November 12, 2015
Dear Stanwich Families, 

I greatly appreciate both the opportunity to continue the work begun this year as Interim Head into the foreseeable future, as well as the kind comments and notes of congratulations from so many of you. As we enter into the winter season, our planning for 2016-2017 is well underway with many exciting educational initiatives and refinements in the works. 

As we turn the corner into winter, our collective congratulations to the many students and their coaches who represented Stanwich so well on the playing fields this fall. We won some and lost some, but the Stanwich Seven core values were always evident. We also appreciate the parents and faculty who came out to attend the interscholastic contests. 

Speaking of turning the corner, hopefully families have seen the recent installation turning the corner into our driveway. To visually represent the Heart of Stanwich and our Stanwich Seven values - commitment, compassion, wisdom, courage, honesty, forgiveness and joy - students and faculty affixed their thumbprints to 18 pillars created as a community service project with the technical assistance from Jessie Drennen, in our Admissions office. Thank you!

November and December are among the busiest times of the academic year. The activity packed ramp-up to winter holiday this year began with the back-to-back events of Stanwich STEAM Expo, and our fall open house. Both were well attended and showcased Stanwich's many educational resources, our students and teachers, foremost among them. 

Although many schools these days have adapted STEAM ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) curricular components, observing our teachers teach during our recent STEAM Expo reminded me that STEAM is much more than just subject areas amalgamated into a catchy acronym. It represents a philosophy towards learning and a pedagogical approach toward teaching that are only truly possible in such a student centered, inquiry based environment as ours with low student teacher ratios and close personal connections between teachers and students. 

This year we are happy to welcome many new families to Stanwich who bring diverse perspectives from cosmopolitan life experiences around the world. Since the beginning of the school year, we have enrolled ten new students, four of whom have returned to Stanwich from elsewhere with a better appreciation of the great educational experience presented by this school community.

Among this year's foremost initiatives is our assessment of the many areas of educational excellence that may not have been fully coordinated or sufficiently well-communicated previously. As a PreK-Grade 12 school our educational advantage is our opportunity to create a seamless learning environment to ensure our students graduate as the best they can be for the next phase of their development. 

Perhaps more so than at most schools, Stanwich's success depends upon the consistent excellence of its teachers. To reinforce those fundamental standards of teaching excellence, the administration is implementing a consistent process of faculty evaluation to inform professional development and administrative decision-making. To that end we have established the following criteria as the lens through which to observe classes and discuss pedagogy. 
  1. Personal: Stanwich teachers make a personal commitment as empathic mentors to know their students and engage positively with the parents with whom they partner. Challenging academic work at Stanwich provides a seminal vehicle by which our teachers share their passions and love of learning.
  2. Student-centered:  Stanwich teachers are extraordinarily dedicated to the intellectual, emotional, social, and ethical well being of students as their first priority. Teaching in developmentally appropriate ways that dynamically engage and inspire every student, Stanwich teachers extend themselves beyond the classroom and the workday. Committed to all facets of Stanwich's mission, they reflect it daily in their work with students in the classroom and extra-curriculars.
  3. Collaborative: Stanwich teachers appreciate the educational value of a small, values-based learning community. To help others be the best that they can be Stanwich teachers interact supportively and creatively in effective working teams.
  4. Professionally grounded: Stanwich teachers are well-educated, and passionate about learning and teaching. Perpetual learners themselves, their intellectual breadth allows them to take advantage of educational opportunities to delve deeply into student questions and ideas and seek connections between academic disciplines. Stanwich teachers appreciate that skills (intellectual, interpersonal, and otherwise) represent an essential goal of academic mastery and ascribe to research that supports our active, experiential pedagogy. 
  5. Globally minded: To make God's world a better place, Stanwich teachers manifest a cosmopolitan understanding of the need to connect with people and ideas. To orient Stanwich students both knowledgeably and empathetically for a dynamic future, Stanwich teachers appreciate and share perspectives from around the world.
  6. Technologically competent: Stanwich teachers integrate technology meaningfully as an essential element in the teaching "toolbox" for student project-based learning.
However, even master teachers cannot be completely successful without the positive, informed engagement of the parents to our students. I was gratified to see so many parents actively engaged in fall parent/teacher conferences. This week you should receive information concerning this year's Annual Fund effort, which is particularly important to support the professional development initiatives underway. Please include Stanwich as one of your foremost philanthropic interests; your charitable investment will pay direct dividends to your children. 

Please don't forget several upcoming parent community events: new parents are encouraged to attend the 7:00 event with trustees this evening at the Kennedy's home in Belle Haven. Also please plan to attend the fun Parent Association Trivia Night event next Friday, November 20 at school. All proceeds, as always for such events, go directly to underwrite our school program.  However, please be aware that I have sponsored an extremely capable administrative table whose representatives have been in daily trivia training and are poised to win.  

I look forward in the weeks, months and years ahead to getting to know our parents better. Good (clear, thoughtful, direct) communication is essential to successful communities. To that end please communicate with me if you have any perspectives either positive or negative that could be shared to make our school the best it can be. Although I may on occasion disagree, I am always eager to listen, learn, and whenever possible adapt to ensure our programs are meeting the needs of our eager, able students. 

Charles Sachs
Head of School