November 9, 2016

Dear Stanwich Families, 
As we close the first trimester, daylight wanes, basketballs and squash racquets emerge, and November and December calendars fill to overflowing. Please make sure to reference your personal and family calendars against the Stanwich master calendar on the school website:

The seasonal transition reminds us of the transitions our children experience as they grow. In a Lower School coffee earlier this week, Lower School Head Ms. Davis and Ms. Comizio, Director of Social Emotional Learning, reminded parents of the value of a small school in supporting children through the social and personal anxieties of maturation. Moreover, Stanwich's House organization-Wildwood, Primary, Intermediate, Junior, and Senior Houses-ensures that every student has at least one adult with whom they feel personally connected and has meaningful opportunities to learn how to lead, but also how to follow. The seminal vision of Stanwich has always been of a small, tight community of families committed to similar values and high standards of personal and academic performance. Stanwich students are cultivated to become successful and secure by design rather than dropped into a peer group mix by chance. Change is inescapable; however, our school community effectively anticipates and supports change.

This week's coffee particularly focused on transitions between Grades 5 and 9, the often challenging middle school years. In that regard Ms. Comizio referenced Dr. Dru Tomlin, the Director of Middle Level Services at the Association for Middle Level Education:  " Our research shows that when the school is made to feel smaller, that's when young adolescents flourish more." (When asked, how to improve the middle school experience, he replied,)  "It starts with identifying what [the students'] unique characteristics are. Identifying that they are trying to achieve not just academically or cognitively, but they're achieving and really working on social, emotional, behavioral, psychological, ethical-all that stuff at one time in a rapid way. So, we start with that understanding, plus a shared vision of what type of programs and what type of people we need to have in our building to serve those kids, that's where it really begins." 

Dr. Tomlin could have been directly referencing Stanwich's Advisory program and a dedicated SEL block for all middle school students. "In the Utopian sense of it, a middle school really should have a dedicated time during the day when students are meeting with an adult advocate in the building. In these advisory periods they work on social emotional learning, behavioral issues, they work on skill development, they work on character education. That's the environment in which young adolescents flourish: When they feel they have a personal connection and someone really cares about them." Effective social and emotional learning programming involves coordinated classroom, school wide, family, and community practices that reduce stress and depression and help students develop positive attitudes toward their work, others, and themselves.  

Faculty lives are in transition as well. In January we expect Ms. Mineo to return to the JH History classroom after successfully addressing cancer, and Ms. Bloom in LS Art after her maternity leave. Ms. Robb, Director of Student Services will be welcoming her second child and taking her maternity leave starting in February.  Ms. Hannon, English Department co-chair, and Ms. Wohl, IH Lead Teacher, begin their maternity leaves in March and Ms. Keifer, "Afters" Director, in April.   Assistant US Head Mr. Dunn will get married in December. Ms. Steinberg in the PE Department is engaged to be married and was selected to the Israeli National Lacrosse team for the Federation of International Lacrosse World Cup competition next summer. 

As a part of an on-going assessment of external affairs functions and consequent restructuring, Ms. O'Leary is pursuing other opportunities elsewhere. We appreciate all that she has contributed both personally and professionally over the past four years to the Stanwich Advancement office and wish her well in her next role. In her absence, Stanwich advancement efforts will carry on infused with the energy of our parent/trustee teams.  Ms. McIntyre will continue to oversee the Annual Fund effort and help coordinate the committee structures supporting Stanwich's other advancement initiatives this year. 

As the long, demoralizing Presidential election process comes thankfully to an end, we prepare for a political transition: another opportunity for our community to rise above individual differences of opinion and to use our Stanwich hearts to be the best we can be. Now more than ever, our community takes consolation in Stanwich values and the seminal importance of civility in our daily lives. Stanwich may be a protected microcosm, but our children need to be protected during their impressionable early years and learn to communicate differences of opinion respectfully. 

Stanwich's Annual Fund drive for the parent community begins this week. Building upon the success of 100% participation of trustees and faculty, we sincerely hope that all families make Stanwich a philanthropic priority this year. Parent contributions are a tax-deductible investment in the future of our school and our students. The "Returns for Rwanda" collection of plastic from 7:30 to 8:00am on Friday mornings outside our garage at the south end of campus has been very successful, and families are encouraged to bring in their plastic to support Project Blessing. Also preparing for the winter days to come, please review the information concerning snow day announcements on the Stanwich School website.  It is important that all of your information is accurate in My BackPack and that you OPT IN if you want to receive the text message service.  Instructions for this process can be found by clicking on this link.

Congratulations to all the fall season athletes who represented our school and our Stanwich values so well, win or lose. I represent the entire community in thanking the many parents involved with this year's successful book fair organized around the theme of "Today a Reader; Tomorrow a Leader." At Stanwich, reading is essential not just to assimilate information but to vicariously nurture empathy.  Enjoy November's blessings.
Charles Sachs
Head of School