Two Campuses, One Culture

By Peter Steedman, Sturgis West Principal

One Day - One Goal 2012East and West Campuses Celebrate International Peace Day on Hyannis Village GreenPhoto by Joel Tallman

One Day – One Goal 2012
Sturgis East and West Celebrate International Peace Day on Hyannis Village Green
Photo by Joel Tallman

How do we define Sturgis culture? Some, who don’t know us, might say that Sturgis culture is embodied in having an open campus or letting students play games on the Hyannis Village Green during Spirit Week.  Actually, when we talk about the culture at Sturgis, it goes beyond these singular policies or events.  Our culture comes from a shared belief about who we educate, how we educate and most importantly, why we educate.

Who do we educate? We accept students through public lottery regardless of past academic records or individual challenges.

How do we educate? Sturgis is dedicated to an “International Baccalaureate (IB) for All” philosophy, preparing high school students for higher education in a supportive and rigorous world-class educational program, encouraging academic achievement, intellectual confidence, and personal growth.

Why do we educate? “The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.” (IB Learner Profile)

Although Sturgis culture is based on the shared beliefs of who, how and why we educate, describing the culture that has developed at Sturgis over the years is a bit more complex. In response to a two-part series on the “Sturgis Effect” published in June 2012 by the Barnstable Enterprise, Arthur Pontes described his view of Sturgis culture in a letter to the editor: “Sturgis has an ethos where acceptance, careful listening, and a discussion of ideas rather than any personally directed remarks is what is expected of all.  As a teacher, I do my utmost to foster mutual respect in the classroom and hallways student to student, teacher to student, and student to teacher.  My colleagues do the same. There is a general acceptance of all sorts of people and ideas as a part of Sturgis’ school culture.  I believe that this is part of what makes our students show so much growth and success.” [Full text of “A Teacher’s View of Sturgis” by Arthur Pontes is available:]

When new faculty joined us for the first faculty meetings in late August, Executive Director Eric Hieser encouraged teachers to remember we have worked hard over the years to create a warm, positive school culture based on trust and mutual respect. He said, “Student learning is why we are here. Our goal is to maximize individual student potential.  Faculty-student relationships should not be thought of as ‘us and them’; it’s simply us. We are all learners. Let’s build a sense of togetherness. By developing these relationships, students will work harder and learn more.”

During the early stages of developing a second campus, there was much discussion about how to go about replicating Sturgis culture and rigor.  Now that Sturgis West has settled into our new home, I would like to share with you some of the experiences I’ve witnessed this fall as our two campuses work to develop one culture.

International Peace DayHyannis Village Green

International Peace Day
Hyannis Village Green

At the end of September, West students traveled to the Village Green on Main Street to join with East students in celebration of International Peace Day.  As over 200 students ran around the Green in combined East and West soccer games, I observed the building of camaraderie through friendly athletic competition.  At the time, I wondered if this would be one of the few opportunities for East and West to join forces for a common good.  Looking back on the collaboration of East and West teachers and students over the past months, I am delighted that the precedent has been set that we are one school with the International Baccalaureate serving as the glue that holds our campuses together.

On October 22, I was heading to the first annual East West Field Hockey ‘Pink Game.’ As I came to the top of the hill, I was met with a throng of parents cheering as they encouraged their daughters to get to the ball.  Athletes in pink shirts streaked down the field and then “Whack!” a player in blue sent the ball in the other direction.  Paul Marble, Sturgis East Principal and I had planned to meet at the final field hockey game of the season but it took me awhile to find him in the crowd of parents lining the sidelines.  When I saw Kit Palmer make a

East West Pink Game

East West Pink Game

great play on defense, I shouted, “Good job West!” To the amusement of the crowd, Paul immediately responded, “You mean good job Sturgis.”  He was correct.  Although we are in two different buildings, there have been numerous initiatives this year that demonstrate that we are, in fact, one school.  The Field Hockey game was one shining example.  It was agreed upon by the Captains of East and West that the final game could be used as a fundraiser to raise awareness about breast cancer.  The West team wore pink uniforms while the East team donned decorative sox emblazoned with pink ribbons.  In total, over $100 was raised for cancer research.   Their efforts were recognized with a great picture on the front page of the Cape Cod Times.

