A New Era for Sturgis (Fall 2012)

Challenge and Opportunity

Sturgis-East ExteriorSturgis West Exterior 300resBack in 2008-2009, our school was facing a real challenge with very long waiting lists of students and their parents who had great interest in attending Sturgis.  We could have decided that these students and parents were just unfortunate in not winning the lottery.   But sometimes challenges reveal unique opportunities.  We created a vision of replicating our successful program at a second campus so that we could offer double the number of students a chance for the Sturgis International Baccalaureate for All experience. Doubling our student body is no small undertaking. We were challenged to meet the demand after hearing repeatedly from parents, students, and many others that more students should have an opportunity to attend Sturgis. Of course, there were many questions and concerns along the way. Thanks to a great team of trustees, faculty, parents, architects, contractors and many others, we were able to develop a workable plan based on thoughtful collaboration.  As a result of our collective efforts, we are now able to offer the International Baccalaureate “IB for All” program to over 700 students on two campuses.

Last summer proved to be a marathon of work on both campuses.  To get a sense of the rapid pace of construction with crews working through the night, take a look at the construction blog we created to document the building process from groundbreaking to ribbon cutting:  Sturgis West: Breaking New Ground  http://sturgischarterschool.wordpress.com/

Convocation and Opening Days

Convocation West Campus

Convocation West Campus

All of us – construction crews, Sturgis staff, students and parents –  went through an emotional roller coaster while waiting to hear if Sturgis West would be ready to open on time. The final occupancy permit was signed just a few hours before Convocation on August 28 which resulted in a particularly joyous occasion! As Peter Steedman said, “The spirit of West was palpable that evening at the Resort and Conference Center.  So many returning students attended Convocation that 400 chairs were not enough to handle the crowd that gathered.  As Mr. Hieser welcomed new parents and introduced them to Sturgis West faculty, it was overwhelming to learn about the impressive expertise of the teachers he has assembled to work at 105 West Main.  West faculty members come from the four corners of the earth. They have taught in such locales as India, Venezuela, Panama, Egypt, Indonesia, Australia and the Netherlands. Parents who attended Convocation that evening could sense their sons and daughters are in for a unique educational experience at Sturgis.”  Text of convocation remarks by Eric Hieser, Paul Marble and Pete Steedman follows.

Convocation and First Assembly Remarks to Students

By Eric Hieser

Eric Hieser, Executive Director

Eric Hieser, Executive Director

Welcome new students and parents! Welcome returning students and parents. We are looking forward to an exciting year. We have recently received outstanding results on 2011-12 MCAS and IB examinations. We graduated 91 seniors in 2012 – our largest senior class ever.  The class of 2013 will be even larger with more than 100 seniors.

Sturgis has realized success due to:

  • A compelling vision of “IB for All”
  • A positive and inclusive school culture that emphasizes maximizing individual student potential
  • Students who embrace challenges
  • Outstanding faculty who are committed to each student’s success
  • Parents who support their students who seek the best preparation for university

I would like to share a few phrases that describe the heart of our program:

  • Buildings don’t make schools; people and programs make schools
  • Sturgis challenges conventional wisdom about who can succeed
    First Assembly at Sturgis West

    First Assembly at Sturgis West
    Eric Hieser Addresses Class of 2014

    Students routinely say “It’s hard but worth it.”

  • Undeserved praise is “demotivating.” Expect good work. Save praise for truly exceptional work.
  • Participation in clubs, activities and service is critical to student growth

One of our goals at Sturgis is to maximize individual student potential. We cannot help you maximize your potential unless you are here and willing to work. Being present and on time is essential. Student learning is why we are here. If you are distracting people in class, you are getting in the way of student learning; you have no right to interfere with another student’s desire to reach their potential. Harassment and bullying of other students is not tolerated.

Sturgis teachers care. Seek them out before school, during lunch, after school. Let them know if you need help understanding an assignment or a topic in class.

