Interim US Principal Ken Jaffe talks to the seniors about what it means to lead in the opening assembly on Aug. 31. (SPA Smugmug)
Interim US Principal Ken Jaffe talks to the seniors about what it means to lead in the opening assembly on Aug. 31.

SPA Smugmug

First days of school: returning to a new normal

September 14, 2022

The 22-23 school year started Sept. 29 with two days of grade-level orientations, followed by two days of classes and Sept. 2 advisor/family conferences. It’s the middle of the first 5-day week of classes, and students are developing study strategies, meeting new peers, and settling into routines.

First year or last in the upper school, the start lands different

New to the upper school, freshmen learn new community

Freshman Roman Farley felt a nervous sensation when he walked through the Huss Center doors at the start of the year. Despite feeling uneasy about how the day was going to go, Farley also felt hopeful and excited about his first day of high school. He said that after attending orientation earlier in the week, “I felt pretty ready.”

Being on the Randolph Campus for middle school prepared him through advisory: “I would say that it is similar to eighth grade because of the independence building up. I do feel like it’s a lot less connected [to my peers] than eighth grade was, though.”

Freshman Katy Devine, who went to Visitation School for middle school, walked into Huss feeling a little intimidated by the number of people, but still optimistic. Compared to her old school, Devine noticed that “SPA holds a much smaller class size” which she prefers, she said.

She knew the students in her advisory due to orientation, which helped her get accustomed.

Seniors start year with an eye on college

Senior Solvej Graff believes SPA has thoroughly prepared her for life after high school. Graff shared that some of her family members who are alumni of SPA felt the same way as upperclassmen. Although she feels prepared, Graff is still uneasy about the transition to college.

“I think it will be a difficult transition,” she said. “I’m not sure what’s to come… and that difficulty is something I’m working through right now. And I hope that I’m not alone among my peers in that because it’s a big transition.”

Graff is also hoping to pursue her gymnastics career beyond high school, and that is factoring into her college search.

Senior Leo Sampsell-Jones reflected fondly on the four years he has spent at SPA. He said, “I’m grateful for the time I had at SPA …. and it kind of feels like home to me.”

He feels the upper school has prepared him for a career in linguistics and although he will miss some aspects of the community, he’s excited to move on and grow. Sampsell-Jones said that SPA has been a largely good fit for him and he’s glad he chose to go to SPA when looking for a high school. He is thankful that he got to experience high school life at SPA, “even through its horror stories and good times.”

New advisory structure works to create closer community

In the past, a handful of upperclassmen advisories included juniors and seniors. This year, mixed advisories came to an abrupt stop. Is this due to the new administration? How will this benefit the student body? New Dean of Students Stacy Tepp answers all of the most asked questions about the new advisory structure.

The new advisory placements were already set when Tepp joined the administrative team in her new role, but she revealed that the decision to end mixed-grade advisories “came from pre-COVID surveys.”

Tepp hopes that students and advisors alike grow accustomed to the new structure. Her goal is to strengthen the sense of community within grades: “Developmentally there are certain milestones you’re kind of hitting together. And so there’s obviously time for connection and angst and — whatever it is — they’re all the fields that surround those milestones.”

Most students will remain in the same advisories from year to year, rather than changing annually. Tepp shared how the recent expectation to remain in the same advisory is beneficial for students. She put an emphasis on building connections within grades.

“Being with the same people is beneficial regardless of the same grade or not,” Tepp said. “Having some consistency with the same advisor or with generally the same group,” she said, is essential to creating community. With yearly changes, she predicts that a sense of community can not be solidified.

Advisories meet for check-in and Wednesday activities, as well as share grade-level orientation and retreat time.

[PHOTO STORY] Tales from the first two weeks

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