Friends Seminary

Welcome to the Headmaster's Blog where you'll find updates, thoughts, and events regarding Saint David's School, the education of boys, and other items of interest. This is by no means meant to be a complete account of all that happens at Saint David's. Please refer to the school's website for more complete details -- it's more a Headmaster's musings.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Crane Pick

Saint David's closed 89th Street yesterday to pick several chiller units off a flat bed truck and lift them to the roof of Buildings 14 and 16.

Shown above is a view of the crane over the school with Central Park in the background. 

You might also notice in the bottom right of the photo the almost total demolition of the rear portion of Graham House almost to the ground floor. The stair and elevator core can be seen still intact running the vertical length of Building 16, as well as the facade of Graham still intact. All is on schedule. 

Below are a series of close up photographs of the chiller units being lowered into place. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Concrete Progress

Demolition of Graham House is moving along well, with completion on target for summer's end.

This aerial shot shows the imprint of the area that will encompass our new large, middle school regulation-size gymnasium.  The section marked 1 is the air shaft,  which we are filling in from the ground up.

The #2 arrow gives you an idea of the size of the gym, which will run nearly the length of the building from North to South. The width will span the entire rear portion of Graham House to the #3 arrow, which approximates the location of the fixed bleacher seating. It is exciting to imagine that this space will, in the not too distant future, be filled with the sounds and sights of our boys playing sports.

Additional photos of the ongoing work follow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Saint David's Alums

I am always impressed when I see Saint David's alums. This morning, while visiting our Horizons summer program, I encountered young professional alums reading to the Horizons boys before they go off to work. 

Our alums come to Horizons every Wednesday for an hour or so and share literature with a small group--the same small group every week for six weeks throughout the summer. 

I dare say they are sharing much more than literature!  I just love it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Update on Saint David's Kalina School

I would like to share the latest developments at the Saint David's Kalina School in Tigray, Ethiopia. 

This past academic year a new Early Childhood Care and Development center (ECCD), which includes a dedicated block of two rooms and an outdoor playground, opened for boys and girls ages 4-6.

The ECCD provides young children with an opportunity to prepare for their primary school years. It also educates mothers in early literacy development and healthy child care practices.

The ECCD center joins the Saint David's Kalina School, which officially opened in 2014 after 3 years of fundraising projects by Saint David's boys.

Last school year, the Saint David's Kalina School and ECCD center provided education to 479 children (216 girls and 263 boys) in pre-primary through Grade 6.

A recent report by Save the Children, our partners in the project, had this to say about the sustained efforts of Saint David's boys: Because of your support for the ECCD center, preschool girls and boys will have learning opportunities that will provide them with a vital foundation so that they can enter the Kalina Primary School well-prepared and ready to learn. Through the quality ECCD programming, you are providing hope for the future and putting young, disadvantaged students on a trajectory to give back to their families, to their community and to future generations.

We remain committed to the development of Saint David's Kalina School, as our boys continue to raise funds to build a middle school.

This project is particularly meaningful because it involves elementary school children working to provide education to same aged peers in need. It was born from our desire, during Saint David's 60th anniversary, to embrace a project for the greater good that would be long-lasting and entail the sustained efforts of our boys.  It is the Saint David's mission alive in the world!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hard Demolition of Graham House Begins

Hard demolition of Graham House is underway, beginning on the roof of Building 18 and working its way down to the ground floor.  Once 18 has been demolished, demolition of 20 and 22 will follow. The elevator from Building 22 has been removed and that space will be used as a trash chute for the duration of the project. 

The photos below show workers on the roof as they begin demolishing the rear portion of Graham House in preparation for the transformation of our school's facilities.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Horizons at Saint David's Turns Five

It's hard to believe it, but this is the fifth year of Horizons at Saint David's, a summer academic, sports, and enrichment program for boys from predominantly low-income families in our neighboring communities, who are at risk of summer slide.

In the summer of 2012, 17 rising first graders comprised the program's first cohort.

This summer, 80 boys are enrolled spanning Grades 1 through 5.  Due to the construction work underway at Saint David's, for this summer and the next the program is being held at Nightingale-Bamford School; we are appreciative to have this support from our friends at NBS. 

The six-week Horizons program includes interactive, project-based activities that help the boys develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They participate in academic, art, music, and hands-on STEAM classes; take swimming lessons; and enjoy sports. It's a fun-filled educational day for the boys and teachers alike.

Several Saint David's alumni who are now in high school volunteer for Horizons, assisting the teachers throughout the day. The executive director is Meg Sheridan, parent of three Saint David's alumni, and the program co-directors are former Saint David's faculty members Courtney Sanchez and Meghan Patterson. Several of our faculty teach for the program. 

Horizons at Saint David's is an affiliate of Horizons National. It was established by Saint David's School in conjunction with our sixtieth anniversary, as I sought a means for our school to contribute to the greater good in our neighboring communities. Trustee Julie Sykes served as its founding executive director.

More information on the program can be found at

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Demolition Continues Apace

As the days have heated up, so has the work over on East 89th Street.

With hard demolition set to start this week, I'd like to share some highlights of recent work:

The Omega classroom has been gutted. The new space will occupy the same place on the first floor of the school but will be larger, with a spacious, open layout that is more efficient for teaching young boys. 

