August 2015 New Faculty and Staff Announcement
Dear Parents, Friends, and Supporters of Saint James School:
The time has come to send my usual report on people and projects here at school as we anticipate the beginning of our 174th year.
Allow me to begin by thanking all of you who gave so generously to the Annual Fund this past academic year, as this was a tremendous help to us, allowing us to meet all of our budgeted expenses and to fund several substantial improvements to our programs and campus. Happily, we exceeded our overall goal, which is a wonderful vote of gratitude for and confidence in Saint James. I enjoyed a magical trip to Seoul and Beijing in June, where I was able to meet with almost all of our families there and many of our alumni. As usual, I was greatly encouraged by the loyalty and enthusiasm of our communities in both places and reminded yet again of the remarkable fame and reputation of Saint James.
As regards faculty housing, we were able to purchase a house contiguous to campus as an income investment and to "guard the neighborhood" on Lappans Road, and we were also able to completely renovate Barr House, Campbell House, and Buckingham. In addition to the usual "painting and patching" mostly in Powell this summer, we have rebuilt the front steps and lower front wall of Claggett. We will refurbish the Biggs Student Center and have completely renovated our busses. To be honest, our biggest expense has been roofs. We sealed the roof on the Fitness Center and Cotton Building and will replace the roofs on Kerfoot and Onderdonk, and this begins next week. The roof on Kerfoot, by the way, is huge, so this is quite an undertaking. We are still waiting on our new gates for the side entrance, but we are assured that they will be delivered soon. This will complete our campus security initiative, which we began last summer.
You will have read in the Saint James Review that our college placement last year was excellent and that our own admissions picture has continued to improve. Overall, applications last year were up by 50% and interviews up by 60%, which is truly impressive. As a result, we have enrolled a particularly enthusiastic and talented group of new students, and we anticipate an opening enrollment some 10-15 students larger than last year, despite the fact that we were more selective. Because of our relatively smaller endowment, financial aid remains a continuing challenge for us, but the strength of our Annual Fund and our very healthy enrollments have allowed us to meet the need of our most qualified applicants. We are also blessed by several outside donors, most notably the Pauline Anderson and the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundations, which have provided additional funding for qualified applicants from Washington County with financial need. This has been a tremendous help to us, and we are very grateful.
In terms of staffing, some of the biggest changes this year are "behind the scenes," but they promise to have a substantial impact upon the quality of our programs. You will recall that we have changed our food service to the Sage Dining Services, a link to their home page being provided on ours, and those of us on campus are already very impressed by the improvement in the quality of our food. The other change which should have a positive impact on student and faculty morale is the restructuring of our IT Department, which I reported to you earlier. Our new Campus Network Administrator, Casey Hoffman, arrived last spring, and he has been hard at work this summer, most notably replacing our wireless system. He was joined in June by Brian Higgins, who will serve as the School Technology Coordinator, and comes to us from Christ School in Arden, North Carolina, where he served in the same capacity. He and his wife Jenna Skarda-Higgins will be living in the back apartment of Pennington House with their son Dominic.
The other area of growth and reorganization is Development and Alumni Relations, where Jenna Skarda-Higgins has joined us in the new position of Development and Communications Associate and James Itell, Saint James class of 2009 and Elon class of 2013, has joined us as Assistant Director of Development and Alumni Relations. Mr. Itell replaces Gyra Chan who gave us very timely notice of her intention to venture forth after three years of enthusiastic and faithful service. We are also very grateful to Roland Young who served last year as our Major Gifts and Planned Giving Consultant, helping us to reorganize our development staffing and to better focus our strategies going forward. This was a real labor of love on his part and a generous gift of his experience and expertise to the school, as we plan for a new Fine Arts Center and a new Athletics Center, both of which we very much need.
