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Ad Summum Volume 1, Issue 1

October 2013

Kew-Forest: A Hotbed of Learning and an Oasis of Civility


he Model T was one of the worst things to happen to American education. By the 1920’s its enormous success suggested to our nation that the Henry Ford assembly line model could, and should, be applied to education and schools, making them “efficient” places where students moved assemblylike through days of drill-and-fill, mug-and-jug fact learning led by all-knowing supervisors (teachers). This created schools that, to this day, look like factories inside and out, low-slung industrial designs with hose-down architecture and desks in rows where students see only the backs of each other’s heads. For a host of reasons, our nation moved quickly from the small, highly-individualized, cross-agegrouped schoolrooms of the 19th century (romanticized by the oneroom schoolhouse) to outsized, impersonal institutions not of hundreds but, often, of thousands of students where recitation and rote learning were not only de rigeur but necessary for order -- and where students often no longer felt connected.


t about the same time, in 1918, The Kew-Forest School was conceived and built on a very different model: that students are best-prepared in small classrooms with an able Faculty where a classical, core curriculum stresses depth, not breadth, written and oral communication, foreign language (including Latin), mathematics, science, the humanities, athletics, the arts, citizenship, and student organizations in an inti-

mate setting of warmth, high expectations, and caring.


he model could not have been more different for its day, or more right. Today, as debate swirls around the “new” Common Core Standards that demand that millions of public school students in 46 states master fewer things in greater depth, what has been practiced at Kew-Forest for nearly a century is reaffirmed as not only modern and relevant but leading edge. Work here is spiral and recursive, with depth of learning its goal. Alumni/ae tell us that decade after decade Kew-Forest has taught students not what to think but how to think, and both what to learn and how to learn.

Work here is spiral and recursive, with depth of learning its goal... Kew-Forest has eschewed the vocational or pre-professional training now so trendy in charter and magnet schools. “Pre-law” and “premedical” high schools ask adolescents to “specialize” well before they write well, have read deeply, think critically, speak convincingly, lead persuasively, make mature decisions regularly, synthesize large quantities of material effectively,

— Headmaster Mark Fish, Ed.M. read and write another language, serve others, take personal responsibility for their actions, lead healthy lives, juggle sports and extracurricular activities, and see themselves in a global context. High school should be a time to do all of those things, and to begin to do them well. Indeed, we rob our students if we do not give them the “whole school, whole student” opportunity to flourish as scholar-citizen-athletes at every step of their School career. As we renew and reward Faculty excellence, as we strengthen inquiry-based learning around our new seminar tables in the Upper School, as we prepare our students to go on with success at highly competitive colleges and universities, we shall continue to be a community of grace and courtesy that values equally the intellectual, ethical, and personal growth of each of our students.


ow special and how rare to be both an oasis of civility and a hotbed of learning.


ditor’s Note: Thank you for reading our premier issue of Ad Summum. In this regular newsletter, you can expect to read an article from Headmaster Mark Fish addressing both school-specific and broad educational issues. This month, you will see a note from Board of Trustees Chair Ellen Honig ’86 and, in the next issue, one from Parent Association President Amy D’Amato. Board and PA news will alternate monthly. In each issue, we will profile a teacher, a program, and a student. We hope you find Ad Summum helpful as we look forward to one more way to actively connect with you.

— James David, Director of Institutional Advancement

Focused on Strategic Planning, the Board Looks to the Future Today I write to you to explain one of the most important functions that my colleagues and I on the Kew-Forest School Board of Trustees oversee: the strategic planning for the School’s future. Unencumbered by the dayto-day operation of Kew-Forest, which the Board delegates to the Headmaster, the Board asks questions such as “Where do we want to be in five years?” and “What are our highest priorities, and what will they cost, as we assure continued school excellence?” That planning and those ques-

tions result in Five-Year Strategic and Strategic Financial Plans that lead to continuous school improvement. With timetables and costs assigned to them, these Plans then set the Board’s and the Headmaster’s annual goals and objectives for four to five years. Now at the end of highly successful 2010-2014 Plans, the Board wishes to craft with the K-F community the next Five-Year Strategic Plan. In the upcoming weeks the K-F community will receive a thirdparty questionnaire that will help to determine the topics, themes,

and questions that will inform the Board’s strategic planning retreat at the end of November. The Strategic and Financial Plans that emerge will shape the School’s future as it as it approaches its Centennial in 2018 -- and as it begins its second century, stronger than ever. As an alumna of the School and a current parent, I am honored to share in this task and thank you in advance for your participation and support. — Ellen Honig ’86, P ’15, ’22 Board of Trustees Chair

Wendy Lee: A Strong Social Foundation

During her mid-20s, Wendy Lee worked at a law firm as she prepared for law school. Although successful, she wasn’t happy. “I felt burnt out and, more importantly, that I was not making a real contribution. I was not making a difference. I always had a desire to work with children, so I decided to pursue my dreams.”

