From the Headmaster: Back-to-School 2019

August 8, 2019

With both apologies and enthusiasm for sounding the clarion of the near-end of summer and the near-beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, welcome back! 

I truly hope that every St. Christopher’s boy and family has enjoyed that precious combination of summer respite (from the harried pace of the school year) and rejuvenation (in anticipation of the harried start to come). The Lecky family has strived to achieve just that, mixing a variety of summer camps with long weekends, extended family time, and opportunities for travel and exploration. Whatever you have done this summer, or wherever you have been, I sincerely hope that it has brought you and your family closer together, that you have found moments of timeless joy, and that you stand ready to begin anew in 2019-2020.

I trust that by now you have had the opportunity to read divisional updates from Benita GriffinWarren Hunter, and Tony Szymendera. In each letter you will discover a division (and a school, collectively) that is at once restless in pursuing innovation and improvements for our boys, yet also grounded in century-old practices that have served our boys and families so well. These are exciting times for St. Christopher’s School, and we are thrilled to have you as part of our community.

A professional highlight for me this summer was attendance at the International Boys’ Schools Coalition Annual Conference, hosted this year by the Selwyn House School in Montreal. I was proud to be part of a St. Christopher’s delegation that spanned each of our divisions and included faculty presenters, researchers, and administrative leadership. Kim Hudson, Director of our Center for the Study of Boys, was part of an international panel sharing insight into establishing a faculty-led research culture at boys' schools; and Laura Sabo, our Lower School Learning Commons Librarian, served as one of only several international research “coaches,” supporting dozens of teachers from across the globe conducting “action research” in their own schools. 

The theme of the conference, “Boys and the Arts,” was in time and in tune for our own emphasis on arts programming and facilities, and I was delighted that several of our arts faculty were in attendance to share best practices with other arts educators from around the globe. The conference masterfully fused both research and personal experiences from boys regarding how the arts, broadly, and the arts in boys' schools, specifically, can contribute to both mental and physical well being. This theme, of integrating the arts with boy wellness, is one we will explore and celebrate as a faculty this school year.  

I am so proud of continued progress made on our own Arts Center and Recital Hall, which has been developing before our eyes through the summer. Most exterior construction milestones have been reached, and plumbing, mechanical, and electrical work is progressing nicely inside the building. We remain on track for a spring 2020 grand opening! Stay tuned for details later this fall regarding a series of debut events we have planned for calendar 2020.   

As I reflect upon the many accomplishments of the 2018-2019 school year, a certain highlight is our successful completion of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) 10-year accreditation renewal. While the accreditation renewal is noteworthy, I am most proud of the thorough and distributed process that we undertook to achieve our renewal. The VAIS Visiting Team, led by the head of Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, and by other experienced educators from around the state, had this to say about what they discovered during their three-day visit to our campus this spring:

“As it proclaims, St. Christopher’s strives for excellence and seeks to make an enduring difference in the lives of its boys. Today, St. Christopher's has emerged as a global leader in understanding, engaging, and teaching boys effectively. Its research and practice of boys education is considered ‘cutting edge’ and is supported by the ongoing work at its Center for the Study of Boys. With a dedicated and knowledgeable faculty, the School endeavors to develop the intellect, character, and life skills necessary for each boy to succeed in college and to make a positive impact as leaders in a rapidly changing world.”

Now buoyed by the results of our accreditation renewal—which are nearly all positive, though balanced with several challenges and opportunities for improvement—it is time for St. Christopher’s to turn its attention to envisioning the next chapter of our storied history. We will do that, together, through a strategic-planning process that will run through much of the 2019-2020 school year. 

Earlier this summer, the Board and I formally kicked-off the planning process at a mid-summer retreat. This process will be led by our Board of Governors, as stewards and fiduciaries of our institution. During the retreat we reviewed broad institutional priorities for St. Christopher’s and developed a timeline for the development of our next strategic plan. Later this fall you will learn more about the strategic-planning process, which will include opportunities for parent (and student) input via surveys and focus groups. I look forward to partnering with you and all members of the St. Christopher’s community to chart a shared vision for our future, one that continues to place the well being of boys at the forefront of all that we do. 

At the bottom of this message, you will find an introduction of all new employees to St. Christopher’s, plus announcements of staffing transitions for the coming school year. Please read through these updates and join me in welcoming our new faculty and staff to St. Christopher’s. 

Before the start of school, you will receive another message that contains important information about back-to-school logistics such as carpool, campus parking, SaintsCards and the use of the Saints’ Cafe, the Sibling Shuttle, and more. Please read that message carefully, in order to ensure a safe and smooth entry into the school year for you and your son.
With gratitude for your continued support, and with excitement for all that we will achieve together in the coming school year, I look forward to seeing you and your sons very soon.