We have many new students this year. It is up to you to lead by example. Do not think of “us and them;” think only of “us.” Leadership is not telling someone they are doing something wrong or telling them how to do it right. Instead, leadership is helping people define and obtain their goals through observation and listening. Leaders are facilitators.  We encourage you to participate in activities, clubs, sports and service. Participation helps you develop traits in the IB Learner Profile.  The aim of all IB Programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, by recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, will help to create a better and more peaceful world. Sturgis students and all IB learners strive to be:

Inquirers – They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.

Knowledgeable – They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so doing, they acquire in depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.

Thinkers – They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.

Communicators – They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.

Principled – They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.

Open-minded – They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.

Caring – They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.

Risk-takers – They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.

Balanced – They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.

Reflective – They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

So, consider this: You have won the lottery. Now, make the most of it and have a great year!

Paul Marble, Convocation – August 27, 2012

Paul Marble, Sturgis East Principal

Paul Marble, Sturgis East Principal

Mark Edmundson grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, and eventually became a writer and college professor, most recently at the University of Virginia. In one of my favorite books, Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference, Mr. Edmundson describes his most inspirational high school teacher, Mr. Lears, as not being “especially interested in making people think the way he did. He didn’t look for converts.  What Lears really wanted… was simply for people to think.  He wanted them to examine their old ways of doing things…”

Mr. Edmundson explains how difficult this type of teaching is because it demands that: “You never show your cards, never lose your temper, do not help people cut to the chase. You care about a process, not the results.  So most of the time your students leave you as works in progress, works that may never be completed”.

I love these ideas because they reflect not only the ways of the best teachers and leaders that I have had, and my own aspirations, but also the habits of our community at its best.  You will learn to think and to examine, and teachers will care about you and your learning.

In fact, Sturgis thrives at the intersection of each new student with every teacher, with everyone in the upper grades, and with the larger world of people and ideas beyond our walls.  I predict that each of you will “find” yourself by doing what many who have come before you – including all of your teachers – have done: “lose” yourself in new opportunities, new discussions, new languages, and new ways of thinking, listening, believing and doing.

East Convocation2

Sturgis East Convocation

In a similar way, Sturgis is finding itself by evolving and expanding, but only while staying small in the process and staying true to its core values.  While many more of you now have the opportunity to come to Sturgis, we have not changed the size of Sturgis East, for the size is so vital to the quality of the relationships between you and your teachers. Growing and staying small means that we have created a wellness course to help you become more balanced learners and that we have found you new space for our thriving arts program, but in doing so we did not overextend ourselves and lose the special feel inside the building.  Growing and staying small means that while many of your teachers have taken on new leadership opportunities within the school, they do so to improve your learning.

East Convocation

Sturgis East Faculty

Mr. Hieser has said tonight that buildings don’t make schools, people do.  It’s the relationship that teachers have with you that leads to your learning and transformation.  The faculty to my right is the most talented and caring group of adults that Sturgis has ever had, and they are here entirely to help you.  Your part is to listen, try, make mistakes, reflect and strive to work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.

For, each of you is a work in progress.  And, when you graduate, you will still be a work in progress. Your teachers and I are happy to play our part.

Welcome to Sturgis.

Thank you for listening.

Peter Steedman, Convocation – August 28, 2012

Peter Steedman, Sturgis West Principal

Peter Steedman, Sturgis West Principal

This past summer, I had the privilege of seeing two old friends who have committed their lives to education. One man, named John Finley runs the Epiphany school in Dorchester. John was an old family friend who decided after college that he was going to change the world one child at a time. His enthusiasm is infectious and he speaks a mile a minute, almost as if he is afraid the world will end before he has the chance to tell you about his school.

Although he is my age, he can already boast a life-time of accomplishments. After college he joined the seminary, became episcopal priest and opened a school, called Epiphany, which is committed to serving Boston’s neediest families. Spotsat Epiphany are open to students through a lottery – it is a free education. Some spots are reserved each year based on recommendation of the MA Department of Children and Families (DCF). John spends a great deal of time an energy working with community social workers, the police and welfare agencies to ensure that those applying to the lottery represent Boston’s most vulnerable population.

