Start date to change in 2009-’10

In the fall of 2009, the school year will begin and end one week earlier in the name of streamlining the schedule, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said.

The schedule change is one of her many pet projects, including increasing the use of technology at the school and creating more of a sense of community on campus, especially through the Community Council.

Middle school construction was all that prevented Huybrechts from enacting the new schedule for the coming fall, she said.

Midterm exams will still be held in January, but there will be a three-day review period before exams start after winter break. There will most likely be no semester break.

Huybrechts said this will “frontload the schedule to get about eight more teaching days for APs.”
“It’s a cleaner schedule,” she said.

The schedule will probably allow for a four-day weekend in October after the PSAT exam.

In her second year in the position, the head characterizes her tenure in two short sentences.
“Last year I was listening. This year I was doing,” she said.

In February, she brought in technology expert Allan November to speak to faculty about increasing the use of technology in the classroom.

He spoke to all faculty on a Monday Huybrechts made an in-service day. Huybrechts sees the decision to bring him in as the turning point in her career as head.

“Starting with the day I decided to bring Allan November here I just decided it was the year to start working really hard,” Huybrechts said, then smiled. “Well, I worked really hard last year, too.”
“It was intended to be an initiation into a new way of thinking about teaching,” she said of the November seminar.

“To think more about global education and to consider ways that we can use technology to make our teaching more creative and innovative.

“It wasn’t supposed to be a last word. It was supposed to be a starting point for something that we’re going to continue.”

Indeed, it was not the last word: next year, the school will have its first technology integration specialist on staff. The idea for the Community Council came from committee deliberations several years ago.

More than a year ago, Huybrechts initiated the move toward the Community Council and toward making the community service program at the school more efficient and more rigorous. She said the purpose of the Council is to “do more service to the community and to generate spirit within our community.”

Her second year as head has been a trying one: with the drug expulsions at the Middle School and the sophomore cheating on midterm exams, Huybrechts has had her work cut out for her. Huybrechts said she was very careful not to be “knee-jerk” in reacting to February’s events.

“I think it was two incidents that occurred simultaneously and made it seem almost as if things were worse than they really were,” Huybrechts said. “Fundamentally, this is a really good place with good kids.”

Huybrechts said her reflection, almost two months later, was borne by listening to everyone who would talk to her since February.

Last summer, Huybrechts also initiated the Leadership Summit, where student leaders from many school groups discuss school issues. Huybrechts said that the Summit held after the February drug expulsions at the Middle School and cheating at the Upper School was helpful to her reflection on the events of February.

Overall, she doesn’t see the cheating scandal as being as world-shattering as some say it is. Huybrechts doesn’t see that any significant change has occurred as a result.

“I think it will definitely inspire or it did precipitate some small changes in our thinking about discipline, and to tell you the truth it did cause teachers to be a little more cautious than they used to be, which is unfortunate, I think,” Huybrechts said.

The changes in discipline had to do with clarified rules, more transparency in punishing people and more consistency in punishment.

“People are craving clarity. Teachers and students,” Huybrechts said.

As examples of clarity in the rules, she points out the new written school policies on fan behavior and hazing. Before it seemed unnecessary to write such obvious policies because it would appear that these rules didn’t need to be stated, Huybrechts said.

Huybrechts, who currently teaches chemistry, is unsure whether she will teach again next year, but she does see teaching as important in keeping her grounded.

“It keeps me very connected to the most important thing we do at this school — and that is teach,” Huybrechts said.