Dear EA Community:
Thank you for the worthy celebrations of achievement that we have shared over this past week. It was touching to enjoy those, even in the midst of the uncertainty all around us. These personal acknowledgements and the obvious affection members of our community have for each other were apt ways to culminate this year, one in which our community has shone through its collective good will, creativity, and commitment.
Now we turn our attention to the future, having learned so much from this experience. Elgin Academy, as it always has, will be a better place for it.
In a few weeks we will send you a copy of our plan for Reopening the Hilltop. For now, we wanted to follow up last week’s e-blast to talk a bit more about next year’s staffing and programs. The pandemic has added an element of financial challenge to the horizon; the expenses needed to ready our campus to return safely are unpredictable, and of course the wellbeing of our students and staff is of paramount concern.
We are very optimistic about our ability to deliver our fantastic and varied programs and create excellent experiences for our students at all ages. We are also excited about the work our board, administration and faculty are doing to analyze the potential of the school, using the work we have already done, our existing strategic plan, and what we have learned from this situation, to ensure that our school thrives well into the future. You can look forward to hearing more about these conversations.
We’ve made some decisions about how to apply our resources to support and create the optimum student experience. You are already aware of some of our decisions to administer our school effectively, and we would like to detail some additional modifications we are making to simultaneously steward our resources effectively and enhance the student experience.
As many of you are aware, our Lower School enrollment is smaller than we would like at this point. While our recruitment has been somewhat slowed by the pandemic, we are very optimistic by the recent activity. When enrollment is too low in one grade the challenge is to create the best experience for the students which comes from having a diversity of personalities, ideas and ways of learning. That is such an important part of the school experience. Due to our current enrollment level in first grade, we intend to have the class stand-alone for part of the day, with Ms. Collins as the teacher, and to combine them with the second graders or other lower school students during other parts of the day to ensure the best of both worlds. We anticipate only an enhancement of their experience.
As we allocate resources in this complex environment we have decided to move away from offering French in grade PS-6 as a result. We have contemplated this over a period of time as a consequence of our lower enrollment in French classes, and these factors led us to make this determination at this time. Suzy Ceci will teach Spanish classes in grades PS-6, while Heather Cannon will be teaching all French classes in grades 7-12. We have begun a comprehensive search for a new teacher who will teach Spanish in grades 7 and 8. Stephanie Metzler will teach all Spanish classes in grades 9-12, while Susie Howe will continue to teach Latin in grades 7-12. Finally, we are excited that Katie Kruse, our Director of International Studies, is expanding her role to teach our English Language Learners (ELL) class as we continue to support our international students.
We remain committed to a vibrant Fine Arts program at all grade levels. Our PS-12 Visual Arts program will be shared by Erin Van Horne and Veronica Clements. While both of them will continue to teach all visual arts in the Upper School, and Veronica will continue to lead our Videography program, they will both be taking on new roles as well. Erin, who has experience in teaching art in elementary schools, will be teaching visual arts to all of our Lower School students. Veronica, who has already been teaching videography at the Middle School level, will expand her role to teach visual arts to grades 5-8 as well. They are both ready to ensure that all students at Elgin Academy are able to expand their creative horizons while developing their visual arts skills.
We are in the midst of a search for a new Music teacher who will work with students in grades PS-6. We have had a number of strong candidates express interest in this role, and we are working with a team of faculty members to ensure that we choose the person who is best suited to growing this vibrant program. Marie Cinquemani Thomas, who will continue to teach music at grades 7-12, will collaborate with this new teacher to ensure that all of our students have access to a top-notch education in music.
Our Theater program remains the same, with Suzy Ceci teaching the initial theater class for grades 5 and 6 followed by Mary Bayer in grades 7-12. Suzy has taught the grades 5/6 theater class in the past and looks forward to returning to that role.
Following the retirement of Melinda Taylor, we have reorganized our Middle School math department so that Mariam Nasser will be teaching mathematics in grades 5-7 in addition to teaching science to grades 5 and 6. Sam O’Connor-Divelbiss will teach the 8th-grade Algebra I class in addition to teaching science in grades 7 and 8. Sam will be collaborating with Vince Thomas on the Algebra I class since Vince teaches our Upper School Algebra I course. As in past years, there are some Middle School students whose mathematics abilities go beyond our current Middle School curriculum; this is just another reason why it is such a privilege to be at a PS-12 school with a curriculum that links among and between divisions. Those students will be enrolled in Upper School classes such as Honors Geometry to ensure that they can continue learning at the appropriate level.
Finally, there are two additional Middle School positions that we have opened to wide-ranging searches: we have begun the process of hiring a new Middle School Social Studies teacher who will teach all classes in grades 5-8 while working with colleagues at the Lower and Upper Schools to ensure that we have a challenging, vertically-aligned Social Studies program at all grades. We are also hiring a new teacher who will teach Language Arts in grades 7 and 8. This person will be mentored closely by Jessica Brown, who will continue to teach all English and some Language Arts in grades 7 and 8 while assuming the new role of Dean of grades 7 and 8.
All of the new positions that we are currently hiring are listed on the Elgin Academy website in addition to other pertinent job boards. We are committed to hiring teachers who will be a wonderful fit for the Elgin Academy community such that they will bring new ideas to our campus while ensuring that our students will thrive as they did with our departing faculty members. Likewise, we are grateful to the entire Elgin Academy faculty for their dedication to giving all EA students the best educational experience. This commitment never changes, and we sincerely appreciate and recognize that our faculty members have always given all of their energy to our students.
We feel that these changes for the 2020-2021 school year will create excellent experiences for our students. You will hear from us again in a few weeks as we detail more about our plans to Reopen the Hilltop for the next school year. As we work on that plan with a dedicated team of faculty, staff and board members, we look forward to both a safe return to our campus and creating the optimum experiences for our students. This plan will be built upon the importance of relationships and the crucial role they will play, and have always played, in the Elgin Academy experience. This will never change.
Thank you, as always, for your partnership in support of our students and school.
Head of School
Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs