By Randall Adams, President
What an exciting summer here at the Academy! We start the 2017-18 school year off with a brand new look that is both refreshing and inspiring. It all comes as a result of changes outlined in the Operational Plan developed by my senior staff and me at the direction of the Board of Directors and with funding from generous donors. The goal of the plan was to initiate projects that would enhance our appeal to both current and prospective families. As I stated in my Year End Reflection in June, our intention is to bring the Academy back to its structural and aesthetic glory, to continue to deliver on our pledge for academic excellence and to build community. What follows is a description of the projects that have been undertaken this summer and their current status.
The most striking change comes as a result of a tree harvesting project that was undertaken with the two-point goal of promoting the health of our forest and opening up the space around our facilities to create a more aesthetically pleasing appearance. One of the aspects of the Academy that makes us unique is the land on which the school sits. In the 1920s when the Sisters of Notre Dame built the school, the property's best features were plainly visible for all to see. However, the tree growth over the past 90 years cast some of our best vistas into the shadows making it difficult for people to glimpse our natural assets.
With that in mind, a plan for the project was drawn up by Hopkinton Forestry, Inc., based out of Henniker, NH, and was approved by the Town of Tyngsboro and the SNDdeN Corporation who owns our 200+ acres.
By thinning out the trees we are able to model responsible forest management, provide our community with more functionality, and create a more attractive campus. With beautiful views from the front of the building to the pond and from the rear of the building out toward the back playing fields and tennis courts, one can begin to imagine future landscaping possibilities that will only enhance the serenity of our learning space.
Additional benefits of the project include:
Feasibility of the new playground project
Improved visual supervision of children on playground, basketball courts, tennis courts and back fields
Decreased presence of insects and ticks
"It's beginning to look like an actual campus now," was the enthusiastic response of a faculty member upon visiting the grounds recently. We hope you all agree!
With funding from the Academy's Blue & Gold Auction and private donors, the back playground project was started in early June and completed this week. The site was graded, a stone retaining wall and stairs were built, bark mulch was added, and the structures installed. A ceremony to dedicate the playground structures to former board member and music teacher, Ann Coddaire, will be held on Monday, August 28th.
With freshly painted walls and a refinished floor complete with a new NDA Lancers logo, the gym looks and feels brand new! Bathroom repair work and new fixtures are in progress and are anticipated to be complete soon.
The Reception Office also received a facelift! The first order of business was the removal of the old switchboard. Then a new, two-level custom desk was built and installed. As a final touch, the office was painted, new window treatments hung, and a school logo affixed to the wall.
Room 310 in the Lower School wing is now the home for the Academy's brand new Makerspace. With the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) initiative well underway, this educational makerspace will enhance the curriculum for students in grades 4 through 8 and will augment instructional time for younger and older students through enrichment opportunities.
Our makerspace features work benches and stools, a StarBoard, and segregated spaces for computers, design, and group projects. Makerspace equipment slated for purchase over a period of time includes 3D printers, sewing machines, laser cutters, circuit boards and other pieces for electronics, soldering materials, a new of set of 30 Chromebook tablets, and a whole slew of items that you would find in your grandfather's workshop.
The Middle School science lab, room 314, is also undergoing a bit of a renovation with the goal of becoming more of a unified space with the STEAM Makerspace in room 310 and providing more lab experiences. New furnishings and technology have been purchased. Across the hallway in what used to be a storage closet, two new sinks have been added for washing and proper chemical disposal making it possible to conduct more lab experiments.
The Early Years program is also a part of the school-wide STEAM initiative. While work on the Makerspace on the third floor was getting underway, plans to launch a mini version of it specifically designed for children in Pre-K through K2 also took shape. It includes a Technology Center with iPads, an interactive whiteboard, Bee-Bot® early coding systems, and Osmo™ technology for hands-on manipulation connected to technology.
The disintegration of several lanes on our track over the last couple of years mandated that we discontinue track & field events at our facility and hold them elsewhere. Thankfully, those days are gone now that the track has been resurfaced and relined. The work will also include the long jump and high jump areas.
Alumnae in particular have been looking forward to the day when a new fence will once again grace the campus frontage along Middlesex Road between the gate and the stone pillar. That day is quickly approaching with plans to get the work started soon. The new fence will look like a wrought iron gate similar to the one that was erected in the 1920s, but the material, in fact, will be aluminum which will hold up better in the weather.
Some less visible projects that will help steer us as we navigate the year ahead include:
Curriculum mapping across the board including the new Makerspace ETCH program, STEAM program, and Middle School Science
Website re-tooling to promote our four entry point school levels: Early Years, Lower School grades 1-5, Middle School grades 6-8, and Upper School grades 9-12.
International Program video for recruiting new students abroad
New Faculty & Staff Orientation program planning
New International Student Orientation program planning
Professional Development program planning
Faculty & Staff Retreat program planning
Enrichment program changes
We also welcome some new faces to our family and look forward to working with them in the year ahead. Please take the time to introduce yourself to:
Joe McPeak, Chief Financial Officer
Marianne Finocchiaro - K-8 Computer Teacher, Technology Integration Specialist, Gr. 6 Homeroom
Shawna Howard - K1 Teacher
Sandra Brazier - Grade 3 Teacher and Grade 8 French Teacher
Jessica Ganchi - Grade 7-8 Math and Grade 8 Science
Lori Bergeron - K2 Teacher
Meghan Bosley - Upper School English/Social Studies Teacher
Domenica Hudy - Upper School Theology Teacher
Katherine “Gaye” Smith - Upper School English Teacher
Amy Marrello - Upper School Music Teacher
Lastly, let us remember our mission and what it means to be a Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur school as we focus ourselves this year on Hallmark #7: "We develop holistic learning communities which educate for life."
I look forward to greeting students and parents at many of the upcoming events that mark our return to school and invite new families to visit us soon.