NEW - Celebrating the End of the School Year
Dr. Judith Fox, Interim Head of School

As the song goes, "Cel-e-brate good times....come on!" This is the time of year when our musicians treat us to multiple celebrations of the progress they've made on their instruments, our young gardeners are celebrating the figurative and literal fruits of their labors, our scientists are celebrating their projects and all in our community are celebrating the growth of our students in both the physical and scholarly senses. Family and friends are invited to the school to share in the fun of these celebrations.

Why take the time to celebrate? There are important reasons.

  1. Celebrating accomplishments feels good physically and psychically. Endorphins are released that cause widespread feelings of well-being within you. Those feelings reinforce your commitment to full focus and effort in your endeavors.
  2. Celebrating current accomplishments fuels you to welcome new challenges and take on new goals. Success begets success. Celebrating encourages active searching for new opportunities to feel accomplished.
  3. Celebrating engages family, friends, and colleagues in productive, supportive ways. When you experience success, those who love you and/or work with you also experience success. It expands the impact of the good feelings of the celebrant.

I look forward to joining you in savoring all of our students’ accomplishments this year and sending them off to their summer adventures with a sense of pride in a job well done. Whether large or small, celebration feels best when it's done in good company.

NEW - Hiring Season
Jan Abernathy

Occasionally, members of the Elisabeth Morrow School's administration will share their thoughts with you in this space. Today's guest column is from Dr. Maureen Fonseca, our incoming Head of School.

One of the most important duties of any Head of School is assembling the right team to collaborate to best advance the mission of the school. The individuals need to have deep expertise in their area, and they must understand and enjoy working with families. As a person who has hired, supervised and mentored hundreds of educators in my career, I know how important it is to have “the right people on the bus” in the words of Good to Great author Jim Collins.

I have been intimately involved in hiring here at EMS. Even this Spring Break, when I was in Sweden to help plan my son’s wedding, I was reviewing resumes because part of hiring the right people is not letting the good ones get away. Working closely with Judy, as well as members of the leadership team, trustees and other constituents, we have already hired two experienced new division heads, Lauren Mactas and Phil Cox, who are thrilled to be joining the EMS community; and we will have other administrators soon joining them. 

For the newly established position of Director of Counseling and Wellness Programs, we wanted someone who will work with teachers and develop a cohesive, well-coordinated curriculum that draws from the good work already being done in mindfulness, social and emotional learning, advisories and physical education throughout the school. We brought three well qualified and interesting candidates to campus to meet with multiple stakeholder groups and have hired Ava Diamond, a highly regarded psychotherapist, educator and mental and physical fitness coach, who has worked in hospitals, in a group practice and now runs her own international consulting practice. Ava is eager to join EMS and build on the practices already in place across the grades.
I am in the process of meeting the finalists for the position of Director of Marketing and Communications. All have excellent experience in this role in independent schools and nonprofits and have met with relevant constituents. We expect to announce this new team member soon. 

Last Friday, three experienced candidates for the position of Chief Financial Officer visited campus and met with me as well as with seven different groups, including trustees, as well as our Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Jim Ruff, who provided a thorough tour of campus. 

Judy and I are also having preliminary meetings with candidates for the newly created position of Senior Director of Institutional Advancement who will oversee the development and advancement functions of the school. Four qualified candidates have either visited campus or will be visiting soon. Two finalists will be invited to return for meetings with a broad array of constituents.

While it may seem as though there has been a lot of administrative hiring this season, this is the natural course of life in a school. People retire, their families relocate, or they are offered other compelling opportunities. And of course, schools add administrators, as we are doing in counseling and wellness and institutional advancement, because that is required to meet the goals of our strategic plan and to do what is best for our students. What is important is knitting these new leaders together into a cohesive whole, and that is a part of the role of a Head that I eagerly embrace. Next year, you can expect an ever-evolving EMS to feel as it has always felt to you and your children. While there may be some new faces we will all share the same goal of creating curious scholars, ethical leaders and global citizens, while holding onto the special ethos of our wonderful school.

NEW - Strategic Plan Update May 2019
Hanita Walia, President of the Board of Trustees

Occasionally, members of the Elisabeth Morrow School's administration will share their thoughts with you in this space. Today's guest column is from Hanita Walia, President of the Board of Trustees. 

As we arrive at the last six weeks of school, with all of the wonderful culminating classroom events, concerts and other festivities shortly ahead of us, I wanted to take a moment to update the entire community on the Board of Trustees’ work as we continue to advance the goals of our strategic plan.

Selecting a new Head of School was the board’s first priority this school year, and we found an ideal leader in Head-elect Dr. Maureen Fonseca. Our remarkable and seasoned Interim Head, Dr. Judy Fox, has continued our work on fulfilling the goals of the strategic plan and shepherded us through a successful NJAIS reaccreditation. Maureen has been working hand-in-hand with Judy, making several key hires, such as Lauren Mactas our new Early Childhood Director and Phil Cox as Middle School Head. Important new roles, such as a Director of Counseling & Wellness and Senior Director of Institutional Advancement, also will strengthen the leadership team and provide additional support for the strategic plan’s goals of providing a transformative student experience and creating a sustainable future for our school. 

