Welcome to a New Year: Fall 2018 Letter to Families

Dear Families,

I was so happy to welcome our families back at registration and to greet new families and students. The excitement in the air and in the faces of our students contributed to a terrific start of the school year. This year, my second year as head of school, I felt a settling in, a certain weight and gravitas to all that we do. Senior faculty have commented that they also felt that this was one of the more successful openings of school in years. I have thanked our team for all of their organization and good work, and most significantly, our new deans and returning and new advisors. These are your “point people” when you need to communicate about your son or daughter. Advisors should have reached out to you already. Our deans are as follows for each grade:

Freshmen: Nate Williams, nwilliams@vermontacademy.org
Sophomores: Caitlin Holton, cholton@vermontacademy.org
Juniors: Sara Baldvins, sbaldvins@vermontacademy.org
Seniors and PGs: Chris Marks, cmarks@vermontacademy.org

As you know, Jon Edwards (jedwards@vermontacademy.org) is our Dean of Student Life, and Brian Gilloran (bgilloran@vermontacademy.org) our Director of Residential Life.

The highlights of our opening days included class trips and community service. The freshmen went to Camp Takodah and climbed Mount Monadnock, and the sophomores went to Echo Lake. Juniors, seniors and PGs had a Vermont Day, working with advisories at various spots in Saxtons River and on campus to facilitate a sense of community service and connection. The conversations were lively during Vermont Day, and students got to know each other better.

Our returning students were delighted to see all new washers and dryers, three new dorm bathrooms, and fresh paint and new furniture. Next summer, we will continue to do dormitory improvements along with upgrading our campus signs, flags, and dorm common rooms.

At our Convocation ceremony, class co-presidents Colette Vynerib and Daniel Baker addressed the school, and Patrick Ogden spoke for the Standards Committee, our disciplinary committee comprised of faculty, administrators and students. In my speech, I wanted to set the stage for our ethical and character-driven work as a community. All new students, faculty, and administrators stepped up to sign the Honor Code book with the class deans, Jon Edwards, and me on stage. Beautiful flowers were in tall vases along the stage, and the students were in formal dress. Formal Dinner followed this event, and we sat down with our entire school to celebrate the beginning of a new year.

This year, I will be leading the curriculum committee (made up of department heads and our director of college counseling) in order to look at our standards, our course content and skills, and the strategies we use pedagogically to develop an understanding of learning and the brain among our faculty. Amanda Gilbert-Hodgson, our new Dean of Faculty, and Susan Schmitt, our Dean of Teaching, Learning, and Innovation, will be creating micro-credentialing sessions for faculty so that we continue to grow our awareness of how to present material to a variety of learners.

A few nights ago, I walked around the campus before study hall, and I was gratified to know that I was able to speak to most students by name, and to have conversations with them about their classes and their first days of a sport or extracurricular activity. A small boarding school affords that special sense of connection and knowledge between the adults on campus and the students. I want to assure you that we are taking the very best care of our students and that we are always looking for ways to do better in a partnership with you and in honor of our role in loco parentis.

Shortly, you will get a letter from me about Family Weekend, October 18-21. We have some exciting things planned, and we are so eager to have you join us for three days on campus. Right now, we are looking forward to our Reunion Weekend and trustee weekend on September 20-22.

Some topics that I have heard mentioned by our families include student travel during vacation time, driver’s education, and day student spaces. We need to make sure that all students sign out with a chaperone if they are traveling during a vacation and not returning home. Since we are responsible for our students, and since they are also minors, a chaperone and permission will be required. Flights, a train, or car transportation home are modes of returning home that are completely fine.

Driver’s ed is arranged directly with Deb Tolaro. You can find driver's ed information here. I want to warn all of our families that Vermont courses may not be transferrable or “recognized” by other states. The benefit involves driving time and run-throughs of the written and physical test, but any discounts for the course or transferrable requirements are likely not possible. You would need to check these with your state’s DMV.

I also wanted our day student families to know that day students are welcome to use all spaces at school, but they also have a lounge in the finished basement of my home that has a 65” new TV, ping pong, pool, darts, and a fireplace. So far, the students love it. There is also a table for homework, but I am sure students would prefer to do that in the Great Room or the Learning Center. Aldrich Lounge, adjacent to the dining hall in Shep, is another great space to work. Over time, day students often have boarders as friends and the two groups intertwine quite well here at Vermont Academy.

You will be hearing from me soon about Family Weekend. Have a wonderful end of summer!

Warm Regards,
Jennifer
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