New Head of School Appointed
The Board of Trustees is delighted to announce the appointment of Victoria H. Jueds as Westtown’s next Head of School. Tori, as she is known, currently serves as Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students at Princeton University, where she plays a pivotal role in academic, co-curricular, and diversity and inclusion initiatives for 5,200 undergraduate students.
“I am thrilled and honored to be joining the Westtown community,” she says. “Quaker education, the way Westtown practices it, prioritizes everything that is most important for the health and happiness of students, and for their ability to thrive in and better the world. This is a school with a big heart and a global reach, where young people develop strong, relevant, compassionate voices. I look forward to serving Westtown and Westonians to the very best of my ability.”
A deeply spiritual person and longtime student of religion, Tori was drawn to Westtown’s Quaker principles and values. “Westtown’s foundational principles resonate strongly with me. Indeed, while I am not myself a member of a Meeting, I value my family’s Quaker background and feel an affinity for the spirituality, social consciousness, and the search for equality and truth of the Society of Friends. Likewise, as a leader I have sought to cultivate a collaborative and collegial management style that resembles the Quaker decision-making process.”
We believe Tori’s dynamic vision, strength of character, and forward-thinking leadership make her the ideal person to lead Westtown today and continue the extraordinary work of John Baird and other distinguished Heads of School who have preceded her. It is with great anticipation that we look forward to welcoming Tori Jueds to Westtown in July 2017.
You can read Westtown's official announcement in its entirety here.
Transition Committee: A Message from Jon Evans, Clerk, Board of Trustees
I am pleased to announce the appointment of the Head of School Transition Committee. This group will assist our new head of school, Tori Jueds, in acclimating herself before she officially begins her work at Westtown in July 2017. The Transition Committee’s work is of finite duration, as once Tori is on campus and immersed in our community, other people and structures naturally will continue the welcoming and orienting processes.
Members of the committee are: Martha Bryans '68 and Jake Dresden '62, co-clerks, Marissa Colston, Lisa Cromley, Susan Fahey, Ted Freeman, Sydney Howe-Barksdale, Kristin Trueblood, and Karl Vela '03. We value the experience and perspective that these individuals bring. Among other tasks, the Transition Committee will arrange opportunities for Tori to meet members of our community, attend several events on campus, and familiarize herself with school history, finances, enrollment, curriculum, student life, and governance.
We are grateful to have John Baird’s full support for this work and appreciate the warm welcome and collegial support that he has already extended. This year will be one of celebration as we express our gratitude for John and Aminda’s many contributions to our community.
Our school is thriving. Thank you for your contributions in making it so.
FallFest - A Smashing Success!
Thanks to all who came out for a fun day of music, food, games, hayrides, and more at FallFest 2016. Thanks, also, to event planner Megan Schlickmann and all the volunteers who made the celebration possible. With over 700 folks in attendance, it was our best FallFest yet! Please click on the link below to enjoy the gallery of photos, including those from the Alumni/Community soccer game.
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Green Strides Tour
Westtown School was honored to be part of the U.S. Department of Education’s annual Green Strides Tour this year. Officials from the U.S. Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education toured Green Ribbon Schools around the country as part of their “Real World Learning” tour theme. The tour was led by Wade Tomlinson, Director of Sustainability, Margaret Haviland, Assistant Head for Faculty and Program, and George Schaab, Facilities Department Manager. The visiting officials, as well as teachers from other schools who joined the tour, were impressed by Westtown’s sustainability education and practice. While observing the composting bin and solar-paneled chicken coop at Lower School one teacher quipped, “My school talks about initiatives like this, but Westtown has gone ahead and implemented them. It’s inspiring.” Westtown was named a Green Ribbon School in 2013.
Mission-Based Arts: The Displacement Project
The Performing Arts Department, under the leadership of Department Chair Will Addis, focused their fall semester curriculum on the experience of refugees and the displaced. The faculty entitled this department-wide program The Displacement Project and describe that they “aim to create work that both encourages new understanding and poses questions to be carried outside of the performance hall. This fall, we have dedicated our programs to examining the experiences of people who have been displaced by war, political pressures, and persecution both within our country and around the world."
