Thursday, December 15, 2016

Welcome our New Head of Upper School!

I am pleased to introduce to you our next Head of Upper School, Mr. Craig Selig. Craig comes to us from the American Cooperative School of La Paz, in La Paz, Bolivia where he is currently serving as the Superintendent. Previously, Craig has served as a Head of School and Upper School Principal at independent, international schools in Bolivia, Columbia, and the Dominican Republic.  Additionally, Craig has worked as a science and math teacher, and a K-12 science department chair. He holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of New Brunswick, which is the oldest English-language University in Canada and is one of the oldest universities in North America. Craig also earned an M.S. from the University of Buffalo, a graduate certificate in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of New England, and a certificate in Professional Development and School Improvement from the University of Nebraska.

Craig brings extensive school leadership experience to Houston Academy – throughout his career he has been involved in virtually every aspect of school life. Craig was a collegiate swimmer, and he has coached soccer, as well. He has instituted Advanced Placement programs, implemented school-wide technology initiatives, devised teacher supervision systems, spearheaded community service, and coordinated and improved fine arts programs. Of course, his international experience is incredibly exciting as Houston Academy moves forward with our global citizenship initiative.

On the personal side, Craig’s references refer to his open and caring nature and his strong support for his teachers and students. As one reference attested:

…no matter how busy he is, Craig remains an incredibly understanding and caring Director, his door is always open and he listens and helps to resolve issues that are  brought his way.

Those who have worked with him also cite his skills as a “community builder.” In this vein, another one of his former colleagues told us:

Mr. Selig has done a great job of uniting students and faculty as a whole and creating a better sense of community within the school. He has encouraged and found ways to get more students active in school sports and programs, and has also worked on developing character within the school to help with student relationships. Additionally, he has encouraged more teachers to get involved in various school organizations, advisory roles, or school teams and this has brought both students and faculty closer together.

Most importantly, however, Craig loves young people. It is not just his experience and innovative style that makes Craig such a great fit for HA, but it is clear that students are at the center of everything that he does.

Craig will be bringing his wife, Jessica, and two children with him to Dothan. He has a son, Nathan, who is 10 and a daughter, Emily, who is 7.  If you have a chance, please reach out to Craig and welcome him to the HA family. I can’t wait for him to get started!

Monday, November 7, 2016

It's Showtime!

When I first arrived at Houston Academy in 2012 someone told me, “We’re not an arts school.” First of all, that wasn’t true. We already had an incredible band, a fine chorus, a vibrant lower school music program, an award-winning visual arts program, and a talented dance team. What we lacked was a theater program. Secondly, though, that statement angered me. Why wouldn’t we want to be known as an “arts school”? Very few offerings in a school can more positively impact students’ competency in the 6 Cs[1] than participation in the arts. Moreover, people acted like it was a zero-sum game – that we could be good at the arts or we could be good in athletics, but you couldn’t do both. Frankly, that’s nonsense.  Given the caliber of our student body, we can and should be good at everything we do, and our students should have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of activities.

Well, my message to you today is that we have reached a point where our theater program is first rate. This year, we have already put on our 4th – 6th grade play. If you missed our production of Aladdin, you really missed an outstanding performance. It was not just “cute;” it was excellent. Plus, it’s worth pointing out that each performance we have done in each of the the last three years has been more difficult and has had a higher production value than the previous one. Additionally, our participation rate has been consistently high. This year, 44 students participated in the play, which constitutes 43% of the student body in grades 4-6.

Tomorrow night, (Tuesday, November 8th) at 6:30 PM in Dunning Hall, the Arts Department will be presenting its Fall Showcase. Admission is free, and you will get a chance to hear our jazz band, chorus, and the extracurricular chorus. Furthermore, the drama class will be putting on Café Murder, a family-friendly murder mystery that only YOU can help solve. Admission is free, and having seen the rehearsals, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Finally, the 7th -12th grade students will be putting on a performance of Singin’ In the Rain. This will be an endeavor the likes of which we have never attempted at Houston Academy. It is full of intricate choreography and difficult numbers. From what I’ve seen in rehearsals, it should be outstanding. Singin’ in the Rain is a really entertaining and funny show, and it would be well worth your time to come see it. It will be performed in Dunning Hall at 7:00 PM from Tuesday, November 15th to Thursday, November 17th.