This will be an exciting time of change for EMS, and these new leaders will join a team with a great deal of institutional experience that will ensure that EMS remains true to the 'best of the old and best of the new’ ethos that our founders described so many years ago. The combination of leadership with deep and broad independent school experience, a comprehensive strategic plan and illuminating recommendations from the accreditation visit will provide a clear roadmap for the future. 

A major focus of that future is reimagining Morrow House to better support teaching and learning in the middle school. In 2018, over 150 community members provided their opinions about embarking upon this effort, which includes a new STEAM corridor, expansion of the Gymkhana, and an upgrade in campus-wide security. The reaction was very positive. This summer we will begin several maintenance projects that will lay the foundation for these additional enhancements. We have also partnered with a consultant to set the stage for plans to raise the funds needed for this project. Our Building and Grounds Committee is working closely with our architects to update our school’s Master Facilities Plan to incorporate the renovation, and design is scheduled to be finalized in 2020. 

Our trustees also work closely with our development team, which will be expanding in the new school year to include a director of the Apple Tree Fund as well as a full-time Alumni Director and Development Manager to ensure that our school is appropriately staffed to support our strategic goals. We are delighted that the Apple Tree Fund remains robust. 

With respect to the school’s financials, they are as strong as they ever have been. Our independent audit yielded an exemplary report, school enrollment is robust and our revival of Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day this spring in Chilton House proved to be a huge hit.

Our board and parent volunteers for the Gala this year are as energized a group as one could wish, with wonderfully creative ways to transform the Rockleigh into an EMS version of Saturday Night Fever. Many of our new families will be coming, as will Maureen Fonseca and Lauren Mactas. (If you haven’t gotten your ticket yet, please do.)

As a board, we are incredibly excited about what the future holds for our school over the next few years, and invite you to join us on this exciting journey.  Our school is truly poised for an even brighter future as it approaches its 90th anniversary and we make our strategic vision a reality that will benefit our students in innumerable ways.

NEW - Getting To Know EMS
Dr. Maureen Fonseca, Incoming Head of School

Occasionally, members of the Elisabeth Morrow School's administration will share their thoughts with you in this space. Today's guest column is from Dr. Maureen Fonseca, our incoming Head of School.

Getting to know all facets of our school is my priority as your Head-elect. One important way in which I will do this is to observe our faculty and staff talking about the “why” behind what they do. I had the opportunity to experience that first hand when I attended the recent Chilton House Curriculum Night. 

How wonderful it was to see our expert Chilton House educators, supported by Tricia Eickelberg and Beth Brennan, explain to our families how students are guided to develop literacy skills in all academic areas through classroom centers and activities. I was truly awed and inspired by our teachers’ passion for early childhood education, and their evident love of the children whose holistic growth and unique talents they guide with such skill and expertise. Together with our incoming Early Childhood Director Lauren Mactas, I was able to explore Handwriting Without Tears and Sounds in Motion and learn how the kindergarten curriculum incorporates Fountas and Pinnell reading program and Writer’s Workshop. I also was greatly impressed by how art is used in the classrooms to foster students’ creativity. And it was intriguing to see how providing our threes and fours with a strong pictorial understanding of number sense sets the stage for the work that they will do with Math in Focus starting in kindergarten.

While I loved teaching three and four-year-olds early in my educational journey, my professional background has been primarily in the K-12 realm, and so I am eager to soak up all that I can about the developmentally appropriate ways in which our youngest students learn. Since being named Head of School at EMS, I have reached out to many colleagues who are at New York preschools and have availed myself of learning opportunities through the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

However, it was clear to me that evening that the best way to deepen my knowledge in this area is going to be from spending time at Chilton House and relying on the superior knowledge of our talented faculty. I was deeply impressed by how well they understood the craft of teaching children who are barely out of toddlerhood, and how children can learn through play, which is often challenging for families to understand and embrace.  

It was wonderful to meet the parents in attendance that night, and I look forward to seeing many of you at the events that I will be attending on campus for the rest of the year as I learn even more about this beautiful community which has already been so welcoming to me. 

NEW - A Magical Time of the Year
by Judith Fox, Ed.D. , Interim Head of School

This is that magical time of year when nature reveals itself to near perfection. We see, simultaneously, the cadmium yellow of forsythia reinforcing the sunniness of the daffodils, the tea-cup shaped flowers of the magnolia, the pinks and whites of the cherry and pear tree blossoms, and the bold colors of south-facing azaleas. This is the time when the trees have that lacy look of leaves just budding out but not yet obscuring the vision through the branches. Bliss!

With spring come changes in our lives, too. With more daylight, it's hard for the kids to settle down at the end of the day even though they're tired. Then there are all those culminating activities: final exams ahead of us, end-of-year concerts, projects and presentations that have to come together, not to mention making plans for the approaching summer and all the transitions involved in all of that.

The point of this note is to remind us all to take a breath, relax, and find the beauty in the "right now"...and to help our kids do the same. There's a lot of stress out there for us and our kids, but together, we can keep our priorities straight and value the beauty in the process.