The Displacement Project grew organically from the theme of the semester which was “Looking for America.” While Addis was choosing the fall play, Robert Frazier, Instrumental Music head, was conceiving of a similar focus for his instrumental music classes. When they realized their curricula were dovetailing, they engaged dance teacher Jenny Bopp and choral music teacher David Fontes. Addis says, “[It] came together through our department's shared interest in mission-based performance, but we did not set out to create an entire series of projects. Anon(ymous) was chosen as our fall play for a few reasons: I was particularly interested in exploring a topical play this fall. We - as a program - had chosen ‘Looking for America’ as our theme for the season, and all of our plays tie back to that idea. We also have produced relatively few plays by women or playwrights of color, and so I had that in the back of mind while reading. Naomi Iizuka is a wonderful female playwright of Japanese and Latina heritage and this piece seemed particularly appropriate.”
Thus, theater and musical performances featured works by refugees or that focused on the refugee exprience, and dance students created and choreographed pieces inspired by photographs and writings of Syrian refugees. Additionally, refugee artists visited with students and, as in the case of Malek Jandali, performed with students as well.
Addis says that in preparation for the project, students learned about refugee experiences in the United States and abroad. Youssef Abara, a Syrian refugee, came to meet with students and share his story, which helped humanize the refugee experience. Students also collected images of refugees throughout time and news articles about the Syrian crisis. The images became part of the slide show that opened the play and the news articles were hung in the lobby of the theater.
The fall play, Anon(ymous), is a powerful adaptation of of Homer’s Odyssey featuring Anon, a Syrian refugee separated from his mother, who must navigate a chaotic journey through the United States as he searched for his family.
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For the dance concert, the Elements Dance Company students created a piece inspired by images and writings from Syrian Refugees. In addition to performing the piece, the students presented how they created the choreography, allowing audiences to have insight into their process.
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The fall instrumental concert, Displaced, featured music composed by or representing the experience of people who have been displaced by war, political pressures, economic factors, natural disasters, and persecution both within our country and around the world. As part of this focused study, Malek Jandali, Syrian-American composer, pianist, and activist, was invited to campus and to our stage. Our student ensembles - the Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble, String Orchestra, and a special Chamber Orchestra - performed two of Jandali’s pieces with him and he played a few solo pieces. Jandali’s visit was prompted by senior Dex Coen Gilbert, who met him this summer at a conference and wanted to share Jandali’s story and music with both students and the Westtown community. After the evening performance, Jandali visited classes the next day, continuing to share his experiences with students.
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After the success of this semester-long project, Addis and the performing arts faculty will continue to develop mission-based projects and to expand on themes that reflect Westtown’s values through theater, music, and dance.
The Election Season at Westtown
In 1948, Agnes Finnie and her history students conceived of and staged a mock convention at Westtown. This popular project began a longtime tradition of mock conventions, primaries, and elections. The tradition is not only alive, but also was broadened this year in response to this unique and historic election season. Teachers in the Upper School History Department built election discussions into class time, staged two kinds of mock elections, and, for the first time, created evening residential programming around the elections to provide space and opportunity for in-depth discussions.
In fact, teachers in all divisions have paid close attention to students’ mood and responses, reminding them to be respectful and open, and guiding them in effective ways to engage in dialogue with someone with whom they disagree. Prior to the election, space was made in classrooms throughout the school for age-appropriate, thoughtful discussions and projects. John Baird wrote a piece for Westtown’s Well-Lit Path blog with advice for parents about how to use this extraordinary time in our history as teachable moments for our children.
Several weeks ago, all Upper School students were split into five groups, each representing a state (MA, PA, GA, NC, and TX). They were given information about their states such as voter registration laws, voter identification laws, demographics, and voting history. The states were given locations around campus to serve as polling places; each had different ID requirements. According to history teacher Emma Bracker, out of 360 students, 90 tried to vote, 83 voted successfully, and seven didn’t have the required forms of identification when they arrived to vote. This was not the official mock election, which took place on November 8th, but an exercise in students having to find their polling place, understanding their state’s voting laws, and providing the appropriate identification to vote in their state.
