Summer Greetings from the Head of School

Summer Greetings!


I hope you are all enjoying the beautiful summer weather! We do need rain, as evidenced by our 1784 Field’s resemblance to the Sahara, but I must admit I could get used to this weather pattern. Karen and I are truly enjoying Hingham this summer as we have tried to stay on a regular schedule, walking Pippi around the harbor and through town on most nights…sometimes after a quick stop at Nona’s! The breeze off the water and the changing tides are becoming part of our daily rhythms, and I think we are evolving into a “South Shore” family if that is possible – according to Bobby McKay we can never really be true Hinghamites.


After some weeks enjoying Derby Summer Arts, our family found time to head north. We traveled to Acadia National Park and then to Prince Edward Island where we unplugged, built bonfires and camped alongside red sand beaches. The slower pace of Canada allowed us to recharge and re-energize. Sometimes “forced” family time allows us all to sit back and really appreciate each other’s company. For the past eight weeks, though, there has been no rest on campus at all. In addition to our very successful Summer Arts program and specialty camps, the campus has been busy with workers and tradespeople of all types. When you all return in September, you will notice a re-conditioned Wakeman Building, renovated Lower School hallways, a new music and language space in the Lower School, a new maker-space, a more focused MS/US library collection, additional technology in the classrooms, a new Secondary School Placement Office, new concrete paths, new landscape beds and much more. Some fantastic upgrades that you won’t necessarily notice, but will appreciate, are new phone and internet connection lines, new air conditioning units in various buildings, a new water heater in the campus center, new roofs, new sill plates on two buildings, updated kitchen equipment and more. We have been busy maintaining, adding and reconfiguring facilities and programs. As we get closer to the start of school we will communicate more specifics about new faculty and new initiatives for the year. I did want to bring to your attention one minor change we are adding to the dress code. Please follow this link to the 2016-2017 Dress Code that highlights the change in red.


I would also like to take this time to welcome Kathleen Smith. As you know, Kathleen has joined Derby as our new Primary and Lower School Division Head. Kathleen started on July 1st, and has already partnered with all of us in Administration, as well as having met with a number of parents and teachers. I look forward to her “official” welcome with all of you later this fall.


Ms. Smith and Mr. Houghton will be sending out their August letters (including class rosters) during the week of August 22nd – please look for those and other communications in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the summer…I hope to see you on campus soon or maybe even downtown, waiting for an ice-cream cone!
All my best,

summer greetings joe perry signature

Joe Perry
Head of School
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Helping Our Children Through the New Digital World

I was reminded the other day what a different world our children know than the world we knew as children and even than the world we know today. Karen relayed a conversation that she and our 4-year old daughter Lilia had earlier in the day. They were going through a box (yes, we still have boxes to go through even after moving in six months ago) of pictures and Karen paused to show Lilia a picture of me twenty-plus years younger, thinner, with more hair. Karen explained the photo was taken when we were traveling together in college. When Lilia asked “why aren’t you in the picture, Mommy?” Karen explained that she was the one who took the photo. Without skipping a beat, Lilia asked why we didn’t just take a “selfie” together so we would both be in the picture.

Lilia’s frame of reference is now – she has no sense of 35mm film, no sense of waiting for developing, no sense of an object that can only takes pictures and can’t call people, play games or surf for answers. A child’s reference point, the way they categorize and place things into reality, the way they see the world is much different than ours. I get that. I understand how technology has made these generations of digital natives different in many ways. Seeing this develop over the years through my lens as an educator has been interesting, academic, and very objective. I have watched hundreds of students tackle both the uncertainties of adolescence together with the uncertainties of socializing through technology. Technology has definitely changed the way we all communicate and this has allowed for both positives and negatives in child development. I don’t plan to discuss the virtues and vices of i-pads, cell phones, social media and the like but to remind us all that children, no matter how young or how old, need our guidance.

As a parent I am now seeing first-hand the difference in my children’s view of the world. My view of how technology is being used by children ages 4 through 15 (the age span of my own children) has become subjective and personal. Regardless of the age it is Karen’s and my job to be aware of how our children are using technology. As parents we need to help our children negotiate this new world of information and these new forums of social interaction. We are constantly seeing new software, new apps and new devices being developed that are creating our children’s worldview and their reference points. It takes both time and energy for parents and adults to understand and become aware of these new technologies that are creating our children’s world.

I think we can all agree that children, from Pre-School through High School, need guidance. They need rules and boundaries about how to properly interact, they need to be reminded right from wrong, and need to understand consequences for actions. These continue to be the basics of child development and are needed even more so in this ever-changing technology environment. Let us all take this as a reminder to monitor, learn and be aware of our children’s activities and interactions both online and off-line. And a reminder to take plenty of selfies with your child to capture these precious years on film…or more likely on iCloud.

Below are some helpful links on how to stay informed and connected with your children and their technological world.

i-Rules – Janell Burley Hofmann – spoke at Derby earlier this year

Tech Savvy Parenting – Brian Housman – resources

Family Online Safety Institute – Sponsored by Google, Facebook, Sprint

Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age – Sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I began the week welcoming back the Middle and Upper School students at morning meeting and asking them to look back upon their lives during 2015.  I encouraged our students to remember all the things they were proud of accomplishing and continue to work positively in these areas.  I also asked the students to think of things that they would like to improve, enhance, or build upon such as being a stronger friend, improving an athletic skill, mastering a new academic concept, or trying a new instrument.  Setting personal goals for oneself is an important reflective act and a wonderful way to build self-confidence, a sense of self-worth, and the understanding of individual growth.  