Sadly, Ms. Chan was not the only beloved member of staff to leave us this year. The Registrar, Pat Zimmerman, retired after 21 years of devoted service, and the School Nurse, Janice McWilliams, retired after 15 years of service as well. Both were extremely competent and valuable, so difficult to replace. Happily, Jennifer Martirano has been appointed as Registrar, and she and Mrs. Zimmerman have used the summer to effect a seamless transition. Also, Aimee Deweese, who was serving as one of our weekend nurses, has agreed to be the School Nurse, a post for which she is eminently qualified, as she is a R.N. with a B.S. in nursing and twenty years of experience. Finally,Heather Marshall, known to us as Drake and Chandler's mother, has agreed to serve as Manager of the School Store, which is very generous on her part, as she has extensive background and real expertise in retail, something which we very much need. The vacancy at the School Store was created when Adam Robertson agreed to be our Equipment Manager, relieving Mr. Lachut of some of his duties in Athletics as he becomes Head of Claggett Hall.
You will also recall that Nathan Zawie came to us last January as Latin teacher and Veronica Zawie as Director of Academic Support. Mr. Zawie has a B.A. from Loyola University (MD) and a M.A. from UVA, and Mrs. Zawie a B.A. from Dartmouth University and a M.A. from the University of Alabama. They are now well settled and productive in their important work and living happily in Barr House. Another teacher who is technically "new" but well known to us is Anne James, who has lived on campus with her husband and three children for four years. Mr. James has left us to serve as the new Head of Trinity School in Frederick, where Mrs. James was serving as a much-loved seventh and eighth grade teacher. Happily, their gain is ours as well, as Mrs. James, who is also an experienced secondary teacher with a B.A. in History from Bates College (where she met Mr. James) and an M.A. in Liberal Arts from Wesleyan University, will be joining us to teach history, coach field hockey and lacrosse, and will continue to live in Stimson House.
Finally, we have three new teachers and a new chaplain. Ben Heebner comes to us from a year as a replacement teacher at the Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey. He has a B.S. in Mathematics from Penn State, has served as an assistant soccer coach at Mercersburg Academy and as a counselor at a camp for abused children. With us, he will teach AB Calculus and Precalculus, assist with varsity boys' soccer, and live on Maddox Hall. Andrew Howard comes to us from New York University with a B.A. in Spanish; he has also served as a Resident Advisor, as a tutor at the Boys' Club of New York, and as a program director for the Boys Scouts of America. He will teach Spanish, assist with junior varsity boys' soccer, and live in Onderdonk. Cody Pillow comes to us from the Virginia Military Institute, where he earned a B.A. in History. He will teach history, assist with basketball and lacrosse, and live on Claggett. Our new Chaplain is Father Sam Keyes, who comes to us from Greensboro, Alabama, where he has been Priest-in-Charge of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. He has a B.A. in English from the University of Richmond and a M.Div. from Duke University. He also trained at Nashotah House and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Historical Theology at Boston College. He and his wife Gretchen will live in Buckingham with their two children Mary and James.
One of the most rewarding aspects of serving as headmaster of a school like Saint James is that despite its "established" character and appearance, it is in fact a constant work in progress. People come and go; old buildings need new work, and new buildings need new donors. Teachers need to be paid, and budgets have to balance; the food needs to be good, and now the "connectivity" has to be good as well. So despite the appearance that I have been doing the same job for 23 years, I have in truth done many jobs in changing combination every year just as my colleagues have and continue to do. This is what makes our work so engaging and renewing: it requires an ever-changing response to ever-changing circumstances with ever-changing students in an ever-changing world. In short, our work, just like the students' work, requires us to adapt and grow. It would, for example, never have occurred to me when I began that I would be traveling to Korea and China to visit with school families and that I would feel entirely at home in both countries, or that I would be writing to you about reorganizing our IT Department or the twin challenges of expensive new roofs and an ever-increasing need for financial aid, or indeed that the school I came to is now twice as big as it was then, with a budget six times as big and a campus entirely renovated, expanded and improved.
But through all of this change there has been and will continue to be a wonderful permanence of purpose: the students who join us always come eager and excited, almost 80 new students this year, with twice that number returning, taller and more confident, but still giddy with the return of friends, eager to greet their teachers and their coaches, to find their rooms and to meet their roommates, to assume new duties and greater responsibilities, to try that much harder, to grow, and to improve. This of course never changes: the promise and excitement of the beginning of school, which is always especially joyful at Saint James.
My thanks and best wishes to you all; I look forward to seeing you very soon.
The Revd. D. Stuart Dunnan, D. Phil.