5 meals are served throughout the day. Students are expected to spend hours after school in mandatory study hall, the arts and athletics. The academics are rigorous, but the staff is committed to providing the support needed to help the Ephimany students recognize that Grit and Determination can lead students to a different future.

As 15% of their students are homeless at one time during their Epiphany experience, this is no simple task. John said his model has allowed parents who were at the poverty level when their son or daughter entered the school find stable employment by the time the child has left the school.

Convocation West Campus 2

Sturgis West Convocation

That same week, I had lunch with Tony Jones.  Tony and I taught together at the American School of the Hague.  Tony is the Head of School at Robert College, an International High School in Istanbul Turkey.  Robert College is actually a High School that was created in Istanbul to educate Turkey’s most academically gifted students. Acceptance is based on how students achieve on the National Exam, a strenuous exercise that tests students in every academic subject.

Only 200 spots are open each year.  Tony explained that Robert College often has to decide between thousands of applicants, hundreds of them have achieved a perfect score.  Wealth or connections cannot buy a spot at the school; spaces are reserved based on academic talent. The school has been responsible for producing diplomats and even Prime Ministers.  Tony explained that students live at the school and often study for hours after school lets out in preparation for another national exam that will determine where they will attend university, this on top of the regular tests and quizzes and essays required as part of the regular school curriculum. Tony said that given the chance, the students will study and memorize information to the detriment of their own health.

The faculty at Robert College hails from around the world.  There are Turkish nationals but also teachers from the Caribbean, the UK, India and the US.

Sturgis West Faculty

Sturgis West Faculty

The thing we have to really work on said Tony, is teaching kids to think creatively.  Many students have been instructed to approach their studies through methodical memorization, Tony said: “Our faculty work hard to break them of this habit.”

After I pumped John and Tony for information, the conversation turned to Sturgis.  As we talked, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between the three schools.  Although one is an inner city school, funded by private donations and the other is an international school that is housed  in 1 9th Century stone structure that overlooks the Bosporus, our little school on Cape Cod seems to promote many similar characteristics of these two institutions.

Like Epiphany, to attend Sturgis, a family has to win the lottery.  And as Eric Hieser has already alluded to this evening, you have won the lottery.  But with this luck of the draw comes a great deal of responsibility – to show up on time and do your best – because there are hundreds of students who were not as fortunate as you to be selected.  You have a responsibility to be an honorable member of this extraordinary community.

Like Epiphany, past academic performance does not have to define you.  At Sturgis, we are offering you a fresh start to reinvent yourself.

Like Epiphany, you will find a faculty that is completely committed to providing you with the support you need. You will find Sturgis faculty are available before and after school and at lunch to work with you and to help you better understand a concept, organize your thoughts or explain your argument.

But listening to Tony, I could not help but think of how Sturgis is similar to the most prestigious school in Istanbul.

Like Robert College, you have an international faculty that will bring a vastly different perspective to the classroom.  At Sturgis, your teachers this year have taught in Ecuador, Indonesia, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Venezuela, Ghana, India, Australia, China, Taiwan, Panama and even Arizona!

Parents send their sons and daughters to Robert College to expose them to different international perspectives, for the 21st century workplace will require students that are able to communicate in a second language, be willing to adapt to new situations and to work collaboratively.

At Sturgis, the IB curriculum provides an international perspective.  But like Robert College, the IB doesn’t tell you what to think, but how to think, how to adapt and how to work collaboratively.

And finally, like at Robert College, the students attending there fully realize that the school is their pathway to a brighter future at university or the world of work.  Your experience at Sturgis will be academically rigorous, but it will worth it.

I reflected on my conversations with John and Tony all summer, knowing that I was going to be speaking in front of you tonight.  Schools that are changing the conversation about education tend to be found in cities like Boston or Istanbul. We are so fortunate that a school that changes lives is now available to 300 more students at Sturgis West, here on Cape Cod.

I know I speak for my colleagues when I say that tomorrow begins a new journey and an extraordinary opportunity.  We look forward to working with you to ensure that you are given the tools and skills to achieve your dreams.

%d bloggers like this: