August 22, 2011
Dear Hathaway Brown Families,
The calendar tells us we’re smack in the middle of what are typically supposed to be the strength-sapping, dog days of August, but here on campus and around town, the reverse seems to be true. Our resilient, upstart Indians, in spite of their misadventure in Motown last weekend, are still in the playoff hunt. The Browns, after a decade of searching, may have at last found a quarterback who is the real McCoy. And our loveable but glitz-averse city has suddenly morphed into Hollywood on the Lake and the stomping ground of “The Avengers,” though I’m still more than a little miffed about not getting a callback as an extra.
But that all pales in comparison to what’s going to be happening on August 25, when we premiere a fresh new episode of the long-running (136 years and counting) life-changing, girl-transforming educational production that is Hathaway Brown, with your daughters (and Early Childhood sons) in the starring roles. We are excited to welcome our whole cast of characters back, and I am delighted to extend an especially warm welcome to the 131 new students who have answered the summons to join the few, the proud, the Blazers. They and their families hail from all points of the compass in Northeast Ohio, from 8 different states in the U.S., New York to California, and from as far away as Spain and Uganda. All indications are that with such a talented student body, so many dedicated and imaginative teachers, and the great support we receive from HB parents, we are going to have another blockbuster of a school year. But before we part the curtains I’d like to catch you up on some school news, preview a few of our points of focus in the year ahead, and introduce you to new members of our faculty.
Outstanding New Faculty and Staff
HB’s stature as a national and even international leader in girls’ education is driven by its people, and we have attracted a remarkably talented new cohort of educators whom I’ve been bragging about all over the place. This diverse, savvy, and energized group includes four HB alumnae; academic leaders locally and from out of state; and others who are in their second and third incarnations as contributors here. I am very much looking forward to the impact they’ll make on life and learning at our School. Click here for brief bios that will help you get to know them.
As you know, HB is restlessly innovative, always on the lookout for ways to make things new and better. The impetus for that flows from our motto, “We learn not for school but for life,” and our solemn commitment to helping each girl thrive at HB, in her college years, and in the world she will inherit. There are many ways in which we strive to prepare the girls to grow up into successful 21st century women, ready to engage the challenges and opportunities. And, to do that, we first have to know what is out there in the landscape of the future. While, as Yogi Berra said, “Making predictions is hard, especially about the future,” it is pretty clear that three trends among others are only going to intensify: the hyperconnectivity of globalization; the infusion of technology into everything we do; and the need to manage change by shaping a sustainable future for all. I wanted to describe some of our plans this year for addressing these three key drivers which will, in age appropriate ways, extend from the Early Childhood program to the Upper School.
At Home in the Global Village
A few weeks back I was reading an article in The New York Times travel section about the 12th century, north German city of Lubeck when the author, cataloguing the architectural splendors of St. Mary’s Cathedral there, all of a sudden gave a shout out to a chorus of American teenagers who were performing as he roamed through the church. You guessed it – those happened to be HB girls, singing at one of the stops on their musical tour of Germany last spring break. It was fun to read about our girls in a national publication, but at some level I actually wasn’t surprised. It seemed only natural to me that a Times correspondent would run into a delegation of our girls, whether in Lubeck, or Istanbul, or Machu Picchu, and write about how impressed he was by them, because their footprints are all over the world these days thanks to our Center for Global Citizenship (CGC). Since its founding in 2006, the Center, directed by Joe Vogel, has put international learning where it needs to be – right at the heart of an HB education. This summer alone, the CGC organized HB trips to Peru, Turkey, Japan and Australia, in addition to the excursions we ran last school year to India, Germany, France, and El Salvador. (Calling these ventures “trips” doesn’t do them justice – though they are hands-on, intellectually challenging experiences that enable the girls to plunge into the real world with its myriad problems and promises.) On tap for this coming year: India, Hong Kong, the Dominican Republic, Cambodia, and Panama, among others. When we developed plans for the CGC years ago, one of our dreams was that we could put international travel (as a core component of a 21st century education) within reach of every girl during her time at HB, and we’re getting close: more than 80% of this year’s seniors will have gone global on an HB-designed trip before graduation.
The CGC is part of HB’s breakthrough learning architecture called the Institute for 21st Century Education, and it serves as headquarters for many global initiatives. One of the CGC’s features is a diploma program which, in effect, gives the girls an opportunity to “major” in global studies by completing a senior research thesis on a big international idea or problem, and defending it before a faculty committee. (Sixty members of the Class of 2012 are in the process of doing just that.) The range and quality of the CGC’s activities have won it wide recognition as one of the country’s best international programs, and we are the only Ohio school chosen for membership in the Benchmark Group, a think-tank for defining best-practices in international education, which will hold its annual meeting at HB this fall. Even more importantly, HB students just couldn’t be more enthusiastic about our global ventures. One of the exciting outcomes of elevating the sights of the girls beyond the comforts and confines of Cleveland and the U.S. is that more and more of them are deciding to explore the international field in more depth by enrolling in colleges and universities which also have excellent global programs – such as Yale, Georgetown, Tufts, and Johns Hopkins.
The Technology Initiative @ HB
A second game-changer in society and schools today is the spread of technology in more sophisticated and pervasive forms day by day. We know that the world is technology rich, though we are mindful that we are not always made richer by it. The rate of change is stunning, and wading through the promises and potential pitfalls of the technological revolution requires a steady hand and a clear mission. Fortunately, we have both. Using a careful and mission-based approach which involved several years of research and study by our faculty, we’ve designed a comprehensive and forward-thinking one-to-one technology initiative that will enhance the learning experience of each student while also preserving the best of the classic models that have transformed the lives of Hathaway Brown girls for more than 100 years. Our philosophy is clear: we don’t chase the latest technological fad; instead, we choose the tools that can inspire curiosity, promote collaboration, and train students in gathering and managing information. Our teachers have designed educational experiences that will open the classroom, teach students how to use technology efficiently and ethically, and also help them understand when it’s best to power off.
So this fall, we are thrilled to embark on a new technology plan which will put us in the vanguard among independent schools, and we are so grateful to the Hathaway Brown Parents’ Association for the support, both intellectual and financial, which has helped make this bold venture happen. The implementation begins this fall for kindergarten through fifth grade, and this winter for seventh, ninth, and tenth grades. As we move forward, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. We want to partner with parents as we work to prepare HB girls for the technology revolution, and we’re committed to parent education both in how to use the devices and in how the School will integrate their use into the curriculum. We feel a great sense of adventure as we take this momentous step, which will be an important part of the HB experience this year and for years to come.
Sustainability Through Strength
The third big 21st century idea we will be exploring in depth this year is sustainability, a concept and long-term goal that has moved over the past several years from sideline to centerpiece for nations, cities, businesses, and schools around the world. While HB has been active on various sustainability fronts, we have yet to pull together a sustainability vision that would include a facilities and operations plan, programming to inform the girls about the significance of sustainability as a mindset and call to action, and a platform here at HB that will enable us to engage more effectively with the larger community around sustainability themes.
To help us map out a blueprint for HB over the next several years, one that encompasses not only the environment but the prudent use of all meaningful human resources, we have appointed Torrey McMillan as director of our Center for Sustainability. A Princeton graduate with an M.S. in resource policy from the University of Michigan, she is a leading sustainability educator and, best of all, one of our own – a member of the HB Class of 1990, and the founder of the Lorax environmental club which is still an active part of school life today. She defines sustainability this way: “This big idea of sustainability is about working towards building systems that enhance human well being, maintain environmental integrity, and cultivate economic security and social justice for all. It is about creating a more positive future in the short and long-term.”
To help us jumpstart this vital effort, we will be using this year’s Innovation Summit, November 4-5, 2011, to gather some of the best thinkers on sustainability as an intellectual construct and guide to decision-making in the lives of people and organizations. Entitled “Sustainability Through Strength,” this year’s Summit, which builds on the rousing success of our debut 2010 Summit, will involve some 100 independent school leaders from around the country as well as local and national experts on sustainability as an operational goal and curricular component. Summit participants, including Hathaway Brown, will employ the powerful Appreciative Inquiry (AI) method of envisioning and creating positive change for the future. Pioneered at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, AI helps practitioners seize a desired future by capitalizing on existing strengths and institutional assets, and has been used successfully by many organizations around the world, including colleges, school districts, corporations and even the U.S. Navy and the United Nations. Appreciative Inquiry co-founder and Weatherhead professor Ron Fry will manage the process so that attendees emerge with a plan to help propel their schools forward in their chosen sustainability directions. HB has been a leader in so many educational ventures, and we are eager to develop an “HB Way” of looking at sustainability, and also to gain experience in the AI technique which appears to have useful applications in other aspects of daily school life and strategic growth. “Sustainability Through Strength” will be our school-wide theme for the year as well.
