This story was originally published in the spring 2012 issue of Harker Quarterly.
Throughout its long history The Harker School has proactively adapted to changing environments to meet the needs of its growing student population. Now, with breaking news that Harker was the top bidder on a desirable, available campus property, the school finds itself at yet another turning point.
For years Harker, the largest K-12 independent school in California, has leased its middle school campus on Blackford Ave. And, while this has worked well, Harker’s forward-thinking administration has long dreamed of owning all three of its campuses. With the current bid accepted and pending final county approval, that vision of building permanency and security seems poised to become a reality.
Chris Nikoloff, head of school, reviewed the plans for acquiring the ideally suited campus property located near Union Ave. and Highway 280 at a recent benefactor’s luncheon.
“We found an available campus structure that is exactly the right fit … so there is a strong sense that we should move on it,” Nikoloff said during the luncheon, after thanking attendees for coming out and partnering with Harker.
He then introduced some Harker science students, who came to the meeting to echo his gratitude to the school’s funders. The students also shared updates on their impressive research projects, with topics ranging from autism studies and embedding enzymes, to lab work towards fighting HIV infections and cancer.
“When I was in high school my biggest concern was why wouldn’t my teacher let me play Ping-Pong at recess,” joked Nikoloff, after congratulating the students on their accomplishments, which illus- trate how far the upper campus has come since its creation in 1998.
Nikoloff used the metaphor of “putting toothpaste back in the tube,” when comparing the option of having to move the middle school back to the upper school campus after the current Blackford lease runs out. “In other words, it is not a viable option,” he said, explaining the school has grown too much and that it would lead to serious problems of overcrowding.
Speaking on behalf of the administration and board members who have been diligently working to secure a suitable property, he added, “We are bullish on the Union property. It just doesn’t happen every day that you find something in the exact area you are looking for, with the exact features.”
The subsequent decision to put in a bid on the building was the result of an exhaustive community-wide effort to secure Harker’s future direction.
Alice Siegel (Elisabeth, grade 8; Kathryn, grade 12), who attended the benefactor luncheon, said that she trusts the school administra- tion to take the lead in moving forward with the bid. A parent of a Harker “lifer,” Siegel said she has watched the school, along with her children, successfully grow and change over the years.
Calling the new campus acquisition process part of the school’s cornerstone campaign, Joe Rosenthal, executive director of ad- vancement, elaborated that purchasing a third campus was one of four previously set strategic financial priorities, including ongoing program excellence, building out a master site plan and increasing endowment and reserves.
“Even when the bubble burst during the economic recession, givers to the advancement campaign pulled through, with continued enthusiasm for the expansion project,” said Rosenthal, noting that additional funds were raised through the capital campaign, which may enable Harker to purchase the new building outright.
“While excellent programs are always at the heart of the school, those programs are enhanced by the facilities and infrastructure that support them,” said Rosenthal.
If the county approves, and the bid does, indeed, move full steam ahead, the purchase and sale would likely close by the end of the summer. And that, said Nikoloff, would be a “major milestone” for Harker’s future.