The second term, while the shortest, is often one in which we build on the initiatives established during the first term and this year has been no exception. I believe we have made particular progress in strengthening student and parent voice and participation in our school. I have been delighted to see how our growing Middle and High School has become more committed, involved and engaged in school improvement.
Our successful athletics record continued this winter with our Middle School basketball and curling teams. Our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams had great seasons, winning several games and doing a good job of sharing their achievements with the wider community. Their home game attendance grew this season, and it was encouraging to see – with the earnest enthusiasm of our cheerleaders! – a strengthening community support. Our High School curling team was also successful this term, coming 4th in their division in the championships just a couple of weeks ago. Throughout the season, they only lost to one team.
Beyond athletics, our students continued to take a bigger role in their own social events and in building school spirit. With annual events such as the Ski Trip in January, an ice skating social this month and semi-formal dances for the High School and Middle School, planned by the students themselves, there were many opportunities for students to make friends and create connections across year groups.
For our Middle School, participation in Nord Anglia Education’s Global Challenge, an annual competition via the Global Campus, was a fantastic opportunity to work on team-building and communication skills. Students spent a day in February working together among year groups to build a series of Rube Goldberg machines out of everyday materials including recycling brought in from home, textbooks and school furniture. The students showed some amazing creativity and problem-solving, and I enjoyed seeing the classes come together to complete this challenge.
Several annual events also worked to bring the entire community together. Earlier this month we celebrated Heritage Day, which encourages students to come in dressed in an outfit that represents their home country or culture. Parent volunteers helped out at the school throughout the day, setting up cultural booths in the gymnasium to teach younger students about their heritages and setting up classrooms with cultural activities for our older students. As always, it was an impressive day of learning for all involved. That same week, our Parent Social Committee held their annual Parent-Staff International Pot Luck. The event was well attended and filled with delicious foods from around the world. It represented a delightful way for our community to come together and get to know each other better.
While we enjoyed these traditional events, this term was one of many new initiatives, too.
One area of development was our technology and digital citizenship policy. I was pleased to see the Student Council continue to play a significant role in this work. Together with staff volunteers, the Parent-Teacher Group and other parent volunteers, members of the student council met just last week to work on the development of this policy. The Student Council also played an important role in the development of a policy limiting students’ use of mobile devices to school-related activities only, helping to determine the consequences for breaking these new rules. It has been gratifying to see our students take such responsibility over this issue and work cooperatively with both staff and parents on this very important policy.
It was also a joy to watch the development of our IT Help Team, a group of students recruited by ICT teacher Peter Napthine to help manage students’ use of wi-fi and school technology. These students have led the charge to encourage responsible use of technology among all students, and have become key points of contact for any student (and sometimes staff members!) with technology issues. This month, new students have been interviewing to join this group for the Summer Term, and I look forward to seeing how this group grows and develops.
The school is also looking forward to other developments in the Summer Term, most significantly our collaboration with Juilliard. While our music curriculum created in conjunction with Juilliard will not be officially launched until September, we look forward to sharing more details on this wonderful opportunity for our school in the coming months. Events for students and parents, to help better explain this curriculum and celebrate this new initiative are being planned for the Summer Term.
Our developments on the administrative side of our school also continue. I have especially enjoyed working with Susan Burke, our new Business Manager, who was appointed at the very end of the Fall Term. Susan has been working very hard ever since her arrival to get our business office in proper working order, and has been doing a magnificent job. We appreciate your patience over these last few months of transition, and I feel confident in saying that, as we make further progress with our administration development plan, we will all see much greater efficiency in this important area of the school by the end of the year.
It is clear to me that our school’s efforts to continue to move forward are paying off. In February, BISB was recognized in the top 20 (#18, to be exact) of the “2016 Best Private High Schools in Massachusetts,” according to the Niche ranking system.
Only 5 other Boston-based schools were ranked above us and, significantly, our school was ranked above several of Boston’s well-known and long-standing institutions. Click here to see the full list of top 100 schools.
Our Admissions Team has further proof of the growing status and recognition of our school. Our school has received 10% more applications than last year, and our conversion rate of enquiries to applications has been especially strong, with 56% of families who visited the school this year submitting an application. Decision letters went out March 10, with enrollment agreements from newly accepted students due back April 11. We look forward to sharing more admissions details later this spring.
What is, perhaps, the biggest change coming to our school this year is still ahead of us, as we work toward supporting the induction of our new Principal. Three candidates visited the school the first week of March, interviewed by panels of Nord Anglia Education leadership, school leadership, staff members, students and parents. The week was a superb opportunity to get to know the candidates better, and I was thrilled to see the way our community came together to welcome these individuals to our school. The new Principal has now been appointed and you should be receiving official notification of this from Ann McPhee and Nord Anglia Education shortly. I am confident that my successor will do a fantastic job and that our school is moving in the right direction.
I hope that you are able to take some time over the break to reflect on your family’s own accomplishments from the last few months and celebrate your children’s growth and development. I recently lost my father and had to return to England for his funeral this week. As I reflected on his long life, I was reminded yet again of the central importance of family and friends in the great scheme of things. In this highly charged and hectic world, having the chance to spend quality time with family and friends is so important. Having said that, and while we all need a holiday, I am looking forward to welcoming students back to school in April for their last term of 2015-16!