In Other News
Schooling, like parenting, involves the delicate rhythm of holding close and letting go. As we prepare to embark on a most promising new school year, my thoughts return to the Class of 2011, now on its way to enhancing some of the nation’s finest colleges and universities. The class was historic in nature, the largest ever to graduate from HB, and its talents were legion too. Nine of the girls were National Merit Finalists, more than any other independent school in Cleveland. (And, not that we’re counting, HB has produced more National Merit Finalists over the past three years than any other pre-K-12 grade girls’ day school in the United States.) The Class of 2011 also contained five finalists in the National Achievement Program for African American Students, more than any (public or private) high school, in the state of Ohio. Twenty girls earned Strnad Fellowships in Creativity; graduated 37 as Global Scholars; 10 authored or co-authored scientific publications prior to graduation; and, among many other distinctions, the class forged a partnership with Stand Up for Children, an organization founded on improving the lives of homeless children in Greater Cleveland, raising a school record $30,000 to empower those efforts. They were pretty good athletes, too, winning eight state championships in five different sports during high school. We also grew very accustomed to their faces over the years; more than a quarter were lifers, beginning their HB journeys padding around the premises of our Early Childhood program.
Even as we celebrate last year’s seniors, we are blessed to have in the Class of 2012 another extraordinary group of young leaders who are raring to not only pick up the torch, but to boldly advance it. We are excited about the unique contributions they will make, and the lasting legacy their own HB journeys will undoubtedly create.
In other summer highlights, fourth grade teacher Mary Boutton traveled to Sweden on a Harriet Mullin Barry ’32 Faculty Travel Fellowship which enabled her to continue the Storyline collaborations that her students began with a Swedish school last year. Mary’s Swedish counterpart will be visiting HB in turn this fall to work with our girls . . . Four HB students were the only high school students in the world to be invited to present their research at the 10th Annual International Space Conference on Protection of Materials for Space Travel held in Okinawa, Japan, in June. All other presenters were professional scientists from their nation’s space agencies. The girls were accompanied by the NASA Glenn scientists who are their mentors, and by Patricia K. Hunt, director of our renowned Science Research and Engineering Program . . . New elements of Adventure Learning equipment are being installed as I write on the Courtland Woods which will help propel Middle Schoolers to new heights of confidence and self-discovery . . . The drama department will be taking on an ambitious theatrical adventure, performing a major Shakespeare tragedy in an all-girl production. I won’t name its title, since theatrical lore holds that its very mentioning could spawn a curse, but it involves a medieval Scottish warrior with a super-empowered wife. The American Shakespeare Company will be in residence this fall to lend their expertise to the production . . . After receiving funding through an Innovation Derby grant, Primary School faculty are learning how to use yoga in the classroom to promote relaxation and reflection . . . Prime Director Kathy Zopatti is starting up a new venture in student government in the Prime, and will be teaching a course in financial literacy in the third and fourth grade Choice program . . . and our Early Learning Center, Nammy’s Place, has been remodeled this summer and is rolling out (maybe literally!) some exciting new programming for our youngest Blazers . . . And I do hope you will join us at the following special events which will help us mark the start of school with festivity and fellowship. On September 16, the Parents’ Association is hosting HB’s Homecoming and All School Family Picnic, a great way to connect with our school community. And on Saturday, October 15, we’re going to power up HB Rocks, a benefit for our fabulous faculty and staff and a not-to-be-missed party. Hope to see you at both events!
Suffice it to say that we’re pretty revved up about what the year ahead will bring. But I better let you go because you have children to get ready for the first day of school, and I’ve got work to do for my own senior English class this Thursday. But before the happy whirlwind of students blows in and the purpose of our days returns as well, it is amazing to think about all the knowledge that is poised to be gained, the fun that will be had, the friendships that will be forged, and the growth that will be achieved over the next 10 months. Please know how grateful we are to you for entrusting your daughters to us, and for all your support. Here’s to a new school year that fulfills our highest hopes.
With best wishes to you all,
Head of School