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New Faculty and Staff 2019-2020

All-School   

Jane Garnet Brown has joined St. Christopher’s as Director of Development. She comes to us from the MCV Foundation, where she has been the Director of Gift Planning for the past three years. Prior to that, Jane Garnet served as the Director of Capital Giving at the Nightingale-Bamford School, an independent, all-girls K-12 school in New York, and before that as the Associate Director of Gift Planning at Columbia University. Jane Garnet began her fundraising career at Episcopal High School in Alexandria as the Assistant Director of Annual Giving. She earned her undergraduate degree in history at Davidson College, where she was a four-year letter winner on the Varsity Field Hockey team and captain during her senior year. She holds masters degrees from Columbia University in fundraising management and from Campbell University in trust and wealth management. She is already quite familiar with the St. Christopher’s community, as her husband, Tyler, is a member of the Class of 2001. They have two boys — their oldest will be entering Kindergarten this fall.
 
Ed Cowell, our new Director of Community and Inclusion, has joined St. Christopher’s with rich and varied experience in education. Ed has over 25 years of teaching and leadership experience, including five years as headmaster at the Salisbury School and 15 years as a dean of students, chief diversity officer, and director of multicultural affairs at Salisbury University, Bucknell University, and the College of William and Mary, respectively. Through his tenure, Ed brings impressive diversity-practitioner experience and leadership abilities to the St. Christopher’s administrative team. He earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from Virginia Wesleyan College, a master of education administration degree from VCU, and has completed additional graduate work in education policy, planning, and leadership from William and Mary. Ed and his wife, Charmaine, who is also an educator, live in Richmond and have two grown sons.
 
Stephen Davenport ’08 has joined the Development Office as a Major Gifts Officer. Stephen is charged with helping to secure transformative gifts for Annual Giving, Capital Campaigns, and other strategic priorities of the School. Stephen comes to St. Christopher’s from St. Margaret’s School, a fellow Church School in the Diocese of Virginia, where he most recently served as Director of Development. Over his six years at St. Margaret’s, Stephen helped raise more than $3 million and increased their Annual Fund substantially, nearly doubling it over a five-year period. After graduating from St. Christopher’s, Stephen earned a B.A. in English Literature from Clemson University. 
 
George Knowles has joined our Communications Office as Digital Media Manager and will lead the School’s social and digital marketing strategy. George began his career in Washington, D.C., working in communications-related roles for the American Red Cross and the American Youth Policy Forum, among others. He then joined VCU’s University Relations team as a content strategist and copywriter. Most recently, he was the digital strategist and copywriter for Abigail Spanberger’s successful congressional campaign. George holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Mexico and a M.A. in Public Affairs and Interactive Journalism from American University. He and his wife, Susan, have two young boys. 
 
Maryn Massell will soon join the Business Office as Business Manager & Director of Accounting. Her background in public, for-profit, and education accounting uniquely position her for this role. Maryn started her career as an audit manager for KPMG, then was an accounting manager for Markel Corporation. She comes to us most recently from Collegiate School, where she has held a senior accounting role for the past several years, focusing on audits and budget reporting and leading teams across disciplines on a variety of school initiatives. Maryn is a graduate of James Madison University, is a CPA, and she and her husband have two young children. Maryn will have expanded responsibilities and oversight in the Business Office, leading the accounting and day-to-day business operations of both the School and our Foundation and working closely with our CFO, David Reynolds; the Board; and Board committees on strategic imperatives of the School.
 
Jennifer Scallon has joined the Development Office as Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving. Jen comes to us from the Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, where she developed and managed fundraising, prospecting and stewardship events. Prior to moving to Virginia, Jen held event planning and special events roles at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey and at CMI Event Planning in New York. Jen is already well integrated into the St. Christopher’s community as a current parent of two boys in the Lower School and has volunteered her time and talent as an Admissions Parent Ambassador for the last three years. 
 
Fran Turner, St. Christopher’s long-tenured Middle School Spanish Teacher and schoolwide Director of Global Engagement, left Richmond this summer to relocate to the Atlanta area. Fran’s work at St. Christopher’s over 20 years, as a teacher, coach, advisor, and administrator, was superb, and she will be deeply missed. For the 2019-2020 school year, we will be employing a faculty-team approach to cover Fran’s teaching and administrative responsibilities, with particular leadership from Upper School faculty member Carey Pohanka, who will be assuming the role of Global Engagement Coordinator. Faculty from all three divisions will be tasked with overseeing the School’s essential work of global engagement through curricular and programmatic activities, and we will be launching a search for a new Director of Global Engagement in early 2020. 
 
 

Lower School and Admissions and Financial Aid Office 

Nikki Jones joins St. Christopher’s as our new Lower School and Admissions and Financial Aid Administrative Assistant, replacing Nicole Mumford, who served our Lower School exceptionally well, and Anne Turnbull, who served St. Christopher’s with distinction as our Financial Aid Coordinator for many years. Nikki comes to St. Christopher’s with recent experience as a Head Staff Manager and Lead Financial Manager at Caliber Collision. Nikki graduated from Longwood University with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education. She has served as a special education teacher in Hanover County Public Schools, as a Grade Level Chair, and has maintained her teacher certification. Nikki and her husband, Hunter, have two daughters. 
 
