J.R. Neiswender | February 15 | Cougar Chronicle

It is difficult to think that spring is right around the corner when I look outside at our continued pattern of below-freezing days and frozen precipitation falling from the sky.  But in the Upper School, traditional “spring tasks” are already occupying our minds.  We are currently thinking about the fact that the end of the marking period is fast approaching and planning for the 2021-22 school year is well underway.  

The end of our 3rd academic quarter will fall on Friday, March 12.  I will also remind you that Blackbaud, our Learning Management System, allows grades for students to be available at any time by logging in and checking the Progress tab.  But in addition to the grades, we want to make sure everyone is aware of the other two ways in which we look forward to communication with families in the coming weeks. 

Teacher comments for the 3rd quarter will be available to families the week after the quarter closes, on Friday, March 19.  Teachers work very hard on these comments to communicate not only the specific academic progress at that time in the course, but also the student’s demonstrated strengths and challenges, providing meaningful feedback for improvement over the remainder of the year.     

Also, the week prior to spring break, March 15-19, will be the Upper School’s second round of Advisor-Student-Family Conferences for this school year.  These conferences allow the advisor to continue to connect with families and provide feedback on the academic and extracurricular progress that each student has made during the year.  Just as importantly, these conferences allow the student to share their own thoughts and ideas about the challenges and celebratory moments that have occurred thus far.  Additionally, this year’s spring conference will also focus on looking forward to next school year.  Families will have a chance to think together with the advisor about course possibilities, extracurricular opportunities, elective options, and other elements of planning that will help us understand the goals and priorities for each student and family for the 2021-22 school year.  While much of the scheduling process over the last few years has taken place during the summer, our goal is to move the course request process back into the spring semester, allowing for earlier conversations and dialogue about choices and options, as well as hopefully giving us the chance to foresee some inevitable conflicts earlier and attempt to resolve them in the most effective way possible.    

A quick reminder for the conferences - each of the advisors are teachers, so they certainly have expertise in their specific areas, and you can use this conference as an opportunity to pick their brains about the Upper School academic program and extracurricular offerings.  But by the same token, they are not the experts on EVERYTHING and they won’t have the answers to ALL your possible questions.  That is OK.  That is another reason we want to have these conversations earlier in the spring.  Your student’s advisor remains the communications link between families and the academic office.  The advisor will do their best to answer whatever questions you may have during the conferences, but they will also take notes and bring all your other questions back to me and Marshall Gray, our Dean of Studies and College Counselor.  We will be sure to get you answers to all your questions, filling in whatever gaps are necessary before the course request process takes place after spring break.  We want everyone to have the chance to get a full picture of what is possible before submitting course requests for 2021-22.

Advisors will be reaching out soon to set up convenient times for Zoom conferences, just as they did at the end of September for our first set of conferences.  The Course Guide for the 2021-22 school year is being finalized now as well, and we will make that available to everyone as soon as it is ready so families will be able to look everything over before entering into these discussions.   

I continue to be pleased and proud about the success of our students and faculty throughout this school year.  Thinking about the next school year and planning for even bigger and better things is even more exciting.  Thank you for continuing to support The New School as we take on these challenges and create something terrific with your children each day.

J.R. Neiswender

Head of Upper School

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