The Kew-Forest School

By the Numbers:

A decade later, she joined The Kew-Forest School to take on the role of Early Childhood Development (ECD) Director. “I knew it was an amazing opportunity to work with the youngest students. The 3’s and the 4’s are my passion and the greater part of my experience. I revel in the fact that I am so lucky to work with such inspiring young students and their families.” Ms. Lee focuses on creating a well-rounded curriculum. Part of her philosophy is that play is a child’s work. “It is through play that they learn to negotiate for materials and communicate their needs and wants. The teacher’s role is to model appropriate language as well as apposite behaviors. We facilitate these interactions so that each child ac-


quires the tools and strategies to be able to independently resolve issues and challenges.” For Ms. Lee, a strong classroom experience starts with a strong social foundation. “That layer has an emphasis on respect and kindness. Fostering a positive, healthy classroom community is essential. From there, the academics will follow.” With successes both socially and academically, Ms. Lee finds her favorite moments with students are when she is able to see their expressions or to listen to their reactions as they experience something for the first time. “Their sense of wonder of the newly discovered world around them is exhilarating and heartening. It makes me realize why I love what I do so much.”

New Lower School Students


New Upper School Stud

Wanting to provide a full-time learning skills resource to Faculty, students, and parents, The KewForest School has hired a Learning Skills Director. One leg of the school’s current Strategic Plan, the position has overarching goals that include assisting students with learning differences; providing resources to students and teachers; and collaborating with specialists, families, and teachers. To help implement the best instructional practices related to teaching, language acquisition, and learning skills, the Learning Skills Director is working directly with classroom teachers to identify individual student learning needs, styles, and characteristics with an eye to developing strategies to re-

spond to individual student’s needs. In Learning Skills Director Meghan Shann, Kew-Forest has found a wonderful resource to build the school’s Learning Skills Program. To create a long-term program, Ms. Shann has very clear first-year objectives. These include assessing all students in the Lower School using Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessments and creating learning plans for all students with documented learning needs, as well as establishing a uniform, school-wide process to identify students with learning needs and differences. In the past two months, Ms. Shann has begun to achieve her objectives. She has observed students in class and helped teachers develop strategies for students school

wide. In the months to come, she will also provide professional development for teacher strategies in the classroom as well as develop and host Parent Education nights on issues of interest. “We know now that students learn in many different ways: some are auditory learners, some are visual learnings, still others are kinesthetic learners,” said Headmaster Mark Fish. “Understanding how each student learns, and how best to maximize student learning and success at Kew-Forest, is what this initiative is all about.” To read more about Learning Skills at The Kew-Forest School, we invite you to visit

Rashaad Ahmad ’14: The Big Difference

A Kew-Forest School student since the third grade, Rashaad Ahmad ’14 thought about going elsewhere for high school. “I took tours at other schools, but they didn’t have the same environment and feel as Kew-Forest.” For Rashaad, many components create the Kew-Forest environment, including school size and quality Faculty. “It’s a great thing



New Faculty and Staff

because everyone here is like family. Everyone is really comfortable and approachable. It’s helpful for new students to fit in easily and not feel out of place.” He adds, “The teachers are amazing. It’s a big difference from other schools.” Serving this year as Student Council Vice President, and participating in Model UN, Rashaad explained how much he has experienced during his entire time at Kew-Forest. “I have made a lot of friends that I cannot forget. I have learned so many things from a lot of different people, life lessons, really important things, and it is an experience that I will carry as I start on what Kew-Forest calls ‘the beginning of your new life’.” That new life will include college, for which Rashaad feels well prepared. “[Director of College Counseling] Mr. Shapiro is helpful

239 Students

and on top of things. The AP classes give you college material, and are of high caliber -- the way that the classes are structured, the tests are administered, and how teachers treat you in the classroom. It’s just not the same as if you were in middle school.” Reflecting on his time at KewForest, Rashaad said, “Kew-Forest is a great incubator for people growing up. I see the Kindergartners and the ECD students and I think, ‘Wow, that’s a great opportunity.’ They are very lucky to have come to this school and to start off here, so I think it’s something you should cherish and it’s an experience I will always remember.” To read the full transcript of our interview with Kew-Forest Senior Rashaad Ahmad, visit



119-17 Union Turnpike Forest Hills, NY 11375

New York City as a Kew-Forest Classroom Third through Sixth grade students visited The Museum of Mathematics, near Madison Square Park in Manhattan. While there, students explored mathematical concepts that the museum made tangible and interactive. Recognizing the easy access to educational opportunities all over New York City, The Kew-Forest School has embraced the city as an extension of its classroom.

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