Rocky Mountain Synergy
Randy Roach has crisscrossed the country and landed back at the foot of Pikes Peak—from admission work at Colorado College and Connecticut College, to leading admission offices at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California, McCallie School in Chattanooga and now back in Colorado Springs at Fountain Valley School of Colorado. He’s carried iR’s PORTAL along as an essential tool, installing it at all three independent schools.
Roach’s enthusiasm for Fountain Valley, where he is Director of Admission and Financial Aid, could be measured on a seismograph.
“There are several reasons to be excited about the school,” he began. “Fountain Valley School takes excellent advantage of its location in the Rocky Mountain West in a variety of ways. We are an independent boarding and day school of 250 students with a rigorous curriculum and a spirit of exploration. We offer great diversity and close faculty-student relationships. We are strong in areas that most excellent schools would probably describe as their own strengths.
“Fountain Valley School honors the great model of the Northeastern/Southeastern boarding schools. But we have added uniquely Western experiences in the curriculum and extra-curricular programs. Among them are the Western Immersion Program and a broad Interim Program for immersion learning.
“We have an outstanding equestrian program, one of only three in the West. Fountain Valley has offered Western riding for 78 years, and English riding for five. Of those five years, we have ranked in the top five nationally three times, winning the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Championship in 2007. One of the reasons for the students’ success is we have our own herd of 40 horses. When students learn to ride a variety of horses they have an advantage in open competition. Complemented by a brand new riding arena, riding is a hallmark of the FVS program. Fountain Valley has 1100 acres of prairie on which our horses graze. This land is also used by students in the AP Environmental Science class and Geology.
“Another distinction is we are reestablishing boys ice hockey after a 17-year hiatus. For families to have a Western school hockey option is unique. In the last decade, hockey has moved into Colorado: USA Hockey, the organization that supports our Olympic team, is headquartered here; there are three ice arenas in Colorado Springs, including the new World Arena; Colorado College has a perennial, all-star Division I team; and the Colorado Avalanche has brought home two Stanley Cups. We’ve added golf, boys’ volleyball, and girls’ lacrosse. It goes without saying that we have outstanding skiing, snowboarding, and rock climbing.
“On the academic side, we have strengthened an already excellent program. We offer 18 AP courses and Mandarin Chinese. It is impossible to exhaust the math curriculum, with courses all the way through differential equations. Last year we launched a Learning Assistance Program that provides one-on-one assistance to a student for an entire class period every other day. We also offer five courses in a well-established ESL program.
Does Fountain Valley face any enrollment challenges?
“We’re pleased to have had record enrollment for three of the last four years. When you combine activities that are attractive to students with a first-class college preparatory curriculum, you see a synergy. Then you just have to make it affordable.”
How did PORTAL, iR’s solution for admissions and enrollment, become Roach’s core productivity tool?
Roach did his homework. He recommends soliciting the opinions of colleagues before making a decision as central as selecting the right database for your admission office.
“When EMS went off the market, I was Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Webb. I started looking for alternatives. At the WBSA conference we heard, ‘inRESONANCE has this admission thing.’ It wasn’t even PORTAL yet.”
Roach paused to emphasize: “I think it is vital to network at the regional and national level and see what’s working for other people.
“We did a full year of research, especially among schools on the West Coast. A lot of schools were going to iR in 1998-99, and we talked to most of them. They told us, ‘iR has a great product, very intuitive, user-friendly. You don’t have to be a database guru to understand how to make a database functional as you ask questions of it and learn from it.’ So after a year’s investigation, we decided to install iR at Webb.
“When I moved to McCallie School, they were using a database that was not at all appropriate for the job. So we switched to iR. It was a successful transition. We had good support from the onsite installation team and good training for staff at iRU.”
“I interviewed at Fountain Valley School in 2005,” Roach explained. “One of the things I observed during the interview was that their database system was completely inadequate. I told the headmaster, ‘Whether you hire me or not you have to change this database; the school is not being well served.’ I suggested they investigate PORTAL.”
Fountain Valley is still using the version they purchased in 2005; Roach has not felt the need to migrate. He explained, “It’s serving us just fine. We’ve done some customizations, and have received good support from iR.”
When asked to identify features of PORTAL he appreciates, Roach focused on the ability to push messages out to prospective students and newly admitted students. “One feature that has really served us well is BROADCASTER. It is great. Our marketing communications office is skilled at creating very kid-friendly, full-color push pages. Using BROADCASTER, I send a simple email that says, in essence, ‘Don’t take my word for it. This is a great school. Click on the hotlink below and see for yourself.’ This approach has been received very well by our families. When time is of the essence, I might send out three different broadcasts in a week, each with a different theme.”