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Letter from Steve Piltch, August 2016

August 8, 2016

Dear Shipley Families:

More often than not I begin my first letter of the year referring to our mission statement, which is at the heart of everything we do and everything we are. However, before I do, I want to express our condolences to the Wylie and Saligman families and thank everyone in the community for the support you have shown to them and to each other over these past few weeks. It is reinforcing to be a member of such a caring and compassionate community.

As we move forward, we will be reinforcing our commitment to supporting our entire community with the challenges we may face. In that context, we have planned a program for parents/guardians with Dr. Anthony Rostain on Thursday, September 8 at 7:00 pm. Dr. Rostain is a Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and the Director of Education for the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. The program will address the challenges of dealing with suicide and answering questions you may have about your children, the community, or anything else. I hope you will be able to make it. Although we might have liked to have done this already, people’s schedules and the recommendations of our professionals indicate that the start of the year will be a better time to do it. I hope you will be able to make it.

While we would prefer that tragedy and loss did not occur, our ability to acknowledge situations and to be there for our families, each other, and others in the greater world, define who we are. By doing it together, we will help ourselves, our children/students, and the community. Our mission compels us to do this, and the important work we have ahead in the 2016-207 school year should be helpful in the process.

As challenging as the past few weeks have been, time has gone far too quickly. It seems like just yesterday that Ellen Deitrich shared her comments with our seniors at Commencement and reminisced about the lessons she learned through her childhood, her early career and her time here. We wish the 86 members of the Class of 2016 only the best as they move on to the next challenges in their lives. We know that they are ready to meet them.

While I am looking forward to a little more vacation time, I am also very excited for the start of the 2016-17 school year. It will be here very soon! And I would like to offer a warm welcome to all of our new Shipley families – particularly those in our PreK and K, the classes of 2030 and 2029!

I find it very reinforcing to review the School’s mission, particularly the first sentence:

The Shipley School, a Pre-Kindergarten through 12 coeducational day school, is committed to educational excellence and dedicated to developing in each student a love of learning and a compassionate participation in the world.

At Shipley, strong relationships between and among our students and faculty are at the heart of everything we do. They help to create an environment that gives our students the confidence to explore, which cultivates their curiosity and their creativity, and leads to what we refer to as deeply rooted learning.

Understanding that our mission and our strategic plan compel us to help our students become the best students and people possible, we are forever committed to offering a truly challenging (and integrated) academic program balanced by an equally important commitment to character development and emotional literacy (as evidenced in our comprehensive Social, Emotional, and Ethical Development, or SEED, Program).

To accomplish these things, we must be committed to having strong partnerships with our families and be willing to ask the questions and do the things necessary to continually improve. I want to share some information with you on a range of areas that speak to our joint commitment and should be helpful as the year begins:

Strategic Plan: Approved by our Board of Trustees, our new strategic plan has three fundamental goals around Educational Excellence, Community Engagement, and Institutional Stewardship. I invite you to learn more about the plan (and view a terrific video featuring our students). This year, the Central Administrative Team and the Board are establishing an implementation plan that will guarantee the fulfillment of the Plan. We will share those plans with you as we go.

Safe Community: Consistent with our mission and the priorities established in our strategic plan, one of our goals is to be the safest and most welcoming community possible for one and all. In that context, I want to share with you our Community Commitment that was originally developed by our Central Administrative Team a couple of years ago and has been updated to capture our commitment to being safe for everyone:

We are committed to cultivating an environment where all members of the Shipley community are engaged, feel respected and valued, grow as individuals, strive for excellence, and have the opportunity to do their best work.

We honor and value all differences and are committed to being a safe and inclusive environment for all people.

With our commitment as it is, the following policy on Gender and Sexual Diversity, which has been approved by our Board of Trustees, is a natural extension of the Community Commitment with regards to gender. Among other things, it empowers students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify and allows for any student who is uncomfortable using a gender identified bathroom or locker room to use a private bathroom or changing area. We have ensured that our facilities will support this policy. Read the policy.

Partnership with Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania: We are excited to be working with Alejandro Adler Braun and Penn’s Positive Psychology Center to explore how, consistent with our strategic plan, we can take our character education and SEED curriculum to the next level of excellence. We are energized by their efforts exploring the latest research connecting academic achievement and character education. We look forward to keeping you informed as our partnership progresses.

Construction: If you have been by campus, you know that construction has begun on our rowing center and squash courts. We expect the new facilities to be completed this coming spring and are confident that the facilities will nicely complement the Shipley Commons and the Learning and Research Center (LARC) that opened last year. Please note that due to the construction, there will be no pick up or drop off at the Yarnall Gym circle.

Learning Management System: We have begun to roll out OnCampus, our new Learning Management System. We believe that this new system will benefit students, families, and teachers. You will be hearing more about this from your division head(s) about the specific implications for each division.

Heads Forums: Good places to discuss Pre-K through 12 issues are our Heads Forums, which are informal opportunities for you to meet other parents/guardians and to talk with our Division Heads, other administrators, and me. We will consider various issues that we are thinking about, as well as whatever is on your mind. Dates and times of this year’s forums are listed below. The first few minutes of each forum is given over to refreshments and some socializing. The January session will be devoted to a strategic look at the state of the school.

Heads Forum I: Nov. 11, 8:30 to 10:00am Beechwood House

Heads Forum II: Jan. 20, 8:30 to 10:00am Beechwood House

Heads Forum III: Apr. 7, 8:30 to 10:00am Beechwood House

Ongoing Communications: You will soon receive via email my first Head of School Letter for the year. The Letter is written monthly and is designed to speak to our philosophy, make connections to issues in the outside world, and address topics of relevance suggested by people in the community. In addition, starting in September, you will also receive weekly email updates from the Division Heads letting you know of upcoming events.

Super Saturday and Welcome Back Barbecue: Please join us on Saturday, September 24 for Super Saturday, which will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., the Barbecue from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m., and athletic competitions on our Upper Campus fields throughout the day. We look forward to welcoming new and returning families.

Shipley Volunteer Showcase: Having commented on the importance of the partnership between parents/guardians and the School, we know that students do their best work when the adults in their lives are actively and positively engaged in the life of the School. To that end, the Parent Ambassador Network is hosting a “Shipley Volunteer Showcase” on Tuesday, September 27 from 8:30-10:00 a.m. in the Grey Box in the Shipley Commons on the Upper Campus. The Showcase will highlight the many ways you can get involved as a volunteer, whether you have a few hours to share or are interested in a leadership role. I encourage you to attend and become an active participant in the Shipley community.

Most importantly, we are incredibly excited to welcome your children to Shipley for the 2016-17 school year. Since relationships and community matter as much as they do at Shipley, we feel fortunate to have such terrific parents and guardians, colleagues, and friends associated with the School. We celebrate that our students, parents, and colleagues are bright, talented, committed, and caring individuals. Please join me in welcoming new students and their families and new professionals into the community. Please take a moment to read the brief write-ups on our new colleagues.

If you have specific and/or urgent concerns or questions, you can always email or call the appropriate division head: Margaret van Steenwyk (Upper School), Shane Kinsella (Middle School), and Tim Lightman (Lower School). I am sure you will find them to be accessible and helpful. Please feel free to contact me as well; my email address is spiltch@shipleyschool.org.

I look forward to seeing all of you just after Labor Day, and I hope that the 2016-17 school year, Shipley’s 123rd year, is a healthy, productive, and enjoyable one for you and your family. My thoughts and wishes are with all of you. Enjoy the last couple of weeks of summer!

Warmest regards,



Steve Piltch,
Head of School
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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.