In short, in just three years, we have gone from having no drama program, to having one in which approximately 90 students are participating. Moreover, our program is of high quality, despite our lack of a facility. I should also note that our band has 54 members, our show choir has 13 members, our upper school chorus has 20 members, our extracurricular chorus has 20 members, and our dance team has 17 members. These students are not only doing outstanding work, but they are collaborating and learning in ways they would not do in any other environment. When we talk about 21st Century Learning, this is what it’s all about.

See you on Tuesday!

[1] Much attention has been paid in the educational literature and in the media to what has been termed “21st Century Education.” Generally speaking, educators and business leaders have identified the competencies that our students will have to master to be successful in the workplace. Pat Bassett, former head of the National Association of Independent schools referred to these skills as the “5C’s plus 1.”[1] I’ve just started calling them the “6 Cs.” These 6 Cs are:

1.     Collaboration,
2.     Communication,
3.     Creativity,
4.     Critical thinking,
5.     Cross-cultural competence, and
6.     Character.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Houston Academy's Athletic Classification

This fall, there have been many questions and much misinformation concerning our athletic program’s move from Class 2A to Class 3A of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA). Let me start by saying that our athletic classification is not something we, as a school or administration, can predict or control. Here is what it says in the AHSAA Handbook:

High schools are divided into seven classifications (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A and 7A) for competition in championship programs.

Classification is based on Average Daily Membership (ADM) figures furnished by the State Department of Education for the upper three grades plus ninth grade students that are retained in the ninth grade.

An index of 1.35 is used to determine the enrollment figure for classifying each private school member. Each private school student counts 1.35 for classification purposes.

Alignments are made for each sport in a class, based on the number of schools participating in a sport. Some programs may include two or more classes in a division.

 Let me explain this in layman’s terms. There are seven classifications, the assignment of which is based solely on our student population in grades 10-12. Every two years, at the beginning of the year, we submit our numbers to the AHSAA. Since we are a private school, the AHSAA believes that we have a competitive advantage over public schools in that we can select which student we admit. Therefore, the AHSAA multiplies private schools’ enrollment by 1.35. Accordingly, the AHSAA took our count of 169 students in grades 10-12 and multiplied that number by 1.35, giving us a total student count of 228.15.  For your information, that makes us the smallest school in Class 3A, even with the multiplier. As it turns out, we were .5 students above the enrollment cutoff necessary for us to be placed in Class 2A. Without the multiplier, we are 60 students smaller than the next smallest public school in our division. When we play Opp this weekend, their 10th-12th grade enrollment is 106 students greater than ours. If you counted 9th graders, I would suspect that their overall enrollment is approximately 120 students larger than ours.

Let me re-emphasize that Houston Academy has absolutely no say in our athletic classification. All we do is submit our enrollment and let an AHSAA committee decide where we fall. Moreover, it is totally impossible to predict where our enrollment will be relative to other schools’ enrollments, year-to-year. In other words, we have no way of knowing (nor do any other school have any way of knowing) what the “cut off” number will be for each division, nor do we know what the student enrollment at other schools will be. Moreover, even if we could predict the enrollment of other schools relative to ours, “kicking kids out” of HA, or denying enrollment to qualified students in order to stay in a certain athletic division would be unethical and contrary to our mission of providing educational opportunities for students in the Wiregrass. I’m sure that few of our parents would want their children in a school that would sacrifice its academic integrity for athletic success.

There is another point worth noting, as well. Two years ago, the AHSAA decided to go from 6 classifications to 7. The idea was to allow for more teams to win championships and have more opportunity for success. However, if Alabama still had 6 high school classifications, HA would fall squarely in the upper-middle of Class 2A (in terms of enrollment). So, in effect, while adding the extra division was beneficial for most schools, given our current enrollment, it has hurt us – especially in football.  

In most of our sports, however, the impact of the move to 3A will be negligible or nonexistent. In soccer and tennis, for example, we were already in a combined classification of Classes 1A-3A. In bowling, we compete across all divisions, and in swimming, we will compete against schools in divisions 1A-5A. In other sports, like baseball, basketball, volleyball, softball, and cross country, we feel like we can continue to be competitive, and even compete for state championships. The real issue is football.

