Dear PDS Families:
It has been an activity-filled fall here at PDS and the excitement continues. This newsletter highlights some upcoming events and reports on the year to date. For more specific news from your child(ren)’s division head, see newsletters from the high school, middle school and lower school.)
I am pleased to share the news that middle school division head George Swain is back at school. After three months of healing and rehabilitation it is wonderful to have George back on campus and on the road to complete recovery. We are enormously grateful to Laura Graceffa who so ably served as acting director of the middle school in George’s absence.
Fall Festival Reimagined
Only hours to go before the big day on Saturday: Fall Festival Reimagined 2010 will kick off with the Fun Run at 8 am (there’s still time to register) and the festival itself at 10 am (tickets available at the door). What began with an exploratory discussion last June and took shape over the summer has blossomed into an event that promises to be truly amazing – a great day for the family. Bring your friends and neighbors.
FFR has everything, including a virtual trip around the world and 30 vendors so you can buy your holiday gifts. All this plus used books, a karaoke lounge, llamas and a smartphone scavenger hunt. Oh! And of course – a bouncy castle!
I cannot thank the FFR Planning Committee enough for all they have done in turning a raw idea into reality. Check here for the full schedule of entertainment and events. See you Saturday!
By now you have received your copy of The Compass, a magazine about life at PDS and a report on annual giving. It’s a thank-you for all the ways families and friends of PDS support the work of the school. Every day is amazing at PDS – and we really can’t do it without you.
The Annual Fund
I hope you will respond generously to this year’s annual fund appeal. The annual fund keeps our program strong and growing. It helps us provide ongoing professional development for teachers, introduce a baseball program and expand the middle school art and science program. It helps underwrite extraordinary programs – such as China Studies, the Nature’s Classroom science trip and the Sprout Creek Farm curriculum – and supplements items like books for the library and trikes for the playground.
Our goal for 2010–2011 is to raise the participation level – every student benefits from the annual fund and it would be wonderful to report to you in June that 100% of our families have contributed. It’s not the size of your gift that matters most; it’s your participation. A gift of any size makes an immediate difference. And your gift is a wonderful way to acknowledge the teachers and staff who go the extra mile every day for your children.
High School Production of Tom Jones
We will have three performances that promise to be spectacular: December 9 and 10 at 7 pm, and December 11 at 2 pm. Treat yourself to a great night out and support our outstanding theater program.
Winter Festival and Music Concerts
This year’s Winter Festival will involve the whole school in a full day of performances, celebration and activities for students only. Instead of a public performance for parents, we invite you to two showcase music concerts in the new year: a lower school music concert at 8:45 am on Tuesday, January 25,and a joint middle and high school concert at 2 pm on Tuesday, February 1.
Ongoing Conversation on Education
In October our screening of Race to Nowhere filled the James Earl Jones Theater with parents, students and educators from independent and public schools in our area. The film has sparked a national conversation about education and the meaning of success, and PDS is pleased to be a part of that debate.
I can report on two surveys administered last spring to the students in the high school. The HSSSE, which measures student engagement in three dimensions – cognitive and academic; social and behavioral; and emotional – showed that PDS students far exceed their peers in other schools across the nation.
We were not surprised, but we were astonished by the degree to which our students stand out statistically (here is a summary of results). The Josephson Institute survey addresses ethics and character. Again, PDS students stand out. I am happy to share the results in more detail with anyone who would like to see them.
Fall is an intense time for college applications. In addition to course work and other obligations, our seniors are deep in the process of choosing where they want to learn and live next. So far this year we have been visited by 43 college reps who have met with our students, learned about our program and talked about their colleges. Don Fried and Bernadette Condesso in the college office met with scores of college reps at the NACAC Annual Conference in St. Louis .
This fall we fielded four soccer teams and a high school cross country team. We had some outstanding matches and meets and our athletes exhibited tremendous fair play, determination and team spirit. The season ended on a championship note: In a hard-fought season ender, the Girls Varsity Soccer team won the 2010 Hudson Valley Athletic League (HVAL) Valley Division Tournament. Congratulations to all the players, runners and coaches.
We are enjoying the flexibility afforded by the reconfigured and refurnished Chapman Room and dining room and the kitchen with our new food service. The ability to have a delicious and healthy hot meal every day and sit down with students and colleagues is a great benefit.
Last week we were visited for two-days by education design specialist Chris Hazelton of Fielding Nair International. On Friday, he met with teachers, visited classrooms and was toured by students who gave him an unscripted view of life at PDS. On Saturday, he worked with administration and trustees at an all-day board retreat that focused strategically on how facilities design can enhance student learning. At PDS we value kinds of learning– lecture-based, performance-based, play based, hands-on project-based, art and design-based, seminar style, inter-disciplinary, peer tutoring, multiage groupings, independent study, learning from nature, distance and service learning, online research and collaboration. We want our facilities to help make all of them possible, along with faculty collaboration and teaming.
Diversity Challenge Deadline: December 31
The faculty and staff began this year with a full day of diversity learning in August. Just as our strategic plan calls for the best possible facility for learning, it also commits to being a diverse, inclusive learning community. This means providing and expanding the opportunity of a PDS education for the widest possible pool of qualified students and recognizing that a diverse and inclusive community benefits everyone.
In recognition of this longstanding core value, a generous anonymous donor has again offered PDS a $25,000 Diversity Challenge Grant for need-based financial assistance for students. The diversity challenge enables the school to build diversity through a strong scholarship program that ensures our community is representative of the vibrantly heterogeneous world of which students are learning to be a part. The challenge offers to match every dollar donated up to $25,000. It gives you a chance to double your donation dollars.
Building an increasingly diverse community is an ongoing process. Your support of the diversity challenge is an important aspect of this process and we invite you again to join us. We are grateful to everyone who has supported this important effort in past years. Our deadline for meeting this year’s challenge is December 31. Please join me and others and give as generously as you can.
Lastly, let me take this opportunity to thank you for sharing your wonderful children with us. They, and you, are part of an extraordinary community. The holiday season is upon us and I hope you are able to spend time with those you love.