Welcome Aboard! A New Year Begins at Sturgis

A great deal transpires in the month between Convocation and Open House. We hope to document some of the highlights by providing the full text of Convocation speeches by Eric Hieser, Jenn Kirk, Paul Marble and Cindy Gallo along with a slideshow of photos from Convocation, Opening Day and Open House.

Convocation 2014

Eric Hieser, Executive Director

Eric hieser Introduces Faculty

Eric Hieser Introduces East Faculty

Welcome new students and parents. Congratulations on winning the lottery!  Welcome to all returning students and parents. During Convocation this evening, you will hear messages from several school and student leaders in addition to the Sturgis Parents Association.  After I introduce the faculty to you by department, students will have a chance to meet with their advisers and parents will meet with other parents from their town.

We are looking forward to an exciting year at Sturgis.  Last spring’s IB exam results were strong as our students realized some of our best results ever in several subjects.  Last February, 85 Sturgis students took the international OECD-PISA exam which is used to compare educational systems worldwide and rank countries on the knowledge and skills of fifteen-year-old students. Our students scored among the highest when compared to students in the U.S. and countries around the world.  We are also fortunate to have recruited some excellent new teachers to go with our dynamic returning faculty.  Finally, Sturgis received three significant grants this year for a total of $250,000. Thanks so much to faculty and staff who contributed to the grant proposals including Sheila Gilligan, Gina Kelly, Pete Sampou, Cindy Gallo, Susan Voigt and Marion Weeks.

Sturgis West Faculty

Sturgis West Faculty

MA Life Sciences Grant

A $100,000 MLSC grant to Sturgis will equip labs on both campuses with biotech tools that parallel modern industry standards. Students will have an opportunity to develop practical lab and research skills that we hope will enable more of them to pursue further education and future career paths in STEM fields.


A 3-year $75,000 NOAA grant will make it possible for Sturgis students to do estuarine research in collaboration with Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. They will be introduced to our watershed and participate in a multi-year examination of our coastal environment.

The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation

A 3-year $77,624 grant from the Tower Foundation will make it possible for Sturgis to acquire iPad carts for East and West Special Education Departments; work with a Special Ed Screening and Assessment Consultant from Landmark College; and host a three year series of community based professional development workshops.

Sturgis Trustees

Sturgis Trustees

Over many years now, Sturgis has realized a good deal of success. I believe there are a number of reasons:

  • We have a compelling mission. “IB for All” is so compelling that the International Baccalaureate Organization has asked us to share it at IB conferences and mentor other schools interested in opening access to the IB to all of their students.
  • We have a positive, inclusive school culture that emphasizes maximizing each individual student’s potential.
  • We have a dedicated faculty committed to the success of each student.
  • Our students embrace challenge as opportunity.
  • Fortunately, our parents sacrifice and support the efforts of their students and the faculty. Many families live quite a distance from school and make arrangements for students to travel.

I would like to share a few phrases (sound bites) that are at the heart of what we do:

  • Challenging conventional wisdom about who can do rigorous work
  • Students say Sturgis is hard but it is worth it
  • It’s not what you have, but what you do with what you have that leads to success
  • Undeserved praise is demotivating
  • Participation in clubs, activities, service and sports is critical to growth and gaining the most from the Sturgis experience

SPA Welcomes Parents to Convocation

In summary, I would note that our students are embarking on quite a unique experience that will help them develop the habits of mind and the personal traits that yield to success at university and in life.  I challenge each and every student to embrace the challenge and “Be All You Can Be.”

Jenn Kirk, Sturgis West Principal

Jenn Kirk, Sturgis West Principal

Jenn Kirk, Sturgis West Principal






Students Check Advisory Lists

Students Check Advisory Lists

Four years ago,

right around this time,

I walked into the old Sturgis West building on Main Street

on the first day of school.

As a teacher who had moved over from Sturgis East,

I was so excited and inspired by the possibility of expanding our school,

spreading our positive school culture

and offering IB for all to 400 more students.

But, as I walked into the old building on that late August day in 2011, I couldn’t help but think

about what I’d left behind, and worried about whether I’d made the right decision.

I remember a few questions running through my mind:

Crowd Scene

Sturgis West Students at Convocation

Will I belong?

Do I have what it takes?

Am I going make it?

To say the least, I was a little bit nervous.

But over the last three years the culture of Sturgis West has grown beyond my wildest dreams. From our participation in the One Day/One Goal soccer match on International Peace day, to the student’s enthusiasm during Spirit Week, to the reenvisioning of Sturgis West student government by a group of students, to the creation of dozens of Sturgis clubs.

Over the past three years, more than half of our student body has been involved in at least one sport. Many students have participated in community service projects with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Key Club. We’ve seen wonderful Stage productions, heard beautiful music from Acapella and Jazz Band, and seen the tremendous talent of our students at Arts Fest. We have a beautiful backyard garden and grassy area with picnic tables that was made possible with the help of Sturgis students and parents.

Sturgis West’s culture is vibrant!

