Message From Headmaster, Randy Richardson
I am writing this Oliverian newsletter from the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA) Conference in Boston. Admissions Director, Barclay Mackinnon, Board Chair, Jeanne Townsend, and I are showcasing Oliverian through a variety of creative materials. Our students’ captivating artwork is part of an IECA art show/charity auction that raises funds to provide financially needy students greater access to schools and programs. In addition, we are sharing our new award-winning print marketing materials with conference participants, and are using the conference as a platform to unveil a uniquely Oliverian marketing campaign as well as our new website. Please visit our website and provide us with your feedback! We look forward to sharing more news from the conference in the days and weeks ahead.
This is also an exciting time on the Oliverian campus, as we focus on the beauty of spring in our New Hampshire valley, and on the excitement of new beginnings and coming celebrations. On Monday, our students will enthusiastically embark on the third and final electives week of the year. Regular fourth quarter classes are suspended for a week to enable our community to dive into experiential, intensive, and inspiring week-long classes. These credit-bearing classes include everything from rock climbing to nesting drum kit building, to a class designed to help students complete unfinished life projects. The purpose of electives week is to give students choice and nurture a love of learning and a broader intellectual curiosity. We want students to see that learning happens everywhere, especially when they are fully engaged.
Our seniors are also carefully balancing feelings of excitement and nervousness as they move closer to graduation and life beyond the small and supportive world of Oliverian. Most are beginning to work on their senior projects, some of which will be kick-started during electives week. For example, one ambitious senior will start building a bridge across the Oliverian Brook to provide better access to our extensive trail system. In addition, seniors are excitedly awaiting news from college admissions departments, with several having already received acceptances.
In short, this unique spring transition time creates wonderful daily opportunities for engagement, learning, and celebration for our entire student body.
Message From Headmaster
February opened at Oliverian with a highly successful family conference weekend! The October family weekend was designed primarily as an introduction to Oliverian with group events, a variety of classes, dorm events, and community gatherings. The February weekend was built around teacher/parent conferences and creating highly individualized connections. Community is a vital part of the Oliverian experience, and the unique relationships a student develops with our committed and talented faculty are the foundation of our work. We have found that openly sharing with students and families makes these connections even more powerful.
I met with a number of families and students throughout the weekend, and was struck by the combination of love, care, humility, and pride that our parents feel for their children. I come away from the weekend very proud of Oliverian as parents showered us with compliments about the quality of our faculty and how well they know and care for their students. One parent shared that Oliverian may be the “best kept boarding school secret” as her son is finally starting to thrive after seemingly endless struggles at other schools. Two other parents agreed that after many heartbreaking parent/teacher meetings at previous schools, the Oliverian conferences were about their childrens’ growing academic confidence and success.
Most importantly, this weekend allowed us to team up with families in our quest to find the unique balance between challenge and support, tolerance and accountability, structure and freedom that allows us to best help each student find his or her path toward happiness, independence, and success.
Message From Headmaster
This is an exciting time at Oliverian as it is a period of transition and new beginnings. The start of a new semester is a busy time for us with many new students arriving on campus. Oliverian offers space for rolling admissions because supporting struggling students is at the core of our mission and these transfer students have become many of our greatest success stories.
It is both inspiring and heartbreaking to hear stories from families as they enter the Admissions Office. Each story is unique, but they tend to share a few common themes of students who have lost their way in other schools and are on a quest for a different kind learning. As a result, these students are often simultaneously skeptical about school and looking forward to a welcome change.
While transitions are inevitably challenging, they are also filled with opportunity and hope. Thankfully, Oliverian faculty and students are filled with empathy for those who have struggled, and are determined to honor and respect each student’s chance for a fresh start. In the midst of a new semester, the Oliverian community is welcoming new students and we look forward to opening our doors to a few more in the coming months.
Mountain Valley Treatment Center
In the context of some important changes taking place at Oliverian as we enter into the new school year, I am both sad and excited to announce a significant staffing transition that took place over the course of the summer as Carl Lovejoy has moved into a new and exciting role.
