State of the School Recap

Jordan Millar, Managing Editor

Head of School Audrius Barzdukas recently hosted a virtual State of the School in order to update the community on how students, faculty, and the school itself are doing at this stage of the academic year. Major discussion topics included school finances, college matriculation, admissions rates, and diversity. 

Beginning by describing the school’s strengths this year, Barzdukas emphasized the school’s strong financial footing, college acceptances, and student applicant pool. “We are stronger than ever financially because of you,” Barzdukas said. While the school’s expenses have increased this year, a large portion is dedicated to giving teachers competitive raises in order to retain the best possible faculty. 

Increasing expenses are also a result of Poly’s efforts to continue taking proper care of the campus and maintaining programs and services. Barzdukas explained that because of this, the cost of tuition also increases. “Tuition goes to cover the cost of running a 1500 person school. We rely on annual giving to bridge the gap between our costs and tuition revenue. Our financial strength is therefore the result of a tremendous amount of hard work and generosity from across our community,” Barzdukas stated. 

Describing Poly’s success in the college admissions process, Barzdukas explained that last year, “40 percent of our seniors were accepted at or enrolled in the top 25 colleges and universities in the country according to US News and World Report. That’s the highest percentage ever up from 29 percent in 2015.” The school’s applications are also at a record high this school year. “We know the talented students that apply here often have their choice among the best schools in the city, and more often than not they’re choosing Poly,” Barzdukas said. 

Then Barzdukas introduced the school’s three main pillars of identity: diversity, Brooklyn, and the pursuit of excellence. “It’s an energizing combination and it’s a unique combination, and it’s why our school is so much fun,” Barzdukas said. The source of Poly’s excellence, as Barzdukas puts it, “is derived from the school’s diversity and culture of inclusion and belonging.” According to a graphic Barzdukas presented, this academic year 47 percent of students at the school are students of color, 41 percent of faculty are faculty members of color, and 15 people are on the DEIB staff – all of which are increased from previous years. 

Barzdukas then introduced the school’s second pillar: Brooklyn, which he defines as our embrace of the borough as an aesthetic and ethos. “Brooklyn is like no other place in the world. Two and a half million people are crammed in here all trying to figure it out together,and doing it their own way. We want to raise our students, our children to do it their own way, to live their own lives,” Barzdukas said. 

Lastly, he described the school’s third pillar as our zealous pursuit of excellence, which is the school’s efforts to instill in its students the confidence and belief that anything is possible. “We want our students to believe that of course, they can pursue any aspiration or ambition,” Barzdukas said. 

As the school continues to follow and expand on these pillars, their strategy for improvement is to deliver the people, place, and programs that no other school can match. “Those areas have been our focus, where we will continue to invest and grow,” Barzdukas said.  “Our people, from our faculty and staff to our students and their families are what make Poly exceptional,” Barzdukas added. Improvements in terms “place,” as explained by Barzdukas, refers to the many construction projects the school has been working on, such as updated classrooms, office spaces, the newly renovated back fields and the soon-to-be 10,000 square foot multidisciplinary Arts Center. “Our children, our students deserve the very best campus and facilities in New York,” Barzdukas said. In terms of programming, Barzdukas stated that the school’s curricula and teaching practices are cutting-edge. “With our innovative programs we’re expanding the mind, opening experiences that help our kids discover their passions.”

The Board of Trustees will lead a new strategic plan that embodies the school’s three pillars of identity, with the ultimate goal to “dream big for our continued journey toward becoming a school unlike any other, anywhere,” as stated by Barzdukas. The first phase of the plan will be a listening tour with parents, employees, students, trustees, and alumni in order to get feedback, guidance, and have conversations, meetings, and broad surveys. As this plan continues to be put into action, Barzdukas urged members of the community to put their trust in the work that the school is doing. “Don’t just trust us to make good on the transactional. Trust us to make good on the transformational. Trust in joining us to build the best and most vibrant school community in New York City,” Barzdukas said.