Then, on an evening two weeks before the election, boarding students were divided into two groups. One group watched video clips of John Oliver and Megyn Kelly, both of whom discussed voting, then each of the student political party club heads lead a discussion. Meanwhile, the other group broke into smaller groups to attend four mini seminars lead by teachers. Then the groups switched, so all were able to participate in each session. The teacher-lead topics were: the Electoral College, Voting Rights (15th and 19th amendments, Indian Citizenship Act, etc.), Cold War Chessboard (why our foreign policy is the way it is), Apportionment, Big Government vs. Small Government, Immigration (state profiles, overall numbers, policy approaches), and finally, Women in Politics.
Teachers report that students were interested and engaged in the evening session. “I think the exercise was great,” says senior Charlotte Abrams. “It showed us a lot about the electoral process, as well as the privileges we have in terms of our state’s voting laws. I think a lot of the 'processing' of this odd election season has taken place in our classrooms. In many of my classes we are seeing how presidential rhetoric and politics play into day-to-day activities. Overall, I am hopeful that this exercise of the mock election was helpful in informing the student body of certain aspects of the election which are not highly publicized.”
On November 8th, the traditional mock election was held in the South Room. The voter turnout was much higher with this central polling place with 311 voting. History teacher Deb Wood reported the mock election results:
Hillary Clinton - 74%
Trump - 11%
Green - 3%
Libertarian - 2%
Write-ins 12% (one for Bernie Sanders)
Total votes - 311
As we all know now, the mock election results on campus did not reflect the results of national election. On Tuesday evening faculty and boarding students watched the returns come in before lights out. On Wednesday morning, the community responded to the news that Trump had become President-Elect. Emotions were high.
In an effort to ease tensions and calm emotions, teachers Whitney Suttell, Kevin Eppler, Marissa Colston, and Ellen Abbott penned a letter that was read to Upper School students at Collection. They acknowledged that there were varied reactions to the election results. “There is a wide range of reactions to this morning’s news--everything from satisfaction to relief to extreme disappointment and even fear.” They noted that “Donald Trump’s rhetoric around women, Muslims, immigrants, people of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community is unacceptable and has been condemned by people of all political beliefs.” They went on reassure students that political institutions are bigger than any one person and that not everyone who voted for Trump believes the bigoted things he has said this year. They reminded students that in our democracy, we honor the outcome of our elections and we continue to stand up for our values. “Bigotry is not a democratic value, and it is not tolerated at Westtown. As a school community, we stand by all of our students and families including those who are Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ, people of color, and immigrants…It’s important to remember that today we, as a community, are guided by the same principles that guided us yesterday: that there is Light in each and every one of us and it’s our job and duty to find and support that Light.”
Students of all ages came to school on Wednesday with some of the same feelings expressed by the older students. Some might have been scared or confused, some might have been relieved, but all were aware that something big had happened in our nation. As Westtown teachers do best, they listened to all voices, they answered questions, and then they continued to teach in the way they always have: with a heightened sense of purpose, with dedication to our mission and Quaker values, and with focus on social action and responsibility.
In a recent letter to staff and faculty, John Baird offered thanks, support, and guidance to our adult community, and concluded with these important words: “Now the election is over; our country has chosen. There are, no doubt, a wide range of reactions in our community. No matter what our own responses are, we need to continue to listen to one another with respect and love and to hold one another in the Light. We will continue to stand for our mission and our principles of equality, diversity, community, and peace. We will support all of our young people and keep them safe - whatever their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic background, or political affiliation, and instill in them a sense of hope. This is hard work, and it is the most important work we can do. We are creating the next generation of leaders who will take what they have learned here and change the world, as Westonians have done for many generations. Now, more than ever, the world needs more Westonians.”