Carl spent over two years as Director of External Affairs at The Oliverian School. During that time, he played a key role on the leadership team helping to strengthen the School on all fronts. I am personally and professionally indebted to Carl for heading the search that brought me to Oliverian a little over two years ago. I also had the good fortune of partnering with Carl on the administrative team as we ambitiously strived to improve the School on every front. With the knowledge that Carl was taking the lead, along with Headmaster Emeritus and Admission Director, Barclay Mackinnon, to manage our admission and development efforts, I was able to focus primarily on the program, working closely with faculty and students. I will be forever grateful to Carl for allowing me this luxury.
In addition to his successful leadership in our admission and development efforts, Carl played a crucial role in the formation and organization of our new Board of Trustees. Our impressive new Board may be Carl’s most important Oliverian legacy. Moreover, even in the midst of a weak economy, Carl spearheaded two of the most successful fundraising years in Oliverian’s history. He also helped to update our admission materials and initiate new marketing strategies. As a result of the extensive travel and advocacy in which Carl and Barclay have engaged over the last few years, Oliverian is no longer a “well kept secret;” word about our unique school is spreading.
With Carl’s impressive record at Oliverian, it is not surprising that the leadership of our founding board has recently recruited him to help create and develop the Mountain Valley Treatment Center, an exciting new venture that will share our almost 2000-acre campus. The mission of the Center is to provide the highest quality mental health treatment of anxiety and related disorders within a structured environment, and through a comprehensive and collaborative therapeutic milieu. Assisting Carl in this effort is Dr. Daniel Villiers, a PhD psychologist specializing in adolescent anxiety and related disorders. While the current Oliverian leadership team continues to focus all of our efforts on building the best possible Oliverian, we are also doing what we can to support Dan and Carl in their complementary and much needed program. As a non-therapeutic but very support-oriented school, Oliverian has frequently experienced great success with anxious students who are ready to transition from a more therapeutic setting. Accordingly, we are looking forward to a successful collaboration with the Mountain Valley Treatment Center. We are very fortunate, moreover, that Carl will remain connected with Oliverian as a member of our Board of Trustees.
Message from Headmaster Randy Richardson
With the support of our new Board of Trustees, we have adjusted our education and residential program to even better deliver the best of both the academic and student support elements of our school. We are absolutely determined to fully deliver on our mission and provide not only a strong college preparatory program, but also a level of student support and life preparation that most boarding schools are not able to offer. Oliverian offers an education program that combines a compelling curriculum and approach with outstanding skill development and college preparation.
Students will benefit from an improved schedule and a more focused academic faculty. We have increased the size of our faculty with a focus on further clarifying and specializing roles, and on ensuring that teachers and dorm parents have enough time to do their best work. Not only will our students benefit from better rested and prepared teachers, they will also have access to even more supportive study halls and the help from Learning Support Specialist, Maurice Liddy. Maurice is returning to Oliverian after earning his Masters in Special Education and spending a year working and training in special education in Colorado. All of us are excited about working with Maurice to give our students even more academic support and attention to their different learning styles.
Director of Student Support, Michael Richardson, has joined us with great experience from the King George School, and will work closely with our administrative team to improve our student support and residential life programs. We have focused our staff increase on hiring primary dorm parents to complement the academic faculty. Dorm parent goals are to help the dorm feel like home, make connections with students, support our counseling staff and teach life skills that are vital for college and independent living. The counseling and residential team is also joined by faculty member, Josh Holt, who is leading our significantly enhanced substance abuse recovery program. This summer participating students received tremendous support through on campus peer support as well as frequent off campus 12-Step meetings.
With this new structure and increased staff, our entire faculty will work together to even better balance both the support and challenge for our students. Our focus continues to be on finding the right balance between fostering the individual growth of each student with the building of clear community values and guidelines. We know that it takes significant attention to each and every student to find the right individualized balance between structure and independence as we strive to help our students prepare for life after Oliverian, and we now have a staff and a program to enable us to even better find this balance and serve our students and families.
Oliverian Travels to China
Barclay MacKinnon and I are excited to travel to China this month to spread the word about the Oliverian ESL program. Our primary goals are to open the door to partnerships with various schools in China and to find Chinese students who are the right fit for Oliverian.
