Board Chair Carstensen on the Future of Northwood

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Hans Carstensen is Chairman of Northwood School’s Board of Trustees

On Saturday, October 27, the Northwood School on Main project received final approval by Northwood School Board of Trustees. The building on Main Street, Lake Placid that the school has invested in since December 2015 is now ready for construction.

The announcement was made via email by Head of School Mr. Michael Maher that the project would be up and running by the 2019-2020 school year.

During a break in the October 26-27 Board of Trustees meeting, The Mirror staff writer Morgan Broderick sat down with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees Hans Carstensen to learn about him and his plans for Northwood.

Broderick: Why did you decide to get involved with Northwood’s Board of Trustees?

Carstensen: Mr. Maher had worked with me as the Chairman of the Board at Berkshire School. Then Mike became the Head of School at Berkshire, and we worked together for a long time. So when Mike came up to Lake Placid, he asked me if I could join Northwood’s board. I enjoyed being a regular board member immensely. I was bit surprised and thrilled when I was asked to chair the board 18 months into my tenure on the Board when Mr. Woodman stepped down. I’m having a wonderful time being the Chairman of Northwood’s Board of Trustees.

I understand that the topic of Northwood on Main will be one of many topics this weekend. Do you know what will happen to it?

I don’t because most of the board has not revisited the question of what should happen with it since probably over a year ago, so we’ve got to bring a number of the members of the board along to update them on exactly where we stand. My intuition is we’re going to do this. And I’m firmly in support of doing it because we need that programming, and we need that academic programming, and we need the space to do it right. From my vantage point, it’s a foregone conclusion, but the board has to reach that conclusion as a whole.

Are there any other big decisions the board will be making this weekend?

Yes, there are a number of them. The briefing that I was just part of is about the academic program and how it might make sense to do the teaching and the academic programs differently. Organizing them differently, teaching them differently, and that there’s a lot of thought being given to that now. The meeting that I just left is seeking the board’s approval to move forward in the direction of change in that regard. I don’t doubt for a minute that that won’t be approved, and in my opinion, it should be. So that’ll be a big issue and a fundamental one.

What are the biggest challenges that Northwood is facing?

From my vantage point, the single biggest challenge is a competitive one. We have to differentiate ourselves and what we offer families and students here. The competition is just as aggressive, talented, and oriented toward attracting those very same families that we want to attract. We have to do a very good job at differentiating our program, our talent, our academic rigor, and we have to make sure we’re speaking to the needs of the families we want to attract. That’s a huge issue, and from my vantage point, it is made it more difficult because operating economics with an enterprise like this is very complicated. It’s very difficult to do, to make the numbers work. So we’ve got an economic challenge and a competitive challenge.

Then also coming at us is a big demographic challenge. Back starting in I think 2007, couples stopped having children. So the number of high school aged children have stopped coming our way and all of the sudden has taken a dramatic decline. That’ll make the environment more competitive. So those are the issues from my vantage point.

What do you see for Northwood’s future? In 5 years? In 10?

First of all, we will over that time frame, change the business model. We’re going to do things differently, academically, and from a teaching point of view. In order to enhance our competitiveness, we’re going to add the STEAM program and whether it’s at Northwood School on Main or at another building here on the campus, I’m indifferent, but we must have that academic programming. That I’m confident will be in place. Will it be downtown? Will it be in a facility on the campus? I don’t know, but we’re going to have that curriculum. So that’s for sure in the future.

The other thing that’s going to happen is when we begin to do business differently, the endowment is going to walk right into the spotlight. Because we have to begin to truly endow programs. People, faculty, we’re going to begin to shift our attention out 5 to 10 years from now on generating endowment. We have to come up with ways to finance other than by compensation through tuition. How to finance these kinds of huge strategic issues. Like how do you endow financial aid? How do we endow academic excellence in our faculty? Academic chairs, etc. How do we endow brand new buildings, or old buildings, so that we can maintain them? So those are going to be the things that we will begin to focus on and accomplish 5 to 10 years from now.

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