Sturgis IB Theater Students in NY

Sturgis IB Theater Students in NY

There have been several other occasions this year where Sturgis East and West have joined forces for special events. In mid-October, East and West students traveled to New York City for IB Theatre workshops with ISTA (International Schools Theatre Association).  West teacher Anna Botsford was joined by East teachers Rachel Ollagnon and Marsha Yalden along with 21 students from East and West.  Upon their return, Ms. Botsford and Ms. Ollagnon expressed to me how exciting it was to gather IB theatre students from across the United States.  Ms. Botsford explained that, “what is amazing is that when you put the students in the same room, no matter where they are from, they are all speaking the same language.  They all have the same assessments and they are all held to the same high standard.”  The IB can be the glue that helps build bridges between different communities.  The East and West students also saw two amazing shows in the city, “Peter and the Star Catcher,” and “Fuerza Bruta.”  They came back energized to return the following year and excited about their own work in the IB Theatre program.

East West Surf Group

East West Surf Group

East and West students are also busy planning trips that are only a few months away.  Throughout the fall, East and West Surf club members met at different beaches throughout the Cape to hone their skills on the board.  In February, they will be heading together with East teacher Rich Matthews and West teachers Kristin Anthony and Jim Albrecht to the beaches of Costa Rica.  Another group of East and West students led by East teacher Claire Shea and West teacher Elie Rabinowitz will go on an EF tour to the mountains of Costa Rica to be immersed in Spanish language and Costa Rican culture.  Over 15 students from East and West have signed up for this adventure.  Will Matthews from East and Tonja Weimer from West are also in the planning stages of a trip to Ecuador this summer on a World Challenge expedition that will take our students jungle trekking and provide a community service opportunity.  As a fundraiser, the World Challenge team is currently selling t-shirts.  The mantra for both East and West is written in bold letters on the back of each shirt: IB for All.

East and West collaboration, however, is not limited to athletic events and student trips.  For example, teachers from East and West participated in an Anti-Bullying training for new staff led by East Latin teacher Will Matthews and West nurse Jenna Arledge.  The rest of the faculty met as combined departments from East and West to prepare for common assessments such as the IB internal assessments and midyear exams, an initiative that will impact all students at Sturgis.  Faculty also allocated time to analyze the recent MCAS results in English, Math and Biology.

Human Rights Academy

Human Rights Academy

In November, a group of 20 students from East and West campuses attended the Human Rights Academy Fall conference. The conference, aimed at inspiring middle and high school students from across the Cape to enact HR projects at their schools, was a huge success. There were workshops on citizenship, homelessness, and the law. The key note speaker was a former judge.

Chinese Principals Visit Sturgis WestNovember 13, 2012

Chinese Principals Visit Sturgis West
November 13, 2012

On Tuesday, November 13, Sturgis West hosted 24 principals from China.  The Chinese delegation was visiting schools throughout New England as part of a program through Brown University’s School of Education.  They were interested to learn that although Sturgis has two campuses, we have one curriculum, the IB, and one mission, to maximize student potential.  As Eric Hieser made his presentation and answered their questions, he used refrains that have become standard when he presents to teachers and administrators across the country.  Sturgis, by offering the IB to all its students, is challenging conventional wisdom.  We believe that a school can offer the most rigorous course offerings in the state of Massachusetts while simultaneously creating a culture that encourages student responsibility and independence.  We informed the Chinese principals that we offer many opportunities for both campuses to collaborate and share ideas.  Our faculty is aware that they are on the cutting edge of educational reform, that they are responsible for not only teaching content, but also for supporting a culture that is inclusive and that asks students and parents to be part of something that is truly unique in the world of education.  For that reason, sporting events, IB excursions and trips abroad that foster East-West collaboration solidify my belief that although we may work in different locations, we are part of one community.

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