Dear Colleagues and Friends:
The Discovery Schools of Virginia are no longer enrolling new students and are winding down business operations. Ultimately, the ongoing pandemic necessitated this decision. Referrals for placement declined significantly over the past year, and tuition payments for those already enrolled were severely compromised due to hardship. We considered many options and made many attempts to stave off closing. In the end, we came to only one path that seemed fair to our students, their families, our employees, and the businesses that provide services to us.
The pandemic brought our fiscal model into crisis. But scanning the horizon, we also saw the relentless drive of private and public insurances constricting treatment options for children in need of services. We saw an attending surge in bureaucracy and state and federal regulation, of which only a small percentage would actually help us improve our programming, but the extent of which might more than double our administrative overhead. Operating the Discovery Schools has always been a labor of love and dogged commitment. The love and commitment have not run out, but the ability to make ends meet has, and so we made this most difficult decision.
As many of you know, containing costs and promoting diversity have always been part of our mission. We have endeavored to keep our services within reach of as many families as possible, by limiting tuition increases and offering financial aid to those in need. We have also always sought to partner with public placing agencies in need of services for children. We found the resulting socio-economic diversity to be a tremendous strength in teaching all our students to understand and connect with others from differing backgrounds, helping them become better both in friendship and in citizenship.
The Discovery School boys campus opened in 1998 and the girls campus opened in 2007, viewing wilderness as a place to thrive. We believe that outdoor living and adventure activities provide the ideal framework for personal growth stimulated by group process. Highs and lows, struggles and heartbreaks, the daily challenges of hard work and weather extremes, moments of wonder and joy, excitement, achievements, celebrations, family reunifications—sometimes all in a single day—these experiences funnel into a wilderness group. A strong group will demand that each member join a journey of emotional growth, leaving no one behind. A strong group teaches values such as integrity, unity, honesty, loyalty, compassion, self-reflection, generosity, patience, firmness, forgiveness, courage, and trust. A strong group helps each member contend with the struggles of the past and the challenges of the future. A strong group encourages each
member to be true to their own individuality while contributing to the common good. Those of us who have seen it happen have come to believe that, for many children, a strong group also provides the most powerful approach imaginable for helping young people to take positive control over their own lives.
Helping kids in crisis can require intense personal sacrifice in any environment, even in the best of times. The Discovery Schools have been blessed with numerous talented, caring staff members over the years, and Schools endured as long as they have because of all these people. Much of the good we achieved this year, however, is directly attributable to our team of directors. These are people of intelligence, compassion, experience, and talent, who could long ago have sought greater financial reward elsewhere. They worked long hours, absorbed countless responsibilities, and worked tirelessly to keep our students safe and growing despite monumental challenges. This past year, it has been a special privilege to work alongside Matt Browning, Chip Case, Steve Dufort, John Outland, Brittney Rekrut, Jim Rekrut, Steve Welsh, and Vicki Williams.
On behalf of our team and the Board of Directors of the Discovery Schools of Virginia, thank you for all that you do and have done to help children.
Mark Mellusi, CEO
The Discovery School of Virginia
The Discovery School of Virginia for Girls