July 2018: Head Lines

Dear Pioneers,

It’s with great joy and excitement that I write this first letter to you, officially as Head of School. There is so much good happening at Park, and I’m proud to be the leader of our excellent community as we move forward. Today marks the end of my first week in my new position, so I thought I’d cap it off with this letter, saying hello and letting you all know how things are going. You’ll receive letters like this from me and my colleagues on a regular basis, as writing them allows us to keep you engaged in the partnership we have in educating your children. I hope that they help you to build a familiarity with Park and with us, and encourage you to reach out to us with questions they elicit, concerns they raise, or bits of news they inspire you to share.

First up on the update list is news of the ongoing construction of the Knopp Hailpern Science Center. Large amounts of lumber have been delivered which will soon be the skeleton and walls of the lab/classroom spaces that flow down the hill towards the pond. In coming days and weeks, the shape of the building will become more telling, and we’ll get a real feeling for how things will look when construction ends. The lumber framers estimate that it should take about three weeks or so (weather permitting!) to build and assemble the wooden frame, walls, etc. During these summer months, those weeks will fly by -- our building is coming to life, my friends! I’m excited to see the looks on student faces when they get a glimpse of the building’s progress upon returning to school this fall. We are on target to complete the building in the Fall.

I’m pleased to share some additional good news regarding the school’s finances, as well. A few weeks ago, we shared that an anonymous friend of the school had left us a legacy gift totaling more than $830,000.00 (which, by the way, is super fun to type out…). This generosity will help to sustain Park and strengthen our financial health for years to come -- a truly wonderful way to honor the impact we have on our students. Along similar lines, this past week concluded our 2017-18 Annual Fund and it is with great pleasure that I announce we successfully exceeded our $320,000 goal. The Annual Fund is a key part of the operating budget and supports everything at our school - our faculty and programs, and your children. More than 725 parents, alumni, past parents, grandparents, trustees, faculty, staff, and other friends made this accomplishment possible and I thank each and every one of you!

I also express gratitude to the devoted volunteers who helped to raise the donations, and especially for our development team of Carolyn Hoyt Stevens, Kim Ruppel, and Amy Diati. True Pioneers, they’ve worked really hard to ensure that Park remains financially supported, and that our wider community has the opportunity to help. If you see them, a celebratory high-five seems appropriate.

Aside from buildings and finances, there’s also news to share in terms of changes to our administrative structure at Park. There are quite a few changes to announce, so I’ll mention them briefly here and then we’ll post them in greater detail and multiple ways later this summer and into the coming academic year. Some of these moves have required us to do some hiring, which we’re in the process of completing as I write this. I’ll send a follow-up letter in coming weeks that introduces you to our new colleagues as we hire them, and that provides fuller biographies of our long-standing friends who have moved into new roles.

Over the past few months, many of you have asked me questions about who might step into my former roles as Head of the Upper School and Assistant Head of School. The answer is a re-worked structure for academic administration, the culmination of a nearly 18-month-long review of our structures that I undertook as Assistant Head. As a result, Park will move away from a division heads model and will instead use directors and deans to address specific areas of need.

Dr. Kennedy Schultz (“Madame Schultz,” to many of you) is stepping into a new role as our Director of Studies. This means that Dr. Schultz will take on responsibility for managing our curriculum and faculty across all grade levels. She’ll direct faculty professional development and curricular development efforts, faculty evaluation, and multi-age, cross-curricular collaboration throughout the school. Kennedy has been at Park since 2014, and has a long history of teaching and curriculum development.

Mrs. Angela DiSalvo is more likely known by most of you as Ms. Pileri. She will start this fall in a new role as our Director of Academic Operations. In this role, Angela will be responsible for managing all of the day-to-day, logistical responsibilities that our faculty have to accomplish around academics. This means systems support with our onCampus system in scheduling, attendance, grade reporting, class website use; managing our academic calendar and ensuring coverage for teacher absences; and working with Dr. Schultz on faculty oversight and evaluation. Angela has been at Park for over 20 years now, and knows our school forwards and backwards!

Mr. Charles Hartney has been an English Teacher at Park since 2010, and has been our master scheduler for the past several years as well. This fall, Charlie will become our new Upper School Dean of Students, responsible for managing all aspects of student life in the upper school. We’ve seen great success with dedicated student deans in the past so I’m excited to return to that model of student support, especially given Charlie’s well-known ability to connect with students and offer firm, but kind guidance. He’ll also hold onto some teaching responsibilities.

Similarly, Mr. Matt Johnson has also become known as a teacher with whom students build significant connections. Like Mr. Hartney, Matt joined us in 2010 and has a knack for balancing just the right amount of kindness with good guidance. As our new Middle School Dean of Students, he’ll be able to put those skills to work while managing middle school student life. These two gentlemen will collaborate often, and will work with our other academic administrators and student support staff to ensure that Park students have great advantage to grow and prosper. Mr. Johnson will also remain a teacher in our History department.