This is only my 4th year at Houston Academy, but I coached for many years at quality, independent schools in both Tennessee and Georgia.  Pretty much everywhere I’ve been, I have been a part of football programs where we have been undermanned in terms of size and speed. That is not to say that we don’t have football players at HA with size or speed, but it’s a matter of depth and number. When we played Daleville, for example, there were two spots on the line where their offensive lineman outweighed our defensive linemen by over 100 pounds. Moreover, Daleville platooned players at multiple positions, whereas we had a number of players playing both offense and defense.  It’s not so much that our players can’t hold their own on any given play, but over the course of a game, the punishment inflicted by larger players on our boys and the wear and tear of having to stay on the field for both offense and defense causes fatigue. When athletes are fatigued, they are more prone to injury. Furthermore, with our lack of depth, when our older and more experienced players get injured or experience cramping, younger players must step in. Many of our younger players have not developed physically, and in a very literal sense, we have our boys playing against their men.  Because of injuries, on Friday we will start as many as five sophomores and one freshman against one of the top ranked football teams in the state.

So with football, we are in a situation that I believe is patently unfair to our children. Many people working in public schools across the state believe that we recruit. We do NOT recruit athletes. However, we do recruit students. We recruit students based largely on academic prowess, but also based on character, assiduousness, and a myriad of other talents that our applicants possess. Yes, some of our students are outstanding athletes, but most of them look at athletics as but one facet of their lives. Very few of our students will ever go on to compete at the college level or higher.

What we definitely don’t do is give our athletes preferential treatment. In fact, the argument that HA has an unfair advantage in athletics is patently false because most high school students are not willing to do what it takes to be successful at HA. Frankly, most kids don’t want to work as hard as our students do, and they would never think of enrolling at HA. As you know, our workload is heavy, and the college preparatory curriculum is difficult. Ethically and practically, we can only admit students we believe can be academically successful at HA. Frankly, that puts us at a competitive disadvantage athletically.

Of course, from the public school perspective, private schools are winning a disproportionate number of state championships. What was interesting, though, was two years ago the AHSAA provided us statistics on the number state championships won by schools that have a high percentage of their students on “free and reduced lunch.”[1] Basically, the AHSAA showed us that, in Alabama, very few ”poor” schools win state championships in ANY sport. In fact, if I am remembering correctly, there was only one school with a high percentage of their students on free and reduced lunch that won a state championship in the last few years. Consequently, to me, this issue is not a private school versus public school issue; it’s a more affluent school versus poor school issue.

The fact that schools with wealthier student populations would win more state championships should surprise no one. They can afford to pay their coaches better, they have booster clubs, they have better equipment, weight rooms, and training facilities. Additionally, middle class and upper middle class parents can afford to enroll their children in recreational sports, provide private lessons and pay for “travel ball,” and afford their children access to sports like tennis and golf. In fact, most of the rural and poor high schools in Alabama don’t even field a tennis or golf team.

Regardless, I am more than aware that we are in a situation, not just where we are at a competitive disadvantage in football, but one in which the best interests and health of our student athletes is not being protected. We do not have an option to forfeit games, though, because to do so would result in sanctions against our entire athletic program.  I do believe, however, that the future could be much brighter, as we have a good bit of young talent in our football program. It is entirely possible we will be able to be much more competitive in the future. I also believe that with Coach Howard, we have one of the best strength and conditioning programs in the state. However, if we find that our student athletes continue to be put at risk, we may have to pursue membership in a league outside of the AHSAA.

Meanwhile, I will say that I’ve never been more proud of our boys. Last week, against a Daleville team that was physically superior, our team never quit. It would have been very easy for our kids to hang their heads and just try to escape the game without injury. They did not do that. Instead, they fought hard, played with passion, and actually narrowed the score differential in the second half. Importantly, too, no one was injured. Anyone who has coached football knows that the easiest way to get injured is to play with passivity or caution. Our boys are not passive. They are leaving it all on the field.

In any case, I would be happy to talk with anyone who has any questions or wants to provide input or advice. Please know, however, that we are doing everything we can do to protect our children and to put competitive athletic teams on the field and on the court.

Go Raiders!

[1] In educational research, the percentage of students who receive free and reduced lunch is used as a proxy for the percentage of students living in poverty.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

This Year in the Upper School (Grades 9-12)

Dear HA Family:

With the new school year upon us, I wanted to touch base with everyone about some of the changes that are taking place in the Upper School this year, as well as let you know some information that might be helpful for you going into the new school year.