Guerster House Retreat 2016
By Ted Freeman
Whenever a new group of boys moves into Guerster House at the beginning of the school year I am eager to tell them that they are joining a great legacy. Since 1917 the building has seen generations of students pass through its halls. The young men who have lived here have a very special bond with one another that continues throughout their experience at Westtown, and even into their adult lives. They carry with them a collective sense of camaraderie that transcends the years. Rene Guerster, Class of ‘56, shared this experience when he was a resident of this dorm. When Guerster House was renamed in his honor last spring, he was joined by many of his fellow dorm mates who made his experience here so meaningful. It was clear that their common bond was as strong as ever. It is through Mr. Guerster’s generosity that our retreat is made possible. The aim of this retreat is to provide a catalyst for building fellowship and community among the residents of Guerster House. Following our inaugural retreat last year, it was obvious that this shared experience provided a framework of friendship and collaboration that endured throughout the year. I hope and expect that this year’s retreat creates the same kind of energy.
Our retreat started early on a mid-September Saturday morning. We travelled to the quaint town of Jim Thorpe, PA where we rafted, ziplined, and camped. Our group consisted of twenty-five residents and four adult chaperones: Tim Mountz, Tom Gilbert (both of whom are Guerster House dorm parents), and Larry Dech (who used to be a Guerster House dorm parent) and me. Our first adventure was to go on the 900 foot-long zip line.
One of the most important elements of this retreat is for the group to support one another in stretching our limits. The guys were great about cheering each other on. After donning harness and helmet, each of us rather tentatively climbed the ladder to clip on to the line. We had facilitators with us who also encouraged us and helped us take that step into the abyss. It was completely thrilling few-second trip! As each student arrived at the bottom, the group was there to celebrate him.
Later in the day everyone was issued a life vest and a paddle and given instructions by the guides who would accompany us down the river. Our raft groups were formed and we boarded a bus that took us to our put-in site. Soon we were in the water and headed down the river.
In order to get the raft to go in the direction you want, someone in the raft needs to take on the role of leader. There was a wide range of paddling experience, so in some rafts a leader quickly took charge and organized how the group would function. In other rafts it was a different story. Rafting is kind of like running: in order for a person to run at his best, the legs and arms need to be coordinated and work in unison. Likewise, in order for a raft to go where you want, the four paddlers need to be working as a team. Once again, students needed to lean into this difficulty and figure out how best to work together. One of the highlights of the trip was watching a group of young men who had begun with great difficulty, but by the end of the trip they were working collectively and productively. Whether they knew it or not, they were practicing the same type of problem-solving that we often need to do in our dormitory. The end result is that the group became more cohesive and developed a bond through that difficulty.
Rafting was tremendous fun. Most of the rapids were quite mild, but every once in awhile we’d get a bit more of a challenge. It was not uncommon for rafts to become perched on a rock that was just below the surface. The crew would need to work together to shift their weight around to become unstuck. The team dynamic was important . As groups became more adept at directing their rafts, the foreseeable horseplay ensued. Each raft was equipped with a bail bucket which doubled as a weapon used to douse your neighbor. Suffice to say, everyone got pretty wet, myself included!
We arrived at our site and quickly unloaded the tents, sleeping pads and bags, and cooking gear we needed to set up for the night. Each proctor group set up its own tent. Once tents were set, we built a fire. Not long afterwards we broke out the chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers to make s’mores. For many students in our group this was the first time that they had done anything like this before, and the idea of a s’more was quite foreign to them. More experienced campers took the opportunity to demonstrate what the perfect s’more should look like—lightly toasted and gooey on the inside. Some students preferred the flambé approach.
It was clear by the end, that friendships had formed and the sense of cohesion and community had been deepened by this shared experience.
My hope is that the impact of our retreat will continue to resound throughout the school year. In only the few days following I have seen tighter bonds among the kids and a more collaborative mentality about our life in the dormitory. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to have this retreat, for the many people who came together to make it a success, and especially for Rene Guerster himself.
Lower School Robotics
Check out the leatest project of the 3rd grade Lego Robotics Club!
Congratulations to 8th grader Mia Melendez who has been selected to serve on Harvard’s Making Caring Common Youth Advisory Board! The YAB will work with MCC "to make schools and communities more just, caring, and respectful places." The 26 members of the 2016-2017 YAB were selected from nearly 200 nominations of students in grades 7 – 12. They represent 15 states across the nation and a diversity of backgrounds and identities. All YAB members have a strong commitment to MCC’s mission of building just, caring, and respectful communities.
