September 20, 2016

Dear Stanwich Families, 
 
I sincerely hope that in your home you have felt the palpable excitement and enthusiasm of our first two weeks at Stanwich this year.
 
This fall Stanwich welcomed 50 new students from 33 families and 6 new faculty members. Our opening events have been filled with positive energy generated at least in part by programmatic and facilities improvements. Parents and faculty have commented positively on the more logical allocation of space centralizing the two divisions in their own buildings: Lower School Grades 1-5 in the upper (North) building and the Upper School Grades 6-12 in the lower (Main) building.
 
The transition of Grade 6 from IH to JH has been a smooth, successful one. The addition of Grade 6 to the JH program allows appropriately sized JH sports teams in soccer (boys and girls), field hockey, football, and cross country. Last week our new Senior House Girls' Volleyball team won their first game of the year and their first game ever!
 
Along with the new adjoining administrative conference room, the Upper School's new library location next to the Main Office where Admissions and my office now reside, has a self-check-out structure through the iPad Destiny System. JH students participate once-a-week in a public speaking program, and discussion of social-emotional issues relevant for this age group. As a SH elective, an Ethics course this fall anticipates a more deliberate and explicit curriculum in process for "Moral Leadership" in the Upper School.
 
After the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) approved Stanwich's Diploma Program candidacy for Grades 11 and 12, Upper School teachers began the required professional development in their respective academic disciplines or administrative area. The feedback from teachers who have completed their workshops has been that the programs were challenging but extremely worthwhile for their professional practice. This fall we will continue to evaluate and discuss with parents the addition of the IB Diploma Program to our 11 th and 12 th graders beginning in the fall of 2018.
 
Lower School faculty have been just as busy, training for our new writing workshop program for K - Grade 5. In conjunction, to assess students' independent and instructional reading levels, Lower School faculty trained for two days during faculty orientation week. Supporting written language fluency, the Lower School library has been more directly integrated with the classrooms supporting book selection through which students will be both challenged and engaged. This year Lower School students will receive formal instruction and practice in public speaking skills as part of a focused approach toward cultivating communication and collaboration skills, critical thinking, and creativity. Stanwich language teachers are actively engaged in professional development activities, and our revised schedule this year has allowed a significant increase in class time dedicated to foreign language. Formal class time for technology, beginning now in Grade 3, focuses upon computer use for schoolwork.  Drawing content from math, art, science, and English, students will complete several technology projects to reinforce skills in typing, basic design, navigating programs, and navigating the internet.  All Lower School students will be enrolled in the Khan Academy and assigned a Google account. In addition to the revised responsibilities communicated last month for Lead Teachers, this year Ilana Grady will oversee the second year of our new faculty evaluation process and the review and reconsideration of Stanwich's K - Grade 12 curriculum sequence.
 
Stanwich Service Learning activities integrate with our Values Curriculum and encourage active student involvement, rather than just charity. Although a vast array of worthy service learning projects exist, Stanwich focuses on a limited number to maximize our institutional impact and to reinforce the personal connection between our individual students and the service activity.  Supporting the creation and operation of the Blessing School in rural Cybantanzi, Rwanda, Project Blessing has, for the past eight years, provided Stanwich's primary service learning focus and develops so many of the Stanwich core values-particularly commitment. Each summer, led by Shaun Fletcher, Upper School students, faculty, and alumni travel to Rwanda to work with the community on the school project. This past summer some of the group, which included over thirty, spent a month of their summer vacation giving eye exams, painting classrooms, working (and playing) with students and their teachers, and creating a small soccer pitch from the school's hillside. I had the opportunity to join them for a couple of weeks and was extremely impressed by their contribution, their genuine dedication, and the village's appreciation for our efforts. The extended experience challenges every students' perception of the world and makes them think critically. It challenges every student's physical stamina and every student's spirit through the confrontation of entrenched poverty and the struggles to break that cycle. Lower level Stanwich students may support Project Blessing in a variety of ways, such as collecting gently used shoes and backpacks and raising money to help underwrite Stanwich's commitment through the Fall Family Festival coming up quickly on Friday, September 23, and the winter Fashion Show this year in January. Please help support Project Blessing by joining us for the Fall Festival.
 
A bee sting last week created a great concern as a student's health information necessary for appropriate treatment was not on file. Again, parents should complete this process through the MyBackpack link on the school website immediately.  
 
Stanwich prides itself on being a happy, productive and positive school community in which individual differences and contributions are valued. Parents are a key element in creating such a learning and working environment that research attests allow teachers to do their best work and students to achieve most successfully. To ensure that affirmative dynamic context, we encourage parents to communicate concerns proactively and to support teacher efforts. Stanwich teachers and administrators do our best to anticipate your concerns and communicate in advance; however, surprises always arise at the beginning of the school year. With your positive engagement and communication, as a small school we can address the circumstance promptly. My door is usually open and, if not, we can quickly find a mutually convenient time.
 
Sincerely,
Charles Sachs
Head of School