April 29, 2011
Dear NMH Parents and Guardians,
In typical New England fashion, we have experienced rain, wind, snow and 70-degree temperatures all within a span of four days! As we prepare to turn the calendar to May, we look forward to more summer-like conditions and imagine a glorious, sun-soaked, outdoor commencement. Now that we are beyond the long spring weekend, the days will pass quickly and seniors will often be overheard lamenting the last of this and the last of that. If you are a parent of a senior or PG, you will soon receive another letter from me outlining the year’s final details and articulating our expectations of seniors for the final three weeks.
While I hope you enjoy the monthly news and information you receive electronically through the Parent Update, I appreciate the opportunity to share more about what is happening on campus related specifically to student life.
I begin with this topic because I suspect some of you have heard from your child about the disciplinary events on campus in the last several weeks. Indeed, several students have gone through the disciplinary process this spring but, overall, discipline this year has been consistent with recent years. As I shared with you in my fall letter, a few students faced dismissal early in the year as a result of impinging on the rights of others to feel safe in their environment.
The most recent cases were violations of NMH’s drug and alcohol policy. We acknowledge that some adolescents will experiment with substance use; what was most troubling about these particular cases was that Student Leaders were engaging in this behavior as well. Seven students were disciplined in Overtoun, four of whom were Student Leaders. In a separate case earlier this year, three other SLs were disciplined for their involvement with drugs and alcohol. This has led us to question the viability of the Student Leadership program and, indeed, this program will undergo thoughtful review at the conclusion of this year. I also have offered students the opportunity to talk with me and with one another about recent campus events in an “open forum.” These discussions have been well-attended by students who are eager to share their frustrations, to ask good questions, and to think creatively about positive solutions.
As a result of the discipline trends we observed early in the year, particularly related to boys, we hired Joe Ehrmann to spend a day working with NMH faculty and an additional afternoon working with male students. Ehrmann’s workshop with the faculty was powerful and inspirational and left us with many ideas and tools to understand and work with our boys in different ways. The following day, he met with the boys and challenged them to rethink the myths of masculinity. The girls, meanwhile, met with author and sex educator Amber Madison. Amber addressed a range of issues related to body image and making empowered choices related to sexuality. She even took on NMH’s new dress policy in a way that both validated the girls’ concerns and affirmed the school’s standards. It was brilliant!
Health and Wellness
The Independent School Health Check survey originally scheduled for February was snowed out; we, therefore, administered the health survey on April 20. Beth Buyea, director of health services, will review the results and share her reactions and reflections with Head of School Tom Sturtevant.
James Greenwood organized the third and final Diversity Summit of the year, combining many voices and issues in a weekend of events. On Friday, April 15, the Gay Straight Alliance led those who wished to participate in the National Day of Silence. On Saturday, April 16, the Circle of Sisters sponsored the annual Gala, with several faculty of color sharing their experiences in the boarding school world. Saturday night was a benefit concert for Japan, featuring student performers and slam poet, activist, and artist Queen GodIs. Queen led a powerful performance, with impromptu participation by the Nellies and Hogapella. Finally, on Sunday, April 17, Queen led a more intimate discussion about change, leadership and diversity. Workshops with Queen, the GSA, and the Student Diversity Committee followed. As always, the students who attended these events left feeling empowered and energized to “be the change they hope to see in the world.”
In light of the events with several of this year’s Student Leaders, we changed our conversations with the juniors who were selected to serve in this capacity next year. We sent them home for spring break with a copy of Robert Coles’s Lives of Moral Leadership and asked them to submit a written reflection about what moral leadership looks like at NMH. We also wrote to their parents to ask that they speak with their child about the position and about what would be asked of them as a Student Leader. In our first training session, they engaged in a goal-setting exercise in which they were required to examine the purpose of the SL program at NMH. They had to articulate what it would take to earn and sustain the respect of the community. We have much work to do in this area but we feel we are off to a strong start with this new group of leaders.
Despite the heavy air that we seem to be breathing in the wake of recent discipline cases, amazing students continue to do amazing things on campus. Our spring athletic teams are thriving, a benefit concert for Japan showcased the new NMH Pianists group as well as several singing groups, everyone pitched in to help out on a wet but spirited Service Day, and the seniors had a blast together during their Senior Night program held down the road at Bella Notte Ristorante.
As we round the corner into the final stretch of the school year, I want to call your attention to some important dates and logistical details.
May 1: Sacred Concert
May 13: Senior Suspension begins
May 15: Room Draw
May 21: The Chat
May 23: Senior Day and The Adventure Challenge
May 24: Superclean
May 25: Final All-School Meeting and Moving Up Assembly
May 25-27: Exam Days
May 27: Baccalaureate
May 28: Class Day
May 29: Commencement
Just as we prepare for the departure of our seniors, we also look ahead to end-of-year “housekeeping” details for our returning students. Enclosed you’ll find information for returning students about storing items over the summer. As you know, we do not store student belongings on campus. There are several storage facilities in the area (listed below); we also bring a UPS store to campus for students who wish to mail their belongings home. I’ve enclosed a flyer that describes their services, which include packing and shipping to any location in the world.
Also enclosed is some information about the purchase of commencement flowers. This is an important fundraiser for the rising senior class, as well as a great opportunity to send good wishes to the graduates and warm thanks to the faculty who have worked hard to care for your child throughout the year.
I look forward to an exciting and wonderful end to this school year and, as always, I welcome your calls and emails should you have any thoughts or concerns.
All the best,
Dean of Students
The companies listed below will pick up and store items for the summer:
Bolster Crofter Moving and Storage (Brattleboro, VT) 800-736-1588
Greenfield Furniture & Storage (Greenfield, MA) 413-773-5343
Yankee Self Storage & Moving (Greenfield, MA) 413-774-2331