Over the last year, trustees and staff leadership of Camp Treetops and North Country School have engaged in a comprehensive strategic planning process. While we face some significant challenges – all not-for-profit educational institutions do – our intent was most decidedly not to reinvent a tried-and-true wheel. As Treetops approaches its 100th birthday, and North Country School nears its 80th, the shared heritage of the institution remains its greatest strength. Camp and School are beloved organizations with a proud and longstanding history of commitment to the healthy development of children. Due to the pioneering visions of the Haskells at Treetops and the Clarks at North Country School, generations of families have reaped inestimable benefits from the transformative work done on our Lake Placid campus.
However, since the days of the Haskells and the Clarks, the landscape for educational not-for-profits has dramatically changed. There are some disquieting trends to be addressed. Nationally, the private summer camp and junior boarding school markets show signs of contraction, while costs continue to escalate. As families benefit from an ever-broader range of choices for their children, the competition for campers and students grows more fierce. Additionally, while our pristine Adirondack home is a source of tremendous joy and pride, its remoteness can work against attracting families who seek to keep their children closer to home. We have already seen some softening of demand for our two programs, a softening that we ignore at our peril. As our strategic planning consultant Ian Symmonds tells us: “Like any industry in America that went through massive change… schools and colleges are going through their pivot point right now. This is a time where there is a great uncertainty; and even schools (and camps) with enormous endowments, great followings, and enormous marketing footprints are really struggling with finding their futures. It’s a new normal.”
Specifically, our strategic plan focuses on three major institutional priorities: First, we will enhance our Camp and School programs, facilities, and procedures, including building new spaces for arts, edible education and staff housing. Second, we will unify our organization under a single umbrella brand, allowing our two great legacy programs to coexist with some newly-conceived programs. Third, we will Innovate – which includes creating new short term programming for children and adults, adding educational programs for international students, and developing partnerships with other educational institutions.