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Tough dilemma for NSA

Private Lake Placid school grapples with financial troubles

December 19, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - Leaders at National Sports Academy say an outpouring of community support is helping the private school weather a financial storm - at least enough to get through this school year.

Meanwhile, the school - which serves grade 8 through post-graduate students - has announced the resignation of its headmaster, Jeff Beedy, who took over for David Wenn earlier this year; Wenn is one of the school's co-founders and served as its headmaster for 35 years.

A copy of the school's federal 990 form for 2011 posted on GuideStar - an online database that contains information on nonprofit organizations - shows the school's expenses exceeding revenues by about $290,000. The school's director of development, Angela Price, said NSA's net assets decreased by about $170,000 for that time period.

Article Photos

National Sports Academy
(Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)

"We are in a new fiscal year," she said, "and contributions to date from donors help with current year expenses, namely scholarship support for students who receive financial aid."

In a letter sent to parents, parts of which were shared with the Enterprise this week, David Van Arnam, chairman of NSA's Board of Trustees, wrote that the school is "contending with serious financial challenges." The school does have a small endowment.

"To be sure, the series of events related to the school's leadership and a challenging financial picture has created a difficult situation and concern among the parents, students and staff at the school," Van Arnam said. "The board has worked closely with the administrative team to reach out to community leaders, our banks, and supporters of the school.

"With this support, we seek to ensure the continuation of the school year. Central to our efforts has been designing both a viable financial plan for the rest of the school year and a sound business plan for the 2013-2014 academic year's budget."

Price said in a statement that NSA launched a "special end-of-year appeal" that resulted in an "outpouring of support" from parents and community leaders.

"Several grants and loan options are being pursued by the school's administrative team," she said. "Following the departure of our second headmaster in twelve months, it is simply too early to be specific as to our course of action. Many of our conversations and options are confidential in nature."

Price said many longtime donors and current parents were among the first to help NSA with its end-of-year appeal.

The school's financial troubles are largely due to a tough economy, Van Arnam wrote in his letter to families.

"Like many other small, independent schools, NSA has grappled with a difficult economy over the last few years," he said. "Our school is facing three pressing realities: enrollment is down, financial aid is up, and debt service has become burdensome."

Van Arnam said a team of senior administrators will fill in until an interim headmaster can be appointed.

Eighteen Winter Olympians have attended NSA, and hundreds of the school's alumni have competed in World Cup and Division I sports including cross-country and downhill skiing, hockey and luge. Some of the school's most famous alumni include three who competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver: Vermontville native Bill Demong, who won gold and silver medals; biathlete Haley Johnson of Lake Placid; and luger Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake.

NSA started out as a winter tutorial program for alpine skiers in 1977. It later morphed into a 10-month program, with students studying at local public schools, and in 1984 it began awarding its own diplomas. It was originally called Mountain House School; the named changed to National Sports Academy in 1989.

NSA's current enrollment is 62.



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