Monday, April 23, 2012

From the Head of School
Friday morning, I met with parents to talk about what we know, what we are thinking about, and what is yet to be decided about next year at Seabury. As we prepare to end this year and begin to think about the possibilities for next year, parents inevitably have questions because they want the best school experience possible for their children. That is the highest priority for our faculty and staff as well, and it is paramount in our minds as we plan for the coming year.

For those of you who weren’t able to join us Friday morning, I wanted to provide you with a short summary of our discussion as well as a few “extras” that I meant to mention at the meeting:

· We are in the midst of admissions season, both for returning students and for students who are applying to Seabury. The good news is that early indications show that our retention rate will be high and that we have a lot of good candidates among our prospective students. A first round of contracts was issued to returning students in March. A second round of contracts is being issued now for students whose families have applied for financial aid, students entering kindergarten who are in the process of testing, and students new to Seabury. Once those contracts are in, we will have a better idea of what initial enrollment trends look like for next year and can begin the process of contracting with teachers and making program decisions.

· One of the challenges for us at this time of year is that as much as parents are dying to know whose class their child will be in next year, and as much as teachers are dying to know what grade(s) and students they will be teaching, we cannot issue contracts to teachers or begin to form classes until we know who is returning next year. The teachers and I are beginning meetings to talk about what their preferences are for teaching assignments, but contracts will not be issued to teachers until we have more student contracts in and firmer numbers for classes.

· Our teachers work closely together to build Seabury’s curriculum, not only for their own classroom, but for the school as a whole. What that means for parents is that regardless of the classroom or the teacher, your child will be in a Seabury program next year that was designed with his or her individual needs in mind and is put together carefully to be sure the knowledge, skills and experiences s/he will need to grow academically, socially and emotionally are provided. Whether your child is in a single or multiage classroom, is with his or her friends or with students that are yet to become friends, with students younger or older, our teachers work together to ensure your student will get what he or she needs. All our teachers are consummate professionals, exceptional educators, and love their students. So you can be assured that whatever classroom your child is in, he or she will be in good hands.

· We expect that multiage classrooms are a possibility next year at the lower school, just is the norm at the middle school. They have been part of the program at Seabury through its history - in fact, for Seabury’s first 15 years, the program was built entirely around multiage classrooms. Seabury uses multiage classes, as opposed to traditional “split classes” because our students are, by virtue of being gifted, out of sync with their typically developing peers. That means that our students are many ages at the same time when you consider their academic, social, emotional and physical development. One advantage of multiage classes is that they give us the opportunity to find peers for each of our students in as many of those areas as possible. The decision regarding whether there will be multiage classrooms at the lower school next year and, if so, in which grade levels, will be made in part based on numbers enrolled, but also based on how best to group students in appropriate learning environments.

· In determining whether to form single grade or multiage classes, as well as placing students in the classrooms we form, the teachers and I work together and take a number of factors into account. These include balancing genders, learning styles, maturity, academic styles, interests, strengths, and personalities. Our goal is to place each student in a classroom that will allow him or her to shine – to connect with others who share interests and can be academic and intellectual peers.

· The middle school will continue to operate with its multiage format in which students work as a whole group with individualized expectations at times and in groups based on academic needs (such as in math groups) at other times. We anticipate between 22 and 25 students at the middle school next year, including students coming from the lower school and a number of students who will be new to Seabury. If enrollment supports it, we are hoping to add staff at the middle school that would allow us to develop an after school program and offer after school study time. We are also in the process of making decisions about when we will need to add space to accommodate additional students at the middle school, something we expect to become necessary in the next year or two.

· If enrollment meets our projections, we expect we will have additional aide time at the lower school next year. Initial plans include a part or full time aide in the kindergarten classroom and at least some aide time to be shared among teachers in grades 1-5 depending on student needs and class sizes.

· We are still recruiting for all grade levels, and are especially looking for students in pre-K, grades 3 and 5 and middle school. We appreciate our parents serving as ambassadors for our school and referring families whose children might benefit from Seabury’s program so they can come see for themselves what we have to offer! If you know someone whose child is a Seabury kid, invite them to come by for a tour or a visit day. We’d love to have them join us!

As always, if you have questions, have concerns, or would like to talk about considerations for your child, don’t hesitate to contact me or your child’s teacher. While we can’t honor requests for specific teachers / classrooms, we do love to hear your feedback about the kind of environment you think would best suit your child or anything else you’d like us to consider. We are blessed to have small classes that allow us to know each of your children well, both personally and academically. And we know that we do our best for your children when we are able to work in partnership with you to meet their needs.

Let me close by saying that we are so excited about next year. We are thrilled about the number of you who have already said, “I’m in!” About the plans teachers are already making for the program, class trips, special projects and more. About the chance to work with you to make sure your children continue to thrive in an environment where they are cared about and supported. It’s going to be an amazing year – we look forward to spending it with you and your children!

- Sandi Wollum

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