Sometimes things happen so quickly at North Cross, it is difficult to keep up. I think I like it that way, but I have to confess that my recent 2:00am return from China and the ensuing 8:00am meeting made me wish for an old fashioned, public school job. At least principals get to stay in the same time zone…
But, China remains a crucial part of the future of North Cross School as it provides a revenue stream that has allowed us to retire debt, build a plant replacement fund, buy new buses, and purchase equipment for our new STEM and coding programs. Our revenues from China have grown from $19,000 in year one to $173,000 in year two, and we anticipate earnings of more than $200,000 this year. This is certainly good money derived from a meaningful source, and it has significantly solidified our financial picture. Regardless, it is fair to ask, is it worth the effort and the time on an airplane? (Trust me, I ask myself this same question every time I get on a flight that lasts 14 hours—and no, I don’t get the $7,000 fully reclining seats.)
The answer is, of course, “yes.” At the core of the independent school world is the very real fear that the business model, the model required to produce a top-tier education, no longer works in today’s economy. Tuition continues to outpace wage growth and independent schools, while increasingly desirable, have become increasingly unaffordable. I am pleased that our value proposition is exceptional and our tuition increases have decreased for seven straight years, but our ability to fund one-time expenses and capital expenses using revenue from China remains an important part of our ability to grow as an institution.
It is with this preamble that I am pleased to announce that this September, we will open a second campus in China in the city of Nanchang. Located a three-hour train ride from our campus in Shanghai, Nanchang is the capital of Jiangxi Province and it has the correct blend of income, parent desire for an American education, and a business partner familiar with North Cross through previous participation in our summer programs. On my most recent trip, I participated in a ribbon cutting for our new 400 student-facility in Lide School and signed an agreement establishing Nanchang-North Cross Sino-American School. Attended by many interested parents, school representatives spent hours answering questions about our new program. I left very excited about the quality of student and the prospects for future growth.
As we look to achieve to be among the best independent schools by improving our campus facilities and attracting the very best students, we remain cognizant of the fact that our tuition is approximately $10,000 lower than the schools against whom we are competing. Continued growth in our international operations will help us bridge that gap so that our programs reach a similar quality.
An added benefit to the addition of a second Chinese campus is our ability to retain Dr. Marc Lucht as our Director of International Operations. Dr. Lucht was the founding Director of our Shanghai campus and since his return, he has played a pivotal role in the development of the Nanchang campus as well as identifying future international projects. Like all expenses associated with Chinese operations, Dr. Lucht’s salary and benefits are paid for by our Chinese partners and do not come from our Roanoke operations. It is a significant benefit to me to have a second person with whom to share the travel burden and whose focus can truly remain on this venture.
With global studies integrated into our curriculum throughout all divisions, the presence of our international students, our partnerships with foreign schools, our visiting lecturers and students from faraway places, North Cross has become a school that has moved beyond its own Roanoke roots and looks to expand and embrace a community comprised of many backgrounds. This community is stronger for it, because we realize the powerful effects a global approach has on our students and our community. Simply put, this approach makes for a richer educational experience—so what a privilege it is to be able to share this model with other countries and schools who also recognize its value. And just think. It all started in one woman’s basement almost 75 years ago and has taken us all the way to China, reclining seats or no.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor is the ninth Head of School at North Cross and has served as such since 2011. He has more than 30 years of experience in education. He has served as headmaster at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana, Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana, and as Interim Headmaster at Wesley Academy in Houston, Texas. In each location, Dr. Proctor’s tenure was marked by creativity, innovation, and school growth.