First, let’s start with the basics. As most of you know, our Upper School Head, Mrs. Tammi Holman, will be returning to full-time classroom teaching. Mrs. Holman has done a great job for us as Upper School Head for the last three years, but she has decided that her true passion is working directly with children. She will be teaching World History II, 20th Century History, and Psychology. While this is exciting for our students, the timing of the decision made it so that we did not have time to do a thorough, national search for Head of Upper School. Consequently, I have decided to play dual roles this year: Head of Upper School and Headmaster. While this will be time consuming, I didn’t want to hire an interim and force the teachers and students to go through three leadership transitions in three years. Additionally, I’m actually quite excited to get a chance to work more closely with the Upper School faculty and students. I’ve served as an Upper School head previously, and it’s all “old hat” to me. The other aspect of this that excites me is that I get to implement some of the changes that Mrs. Holman, the faculty, and the students were working on last fall and this summer.

We have contracted with the foremost independent school leadership firm in the Southeastern United States, Southern Teachers Agency, to lead our search for a new Head of Upper School. I feel quite confident, as one of the strongest and most widely recognized independent schools in the state of Alabama, that we will get a pool of incredible candidates who are interested in coming to Houston Academy. Mr. Jamie Estes of Southern Teachers will be visiting our school next week to develop a profile of the school and to identify leadership skills needed in our next Head of Upper School.

In terms of the changes mentioned above, we have recently gone through a self-study and strategic planning process that has involved the faculty, students, parents, alumni and the Board of Trustees. We sent out a survey last spring, and we followed the survey by conducting focus groups that included approximately half of the student body in grades 6-12. Subsequently, we have identified five major goals on which we will be focusing over the next five years. Those goals are:

  1. To raise global awareness by increasing respect and appreciation for personal and cultural differences.
  2. To improve the students’ emotional safety through opportunities for self-expression and participation in activities directed toward building confidence and leadership.
  3. To create a distinct middle school division to effectively meet the needs of students in grades 5-8.
  4. To build an endowment to help ensure the long-term financial stability of Houston Academy. 
  5. To plan for and fund a performing arts center. 

To meet these goals, HA is excited to start the following programs:

Relative to goal 1, we are beginning next year, and every subsequent year, with a yearly theme that we will carry through all divisions. Next year, our theme will be “food.” The issues facing the world’s food supply and distribution will be explored across disciplines, and our students will use 21st century learning skills to examine, analyze, and come up with creative solutions to this critical world issue. Additionally, we are looking at offering more international travel opportunities and more student involvement in the Dothan Community.

Furthermore, HA has recently been approved to accept foreign exchange students under the Department of Homeland Security’s F-1 student visa program. We hope to have two new students from Eastern Europe this year, and in 2017-18, we will be taking several students from China. With our emphasis on global citizenship, we hope to equip our students with a better understanding of the increasingly global society and economy.

We are starting with some very basic changes to address the emotional safety of our students. One of my core beliefs about schools is that it is important for every student to have at least one adult on campus who serves as his or her “advocate.” Almost all quality, independent schools address this issue, in part, with an Advisory Program. We will be taking a small step towards implementing such a program this coming year.

The advisory system will become an integral part of life in the Upper School. Prior to entering the Upper School, all students will be assigned a faculty advisor to serve as an advocate for each student and to help students navigate their time at Houston Academy. The faculty advisor will serve in that capacity for the student’s career at HA.

Advisors are not counselors, and it should be clear that any and all socio-emotional issues will be referred to one of our professional, trained counselors. Advisors should, however, be the “go to” person on the faculty if a student needs academic guidance or help with a particular school issue.  The advisor will serve a vital role in streamlining communication between the student and his/her classroom teachers, counselors, athletic coaches, club sponsors, parents and administration. Parents should feel free to contact the advisor whenever they feel the need. The Advisor will also accompany a student should that student be required to appear before the Honor Council or Disciplinary Committee.

During the daily advisory period, students will build relationships with their advisor through conversations about academics and programs fostering personal growth.  Three days a week, the students will meet with their advisor to discuss academic progress and develop strategies to encourage academic success.  Advisors will play a dynamic role in guiding students to become independent learners and active participants and in developing leaders who enrich the school and wider community.

Advisory will meet each day from 9:47-10:00.  Students will report to their Advisory teacher’s room for announcements, etc. After Advisory time, students will have a break. Break is 15 minutes and is a time for students to have a snack, drink, socialize, etc.

In my experience, once we implement this program, students and teachers will find that the short time we allocate for advisory will not prove to be enough. The goal this year is to get this program started and then let our new Head of Upper School and faculty develop the program more fully in the 2017-18 school year.