Oliverian has consistently served international students and families who have not only benefitted from our school, but also enriched our community. We work with a small group of ESL students who are integrated into our curriculum and school community with the extra support of a dedicated ESL class and study hall. We had four students from China last year and we currently have a student from Russia and another from Spain attending our Summer Session. While they are like any other teenagers in so many ways, they also bring a unique perspective and help us to expand our thinking at a time when a global understanding is so important.
Mark Burdick, of Burdick Psychological and Placement Services, helped inspire this trip to China because he believes so strongly in matching international students and families with our mission and school. Mark has already traveled to China, and is determined to follow up on what is clearly a strong Chinese interest in American education and better preparing Chinese students to study in American colleges and universities. We have also had the opportunity to work with June Wang Scortino, of Lloyd International Education Consultancy. June has worked extensively in China, and is also actively striving to encourage school partnerships and to appropriately place international students in American schools.
In addition to having Josh Holt lead our ESL program as a talented and experienced ESL teacher, we have the luxury of having a unique school with small and supportive classes to help guide our students. Oliverian ESL students have the luxury of having 5 to 10 students in virtually all of their classes. These small classes provide them with the opportunity for more support and connections — not only vital to learning English, but also to opening the door to American life and culture. With such incredible access to peers, teachers, advisors, dorm parents and counselors, our international students have the opportunity to fast track their English and adaptation to an American approach to education. While our academic program is unique and alternative in many respects, it is also intentionally designed to prepare students for college.
Barclay and I look forward to both teaching and learning during our trip to China. We return at the end of July, and will soon share our stories of international outreach and connections.
Message from Headmaster, Randy Richardson
As we move toward the end of the school year and the graduation of the Class of 2011 we are excited to celebrate the accomplishments of this class and Oliverian is determined to continue learning and growing as a school. This combination of celebration and reflection geared toward change is very important and deliberate here at Oliverian.
We are making many vital changes for the 2011-2012 school year that will enable us to maximize the connections between faculty and students and to ensure that we can uniquely and powerfully serve each student. As we look toward next year, we will improve our residential life program by returning to a primary dorm parent model. Oliverian dorm parents will have dorm parenting and student mentoring as the primary priorities in their job descriptions. They will work with students in many other settings, but student support and the residential curriculum will be their principal focus.
Not only will this change allow us to provide more attention and support to students beyond the school day, it will free up vital time and energy for our academic faculty to focus on finding the right balance between challenge and support in the classroom. While we have a unique curriculum designed to be more student-centered in a quest for our students’ strengths and affinities, it is also intentionally college preparatory and standards-based. With a range of learning styles and abilities in the classroom, small classes, and teacher preparation and responsiveness are the keys to our success. In addition to reducing our teachers’ residential responsibilities, we will also be dedicating a part-time learning specialist to assessing tutoring students. The goal will be to work even more to help all of our students understand their own learning challenges and strengths with an emphasis on further developing executive functioning skills.
This increase in faculty will also allow us to provide more support in several other key areas. Our student/teacher ratios will improve giving advisors more time to work with fewer students and families. We are also working to give our counseling program more support through our dorm parents and a new Director of Residential Life. In addition, we are currently developing a stronger substance abuse recovery program. This program will be led by one of our dorm parents so that we can focus support for these students in the afternoons, evenings and weekends. We will focus on 12-Step programming through Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings on and off campus, and dorm parents will be trained to support all of our students with a focus on education and sobriety.
Change is never easy, and we do not take the time, work, or expense lightly. However, we understand the makeup of our students, and we are absolutely determined to give them the education and support they need and deserve. We have unique, complex, and wonderful students, and we will continue to provide them with a unique, responsive, and outstanding education.
Summer Session at The Oliverian School
Spring has finally come to the Oliverian Valley. This season is always special as it brings everything from the Oliverian Olympics and student-faculty soccer games to college news and graduation. Although I still found snow as I hiked this past weekend, we all enjoyed true t-shirt weather on campus. Some of our bravest students even went swimming at a nearby swimming hole despite the freezing winter runoff water. We are all striving to focus on the present and take full advantage of all of the beautiful weather and great opportunities immediately in front of us, but we know that spring is also the time to plan for summer and beyond.
