Meet Your New Trustees
Meet Your Trustees
Jan Abernathy is the chief communications officer at The Browning School, a K-12 boys’ school in New York City. Formerly the director of strategic communications at The Browning School and director of marketing and communications at The Elisabeth Morrow School (EMS) in Englewood, NJ. She is president of New York City Independent Schools Communications Professionals and the co-founder of Black Advancement Networking Group, which works to gain further representation and greater professional growth of Black professionals in advancement roles in independent schools.
Previously, Ms. Abernathy was a board member and board chair of the Open Housing Center of New York, a private fair housing organization and founder of a mentoring organization, Dreams in Action. Her consulting firm, Jan Abernathy Strategic Communications, provides communications and DEI counsel for educational institutions and nonprofits. She served on the board of Stevens Cooperative School for 13 years in Hoboken, NJ, including six years as chair.
Douglas Armer, a native New Yorker, is an executive vice president of Capital Markets, a treasurer at Blackstone Mortgage Trust, Inc. and a managing director at the Blackstone Group LP. Before joining Blackstone, he held various financial services positions including a stint during 2001-2002 in Chennai, India where he was responsible for developing the India-based capital markets group of an independent outsourcing company. Douglas Armer and his wife, Olga, are parishioners at Grace Church, where Mr. Armer is a vestry trustee and serves as the chair of the investment committee. They have two children at Grace: Teddy, in Grade 2 and Oliver in Kindergarten. They also have a daughter, Hazel.
Mr. Buery is the CEO of Robin Hood, an organization that supports low-income families by building and fueling nonprofits in New York City that are elevating people from poverty. Previously he served as chief executive officer of Achievement First, a network of 37 public charter schools serving 15,000 students across New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. He is a public service fellow at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and served as distinguished visiting urbanist during the spring of 2019.
Mr. Buery also served as deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives in the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio where he was the architect of Pre-K for All, which brought free, full-day Pre-K for every four-year old in NYC, which is widely recognized as one of the most successful initiatives in the recent history of NYC. Mr. Buery has taught social entrepreneurship and nonprofit financial management at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs and New York Law School, and serves on the boards of the Kresge Foundation, iMentor, and New York City Head Start. He and his wife, Deborah Archer, have a son, Ethan, in Grade 10 at Grace.
Over the course of her career, Martha Hirschman has served in a variety of roles in several independent schools, including dorm parent, teacher, advisor, trip leader, director of admissions, assistant head of school, and most recently head of lower schoo at Dwight School. Ms. Hirschman has spent time in both girls’ schools as well as co-ed schools and has worked with students from grades 1-12. She has been active in the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY), is a longstanding board member of Early Steps, and is currently on the vestry of Grace Church. Ms. Hirschman was director of admissions at Grace Church School from 2002-2008. She and her husband Sam Keany are the parents of Grace alum Anabel Keany ’10.
Long Range Plan Update
The Grace Church School Long Range Plan is a roadmap for the school, creating a vision of the future and outlining how we will get there. As we begin the final year of the current plan (2015-2022), the Committee is pleased to update the community on progress made during Year 6, the 2020-21 school year.
While the ability to monitor progress of the Long Range Plan continued to be impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic in the 2020-21 school year, the year was not without achievement. Despite the considerable energy and effort required of the administration and faculty to open the school during a pandemic, there were several areas of progress.
Goal 1: At Grace we promote excellence in mind, body, heart and spirit across the school community, divisions and academic disciplines. We integrate fully the unique richness of our surrounding area with our programs in order to give our students greater engagement with the wider world.
- The school leveraged the advantages presented by hybrid learning to continue to bring guests to all divisions for enriching classroom visits via Zoom; likewise, the search for outdoor options inspired teachers and students to explore the city’s outdoor spaces for performances and learning.
- Grace’s administration, faculty and staff continued to model remarkable commitment and creativity during a challenging year, and acquired new tools which will benefit students into the future. Faculty received professional development and cutting-edge research and classroom tools that not only assisted in the development of remote teaching skills, but also helped to integrate knowledge across disciplines.
- Student resilience and adaptation to pandemic-related requirements such as hybrid learning, social distancing and mask wearing, handily demonstrated our program goal to prepare students academically and intellectually to embrace the challenges that they will encounter.
- On-site Coronavirus testing and the introduction of a bus service for students were among several additions that demonstrated that relationships take precedence over the demands of systems and efficiency in our community.
Goal 2: Our Episcopal identity provides the foundation upon which our intentionally inclusive community is based, where each person is welcomed and valued and all voices are heard.
- The Institutional Culture Committee (“ICC”) was established as a new committee at the board level, working alongside the administration to address the challenges to progress toward the school’s DEIAB (diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism and belonging) goals.
- In summer 2020, the Board commissioned an independent assessment of the school’s DEIAB work, which broadly engaged the Grace community through focus groups and
- In spring 2021, a Task Force was formed for an internal examination of the school’s efforts to foster a sense of belonging for all members of the Grace community and to identify blind spots that might be hindering those efforts.
- A community update bringing together the work of the 2020-21 school year regarding Grace’s antiracism commitment is expected in Fall 2021.
Goal 3: All four divisions are united into one JK through 12 School that inspires, engages and challenges students in each stage of their learning and growth.
- Remote learning and social distancing notably reduced opportunities to create and nurture links between the two campuses and integrate new parents into the community. There is much ground to be covered under this goal when classes and events return to in-person full time.
Goal 4: We are committed to increasing the financial resources of the School, within a prudent capital structure, to achieve the sustainable financial health required to build and nourish programs that attract outstanding students and faculty. We work to develop structures that responsibly provide for affordability at all levels.
- We continued to maintain tuition at a level that equals at least the median of our peer schools, and exceeded our financial aid goal by providing assistance to 27 percent of students and providing an average grant that equaled 80 percent of tuition.
- We improved the ratio of the school’s endowment to its outstanding debt.
- The school achieved the goal of increasing Annual Fund contributions one third by 2021.
The NYSAIS 10-year accreditation was postponed by a year due to the pandemic and will begin in Fall 2021. In light of the pandemic, the rescheduled accreditation and the transition to a new Head of School in July 2022, the Long Range Planning Committee’s work for the upcoming year will focus on creating a shorter term “Bridge Plan” in lieu of embarking upon a new 7-year Long Range Plan. The details of the Bridge Plan will be communicated to the community in a future update.