Congratulations to Alex Mortazavi '19 who won "Best Youth Screenplay" at the Newark International Film Festival! Alex's screenplay, Gehenna, was part of his portfolio work in Teacher Stephanie Tucker's English class. Way to go, Alex!
National Merit Scholars
Congratulations to National Merit Semi-Finalists, Molly Lynch, Tom Barnett, Elena Vilceanu, and Jane Mentzinger, and to Alyssa Rowshan, recognized by the National Hispanic Recognition Program!
16,000 National Merit Semi-Finalists have been designated on a state-by-state basis from a pool of 1.6 million juniors who took the PSAT in the fall of 2015. The majority of semi-finalists will advance to finalist status on the basis of their applications. All National Merit Scholarship (NMS) winners will be selected from this pool. There are three categories of NMS winners: those selected by the corporation itself, those selected by corporate sponsors, and those selected by colleges and universities that participate in the program.
The College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program is an academic honor that recognizes about 5,000 of the 250,000 Hispanic/Latino juniors who take the PSAT. It’s not a scholarship, but a program to identify academically exceptional Hispanic/Latino students.
L -R: Molly Lynch, Tom Barnett, Elena Vilceanu, Alyssa Rowshan, Jane Mentzinger
Twenty countries were represented with food, memorabilia, and music at this year's International Festival. Thank you to all of our students and families who worked hard to make this an amazing celebration of cultures! Take a look at the gallery of wonderful photos of this beloved event at Westtown.
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14-6 Overall Record
Friends Schools League Finalists (they lost a tough one to Shipley in the finals 1-2)
PAISAA State Champions! First time in program history making it to the State Finals
Sara Oswald '19, Relly Ladner '19, Natalia Santangelo '20, and Natalie Neumann '19 named to FSL All League First Team
Val Thomson '18 and Emily Coe '20 named to FSL All League Honorable Mention
Finished the regular season 4th in the FSL
Lost in the first round of playoffs to MFS in penalty kicks
George Ladner '17 and Matt Dolente '19 named to FSL All League First Team
Drew Thompson '17 and Pierce Eldridge '18 named to FSL All League Honorable Mention
Finished the regular season 5th in the FSL
Quaker Cup Champions defeating FCS in the finals
Sarah Cassway '17 and Dewi Henry '18 named to FSL All League First Team
Cate Cappuccio '19 named to FSL All League Honorable Mention.
Boys Cross Country
Team finished 3rd in FSL Championships
Ryan O'Donnell broke the school cross country record
Banning Cup Recipient - Ryan O'Donnell
Ryan O'Donnell named to FSL All League First Team
Ethan McLear and Nick Hanchak named to FSL All League Honorable Mention
Girls Cross Country
One of the most competitive teams in recent history
Finished 2nd in FSL Championships
Banning Cup Recipient - Lili Ladner
Paula Reeker '19, Trish DeSouza '17, and Lili Ladner '17 named to FSL All League First Team
Leiya Stuart '20 named to FSL All League Honorable Mention
Claire Burke '20 named to FSL All League First Team
Finished 6-3 overall
Had a fantastic final season
Celeste Payne Featured in Chronicles
A piece about equity and inclusion written by Upper School biology teacher Celeste Payne is featured in this issue of Chronicles of Quaker Education, Friends Council on Education's newsletter. You can find an online version of this publication here.
As the old expression goes ... many hands make light work! We need your help with the auction. If you are interested in volunteering on one of the many auction committees, please contact Megan Schlickmann at ext. 7858 for more details. If you'd like to solicit a donation or make a donation to the live or silent auction, please click here.
December 4th 7:30 p.m. - Climbing PoeTree
February 12th 7:30 p.m. - Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez '06
Friends of Westtown Gatherings with John Baird
January 26th - New York City
February 16th - San Francisco
April 13th - Boston
Alumni/Community Basketball Game
January 7, 2017
Alumni Weekend 2017- Save the Date!
Make plans to join us for Alumni Weekend May 12-14, 2017!
Connect with other Westonians!
Check out our great mobile alumni app called "EverTrue." Search our alumni directory by name, class year, college, company, etc. and map other alumni near you!