 

Middle School

Kirsten Boyd joins us to teach one section of 8th grade French this year. Kirsten is a graduate of Sweet Briar College. While a student at Sweet Briar she spent a year in France at the Université Paris-Sorbonne. She has spent significant time traveling in France and is fluent in French language and culture. In a prior role with Early and Co. French Antiques, Kirsten traveled to France often to collect antiques and art to import and sell in the United States.   
 
Julia Tompkins will take on a long-term substitute role teaching 6th grade Spanish this fall. Julia has been a substitute Spanish teacher in the Lower School the past several years and previously taught Spanish at Glen Allen and Deep Run High Schools. Julia is a University of Mary Washington graduate with an M.Ed. from George Mason University. 
 
Ken Miller will return to St. Christopher’s this fall as a long-term history substitute teacher. Ken was previously in the Middle School as the Assistant Head of Middle School, teaching history and coaching before spending time more recently teaching at Collegiate and Christchurch. In addition to his long-term substitute role, he will also help out with the Middle School cross-country team.
 
 

Upper School  

Chad Chafee is a new member of the Upper School History Department. A native of upstate New York, Chad graduated from Siena College with a B.A. in History Education and an M.S. in General Education Studies from the State University of New York at Albany. Chad has taught social studies and coached football and baseball at Cosby High School in Chesterfield for the past 10 years. He will teach World History I and II, work as an advisor, and coach both football and baseball.
 
Melissa Cox will cover two sections of chemistry this fall for Dr. Fisher during his paternity leave. A graduate of Westminster College (UT) with a B.S. in chemistry and of MCV-VCU School of Pharmacy with a Doctorate of Pharmacy, Melissa works as a pharmacist as well as a local tutor in math and science.  
 
Megan Garrity will teach in two capacities in the US.  She will teach two sections of algebra (I and II) for the Math Department and two classes of chemistry for Dr. Dan Fisher while he is on leave at the beginning of the year. A graduate of James Madison University with a degree in Integrated Science and Technology, Megan has previously taught Middle School math and Upper School chemistry at Worcester Prep in Berlin, MD. She also has tutored area students in both math and science.
 
The World Languages Department welcomes Iñaki Gonzalo to teach Spanish III and V.  Iñaki is an alumnus of Askartza Claret School and the Universidad Deusto, both in his native Bilbao area of northern Spain. With his B.A. in Spanish Philology, Iñaki then worked his way across the United States earning an M.A. in Spanish from the University of Oregon and in Spanish Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. As a graduate student, Iñaki taught at those same schools, in addition to the University of Mary Washington, Bradley University, and Middlebury College. Iñaki will serve as an advisor and soccer coach in addition to his classroom duties.
 
Kiernan Michau joins the English Department to teach 11th grade American Literature and 9th grade Composition, Grammar, and Literature. A native of Maryland, Kiernan graduated from McDonough School before earning her B.A. in Comparative Literature, with minors in both Religion and Spanish, from Harvard. After exploring other career paths, Kiernan followed her passion to teach to Northwestern University where she earned her M.S. Ed.  For the past two years, Kiernan has taught English at Lake View High in Chicago. Kiernan will serve as an advisor and will work with school publications.
 
We also welcome Christine Rotter to the Upper School. Christine will work with all 9th graders as part of Freshman Seminar in semester one. While swimming at Purdue University, Christine earned a B.A. in Psychology and another in Special Education. Christine has taught in the Henrico County Public Schools system as well as at Conestoga High in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Most recently she has tutored area students in a number of subjects, including Latin, history, algebra, and English.
  
 

Extended Day 

Julia Hartley will have a dual role in Extended Day and the Middle School, serving as a Middle School Extended Day teacher and as a 6th and 7th grade study hall proctor. Julia spent the past two years working with middle school students in North Carolina and Ohio as a 6th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Science with a specialization in Middle Childhood Education. Julia also received a Post-Baccalaureate Teaching License in Middle Childhood Education from Notre Dame College. While attending The Ohio State University, Julia was a member of the synchronized swimming national championship team in both 2011 and 2012, and she won the individual national championship in 2014.  
 
Laura Smith will be joining the Extended Day Kindergarten team as a co-teacher with Kate Sweeney. Laura is a recent graduate of Randolph-Macon College, where she studied English, Classical Studies, and Women’s Studies. During college, she worked as a writing tutor, aiding students in all stages of the academic writing process. Over the summer, Laura enjoyed working with the campers at Summer Experience Day Camp here at St. Christopher’s.
 
Stephanie Sullivan is joining the Extended Day team as co-teacher for JK and 4th grade. Stephanie graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.A. in English and from Jacksonville University with a M.A.T. in English Education. She has worked in the education field with all ages, preschool through adult, and recently spent the last two years as both a long-term and intermittent substitute with St. Christopher’s Extended Day. 
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