St. Johnsbury Academy's new school year will start with the beginning of "a concerted effort to better serve students from families in need," Headmaster Tom Lovett says.

Goals include creating a "growth mindset," setting high standards, providing meaningful and regular feedback regarding progress, developing meaningful relationships, and providing necessary support and remediation," Lovett said in a July 27 memorandum to the Academy's faculty and staff.

"Lest some think this is yet another new initiative," the goals are "familiar ones," representing an extension of a "customer service" model the school has promoted and revisited over the past five years, the headmaster added.

"If we treat each student as if he or she is from a family in need, we will do a better job educating all of our students and serving their families," he said. "In a real way, every student needs a hopeful mindset, high aspirations, individualized instruction, strong relationships, and personal support."

Lovett also said the effort will begin before the school year even starts.

During a two-day faculty in-service, scheduled Aug. 17-18, Lovett and Assistant Headmaster for Academic Affairs Jeffrey Burroughs led a presentation based on the book, "Teaching with Poverty in Mind," written by Eric Jensen. Copies of the book will be provided to every Academy teacher, using funds provided by the Vermont-based Rowland Foundation, which helps provide secondary school educators professional development and leadership opportunities, including fellowships, grants and other resources to positively affect the culture and climate of their respective schools.

Meanwhile, Beth Choiniere, the Academy's assistant headmaster for Campus Life, has called back any students wanting to be part of the opening of school.

Students involved in Student Government, Dorm Council, National Honor Society, Vermont Teen Leadership Safety Program (VTLSP), and Captains' Club, along with any other students who want to learn about how to lead others, met Aug. 17 for the school's fourth annual Student Leadership Academy. Topics covered during the program included building trust within teams, defining what it means to be committed to a program, and establishing goals and initiatives to support the school's cultural climate.

All Academy students were invited to participate in a five-day, all-sports Conditioning Camp, scheduled August 15-19. Started a year ago, the free offering is designed to help students "enhance their endurance, strength, speed, agility, quickness, and most importantly, their ability to become a good teammate," Choiniere said.

Early student arrivals also included 30 new members of the school's Hilltopper Alternative Learning Opportunities (HALO) program, which provides support for incoming freshmen identified as needing help adjusting to life at the Academy, then offers on-going assistance throughout their years at the school.

Boarding student orientation and upperclassman Day school registration took place Aug. 19. Orientation for freshmen and other new students will be held today, Aug. 22.

All students return to campus Tuesday, Aug. 23 for a half-day of classes followed by special programs addressing technology-related experiences of today's teens, featuring nationally renowned speaker Katie Koestner. Topics addressed will include protecting one's one-line reputation and learning when free speech becomes slander, harassment, or bullying.

The Academy's opening week also featured a special Sunday, Aug.21 program for all student-athletes and their parents. Guest speaker Rob Miller, founder of the Missouri-based Miller Sports Consulting Group and one of the country's leading experts on the importance of character, sportsmanship and integrity in the sports culture, spoke to the athletes about the meaning of competition, followed by a "Meet The Coaches" program. Miller opened the evening program by addressing the role of parents in athletics.

Parents are invited to an Aug. 23 Parents Seminar led by Koestner at 6 p.m. in Fuller Hall. After the seminar, all parents of incoming freshmen are invited to meet with administrators and freshmen advisors in the Stuart Black Box Theater, located on the lower level of the Charles Hosmer Morse Center for the Arts, at 7:15 p.m.

New faculty and staff members include mathematics teachers Stephen Badgley, Robin Clapper and Joel Heller; special services teacher Lisa Bruzual, social studies instructors Stephen Levesque, Molly Muller and Tim Root; science instructor Kathy Hockman, English as a Second Language teacher Amy O'Shea, Art and Math Department secretary Marci McGinn, and guidance counselor John Lovett.

O'Shea's husband Tom was named as the Academy's new head boys basketball coach last spring and will also work in the Athletics Department. McGinn's husband, David was selected to replace Tom Conte, who retired July 1, as the school's athletics director.

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