Student Government Leaders

Sturgis West Student Government Leaders

As Mr. Pontes would say, we’ve seen “the IB transform students and teachers.”

This past May we graduated our first class from Sturgis West and this year we will see our first group of seniors graduate who will have completed four years at Sturgis West.

Sturgis West embodies what Eric Hieser always says, “Buildings don’t make schools; people do.”

The reality is that when people work together, whenever they are committed and care deeply about what they are doing, they can make great things happen.

I know this because I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it with the students and faculty here at West.

In thinking about what to say tonight, it was interesting to reflect upon those three questions because as I step into my new role this year, I find myself asking them again and what I’ve realized is that these questions are very human.

These are often the kinds of questions we ask ourselves (worry about) whenever we are embarking on a new journey, taking a risk, and are faced with the unknown. So I share this with you because, I would imagine, you may have these same questions tonight.

So if you are asking yourself:

Convocation WestFaculty

Sturgis West Faculty

Will I belong?

  • Know that you are joining of community of students and faculty who care about you,
  • who care that you feel a sense of belonging.
  • This is a community that will reach out to you and encourage you to get involved and try new things.
  • Know that every decision that we make is based on the following idea: How does this help students?

If you are wondering if you have what it takes?

  • Know that your teachers will seek to find and emphasize what you know rather than what you don’t
  • and who are focused on helping you learn what you need
  • As you recognize what your needs are know there are people here ready to support you.

And finally, will you make it?

  • Only with the help of others. We’ve heard students describe their Sturgis experience by saying, “ It’s hard, but it’s worth it.” It’s hard to do alone, so when you need help, just ask your teachers and if someone or something is getting in the way of your learning, see me.

All the adults in these first few rows are here to support you on this journey.

We are so excited you are joining our community.

Welcome to Sturgis West!

Paul Marble, Sturgis East Principal

Paul Marble, Sturgis East Principal

Paul Marble, Sturgis East Principal

I’d like to start with a quote:

“It is the people who teach us subjects like math and science in the classroom who have taught us compassion and selflessness in our real lives.”

For the past week, Sturgis teachers have studied and discussed the work of John Hattie, who is an acclaimed educator and researcher. Mr. Hattie believes that the psychological safety of a school and classroom should be our highest priority.  How safe and caring is Sturgis?  How can we know?

Perhaps we can rely on expert opinion.  This past year, Professor Jal Mehta and researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education spent ten days at Sturgis to study our culture with an eye on a concept called Deeper Learning.  When the researchers shared some of their findings with our faculty, they noted that Sturgis has “a remarkably strong ethos of warmth and inclusion among faculty and with students”.

Another expert –  Dr. Paul Poteat from Boston College – conducted a student survey this past spring of approximately 90% of Sturgis students regarding school culture, attitudes, and feelings of well-being.  Of the following traits: inquiry, critical thinking, communication/leadership, open-mindedness, reflectivity, risk-taking, justice sensitivity, and care, Sturgis students indicated that caring was their most prominent value.

Last but not least - Paul Marble

Paul Marble is Welcomed to the Podium by East Faculty

What other evidence can I share?  In our end-of-the-year surveys, approximately 87% of parent respondents felt that Sturgis has had a positive influence on their child’s sense of caring, and 85% of students felt the same about themselves.

How about my point of view?  I find that the faculty and students at Sturgis contribute to the most empathetic, compassionate and respectful community that I have ever known.

Let’s go back to the initial quote: “It is the people who teach us subjects like math and science in the classroom who have taught us compassion and selflessness in our real lives”.  That is not a quote from John Hattie, or Jal Mehta, or Paul Poteat, or any other educational expert.   It comes from a student named Ellie, who sat in these seats four years ago, and wrote that sentence in her graduation speech assignment for her English class at the end of her senior year this past May.  I’d like to finish my talk by reading more fully from her speech:

Sturgis East Student Leaders

Sturgis East Student Leaders

As students with young, impressionable minds, we look around us to know how to behave, how to react, what to expect.  The way we treat each other is a direct result of how our environment has shaped us.  And I have to give credit where credit is due — none of us would be who we are today without the influence of our amazing teachers.  I’m sure many people expect to hear that the Sturgis teachers are strict and demanding, forcing the best out of all their students at any cost to maintain the fantastic reputation and incredible test scores.  But that is not the case.  Yes, our teachers are capable and skilled instructors and have answered our 1 AM emails and negotiated test dates with us – but what makes them truly spectacular is that to them, our well-being comes before academic performance every day of the week.    The quality of our character and the development of our integrity as individuals is their first priority.  I know this from four years’ experience in their classrooms, but also in the way my peers have grown and changed under their care.  The reason our class is so close is because our teachers have gone above and beyond to demonstrate great compassion, even when we

Students Meet Faculty Advisors

Students Meet Faculty Advisors

didn’t necessarily deserve it.  As Sturgis’ notoriety increases, articles and interviews are written regularly about our progress as we continue to evolve our academics and extracurriculars.  But I have yet to find an article that recognizes how my math teacher provides breakfast for his students every single day, stocking his classroom with nutritious options free of charge, because he knows that some of us will go home to empty kitchens.  Or how our wonderful librarians will scour every website, every nearby library, every research database that exists to find that perfect, rare resource for your history paper.  Did you know that my English teacher runs his own website, loaded with resources and information and even contests that engage his students and facilitate every project and assignment we’re given?  And then there’s my Theatre teacher, who has sat with me and patiently listened to every problem I had, every worry and self-doubt, all my good moments and all my worst moments.  In the past four years, every single teacher I’ve had has brought something positively unique to my high school experience.  It is the people who teach us subjects like math and science in the classroom who have taught us compassion and selflessness in our real lives. 

