June 1, 2016

Dear  Parents, 

From the vantage point of Memorial Day, few days remain ahead in this academic year, but many successes lie behind us. The many capstone performances of May have highlighted the impressive talents and achievements of Stanwich students and their teachers, and graduation awaits our seniors currently concluding up their internships.
 
The last days of the school year are bittersweet-wishing friends well for vacation and saying goodbye to departing teachers as they take the next steps in their professional and life journeys. Although a more comprehensive letter later this month will reflect on the year behind and anticipate the year ahead in more detail, this communication recognizes several member of our professional community in transition.
 
In the Intermediate House we will miss TJ Ramirez, who will begin this summer as the Director of the Middle School program at Reach Prep. In addition, Christi Wong has decided to make a career change in order to pursue new career opportunities, and will not return next school year. Betsy Pacey concludes her term as an Associate Teacher. In the Upper School, two teachers will head west: Natalie Vacirca to continue teaching in Dallas, and Peter Abbot who will retire to Colorado. Also retiring at the end of the year are Maggie Seligman, Upper School English teacher; Mary Ellen D'Amico, School Nurse; and Barrie Richmond, School Administrative Assistant, who has blessed us for many years with her warm touch and gracious manner.
 
Between this year and next, a number of teachers will transition into new roles. In support of our new Lower School Head Trudy Davis, Cynthia Hoemann will assume more direct oversight for coordinating program and individual student needs in the Primary House, as will Lindsey Wohl in the Intermediate House. Ilana Grady will assume more direct responsibility for overseeing the schedule and curriculum reviews currently underway. Letters from Cynthia and Lindsey will follow in June explaining their roles in more detail. Will Colombo will return next year to support the Grade 6 team. Morgan Murphy will expand his role to develop a more formal public speaking program in the school. Craig Colovito shifts to full-time math in the Upper School; Jen Gilch will join Grade 4; Keith Radcliffe joins Admissions; and Alex Fornaciari moves from Grade 1 to Grade 5. We convey our institutional congratulations to all those for whom exciting new challenges await, and for those whose opportunities lie beyond Stanwich, our sincere thanks for their service to our community and the positive impact they have had on our children.
 
Summer assignments for students and faculty have been communicated and suggestions made as well for parents. Another book also merits parent and faculty consideration: Helping Children Succeed, by Paul Tough. A shorter version is " How Kids Learn Resilience" in the June issue of The Atlantic.  The piece begins by describing how "toxic stress" at an early age in the home can retard children's executive functions and the development of noncognitive capacities essential for success such as "character" or resilience when faced with challenges. As Head of School, I found particularly thought-provoking his research-based hypothesis that some teachers excel in developing students' cognitive capacities.  Others, who may be institutionally undervalued in conventional contexts, encourage an environment that develops students' noncognitive capacities (character). I quote: "Data showed that spending a few hours each week in close proximity to a certain kind of teacher changed something about students' behavior. And that was what mattered. Somehow those teachers were able to convey deep messages about belonging, connection, ability and opportunity."  Based on my year's experience, I have no doubt that the Stanwich culture attracts an extraordinary number of teachers uniquely able to balance both the cognitive and the non-cognitive skills development of our students.  
 
I will write again in a couple of weeks as other arrangements and assignments settle for the new year.
 
Sincerely,
Charles Sachs
Head of School