Spring is an exciting season full of great weather and new beginnings, but it can also be a somewhat scary time for some of our students and families as they decide what comes next in the summer and the 2011-2012 school year. Every Oliverian student-story is unique, but we have many students who have struggled at home with everything from substance abuse to difficult family interactions and patterns of avoidance. We have designed our more traditional school calendar partly based on our strongly held belief that students and their parents need some vacations, even in the face of inevitably difficult moments, to connect as a family and work through challenges together.
For many of our students, it is vital to plan now for the Oliverian Summer Session, or another program for the break. We have found that it is not wise for students to spend an entire summer at home without clear and structured plans, including fun, positive, and engaging activities. If you have not already planned for the summer, please begin the process soon, and reach out to your child’s counselor and advisor for help.
Mel Lohrer ’13 (Carlisle, MA), Kara Kliesing (Humanities Teacher), and Amanda Silversmith ’12 (Bedford, NH)
With all of this in mind, I ask you to consider the Oliverian Summer Session as a great option filled with a combination of learning and fun. Veteran faculty member Bessa Axelrod, Summer Director, is busy working with the Olverian administrative team to finalize summer plans based on our 3-1-3 model. We are excited to have two interns from the University of New Hampshire Outdoor Education program also helping design some of our summer activities.
Summer Session begins on Sunday, June 26, 2011 and ends on Saturday, August 13, 2011. The first three weeks and the final three weeks combine an exciting array of team-taught interdisciplinary electives, more traditional academic classes for credit recovery and enrichment, and group weekend adventures. The middle week is an extended trip and adventure expedition designed as an exciting break and offering a range of mostly outdoor fun activities. The Oliverian Summer Session provides students with the opportunity to bring fun and productivity together. They will not only make academic progress, but also enjoy many great camp-like experiences and connect with other students and faculty in a small and supportive program. We know the program works because of the emotions and comments expressed by students and faculty members at our final celebration last summer. In addition to all of the learning, there was a great community feeling share throughout the summer.
Good luck with your summer planning, and if you have not received information and an enrollment agreement for the Oliverian Summer Session, please contact Julie Gaffey in the Admissions Office (603-989-5100, ext. 7104) and she will send you a packet immediately.
New Year Message from Headmaster, Randy Richardson
In addition to sending out a Happy Holidays greeting from a beautifully snowy Oliverian campus, I want to share some of our good news. As our first semester draws to a close, we have a wonderful and expanding student body. I am happy to report that we have nine new students joining us on January 3rd, and more applicants who are interested in joining us for our second semester which starts on February 14th.
We are pleased to welcome students during the year because our mission drives us to support students who may have struggled in other school settings. With this in mind, it is not surprising that some of our most successful students have come to Oliverian during the school year, perhaps because they even more fully understand their need for our unique school. We are pleased that our clear outreach about our philosophy, program, and the kinds of students we best serve seems to be helping students and their families in the selection process.
Often with the help of consultants, families are coming to us with a better sense of Oliverian as a school determined to provide a balance between the best of two educational alternatives. While these alternatives are right for many students, we believe our students need the best of both worlds. They need some of the expectations, freedoms, and responsibilities of a traditional boarding school balanced with the small community and support offered by a more therapeutic school. While we are committed to structure and support for our students, we believe that too many restrictions and too much structure will slow their development toward becoming more independent and college-ready adults.
Virtually all of our graduates will be ready to move straight to college and greater independence because we have provided the right combination of structure and freedom, challenge and support. While the guidance of faculty advisors and counselors is essential, the opportunities for independent decisions and all of the learning that comes from the related successes and failures play a vital role at Oliverian. We believe that providing the right balance to help provide these opportunities, and striving to find the right balance for each student are arguably the most important gifts of an Oliverian education.
We look forward to welcoming a fascinating mix of new students to Oliverian in the new year, and we are likely to open an additional dormitory this year as we continue to find students who are the right match. We are also accepting applications for our exciting 2011 Summer Session, as well as the 2011-2012 school year.
Thank you for all of your support in 2010, and we look forward to a great 2011.