Building Confidence and Leadership
Developing our nation’s future leaders is a critical aspect of independent school education, and HA has a crucial role to play in the Wiregrass. Our children, as some of the best and brightest the Wiregrass has to offer, will inevitably serve our community in this important capacity.

Leadership must be developed and nurtured at HA. Our region’s future depends on it, and we are committed to providing authentic opportunities for leadership for your children. By “authentic,” I mean leadership opportunities in which there are real decisions with real consequences.  Moreover, if we truly want to change our school culture, climate, and ethos for the better, our student body needs to decide what is and is not acceptable in our community and enforce it, themselves. The research on human behavior tells us that people only truly change when they are intrinsically motivated. That is, if you want students to “do the right thing,” they have to collectively decide that it is important to do so. There is nothing, in fact, that making more rules, making stricter punishments, or watching students more closely will do to impact the character of our children. They will simply be compliant; they will not become leaders and they will not embrace the values we want them to embrace. Our goal should be for them to develop insight (see what is and is not important), foresight (see what the consequences of their actions will be), and empathy (an understanding and appreciation for the feelings of others).

Honor Council
Every quality independent school of which I am aware has such a system, and Houston Academy has had an Honor Council since 1998 when Mr. Ned Jenne was its founding sponsor. Our Honor Council is student run, and the student body elects its members. All acts of lying, stealing, or cheating are referred to the Honor Council, and these students make recommendations to the administration when possible violations of the HA Honor Code occur. Consistently, the literature has shown that creating an Honor Code and an Honor System significantly decreases academic dishonesty (Bowers, 1964; Campbell, 1935; Canning, 1956; McCabe & Trevino, 1993; Sierles, 1988; et al.). Perhaps more importantly, however, a well-functioning Honor System helps students to adhere to honorable behavior later in life – well beyond their educational career (Bowers, 1964; Campbell, 1935; Canning, 1956; New England Journal of Medicine, 2005; Sierles, 1988; et al.).  You can read more about our Honor Council’s policies and procedures in our Student Handbook.

Student Ambassador Program
Last spring, Mrs. Holman began the process of expanding our student leadership opportunities. She established a Student Ambassador program. We had approximately 20 students apply (which shows the demand our students have for leadership). The Student Ambassadors will assist the Admissions Office and help represent the school in a number of functions.

Disciplinary Committee
This year, we will also be taking an additional major step in developing opportunities for authentic student leadership. We are establishing a student-run Disciplinary Committee to complement our Honor Council. The newly established Disciplinary Committee will deal with all major discipline matters, help craft rules and procedures, and make recommendations to the administration when possible serious discipline violations occur.   So, the Honor Council will continue to deal with issues involving lying, cheating, and stealing and the Disciplinary Committee will deal with non-academic misbehavior, attendance, and other rules violations. We will have elections for the Disciplinary Committee early in the fall. Again, you can read about the Disciplinary Committee in the Student Handbook.

Like Honor Councils, Disciplinary Committees are quite common in the independent school world.  It will not only improve the comportment of our students, but also it will give students a sense of ownership in the school like they have never had before. I can also tell you that in my experience, the students hold each other to much higher standards than the adults. Moreover, not once in my 26 years in independent schools have I ever had a problem with the confidentiality of students serving on the Honor Council or the Disciplinary Committee.

This summer, a group of faculty, administrators and the Student Government Association officers met to evaluate some of the rules in the Student Handbook. I offered the opportunity for all faculty members to serve on this committee, if they wished. As a result of the meeting, the following changes were made and included in our Student Handbook:

