Early Winter Letter from Dr. Zaccara

Dear Families:

Vermont Academy is in a festive mode as the winter term has begun. This weekend we have our Candlelight Winter Concert, and two days later, our Kurn Hattin Christmas party. Candlelight is on Sunday night, and it includes musical performances, poetry, and, of course, the lighting of candles in that magical way that we enact this tradition at this time of the year.

If you are not familiar with Kurn Hattin, I can share that we have a relationship with this Westminster school that stretches over eighty years. The school gives a home to students whose real home is in temporary need. The ties between our schools are so strong that Nita Choukas, late wife of former VA head Michael Choukas, Jr., and mother of current Board chair Mike Choukas III, became the Director of Development for Kurn Hattin for many years. This school community fosters, in many ways, an extension of our sense of family. We are looking to deepen our relationship and to have some exchanges in programming that would support each of our schools, such as having the students in our sustainability program work with Kurn Hattin students on their farm, or inviting Kurn Hattin students to participate in our evolving afterschool robotics program for middle schoolers.

This winter is also time for our Winter Carnival, 24-hour Play Festival, Poetry Out Loud, Art Show, robotics competitions, and numerous athletic competitions. We love to have our neighbors come to watch our sports events, and last night, the gym was crowded when we played basketball against Cushing Academy. Friends of VA also come to watch our ice hockey games for girls and boys.

Even though it is getting colder, we are focusing on strengthening our communications and getting students out and about on campus. The Wildcat Den will soon be offering some food and snack items for students, and we are developing lots of indoor group activities during free time. I will be writing more frequent parent letters on a variety of topics this winter, and I am having a Head of School book club in January – info to follow soon!

If you want to discuss your son or daughter’s program this winter, please feel free to contact their advisor and dean. Any discussions about sports should go straight to the coaches and to our athletic director, Alexei Sotskov, and about the arts to the department heads, Lisa McNealus and Steve Cady. We have great student support here with our advisory teams and also in our Health Center. Feel free to email or call and give us 24 hours to reply. If something is urgent, contact us at any time, but if not, we usually hope for calls and emails to arrive during work hours. Two areas we will be focusing on include communications and programming for day students and onboarding for new faculty and coaches. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions regarding communications. You are a part of the Vermont Academy family, and we want to keep you informed and connected!

Cheers from chilly Saxtons River, where the snowcat is making snow in our ski park for the rail garden and jumps. It is truly wonderful to see it lit up at night from the Shepardson dining room.

Warm Regards,