Dear Stone Ridge Community,
I write today to share the bittersweet news that this spring Stone Ridge will host its 46th and final Used Book Sale from April 11-14, 2014. The decision to bring this tradition to conclusion was a complex and heart-wrenching one, which I know will be received with mixed reaction. I hope to explain the rationale behind my decision in this letter.
Our mission at Stone Ridge is to provide the highest quality Catholic education to young women, inspiring them to become leaders who serve with faith, intellect, and confidence. For almost five decades, the Annual Used Book Sale has served as a special tradition for the community as well as a fundraising source for the School’s scholarship program. Born out of the School’s rummage sales from the 1960s, the Used Book Sale has served the greater community for 46 years and sold countless numbers of books to hundreds of thousands of customers. It truly has been one-of-a-kind over the years, drawing book dealers and collectors from all over the country, even as far as South America.
We are especially proud of the volunteers and school employees who have made the Used Book Sale successful. Of special note is the tremendous work of Judy Hansen and Becky Meloan who have led this effort with great skill, knowledge, and persistence over the years. I can’t say enough to thank them for their contributions and the contributions of the thousands of dedicated volunteers who have worked with them.
Yet, as we cherish this tradition and clearly need to fundraise for the School, we must stay true to our Sacred Heart mission and strategically assess all of our programs and projects to ensure the highest outcomes for our community. Stone Ridge is in a phase of tremendous growth right now, and we must determine what is best for our girls as we re-imagine our programs, our facilities, and our community. For many years now, the School's administration and the Board of Trustees have analyzed the impact of the Used Book Sale, and have concluded that this is the right time to celebrate our final sale.
Please note the following key considerations to better understand the decision to close the Sale:
- Strategic fundraising for Scholarship: Money raised through the Used Book Sale has always been earmarked for student scholarship and financial aid. The Board of Trustees is dedicated to maintaining a socio-economically diverse student body, raising the distributions dramatically over the years. This year, Stone Ridge has a financial aid and scholarship budget of more than $2,600,000. Less than 10% of that budget came from money raised through the Used Book Sale. Used book sales have declined across the country due to the rise in affordable tablets and e-readers in the marketplace. Fewer people are buying books, even at a steep discount. The income from the Sale is not increasing, and yet the tangible costs to hold the sale continue to steadily rise. The net profit from this fundraiser has declined over the years, leading us to the conclusion that it is not a sustainable project. We believe there are more efficient ways we can raise the needed resources for our scholarship program. The School has long considered and will institute other mission-aligned fundraising opportunities from external sources.
- Program space needs: The storage of books takes up critical and viable space for programming. In addition to the Book Barn, there are numerous buildings on campus in which we store books throughout the year. Stone Ridge remains at the forefront of understanding how girls learn and work best. Our academic, athletic, artistic, technological, and spiritual programs have grown tremendously, transforming the students’ day-to-day schedule. Now is the time for Stone Ridge to better serve these programs with more space and enhanced learning environments. The maintenance of books on the campus continues to be a challenge requiring a weekly pick up of discarded books. Additionally, the set up and Sale itself disrupts the use of the gym and programming for physical education and athletics for more than two weeks each spring, and a full day of instructional class time is lost. Simply put, we must utilize our physical space to optimally serve our students and their interests must take priority over storage space.
- Security concerns: Our campus is the educational home of approximately 700 students and 160 employees every day. Campus security and the safety of our students and employees are our highest priority. Because of the Book Sale, we not only allow but we welcome strangers onto our campus 24/7 to drop off books. It is simply imprudent to encourage such open access to our campus.
- Shifting volunteer base: We are deeply grateful for the work of the many volunteers who have helped keep this Sale going over the years. Some of our volunteers have come back each year for over two decades to donate countless hours to Stone Ridge. They have made a huge impact on our School. However, it has been more difficult over the years to draw in the volunteers to assist with the books throughout the year, and for the set up and Sale itself. Stone Ridge is fortunate to have an involved and enthusiastic parent community that is generous with its time, talent, and treasure, yet volunteering at Stone Ridge has shifted over the years. It is important for the health of the School that our parents give their time to events and programs that have an even greater impact on our students, such as Admissions events, Annual Fund, Auction, and other programs organized by the Stone Ridge Parents Association.
- Construction for Campus Enhancement Project 2014: Stone Ridge will begin construction of an athletic turf field and new and improved roadways on campus this spring. This project is part of the School’s Master Plan, a necessary strategic initiative set forth in Stone Ridge’s Strategic Plan Bienvenue 2015, launched in 2009. This specific campus enhancement project is critical in serving the robust athletic program and the growing traffic demands on our campus and the neighboring roads. Rather than focus on the Sale, the facilities staff will need to serve the campus in multiple ways during this construction project over the next 6-8 months. Currently, the State Highway Administration (SHA) is working around the School’s property as part of the construction to widen Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane. To learn more about this project and the current SHA construction, please visit our Construction Corner and Gators Go Turf web pages.
- When God closes a door, He opens a window: T.S. Eliot wrote, “…To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” Just because Stone Ridge can no longer host this amazing event, this does not mean that the community generosity has to end. We are working with community partners to research new places for Washingtonians to donate their used books and shop for second-hand treasures. We will communicate more about that in the future. As for Stone Ridge, we have our own beautiful new beginning to look forward to as this change signifies growth in our programs and facilities.
In reading these points, I hope you can see that though this decision was difficult, it is rooted in our steadfast focus on serving our Sacred Heart mission and our students. Please stay tuned for more news to come on special events that will be associated with this final sale. We will be honoring our school employees and key volunteers who have made this program such a success over the years. This Sale has been a remarkable opportunity to celebrate literature, community, and scholarship over the years. This April’s events will be yet another chance to purchase great books, celebrate community, and support our students.
Catherine Ronan Karrels ‘86
Head of School