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.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cardinal Cooke, Boys and The Good


Ten sixth graders and an eighth grader joined me tonight in community service at Cardinal Cooke.  The residents had a blast spending time with the boys, sharing stories and playing games.  In the photos we see SMcC and JC calling BINGO numbers, a group working with residents during the game, and TE imitating a perfect "host" on prize patrol.


The residents were totally taken by the boys' charm and wit.  With the help of many, including parent liaison Medill Harvey, the boys' teachers, and Adam Chazen at Cardinal Cooke, we are able to resch out and serve the greater good.  Reaching out to the community by giving of our time is important.

The boys volunteer for this program after school hours and must continue to meet their homework and all other obligations. It is a true giving of themselves.

Boys that Read

In this interesting article, How to Raise Boys Who Read, Thomas Spence makes the case for limiting electronic media, especially video games in the home if you want boys to read.  Providing boys attractive, powerfully stimulating "games" competes directly with books.  Shelve or limit the games and fill the shelves at home with books.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New England Redux

It was supposed to be a balmy 75 and sunny today. Instead, it was a cool, moist 57 in the steady shade. Having visited St. Paul's and Exeter in the spring just passed, we flew into Logan today and made our way first to see alums TJL '08 at Andover and then on to WP '09 at Brooks. Both boys are enjoying themselves thoroughly. My stated goal is to visit all Saint David's alums before they graduate high school.

Decisions about ongoing schools can be anxiety producing. What never ceases to amaze us, however, is how well it turns out. These are two different Saint David's boys at two very different New England schools--one 360 in size, the other 1,200, and the boys are thriving. They have both found homes post Saint David's that are challenging them intellectually, artistically and athletically.

WP is actively pursuing soccer, hockey and Lacrosse. At the same time, he is intimately involved in suggesting to the school that it allow he and others to paint a mural on an otherwise bland piece of wall. He is clearly confident and secure. WP has enjoyed reading "A Long Way Gone" and "In the Time of the Butterflies." Both of which he highly recommends.


For TJL, he felt well prepared for Oedipus Rex and Antigone, remembering fondly his dramatic performances and study of the same at Saint David's. He is playing varsity squash and golf and is active on the water polo team. Although far from home, TJL feels close to family with his sister at Harvard. He was a charming and engaging host over lunch and discussed the benefits of the Italian Study Tour and its unmatched interdisciplinary focus to date. So enthusiastic, in fact, was TJL, that he hardly had time to take a bite of lunch. TJL has also chosen, after several years of French, to switch to Spanish for "practical reasons." On the flight home, I suggested to Mike that "practical reasons" might have more to do with "the female composition of the current Spanish class;" but we'll never know for sure.
It was clearly evident that TJL too felt confident and prepared, and despite the distance, has maintained close relationships with Saint David's alums in other boarding and day schools.

All told our "redux" was a success and we thank our two hosts and their headmasters/heads of school, for spending so much time with us and for welcoming us into their "homes."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Know Thyself

Seventh Graders are on the Cape for the week.  Today, I sent them a "message from home:"


Dear Class of 2012, Mr. Barbieri, Mr. Kilkeary, Mr. Kessler, Ms. Marliave, Mr. Roman, Mr. Sunderwirth and Mr. Reeb: 

I thought that everything was turning for the worst.  First the 7th grade leave for Cape Cod and the school just doesn’t feel the same, then the Yankees blow it, begin to self-destruct, and sink further and further into the dark pit of hopelessness; but now, after last night’s game, they resurrect, like Phoenix from the ashes, and that sense of hope, that feeling that once again all is right with the world, has returned—and to top it off, tomorrow, you will be back.  We have missed you at Saint David’s. 

May the remainder of your time on the Cape generate many lasting memories.
God speed for the journey home.
Your headmaster,
Dr. O’Halloran

Thursday, October 21, 2010: New York

PS.  This morning, the rich ruby color has returned to the previously sullen cheeks of one 4th floor English master.  Yes, he breathes again ...



The trip to date has been splendid.  All are healthy and happy.  Also today, the sixth grade left for their overnight to Ramapo.  All have arrived safely.  They are settling in. Whether it's science, nature, journaling, drawing, and hiking on Cape Cod or leadership, high ropes, and group dynamic exercises in the tree tops of Rhinebeck, New York, Saint David's boys are exploring their world, their relationships, and most importantly, "themselves."  Know Thyself.

Mitch Spinach

This morning, Hillary Feerick, daughter of long time faculty member and friend to many, the late Mr. Raymond Feerick, shared a book she recently co-authored with her husband, Jeff Hillenbrand.  Kindergarten boys were enthralled.  The energy, optimism and unyielding passion for "knowing" that kindergarteners exude on a consistent basis is a joy.  "The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach" and its related website http://www.mitchspinach.com celebrate nutritious foods, and the powers that healthy eating bestow upon the protagonist.  Mitch, otherwise seen as a regular kid at school, is secretly called upon to solve cases.  The boys loved it.  The book is dedicated to Ray.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

St. Jogue

This morning at 8 AM mass, which was offered in memory of a grandfather of a current 6th grader, I realized that today is the feast of St. Jogue.  Known as the first Catholic priest to enter New York back in 1642Isaac Jogue, a Jesuit, and his colleague died horrible deaths.   What is fascinating about his story is not so much his death, rather his life choice.  After achieving much fame and notoriety in France after his first "mission" to the new world, he gave up what would have been an "easy life" to return to the harshness, confusion, and brutality of the "new world."  How many of us have that level of conviction? How many of us could resist the easier course? and, while we are on the topic of easy, I'd like someone to help me define "an easy life."    Life, I'm not sure, is ever easy; it gets complicated quickly.  Fun, enjoyable, fulfilling, complex--all yes; but easy, I'm not so sure.  If you have it, though, and can bottle it, I'll take some of that "easy."

What I enjoyed most about this morning was meeting the 6th grader's two uncles, both Saint David's alums, with their respective families, who were all enjoying this time together, reflecting, remembering.  That sense of family, of community, and of belonging are essential to working through the more difficult days in life.  I have been reminded of that several times recently.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mimi's Building Blocks and Saint David's: The boys at Work for the Greater Good



In celebration of our 60th year, we are embarking on a number of ambitious projects that reflect concretely the school's mission illuminated.  Today in my office, after many months of planning, members of the student council meet with Mimi O'Hagan.  A friend of the school, Mimi has been building schools in Ethiopia where no schools previously existed--specifically in the northern province of Tigray.  To date, Mimi's efforts, with the support of Save the Children, have resulted in the construction of four schools. What better way to celebrate the birthday anniversary of this school than to reach out and help establish another.  The boys committed to this effort today.

Their goal, and the goal of Saint David's is to support the construction of an elementary school in northern Ethiopia.  This is an ambitious undertaking; but one that will yield much fruit.  More information to follow.  Stay tuned to this blog.  It will be a school-wide initiative.  Pictured are Franny, Chris, and John, all members of the Student Council, in my office with Mimi.  A great day.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Research Supporting K-8

Some interesting research out of Columbia University regarding the advantage of the K-8 education model over the middle school model.  The research has limitations in that it was based predominately on standardized testing as a measure of student success and only included NYC Public Schools. Shelly Banjo highlights the research in the September 1, 2010 issue of the Wall Street Journal Middle Schools Fail Kids, Study Says. More extensive details of the study are reported in Columbia Study Finds Students in Standalone Middle Schools Lag Behind K-8 Peers in Research: Breakthroughs in Knowledge and Ideas at Columbia, September 2, 2010.