Independent School Magazines: Watkinson School - Silver Medal

Category 19A: Independent School Magazines
Watkinson School, Watkinson News

Contacts: Jenny Katz, director of publications/editor in chief, e-mail: and Jenni French, director of communications/editor, e-mail:, 124 Westledge Road, W. Simsbury, CT 06092, Phone: (860) 651-022

Objectives: Watkinson’s mission is to help our students gain the power to shape their own lives and the world around them. Being able to shape your life and your world requires a high level of self-knowledge, an awareness of the complex web of our needs, wants, goals, strengths, challenges, and choices. Furthermore, these goals and needs keep changing in response to our own growth and the constant turning of the world. This being the case, Watkinson places a high premium on self-reflection. Students are constantly being asked to examine and evaluate what they’ve learned and what they want to learn, to explore what’s most and least useful in their development as scholars and as people, and to imagine their way toward new paradigms and possibilities. In short, they’re asked to engage in the process of designing a truly valuable education.

The Watkinson News, published three times per year, is our institutional version of this student process. It’s our public forum for examining what a Watkinson education really means, and for modeling the process of self-evaluation that we ask of our students. In addition to this modeling—an important form of teaching in itself—our main goal is to convey to readers the depth and seriousness with which we pursue the questions essential to an excellent education: What’s different about teaching and learning at Watkinson? What’s the purpose of education in general? What are we all doing here, and what could we be doing better? Especially since our educational philosophy is hard to capture in a sound bite, we find that extended meditations on the subject (in the form of WatNews articles) are very helpful for prospective families and alumni who want to keep up or learn more. We are our own best subject, and we find that, far from running out of interesting angles to explore, the more we look the more there is to find.

Staffing: Although the Watkinson News nearly always features the voices of many different faculty, students, parents, and alumni, the magazine is produced primarily by two people: director of publications Jenny Katz and director of communications Jenni French. These two develop concepts, write, solicit, create, and edit articles and artwork, and design the layout of the magazine.

Frequency: WatNews comes out three times a year, in spring (usually April/May), fall (September/October), and winter (January).

Average pages per issue: The magazine features 16–24 pages per issue, with 20 pages being the norm.

Circulation: 5,500 people per issue (current families, alumni, parents of alumni, friends of the school, prospective families, anyone who has donated to the Annual Fund in the last seven years)

Total annual budget: $24,000

Average cost per issue and unit cost: $8,000 per issue; unit cost is $1.45

Response and results: The response to the Watkinson News is overwhelmingly positive. Alumni write to tell us of feeling “reconnected” and “intrigued”; prospective families comment on the perspective and insight they’ve gained through reading the lead articles; parents of past students call to complain, jokingly, that they have to “waste a whole afternoon” because they “couldn’t put it down.” WatNews has been an effective part of our campaign to involve our community in the continuing discussion of what education can and should be.