Read our Head of School's summer 2017 State of the School, learn about what Stevens has achieved this past year and new projects currently being worked on.
Dear Stevens Families,
This summer has been filled with the enthusiasm of campers playing sports, engaging in the arts, robotics, sailing, and swimming, attending fantastic day trips, and more. Throughout the summer, our leadership team has been evaluating this past year, reviewing curriculum, practices, and procedures, and is now in final planning mode for a wonderful 2017-2018 school year!
As we head into the coming school year, I must admit to being thrilled to report that the vision of a fully enrolled two-campus school has been achieved! After the decision was made 12 years ago to open the Newport campus, we will for the first time have a fully enrolled, two campus school with over 440 students! Every class throughout both campuses is now filled with amazing students; something that all schools endeavor to achieve each year, let alone after making a decision to expand enrollment.
With a thriving school that is now at full capacity, we will continue to focus on building on all of our bright spots while closely evaluating, assessing, and looking for ways to continue to improve and enhance the student experience. There is nothing more important! Below are additional details that highlight the many goals we have as we look forward into the next school year.
Shifting an academic team member role: Since the academic team was re-structured four years ago to the current model of having a principal (Josh Marks) and early childhood director (Cara Natale) in Hoboken and a principal (Shehla Ghouse) and assistant principal (Rhiannon McElwee) in Newport, I continue to collaboratively assess their roles and how they meet the needs of our school. In conjunction with feedback and insight from the academic team, we are excited to announce that beginning July 1st this summer, we have shifted Rhiannon McElwee's role to be cross-campus. Rhiannon's new role will be called Director of Student Services and Equity and she will be responsible for managing the policies, procedures, budgets, and overall evolution of the activities, programs and concerns related to:
●equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives
●community service learning
●staff professional development
●day and overnight trips coordination and planning
●high school placement administrative support
The Director of Student Services and Equity will continue to serve on the academic and leadership teams of the school but will now be the first cross-campus academic team member who will help connect the campuses through common work initiatives already under way. Rhiannon will be on maternity leave from September through December and we look forward to fully welcoming her into this new role when she returns!
Athletics: This coming year as we continue to evaluate and build on the Spartan Vision of a robust athletics program, we will be modifying our basketball program to better meet student needs. While 5th-8th graders will continue to participate in the Hoboken Recreation League as they have, 4th grade will now have their own intramural basketball season in the Fall season with scrimmage games against select other schools. 3rd grade will have the same intramural basketball program as 4th grade but it will take place in the Spring Season. This will allow us to utilize more of our staff as coaches, to lower the number of players on each team, and provide more dedicated practices. More information is being sent out by our Athletic Director Dan Weber. We are confident that this change will help enable students to meet our developmental goals of skill development in a smaller group setting, enhanced practice schedules, and increasing levels of competitive play in the older grades.
New Stevens Diversity Statement: This past Spring a Diversity Statement Task Force comprising 14 Stevens constituents from alumni to students, teachers, parents and board members worked together to create our school's first diversity statement. Our diversity statement connects closely to our mission statement and demonstrates our commitment to providing a safe, inclusive school experience for all of our amazing students. We look forward to sharing the new statement shortly in a dedicated email that provides a more robust understanding of its aspirations and intentions.
AIM Survey: As next steps in our equity, diversity and inclusion work, the parent/staff culture and climate equity subcommittee worked this past year toward assessing how to best implement a thorough survey that would help provide us with a deep understanding of the culture and climate of our school. The committee has chosen the most commonly used survey by independent schools nationally, known as the The Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) Survey, which we will administer to various constituents throughout the school in the 2nd part of the school year. The AIM Survey provides schools with a detailed understanding of the climate of inclusion on their campuses - from current and past students to teachers, administrators, and trustees. The survey product helps schools benchmark their school climate and advance other strategic equity goals. Data collected will provide feedback about the following areas:
●Progress in meeting diversity, equity, and inclusion goals
●Success in existing diversity and multicultural programs and initiatives
●Our school's current level of inclusivity as perceived by multiple constituencies
●Areas of need, whether in curriculum, infrastructure, governance, or services
●Engagement processes that illuminate patterns, multiple perspectives, and opportunities for improvement
More information about the AIM Survey will be provided once the school year begins.
Gender Neutral Student Bathroom Addition at Newport and Garden Street: In an effort to continue to be inclusive to all of our students' backgrounds, we are excited to have finalized a plan to add a gender-neutral student bathroom at Newport and Garden Street for the 2017-18 school year. Stevens is working in conjunction with many school initiatives that aim to provide students who were born as one biological sex and identify as another sex to have a comfortable option for bathroom use that reflects their gender identity. Currently our boys and girls bathrooms in these two buildings will remain as is. We will be converting 2 current adult-only bathrooms to student bathrooms as follows:
●Garden Street: We will convert 1 of the 2 current, single stall adult-only bathrooms (the one located behind the receptionist desk) to a children's bathroom. It will be designated as a "student bathroom" and is already outfitted with a child-size toilet and sink so it works perfectly for 1st-8th graders.
●Newport: We will convert 1 of the 3 current, single stall adult bathrooms (the one in the middle of the floor and closest to the faculty room kitchen) to a student bathroom. It will also be designated as a "student bathroom" so that any child may use that individual bathroom. Since Kindergarten and 1st grade students have bathrooms in their classrooms, this bathroom will be for any 2nd-8th graders who choose to use it.
