At the upper school, we now have three fully integrated academic divisions: STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), Humanities and World Languages & Global Studies. This move will open the door to more opportunities for interdisciplinary study, educational innovation and creativity, all of which are increasingly vital components of a 21st century curriculum. I am pleased to share that science faculty member Doug Heller ’80; Jen Nero, the former chair of the History and Social Sciences Department; and returning languages teacher James Monk, who served as RE’s World Languages Department Chair from 2005-07, will head these integrated departments. Coordinators for individual subject areas will ensure that students receive foundational instruction in the primary academic disciplines while also gaining increased opportunities for multi-disciplinary engagement.
We have created two new deanships and an administrative post for the 2019-20 school year – the former to support curricular innovation and integration, and the latter an outgrowth of our commitment to the health and welfare of our students. Faculty members Greg Cooper and Doreen Johnson are taking on new Deans of Studies positions at the upper school and middle school, respectively. They will help coordinate the academic programs on both campuses and support and assist students in navigating the myriad opportunities available to them. Pete DiPace, the Middle School Dean of Students, assumes the new position of Assistant Head of the Middle School for Student Life. He will attend to the emotional and social needs of RE’s middle schoolers, and help expand programming that addresses students’ wellbeing and maintains a positive school culture.
As we announced last spring, we are introducing a new schedule at the middle school designed to reflect a contemporary approach to pedagogy, utilizing longer class blocks, more community time and varying daily routines to facilitate engagement and collaborative, skills-oriented learning. We worked with a team of educational consultants to reorganize and enhance the schedule, bringing it more in line with our upper school approach – with thoughtful differentiation to accommodate the age difference. We expect this change to allow for deeper learning in our middle school classrooms, while also offering this welcome – and not insignificant – benefit: lightening the loads in students’ backpacks.
Students learn best when they feel a sense of belonging and connection. They also benefit from a community rich in a variety of viewpoints, backgrounds and personal stories. To help us continue to broaden our reach and ensure that every student feels supported and included, our board has invested for the past two years in a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative – which has also been advanced by a faculty task force and RE’s Student Diversity Council. This summer, we took an additional step, creating the position of Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement. I am delighted to welcome Carla Hill to that important post. An accomplished outreach manager, Mrs. Hill has served in the non-profit, arts and television worlds, and been an active volunteer with the Susan G. Komen foundation. Working closely with Director of Admission Amy Sayfie Zichella '93 in our admission office, she will be a tremendous addition to our community.
Our students’ physical, emotional and social wellbeing are as important as their academic preparation. Our new health center on our upper school campus offers students a quiet retreat when they are ill or in need of support. Our graduating Class of 2019 recognized the importance of peaceful spaces and dedicated its senior class gift to the creation of a Wellness Garden adjacent to the center; construction of this space will be completed in tandem with the new parking lot on La Brisa. We also will continue developing our health and wellness curriculum that addresses substance use, good nutrition, social media and other issues related to adolescence. We are determined to arm our students with the information – and peer and faculty support – that positions them to make safe and healthy choices.
We are excited to offer our eighth- through 11th-grade classes access to a new program known as High Resolves, which will provide a vast set of resources to help our students recognize their place and responsibility in a global society. Its curriculum teaches students to look beyond themselves and understand how individuals shape society as a whole – moving past simple good deeds to develop skills to participate in the process of societal change. Ransom Everglades is one of a select few schools in the United States – and the only one in Florida – invited to participate in this highly regarded international program.
We are also pleased to welcome to the upper school our rising ninth graders, who represent the inaugural cohort of language learners that has completed our signature middle school language curriculum. More than 30 eighth-grade students took the AP Spanish Language exam last spring and achieved scores that were consistent with the outstanding results of our upper school test takers. Helping to lead our students through their continued language journey will be Dr. Monk, who spent 12 years working on curriculum and assessment at the College Board, International Baccalaureate and American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, before rejoining Ransom Everglades this year.
It’s also a privilege to welcome new Head of the Upper School Patricia Sasser and Chief Financial Officer Rick Bernasco to our senior leadership team, along with Julie Rosenfeld, who joined the team last spring as Acting Director of Advancement. We also strengthened our college counseling office with the addition of two new college counselors, Daniel Creasy and Aleny Garcia. Mr. Creasy, a Brown University graduate, arrived from Hamilton College where he served as Associate Dean of Admission and Director of Admission Communication. Ms. Garcia previously served as Director of Guidance and Counseling at Cardinal Gibbons High, where she created innovative programs for parents and students and guided families through the complicated financial aid process.
We have added a number of other outstanding faculty members; I look forward to introducing them and sharing their bios in the first Dell + Cannon.
It is impossible to capture in one letter all that my colleagues are doing every day to benefit the wonderful students entrusted to us. During the coming weeks you will hear more from us about the opening of school. I hope you are excited as I am about the coming year, and we look forward to welcoming the students back on August 19. Together, we are going to have a great year!