Mission & History

Sycamore School: Founded in 1985

In school years, Sycamore is a young adult, and a mature and sophisticated young adult at that. Although many things at Sycamore have changed since its first year in 1985, the mission has remained constant: “Sycamore School exists so that academically gifted children can experience the enriched, accelerated education they need to reach their potential and to lead responsible, constructive, fulfilling lives.” This mission guided Sycamore at its creation, and it is still what propels us forward today.

So what has changed in the last 30 years?

List of 7 items.

  • Our facility:

    Sycamore started in a rented church in 1985 and then leased our current facility from Washington Township, beginning in 1989. We purchased this facility in 1996 and have had three  capital campaigns (including the current Fulfilling Promis campaign) to address facility needs.

    We have built the Early Childhood wing; renovated both the Middle School and Lower School wings; built the Art Room, Band Room, Gym, and Theater; and relocated and renovated the Library. The most recent updates include a Technology Lab and an Innovation Lab, a Board Room, a Middle School Commons Area, a Before and After-School space, and a new entrance and lobby area. The old 1950’s vintage school building is scarcely visible today.
  • Our program:

    Educational programs and curricula must evolve with the times in order to be effective. The Sycamore educators from 1985 would hardly recognize methods and strategies we implement today. (Eileen Prince, the only founding faculty member still on staff, has experienced this entire evolution, and she’s ridden the wave admirably.)

    Technology, of course, is a central component of the changes in instructional methods. In 1985, no one had heard of an iPad, nor could anyone have imagined the myriad ways we employ them to enhance instruction.  Today, we have 1-to-1 iPad program, a technology lab, and digital-enabled classrooms for teachers.  And it is all done to better serve the education of individual students.  Differention in education includes curriculum, tools and finding what type of learning works best for each student.
  • Our alumni:

    We didn’t have any alumni until 1989, when we acquired our first four. Now we have mroe than 900 alumni in our database, and our oldest alumni are nearing 40 years old! We host regular and well-attended alumni events in order to maintain engagement. We are beginning to use alumni more often as resource people, and have invited a number of them back to Sycamore to present at one of our events.  And alumni are always welcome to contact us!  We would love to have you back at Sycamore to share knowledge with the current students.
  • Faculty compensation:

    Early Sycamore faculty taught here at a personal sacrifice. They didn’t complain, because they were dedicated to Sycamore. At the beginning there were no benefits (well, free coffee and free parking). Now, through strong initiatives on the part of our Boards through the years, our teachers are compensated at or above industry standards, and we offer a full component of benefits, including a generous retirement package.
  • Finances:

    In the early days, Sycamore charged a very low tuition, which resulted in low budgets for many things, including faculty and staff compensation. We had an administrative infrastructure that could not provide for all of the needs of an independent school. Over the years as we’ve grown in sophistication, we continue to operate with a lean administration; however, we have added critical positions to make sure we can provide all necessary functions at a high level. This has meant increasing levels of tuition, but still in line with other independent schools in Indianapolis.
    For the first 25 years, Sycamore only invested in cash. Since 2010, our Board of Trustees have begun to invest in a long-term and a mid-term investment pool that is a quasi-endowment. We manage our budgets prudently, and our reserves are conscientiously invested. We did not take a draw on these investments for the first 3 years, but now we do, according to our Investment Policy. The proceeds from these investments are earmarked for financial aid. Over time that infusion of money into our budget will help us keep tuition increases as low as they can be. We are in a very strong and stable financial position.
  • Community visibility:

    In 1985, Sycamore was virtually unknown in the broader Indianapolis community. More than 30 years later, we are much more visible and present in the community. High schools recruit our graduates very assiduously. We have been involved in community-wide events—not only to raise our visibility, but also to contribute to the community in which we live. We have become a aresource for teachers and educatiors who want to know more about gifted education. Sycamore hosts conferences that allow all teachers to gather, and gain knowledge and skills to help them when teaching highly-intelligent children

    Sycamore is an asset for Indianapolis and for employers in Indianapolis as they endeavor to recruit and retain talent. We provide an important community resource that is not available in may cities across the country.
  • Professional leadership:

    Sycamore is an active member of NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools), ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States), NAGC (National Association of Gifted Children), IAG (Indiana Association for the Gifted), and various other discipline-specific or function-related associations. In every case, Sycamore faculty and staff have served as leaders, presented often, shared ideas freely, and taken on roles to advance the specific organization or association.
Other things have remained unchanged: passion and commitment to our mission; high quality of our faculty; strength of our program; culture of excitement and fun in learning; high quality of our graduates. These things are the essence of Sycamore, and these things remain strong and steady.

Read more about the history of the school, in a piece orignially written by Dr. Nyle Kardatzke, the longtime Head of School at Sycamore, and updated with recent news.

What does the future hold?

This is probably the most challenging question in education today. We are educating kids for an unknown future. That’s why teaching them to think, both critically and creatively, and teaching them to love learning are the best gifts we can give them. There are a few things I know about the future:
  • Great teachers will not be replaced by technology. I believe the future of education belongs to the best teachers who know how to best employ technology to enhance instruction. The human element will always be important.
  • There will always be students who need schools like Sycamore. We have to be able to stimulate, educate, and motivate our best and brightest. They will be the leaders that will solve the problems of today and tomorrow.
  • Sycamore will still be here! It may look different, inside and out. It may be filled with children of our current students. Sycamore is here to stay, and it’s too good not to be better!
  • Sycamore is a prime example of institutional evolution and an inspirational story of response to a need. Our work will never be complete. We will change and we will grow—that’s imperative. The best is yet to come! I am proud and honored to be a part of it.
Diane Borgmann / Head of School / Sycamore School