I think Ellie captured it best.

Welcome to Sturgis.

Thank you for listening.

Cindy Gallo, Sturgis East IB Coordinator

Cindy Gallo, Sturgis East IB Coordinator

Cindy Gallo, Sturgis East IB Coordinator

14 years ago, when you incoming freshmen were newborn babies, I was sitting where you all are today. My eldest son wanted to come to this new charter school, Sturgis. As a parent, I was concerned about sending my child an hour away from home, on a public bus, to a school that did not even have a lunch-room! We took the risk, Pete came to Sturgis, and the payoff was tremendous. Carpool ride conversations were about what Catullus really meant in that Latin passage (thank you, Mr. Bihl) or conversations were spoken in French, (Thank you, Madame O’Keefe). I remember the support of Mrs. Pontes who led my artistic child, against his will, through calculus. My child, who did not enjoy school prior to coming here, became a scholar.

In those past 14 years, the world has changed a great deal. Think in terms of social media – 14 years ago there was no twitter, no Facebook; communication now occurs routinely across political and cultural boundaries. We see revolutions in real time, without filters. The world is changing, in many ways faster than we can understand. How can we prepare our young people for what changes the next 14 years might bring? Here at Sturgis, we employ the International Baccalaureate curriculum to achieve that goal.

As IB students strive to understand the world, they learn the critical components of knowledge and develop skills that will help them to ask thoughtful questions, evaluate sources and to be prepared make decisions on significant local and global issues.

"Incoming students, please stand!"

“Incoming students, please stand!”

You have won the lottery to attend Sturgis. What this “ticket” gives you entry to is the beginning of a journey. You are at the starting gate. As you know, nothing worth doing comes easily, it will take a lot of hard work. The IB (and pre-IB in grades 9-10) is a very challenging, internationally recognized curriculum.  Incoming students (please stand), look around. You have each other. You are in this together. Be kind and supportive of each other. You also have a tremendously dedicated faculty who want nothing more than for you to be successful, to learn as much as you can, and to develop a life-long love of learning.

Welcome. Tomorrow let the journey begin!

Opening Day 2014

West hallways on Opening Day

West hallways on Opening Day

Opening day of the 2014-15 academic year ran smoothly. It was great to see our students and faculty back from summer break and to welcome new students to the Sturgis community!  The first day at Sturgis was filled with students meeting and greeting: in the hallways, advisory groups, grade level meetings with the Principals and in their classes.

To help introduce new students to Sturgis, they are paired up with returning students in Advisory Groups. Advisories offered a host of activities including “icebreaker” and “get to know you” games, tours of the building,  scavenger hunts focused on the Student Handbook, important offices, people and places. In the following days,  advisories focus on starting  relationship building which is so important for a successful advisory and a successful experience at Sturgis.

During the 9th grade assemblies,  students are reminded that coming to Sturgis is an opportunity for a new beginning, a chance to try new things, meet new people and possibly break out of habits that are not productive.  Harassment and bullying are not tolerated. Student learning is why we are here.  No students have the right to distract others in class because it will not only get in the way of your ability to learn, it will stand in the way of others trying to learn. Since student learning is why we are here, it is very important to be here in attendance and on time.

Paul Marble Addresses Class of 2018

Paul Marble Addresses Class of 2018

West Freshmen

West Freshmen

Sturgis teachers care a great deal about your success. If you are having difficulty, seek them out!

You will be learning a great deal about the International Baccalaureate (IB) Learner Profile during your time at Sturgis.  IB learners strive to be: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. The learner profile is a tool that provides a model of life-long learning.  It is not an outline of the perfect student; rather, it’s a sketch of a set of attributes every person works on over of the natural course of life.  The IB learner profile is implemented actively at Sturgis through classes and the advisory program to students in all grades.

We encourage you to participate in activities, clubs, service projects, sports and performing arts.  These activities will greatly enrich your experience at Sturgis and in the wider community.

We hope you have a great year. Focus on the Learner Profile and “Be All You Can Be.”


Open House 2014

Diana Young welcomes parents to Theatre class

Diana Young welcomes parents to Theatre class

Open House was a great opportunity for families to meet the faculty and experience classroom dynamics at Sturgis. During a shortened class schedule, teachers provided an overview of their courses and expectations for students.


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