In support of non-academic endeavors, three other moves are taking place:

Mrs. Lisa Conrad, a beloved member of our Spanish faculty since 2012, is becoming our new Executive Assistant to Enrollment and Marketing. This is a role Lisa filled a few summers ago when we needed her to, and her natural talents for promoting Park and engaging people signaled great potential for future work. If you’ve met Lisa, you know what a great ambassador she is for our school, so the future is now! Mrs. Conrad will also maintain some teaching responsibilities as well.

Mrs. Katie Danieu-Schiess, our former Head’s Executive Assistant, is becoming our new Director of Human Resources and Administration. This is another new role for Park, and will allow for greater support of our employees than we’ve been able to provide in the past. It will entail central responsibilities for hiring, onboarding, and supporting all of our teachers, staff, and administrators. Katie will also maintain responsibilities for managing the Head of School, keeping him on task and in the right places at the right times (thank goodness!). She’s been a Pioneer since 2012, and has already demonstrated a great capacity for helping to steer the ship.

Ms. Amy Diati spent last year working in the development office, having stepped away from the School Receptionist role she accepted when she joined the Park community in 2012. An impending new hire in Development has freed Amy up to return to her former role - a move we’re all excited about. When you visit or call campus, Amy will be your friendly first point of contact, and she’ll also be the point person for attendance in all three divisions, transportation questions, and help for finding the right Park person to answer whatever other questions or concerns come up.

That is a lot of movement! In a future letter, along with the fuller biographies and information on new hires, I’ll also include some news about where each of us will live on campus. With the impending completion of the Knopp Hailpern Center and its accompanying plaza and stream, I’ve elected to move the Head of School’s office to my current office in Hamlin Hall. It overlooks all of our new construction, and is very near the actual center of our campus. It feels like the right place for me to be, but it does require some movement of others. More on that soon!

This letter is getting long, so I’ll wrap it up with this sentiment. I hope you’re as excited as I am about Park’s future, and the steps we’re already taking to strengthen and build upon our already solid foundation. The new roles I’ve outlined above not only leave us well-supported as a school community, but they allow my colleagues to grow and stretch in new, exciting ways for their own personal and professional development, modeling for our students what we ask them to do every day. True to Park form, they also allow us to bring new friends into the fold, and to invite them to grow and stretch with us. The Park School is and always has been about inspiring growth and building on potential, and we’re doing so in so many compelling, dynamic ways. I’m excited beyond words to take the lead on what comes next.

Let’s get started, my friends!


Jeremy Besch

PS - One more bit of news that you’ll hear of from other places as well. A while back, we published our annual One Page Calendar, giving the community a snapshot of what the upcoming academic year will look like. In designing that calendar, we planned Spring Break for the two weeks before the Easter holiday and included the Monday after, giving us time away from school from April 8 through April 22. The idea was that an early break would offer us some relief from a long, unbroken March the month before, and would allow us ample time back in school before AP exams and Immersion in May.

Unfortunately, the local public districts will hold their breaks during the weeks before and after the Easter holiday, which leave a large number of our families without transportation for the week following Easter if we remain in session. As a result, after an internal conversation and a query to the Park Parents Association (PPA), we’ve elected to change our plans for Spring Break. Our break will run instead from Monday, April 15 through Friday, April 26. For some of you, we realize that plans may have already been made for travel according to the original schedule we published. We do not expect you to change those plans. Instead, just let us know and we’ll accommodate your children’s needs accordingly. We’ll send additional reminders of this change in coming days and weeks. Sincere apologies for the inconvenience this may cause some of you.

Download Past Head Lines from Jeremy Besch

A Farewell Message from Chris Lauricella

Founded in 1912, The Park School of Buffalo has the distinction of being one the oldest Progressive schools in the country. Park is an independent, co-educational school serving approximately 300 students enrolled in prekindergarten (3 and 4 year olds), lower school (kindergarten through grade 4), middle school (grades 5 through 8), and upper school (grades 9 through 12). Park is uniquely situated on 34 beautiful acres in Amherst, New York. The School’s campus – formerly a farm – includes a pond, marsh, gardens, and a greenhouse while being located just minutes from downtown Buffalo and easily accessible from many communities throughout Western New York. Park’s educational philosophy embraces active, student-centered learning, delivered by exceptional teachers who design and continuously update a robust curriculum. Faculty members approach each student as an individual within the context of a kind and respectful community. From the preschool years through college preparation, The Park School of Buffalo helps learners realize their own unique potentials and prepares them to be confident, successful, life-long learners.

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