Thursday, September 19, 2013
I wanted to send an update from Suffield. Our fall term is in full swing and our schedule is filled with events as we head to the upcoming Parents' Weekend (October 3-5). We look forward to seeing many of you on campus during the coming weeks.
As you know, the opening of the new academic year has been challenging given the tragic accident that took place on September 11. In a period of great sadness and challenge, the Suffield Academy community has shown cohesion, empathy, and strength. Plans are taking shape for Iheanyi's memorial service, which will be held in New Jersey on September 28. We will be taking a group of students and faculty to the service. In delivering news of this tragedy to our community last week, my essential message was that at this time we must first keep the Anyanwu family in our thoughts and prayers. We also need to support each other more than we ever have. We must be mindful of how precious life is, and how fortunate we are to be here and to be alive. I asked everyone here to be their very best selves at this tragic moment: to be loving and kind, and to know some occurrences take place in our lives that are incomprehensibly sad, seemingly beyond fair, and just do not make sense. This is one of them.
Our community is working to move forward and our busy routine is helping. In our academic program, we are currently working through the normal drop/add period with class sizes stabilizing at an average of ten students. We continue to see our students stretch themselves with seventy-one percent of our senior class enrolled in two or more Honors or AP courses, compared to thirty-seven percent ten years ago. We have a diverse and broad academic program held together by our fundamental beliefs in small classes, student accountability, regular assessments, and individual attention.
Earlier this week we recognized returning students for last year's outstanding academic achievements. In addition to departmental prizes, we congratulated AP Scholars and the thirty-nine students who achieved high honors during all three terms. Ten prizes honored excellence across the curriculum, school-wide contributions, and commitment to both community service and energy preservation. You can see more about the prize day on our website http://tinyurl.com/SAUnderClassPrizeDay.
We are excited to begin classes in our new science facilities next week. This is a beautiful, 17,000 square foot building with ten classroom-labs. The building has several distinctive architectural features including an inside "living wall," a green roof, state-of-the art classroom technology, and many environmentally-responsible features. You can see photos of the new building on the school's webcam (web.suffieldacademy.org/webcam/).
This year's first guest speaker, Dr. Alan Gibson, will join us on Monday (September 23). Dr. Gibson is a professor at California State University, Chico, and his visit is being sponsored by Suffield's Grandparents' Association as part of an annual speaker series on American history. He has done extensive research and writing on America's founding and is the author of two books: Interpreting the Founding: Guide to the Enduring Debates over the Origins and Foundations of the American Republic, and Understanding the Founding: The Crucial Questions. The following week (September 30) we will be joined by Walter Littlemoon, author of our community text, They Called Me Uncivilized.
Athletic contests are underway and all of our afternoon offerings have full enrollments. The largest group is in soccer (eighty-four boys on four teams and forty-eight girls on two teams), but rosters are also significant in cross country, football, boys' water polo, volleyball, field hockey, SOLO, stage crew, and visual arts and music specials.
A record number of colleges and universities are visiting Suffield this fall to meet with our students and college counselors. Admission representatives from over 125 schools are scheduled to be here between now and mid-November. Members of our senior class are hard at work on college essays and applications with support from the English department and college counselors. Juniors and sophomores are gearing up to take the PSAT on October 16 and will be prepped by college counselors visiting their Leadership classes in the upcoming weeks.
Our new students have adjusted well to their new community, a transition that takes patience and courage. They have joined a strong and vibrant school. As I do each year, I have asked our students to focus on three essential points as they begin the academic year. First, and most importantly, they have close access to an exceptionally dedicated and talented faculty. Second, they are part of a place with high expectations for personal conduct and for commitment to each other and the school. Third, their surroundings are remarkably beautiful: the majestic architecture of old and new buildings, the grass that seems to stretch for acres and acres, and the striking sunsets of brilliant orange. As we grieve the loss of a member of our community and keep him in our daily thoughts and prayers, we do so with cohesion and collective affection for each other and the school. Thank you for your partnership in our work with your daughters and sons, and we look forward to seeing you on campus in a few weeks.