Below is the former site of the Director of Finance and Administration's office on the first floor.

This converted air shaft area separating Buildings 18 and 20 also runs up all the floors of the school and was built in at the end of the Jubilee Campaign.

During our current project it will be filled in, providing a few thousand more square feet of program space.

This photo depicts the closing of a stairway door into Building 18. We will we need to retain this stairwell and the elevator in Building 18 for the duration of construction.  Both will be removed in the summer of 2018.

The old tech room on the second floor has been demolished. This section will be transformed into the stage right area of the new performing arts center, which will be able to accommodate a full division of our school and their parents.

Work on this floor also will entail the addition of three nearby music rooms, enabling the boys to practice next to the performance center.

The bricked up door from the library to the old tech room highlights a permanent change. Beyond it lies the future stage for our theater.

It's certainly an exciting summer at Saint David's! Look for more updates as we realize a long-term dream to enable program needs to fully drive the allocation and design of space for our boys and faculty. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Exploring a World of Enzymes

Last week, Saint David's offered a summer program for rising sixth and seventh graders conducted through the school's ongoing collaboration with the DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the world's first science center devoted to genetics education. 

Participants entered the World of Enzymes, where they built molecular models; observed enzymatic reactions that are used for food production and healthcare; used enzymes to cut and splice DNA; analyzed DNA with gel electrophoresis; and prepared a personal DNA fingerprint. Quite a week!

On Friday, the boys shared their findings with parents and family members. It is clear that they learned a lot, including how to properly use sophisticated laboratory equipment for their experiments, and were able to put their natural curiosity to work in the DNA field. 

The World of Enzymes is one of two week-long summer academic camps offered by Saint David's. The other, Secrets of the Civil War, begins this week.  It is provided through our partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Construction Update

The demolition of Graham House is fully underway with interior demolition of buildings 18 and 20 taking precedence.

This week the arches in the Hume Library are being carefully removed and reinstalled in the small gym, which will become a swing classroom and meeting space.

Hume Library North and South will be Eighth Grade homerooms for the next two years.  At the end of the project, Hume South will be a reference library (one of three libraries that the school will ultimately house), and North will be part of a new suite of First Grade classrooms that will run the length of 89th Street, all with the high ceilings and beautiful light the northern exposures of the Delano and Aldrich townhouses are known for.

This photo depicts the construction work being done to transform the sixth floor into a middle school regulation size gymnasium.

The last shot is of the sixth floor of the Graham House Wing with a new metal floor.  This will ultimately be a 7th grade classroom suite with a commons.

It is very exciting to see the work on this transformative project moving along and the plans starting to take shape!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Spain Summer Study Tour

A cohort of our rising eighth graders and a group of their teachers arrived in Salamanca, Spain, yesterday for the Spain Summer Study Tour.

Their arrival coincided with the Feast of the city's patron saint, San Juan de Sagahun, so the boys enjoyed a dramatic fireworks display last night.

For the next two weeks they will spend their mornings immersed in customized Spanish language classes at Colegio Unamuno, and their afternoons and evenings engaging in a variety of cultural experiences.

Today, they are enjoying a tour of the city, a visit to the bullfighting ring, and a tour of the bullfighting museum before a welcome dinner out at a restaurant.

This rich educational and cultural experience is available through Saint David's partnership with the University of Salamanca, the provincial government, and the local schools, which created a program that is customized for our boys.

It is a powerful way for the boys to augment and deepen what they have learned in their Spanish immersion classes at Saint David's over several years.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

37 New Alumni

These 37 incredible boys are our newest cohort of alumni.

I and their teachers congratulate and wish them a relaxing, well-deserved summer and all our best wishes as they set off in September to secondary schools near and far.

As I mentioned in my Commencement Remarks on Friday, I have seen them grow from their Pre-K days, developing into well mannered, confident young men who are ready for their next step. Like the David of our school's name, I am confident that they will step forward and lead with conviction and character whenever called upon. 

Return to Saint David's often, boys! Exciting things are happening at your alma mater, and you will always have a home here.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Monumental Groundbreaking Moment

Thursday was a monumental day in the history of Saint David's School as we celebrated the groundbreaking for the school's consolidation, renovation, and expansion project in the lobby of Graham House. 

In his opening remarks, our Board President Dan Connolly '77 observed that the purchase of that building by Saint David's in 1972 was an "act of extraordinary courage and wisdom and vision that set us on a course 44 years long to this very moment...we stand on the precipice of the future of Saint David's, a wonderful moment."

Then came the big moment:  Our four student council officers broke through the wall that separates Graham House from the current school, repeating the action taken by our student council officers way back in 1953, when Saint David's School first expanded from 12 E 89th to the building immediately to its east.

We now officially begin this project, which will maximize the potential of our program in alignment with our mission, fulfilling a dream of our Founders.

Saint David's has been fortunate to have been served extremely well by bold leaders, stewards, professionals and benefactors in her past,  and her stewards, leaders, benefactors and professionals today are no exception.  Their remarkable vision, hard work, and dedication to the mission of this great school is an inspiration to us all.

The Founders would be proud.