A Glimpse into the Future at Spalding

Eddie Hagigh, Editor-in-Chief

On December 12, I sat down with Mrs. Mahar just a few weeks after ground was broken on the new ClearEdge Innovation Center to learn more about the project.

 

The plan for this building dates all the way back to a master school-wide plan created in 2014.  We discussed the priorities, which were captured into three main categories. “Everybody was asked what’s important, what are our priorities?” The three things discussed were to relocate the engineering kids into their own space, to then move the music kids into the entirety of the music wing, and to finally begin growing the school’s endowment, an investment account which generates interest to help cover Spalding’s various expenditures.

 

Initially, the plans for the building actually had it being placed behind the school. However, with rumors about Old Mill moving across the street, the marketing and exposure generated from the building being in the public view became a bigger focus. “The building’s great, but how it is going to grow and enhance the student experience is much more important.”

 

Mrs. Mahar told me, “When you do these projects or you put together a strategic plan, you have to look at today, but then — and it’s not just one person — you have to get that collective voice and go, ‘Where do we want to see ourselves in five or ten years?’ We want to see ourselves still with a waiting list, with a really strong, robust enrollment, and a really good balance sheet.”

 

Mahar said a theme for faculty this year has been to be thinking about enrollment and advancement every day. Of parent and student support, she said, “It’s absolutely crucial. And we’re blessed at this point to have people who believe in our vision.” Because our school only receives revenue through tuition and gifts, Mrs. Mahar stressed that any major project needs to be extremely well-thought out and of that collective vision in order to garner support.

 

The plan is for the physical building to be finished by the end of June. That allows for the month of July to be focused on furnishing and equipping the building for classes.

 

And it is no secret the music wing is quite busy with robotics, engineering, music, and drama students. The plan is to obviously move the engineering and robotics students into the Innovation Center, opening up space for the Music department and even a dedicated space for drama. The main reason for a building instead of simply constructing a second engineering floor is the outrageous cost, an estimated $500,000 +. “I think people need to know that we are not growing the program. […] What we are doing is enhancing the experience. We never did it to grow the program, we did it to get them out of that substandard space, which they have done such a good job [with].” 

 

I did dare to ask the question “What’s Next?” Mrs. Mahar was understandably not sure, but said that hopefully no matter how far technology goes, there is still a balanced focus on both technological development and human interaction. As far as the next couple projects after this, she expressed an interest in renovating the cafeteria and eventually, the library. “It’s exciting no matter what, it’s going to be exciting. We can’t go wrong as long as we continue to keep our focus — and I think we’ve done a good job at doing this — keeping our focus on you guys, on the students and what is going to be best for you. And the buildings are nice, but it really is about the programs we are supporting.”

 

Although it seems things have flown by this school year, it was only a few weeks ago that UMBC President, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, graciously visited Spalding for a celebration assembly of the groundbreaking. Spalding models itself after UMBC because of Mrs. Mahar’s appreciation of Dr. Hrabowski. “Freeman Hrabowski is my hero. I have never met a more intellectually intimidating man — or woman — in my whole life. […] What I admire about him the most is his enthusiasm for — his love and passion for — education.”

 

“We use them a lot as our model because we have such a good relationship with him. And that’s where we got our engineering program, it was Project Lead the Way, partnering with them. […] We always use colleges as our models, not other high schools. We want to look a little bit above ourselves and see where you’re going; we want to make sure that we’re preparing you all for where you’re going.”

 

“It took us a long time to 1) implement the engineering program, [and] 2) decide we wanted to invest in the International Baccalaureate program because it makes us different.”

 

“And that’s important, to keep us sustainable and viable. We want to be different.”