high school
The Thacher School