State of the Upper School

Paul Wieman, Upper School Principal

By all measures and through all lenses, the Upper School remains in a position of positive growth and exciting activity. Looking at admissions, the numbers are healthy and exciting as students from near and far try to earn a spot in the Upper School. Looking at test scores from ACT to SAT to AP, the scores are overwhelmingly impressive. A glance at the college list, either the most recent one, the one currently under construction, or an accumulation of five years of acceptances, and again, one can draw only one conclusion: the Upper School is thriving.

But, a school standing still is a school not evolving and a school in decline, and that we are not. So, how are we evolving and improving and adjusting according to the needs of the times and goals of our students and families?

STEAM and Robotics and Computer Science are all seeing some form of growth, either in terms of facilities or student participation or even competition. The rapidly developing Robotics Club with its growing cluster of students staying after school and coming in on Saturdays, has seen its members enter local competitions and risen to success beyond their dreams. We offer a sincere thanks to the Harvey School for its partnership in helping us start this venture and providing wise counsel and support as we grow from new beginners to local winners. STEAM, under the leadership of Science Chair Cathie Bischoff, is beginning to contemplate its own Upper School space, and faculty and students in research classes, engineering classes, and the like, are beginning to find time and space for this type of curricular work. Computer Science is a growing part of the curriculum as we examine more deeply what our students' needs are in this ever-changing world.

While the maths and sciences grab the headlines, we are also looking closely at our growing student support services, and we are benefiting greatly from the addition of a part-time counselor and a part-time learning specialist. We have adjusted the curriculum of our junior seminars now that one of the college counselors serves as the junior grade-level dean, and Life Skills and Health classes are undergoing internal review with an eye towards enriching their curricula. Additionally, this is the first year in which each grade in the Upper School benefits from two grade-level deans, and the attention to students' academic and emotional needs is greatly increased and supported by this excellent switch.

The entire community deserves a pat on the back for its work-arounds given the construction on campus, showing once again our flexibility, good cheer, and community spirit. With no theater on campus, we all applauded the creativity of the Akeelah and the Bee, the fall production that was a traveling show performed for some of our community partners out of the Public Purpose Office. So, while having no theater on campus was in fact the root of this idea, performing shows for our community partners was the exact type of activity we were hoping to do when we first conceived of the Public Purpose office about a decade ago. More recently, the entire community was treated to a glorious production of Pippin. This production lost nothing in terms of excellence even as massive logistical issues needed to be overcome. And, as always, this was done with humor, grace, energy, and creativity.

Arriving in the Pinkham Building each morning are students from 40 different zip codes, representing forty different communities. With such diversity and inclusion comes excitement and growth and challenges that we stand ready to engage and embrace. "Actively committed to diversity" states our mission, and we remain eager to do this work on every level possible. We look at the curriculum and find new authors and new lenses. We read the headlines, and find new avenues for discussion. The classrooms and hallways and athletic fields and dance studios and choral and band rooms all become zones where the work of diversity and inclusion organically occurs, and the adults of the school do the work that is needed to support this important element of our daily mission.

We look ahead to our sesquicentennial next year, RCDS as 150 years of evolving excellence. Susan B. Life founded the school in the wake of a great civil war, a searing time in U.S. history, and as part of her work, (if I have my story right) among her projects before she started this school was to roll bandages for the soldiers fighting battles. Built into our very existence is the motto "Not for Self but for Service" and, as we head into a second 150 years, one can hardly imagine what sorts of service and what sorts of needs our culture and our society will need in 2169. And while I cannot predict that sort of future, I can predict that the school I know now will still be adjusting, still adapting, still evolving and growing, and still serving its students and its local and global communities in ways that display excellence, character, and integrity.