Welcome to the 2019-20 School Year from Headmaster Scott Nelson

Looking ahead to the 2019-20 academic year, Mr. Nelson shares school news and campus updates with the RCDS community.

Dear RCDS Community,

Earlier this summer, we finally had a chance to reflect on the School's milestone sesquicentennial year. In so many respects, the 2018-19 school year was a remarkable one, which included stellar student and faculty achievements, the opening of new and innovative spaces on campus, and the yearlong celebration of our 150th year. This past year was also an extraordinary year for philanthropy in support of RCDS as the 2018-19 Annual Fund raised $3.85 million in record-breaking fashion and the Advancing a Tradition of Excellence Capital Campaign surpassed its goal of $35 million. We are extremely grateful to everyone in the RCDS community who supported the 2018-19 Annual Fund and the Capital Campaign.

Now, in our 151st year (and my 27th as headmaster!), we shift our gaze from the past to the future. With summer programs and projects on campus completed, we eagerly await the return of our faculty and students and the opportunity to welcome those new to our community. This year, we will welcome 17 new faculty and staff members and 145 new students (65 in the Lower School, 40 in the Middle School, and 40 in the Upper School). If you are among those new to our community, welcome! If you are returning for your second year or your 27th, please join me in helping people find their way and their community at RCDS. I often hear from families about the importance of their first few days and weeks at Rye Country Day. I look forward to your partnership in continuing the tradition of extending a warm welcome to the newest members of our community.

To celebrate the excitement of the new academic year, I hope you will join me at the Back-to-School Block Party on Sunday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m. at the School's main entrance. During this festive event, we will welcome all new and returning students, families, faculty, and staff to the 2019-20 academic year! Please RSVP at ryecountryday.org/blockparty.

2019-20 School-Wide Theme: Citizenship

I am especially excited to announce this coming school year's theme of citizenship. Throughout the 2019-20 academic year, we will actively engage around this theme, which, as you know, is part of the RCDS Portrait of a Graduate. Citizenship will be woven into community discussions, curricular conversations, guest speaker events, faculty meetings, advisory group work, and more. This week, faculty and staff will have generative conversations in back-to-school meetings, during which we will collectively discuss the most meaningful integration of the study and practice of citizenship along with building community throughout our program, both in the classroom and beyond. The 2019-20 focus on citizenship embodies Rye Country Day School's motto of Not for Self, but for Service, and it will support us as we encourage students of all ages to approach others with empathy, to examine local and global issues, to appreciate differences in opinion, to recognize stereotypes and bias, to embrace and understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, and to make a positive difference in the world as aware, engaged, and purpose-driven citizens.

New Faculty/Staff and Personnel Changes

Every school year brings some personnel changes as new faculty and staff join our community and returning faculty and staff assume new roles and responsibilities. New faculty and staff have been introduced in the summer division emails to parents, and a comprehensive list of new personnel, including bios, is available here. We welcome this new cohort to the 2019-20 school year:

Lower School

  • Francesca Shin Davia, Kindergarten Lead Teacher
  • Jourdan Layne '15, Assistant Teacher
  • Alexandra Levy, Assistant Teacher
  • Marlana Moysak '13, Assistant Teacher

Middle School

  • Don Fitz-Roy, Computer Science Teacher
  • Julie Nuñez, Humanities Teacher

Upper School

  • Tatum Bell, English Teacher
  • José Benítez Meléndez, Spanish Teacher
  • Craig Burt, Science Teacher
  • Katy Everett, English Teacher
  • Nicole Zazzarino, Part-Time Science Lab Assistant

Athletics & Physical Education

  • Amanda Popoli, Physical Education Teacher; Head Coach of Girls' Varsity Soccer; Middle School Coach; Assistant Girls' Lacrosse Coach

Administration and Staff

  • Dania Abu- Shaheen, Director of Publications and Lead Storyteller
  • Julie McCrory '03, Manager of Stewardship and Engagement
  • Gayle Regan and Rebecca Tenney, Nurses
  • Priya Singhvi, Director of Health and Wellness

In addition, I am pleased to announce the following changes in the roles and responsibilities of returning faculty and staff:

Lower School

  • Amy Haff joins Laura Festo as Co-Lead Teacher of the newly expanded full-day Pre-Kindergarten program.
  • Heather Lentini, Lower School Teacher, will move from Kindergarten to Grade 1.

Upper School

  • Cathie Bischoff is stepping down as Science Department Chair (K-12) to focus on her growing role as Coordinator of the school-wide STEAM initiative.
  • Donald Kyle '81, Dean of Students, will join Ted Heintz as Co-Dean of Grade 10.
  • Iain Pollock is the new English Department Chair (Grades 5-12).
  • Charaun Wills is the new Science Department Chair (K-12) but will no longer serve as Co-Dean of Grade 10.

Administration and Staff

  • Isabel Gonzalez will move into the Interviewer position in Admissions.
  • Jon Leef has been appointed Upper School Principal after one year as Interim Principal.
  • Eliza McLaren adds responsibility for several school-wide initiatives to her roles as Director of Strategic Initiatives and Marketing and Director of the RCDS Institute for Innovating Teaching and Learning.
  • Melissa Mahoney Wirth '97, formerly an Interviewer in Admissions, is the new Manager of Alumni Relations.

Campus Renovations and Enhancements

The summer months are always the 12-week window for completing major campus renovations, and the summer of 2019 was extremely busy in this respect. Just prior to the start of Upper School preseason, the replacement artificial turf on the South Field (field hockey and girls' lacrosse) was installed with an AstroTurf product that uses an underlying shock pad and Envirofill infill. This is the third of four artificial turf replacements. The North Field (football, soccer, and boys' lacrosse) will be replaced next summer. This past Friday, the air-conditioning of the entire Pinkham Building (Upper School) and the second floor of the Main Building addition (Grades 4 and 5 areas) were completed. This was a very ambitious and complicated project for summer renovation! The first floor of the Main Building (Grades K-3) and the 7/8th grade wing will be air-conditioned next summer. Enhancement of the PAC sound system was also completed this past week.

LocalLive Networks live streaming: We have signed an agreement with LocalLive Networks, a service that will live stream our home athletic contests, performances in the PAC, and other campus events. LocalLive has installed their cameras on the fields and in the gym, rink, and PAC. They also provide a mobile unit we can use for other locations on or off campus. Live streaming will be available on a password-protected site. Stay tuned for more details.

We look forward to seeing everyone back on campus next week!


Scott A. Nelson