  • Gum chewing will be allowed at the discretion of the classroom teacher. Recent educational research suggests that chewing gum may enhance learning and test-taking proficiency. Given that teachers have primary responsibility for comportment in their own classroom, teachers may prohibit gum chewing in their rooms. It should also be acknowledged that gum may pose a safety issue in some classes and may be prohibited. Additionally, students may be prohibited from chewing gum if they dispose of it improperly or chew it at inappropriate times (e.g., during ceremonies). We believe, however, that if gum chewing is allowed, students will be more likely to dispose of it properly. 
  • Students will be allowed to use cell phones between bells. We believe that authentic, personal communication is essential to both the educational and social environment of our community. Therefore, cell phones may not be used during break, advisory, or lunch. Cell phones may only be used between bells (between classes, before and after lunch, before and after break, and after school). Otherwise, students must ask a school employee for permission to use their cell phones. Cell phones should be turned off during class time and may only be used in class with the explicit permission of the classroom teacher. Under no circumstance should a student use an electronic device or cell phone to take a picture of or record another student without his or her permission. Students are strictly prohibited from using social media during the school day.
  • Every Friday during the school year will be designated as a “Raider Day.” On Raider Days students are allowed to dress out of uniform.  On these days, students may wear T-shirts, sweatshirts, or athletic jerseys issued through clubs, athletics, or PTO sales and blue jean capris or pants with no holes or fraying. Belts must be used if the pants have belt loops.  Shoes, outerwear, and everything else must follow dress code.  If students elect not to participate in Raider Day, they must wear the school uniform. 
  • Students may wear any color socks, but those socks may not have graphics or advertise drugs or alcohol. 
  • Students will be allowed to bring hard-sided water bottles to class. Proper hydration is essential to efficient brain function and effective learning; therefore, students are strongly encouraged to drink water during the school day. Students may carry non-breakable, translucent (they can be colored but must be see-through) water bottles.  In order to be environmentally responsible, students are asked to use refillable bottles that can be refilled at water filling stations throughout the school. Refillable, Camelback bottles are available for purchase at Raider Retail. No glass water bottles or soft-sided water bottles will be allowed in classrooms.
  • Tights for girls can now have seams. They must be solid a color: navy, gray, black, or white.  
  • Going forward, there will be three levels of honor graduates at Houston Academy. To earn the recognition of graduating cum laude, a student must have earned a cumulative GPA of 3.52. To graduate magna cum laude, a student must have earned a cumulative GPA of 3.75. To graduate summa cum laude, a student must have earned a cumulative GPA of 4.0. A student must attend Houston Academy for two years in order to be eligible to graduate with honors, and only courses taken at Houston Academy will count towards determining honor graduate status. 

There are a few other items in the handbook to which I would like to remind you.

  • We ask that parents restrict bringing students lunch to special occasions and not something that happens regularly. This is a college preparatory school, and these are high school students. 

If parents would like to bring lunch for a special occasion, we will have a cart in the front office for students to pick up their lunch.  Please clearly identify the lunch with the name of your child.  For the safety of our students (and because students are not allowed to be in the parking lot during the day) lunches must be left in the front office. Our school lunch service, however, provides a convenient and nutritious lunch for students.  Lunch can be ordered online, and the menu changes regularly so that students have a variety of choices. If students choose not to purchase lunch through the school lunch service, parents are strongly encouraged to have students pack their own lunch. This is an important step toward the independence and responsibility that we hope to foster at Houston Academy. 

  • Again, students should not be in the parking lot during the day unless they are coming to and from senior free period or from a scheduled appointment. That is not to say that we are going to chase students out of their cars in the morning, but the campus now has a large number of beautiful areas in which to congregate, and we do not want students gathering the parking lot. 
  • Parents will have 10 school days to furnish an excuse for an excused absence. After that, all absences are considered unexcused. However, we allow two “family days” which are excused absences families may use at their discretion. Please make sure you review our prearranged absence policy and our exam exemption policy in the Student Handbook. Remember that HA is bound by the state of Alabama’s compulsory school attendance laws, and we are legally required to report truancy to the county authorities. 
  • If students fall below a 75 average in any class, they will have a weekly, mandatory tutorial with the teacher of that class until the student’s academic average has improved. 

This school year will be our first year of having a genuine, fifth grade through eighth grade Middle School. You can read earlier editions of my blog to read why we are making this move. The development of the Middle School will be a dynamic process, and I expect many pedagogical and structural improvements in grades 5-8 over the next few years.

We are very excited to have Dr. Vince Janney and his family joining us at Houston Academy. Dr. Janney brings a wealth of experience in quality independent schools around the country, but most importantly, he loves the middle school child. Please stop by and introduce yourselves to Dr. Janney!

This year, through the generosity of your PTO, the Middle School locker area has been completely remodeled. This includes a new ceiling, better lighting, new flooring, and new lockers. For convenience, the new lockers will be large enough to hold the students’ MacBooks, and they have a built-in shelf.

We look forward to offering more opportunities for our Middle School students, including clubs, athletics, and other activities. We will also have a seventh grade retreat this year to help our students form healthy relationships, promote teamwork, and develop leadership skills.

Dr. Scott D. Phillipps
Interim Head of Upper School & Headmaster
Houston Academy