Camp Mason 6th grade overnight addition: Our capacity plan for aligning overnight trips in 3rd/8th grade will be complete this year with the addition of a new overnight trip - Camp Mason in 6th grade! This trip, resembling Stokes but at a more sophisticated level, will provide a team building opportunity at this grade level. Camp Mason is about 2 hours from Hoboken/Jersey City and works with many independent schools. Students will now have increasing opportunities for extended learning outside of the classroom's 4 walls. Next year our 3rd-8th grade overnight trips will be as follows:
●3rd/4th grade: Fairview Lake (Fall trip)
●5th grade: Stokes Conservation Center (Fall trip)
●6th grade: Camp Mason (Fall trip) and Boston (Spring trip)
●7th grade: Ashokan Farm (Fall trip) and Philadelphia (Spring trip)
●8th grade: Washington DC (Fall trip) and Mexico (Spring trip)
Professional Development: This coming year our faculty will be focused on building their expertise in a number of differentiated areas that meet their individual next steps for growth. In addition and as a whole school, staff will be engaged in common professional development around topics of technology integration, bullying prevention, facility safety training, and equity/diversity topics. We are excited to provide a rich professional development program that both meets the individual needs and growth areas of faculty while also including in-house professional development that allows our entire staff to work together toward common goals that align and enhance their practices and instructional thinking.
Facilities Updates: Each of our buildings are undergoing deep cleaning, needed enhancements, and preparation for the year. Some specific projects at Garden Street included soundproofing our music room and adding security cameras on the 3rd floor. At Newport we have replaced the Newport fencing in specific areas, have purchased high frequency walkie talkies that match those we have in Hoboken, and our facility staff are also finalizing our new buzzer system for the 2nd set of Newport lobby doors.
1st Grade at Garden Street: Due to our extremely high student retention in Hoboken's incoming 1st grade, we will have two classes of 1st grade at Garden Street that will more closely mirror the 1st grade class sizes at Newport. Thank you to Josh Marks, who has worked hard to assure that the scheduling, class assignments, and overall transition for the coming year will make for a smooth transition and exciting student experience.
Staff Summer Book Reads: Each summer our staff choose one of three books to read at their leisure, which are then discussed at opening meetings and threaded into the work we do. This summer the reading selections related to varying aspects of diversity:
●Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates ~ Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis around the idea of "race" as a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men over time.
●Let's Get Real: Exploring Race, Class, and Gender Identities in the Classroom by Martha Caldwell ~ This book is a teacher or administrator resource to help students tackle issues of race, class, gender, religion, and cultural background. The authors, both lifelong educators, offer a series of teaching strategies designed to encourage conversation and personal reflection, enabling students to think creatively, rather than stereotypically, about difference.
●George by Alex Gino ~ Considered a middle school aged children's book, George tells the story of a transgender child named George who is biologically a boy but identifies as a girl. The story explores how this child navigates relationships, manages school life and roles, and ultimately finds the courage of letting everyone know who she is.
Singapore Math Evaluation: Teachers and the academic team have concluded that our first year rolling our Singapore math in Kindergarten thru 8th grade was a success! In addition to professional development for faculty and staff, we offered workshops for parents and a transition plan for students to become familiar with the teaching methodology. In our 2nd year, we are focusing on continuing to support our teachers with individualized professional development and reviewing the various ways that we assess student learning through the program.
Annual Fund: This past year served to once again re-affirm that our families are integral to the life of the school in so many ways. As Stevens parents, you are not only a partner in your child's education, but also a stakeholder in the School. It is because of you the education our students' experience is unlike any other. Through your generosity, the Annual Fund raised nearly $217,000 with 82% parent participation. We are very grateful to all of our donors, especially to those who gave at the leadership donor level. A special thanks to our Board, Faculty, and Staff who once again achieved 100% participation. I also want to thank those who raised their paddles high in support of the Head of School Innovation Fund. Your gifts of nearly $30,000 ensure that our faculty will have the latest wireless presentation system to collaborate with each other and students in giving interactive presentations that will take our curriculum to the next level. Lastly, I look forward to working with our parents, Board of Trustees, and our Advancement Team in finding additional ways to keep you informed about your investment in Stevens, showing the long-term impact you are having, and constantly letting you know how grateful we are for your support.
Building Inclusive Community Resources Website: Last year and as part of the school's professional development program, a $10,000 grant was awarded to a team of teachers that was named "Building Inclusive Community through Religious and Cultural Education," which will be implemented this year. Faculty members have compiled an online databank of rich resources that have been created by our community of families and students. This databank can be used to identify opportunities to recognize and celebrate various religions and cultures amongst our diverse student body and as a resource to enrich our curriculum. This website will be made available to our families and the broader community in the coming weeks and we are excited to introduce this unique and exciting tool!
As you can see, there is a lot happening at Stevens and still much to do as we continue to strive to enhance our program and offer the best possible school experience to our students. I cannot wait to open our doors in September for our 68th year. I wish you a wonderful remainder of the summer and look forward to welcoming you back in just a few weeks!
Sergio Alati, Ed.D
Head of School