In addition to these more “external” and measurable goals I encourage us all (students and adults alike) to think about some more “internal” goals for 2016. I’m talking about things that we all think about but frequently bury due to our daily responsibilities. We might try to be satisfied with what we have, be comfortable with what we like, be true to who we are, be observant of the positives, be friendly and helpful to our family and neighbors, be accepting of others.  These things are not always easily accomplished. They are not measureable by a higher grade, a recital performance or an increase in goals scored.  I challenge us all to come up with our own list of goals this year, internal and external, personal and professional…and not be afraid to ask for encouragement and support from those around us!

“I am always more interested in what I am about to do than what I have already done.”

–Rachel Carson

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The Derby Metamorphosis

Over the past two weeks I have become completely immersed in our Derby community. I have been interviewed by our second grade students who asked me all about the ways I learn best, I have greeted our primary school students at morning drop-off, and have witnessed the eighth grade speeches for student council. I’ve stood on the sidelines to cheer on our Field Hockey team (who had a 3-1 victory!), watched Middle School students climb through a high ropes course and engineer an egg drop, and handed out cookies at snack (yum!). I attended the Secondary School Fair this week with more than 100 high schools in attendance… and was shown caterpillars in first grade that are waiting to become butterflies. And these are just the highlights!
Student Council Speech 001
What I am so pleased about is that whatever the grade level, whatever the venue, I see happy and engaged students developing, growing and learning.

To steal from the first grade curriculum a bit, and to bring in some of my science teacher background, our Pre-K to Grade 8 program promotes a metamorphosis in all of our children. Education is a process of development that takes time, goes through stages, promotes change, allows for nature and environment to influence outcomes and if done right produces a well-equipped specimen ready to fly off and take on the challenges of the world around them.Ropes CourseOur program feeds our “hungry caterpillars” by providing a variety of age-appropriate experiences. Our classroom curriculum develops the minds and habits important for the future. Our intentional interpersonal interactions (say that three times fast!) and stress on social/emotional development help create confidence in building relationships and approaching new situations. As our students grow, we wrap each student in the expectations, the philosophy, the adult relationships and the culture that we all believe in here at Derby—we create a kind of Derby Chrysalis. We keep them safe, allow them to try new things, encourage exploration, and giving them the time to build their foundation and become independent and confident young adults.Day One Boys 001As I watched our eighth grade students navigate the Secondary School Fair this week, I could sense their cocoons beginning to separate, their wings beginning to emerge. It will take this eighth grade year of leadership, this year’s experiences, to fully break out of their comfortable home, but I assure you that when you arrive on Derby Day next June you will see a parade of butterflies, with uniquely colorful wings ready to take flight and take on a new environment.Secondary School Fair

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First Chapel 2015

I am so happy and excited to have the students back on campus. The past two days have run extremely smoothly and I give all of that credit to John Houghton, Polly Rizzotto and the entire faculty and staff. Your children are so cared for here.

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of starting off the school year at our traditional First Chapel. If you are not aware, First Chapel is the time where our 8th graders are first officially acknowledged as school leaders, and the time for the Head of School to set the tone for the year.

I took this time to pick up where Debbie Callahan left off last year, by continuing to expect our students to Do Special. I attempted to inspire each student with a metaphor: Derby is their tree. Derby provides each child with such a solid foundation — the Derby Experience provides roots to grow and a trunk to support each student as he/she flourishes. As I concluded, “I expect each and every one of you to stand tall, branch out, spread your leaves and blossom while at Derby.” My hope is that by branching out, taking risks and supporting each other, our entire community will continue to Do Special in so many ways.

Because many of you were not able to experience our First Chapel firsthand, a video of yesterday’s assembly, including my entire address, is available online — we hope you enjoy.


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Welcome Back!

It seems as though the change in the weather today (from 90-degree to 70-degree temperatures) is Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that summer vacation is soon coming to a close. To paraphrase an old sentiment, “when one thing closes something new and wonderful opens.” I see this week as the beginning of a new and wonderful chapter in all of our lives — the start of the 2015–2016 school year. We are all so excited to hear children laughing and see students smiling again on campus. The anticipation of the new school year, new friendships, new interests and new faces will be palpable in all of our homes this week.As we all know, this nervousness will soon turn to a sense of comfort and confidence at Derby. The Derby community welcomes all of you “Back to School.”

Please also join me in welcoming the following people to our community.

JEAN BOYCE will join our Kindergarten team this year, assisting with some of our youngest students. Jean received her B.A. at MacMurray College, and earned her M.Ed. at Boston University. She is an experienced reading specialist, and most recently worked locally at the East School and South Shore Conservatory.

Head Librarian KELLY DEPIN joins us from the Ezra Baker Innovation School, where she managed a library program for more than 400 students. In addition to her independent and charter school library experience, Kelly has worked in public libraries, and earned her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Rhode Island.

Assisting with second grade is SARAH KORNACKI. A graduate of Choate Rosemary Hall, Bates College and Lesley University (M.Ed.). She has most recently worked at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in the first and third grades.

MARTIN LYNCH will be joining us as technical theater manager and shop teacher. Marty brings a number of years of experience both as technical director and theater teacher. He has had significant experience in carpentry, theater electrics and production design. He has worked at Beaver Country Day School and Vermont Academy as well as the American Repertory Theater. Marty holds an M.A. in Theater Education from Emerson College.

MARCUS MILLER will be managing our communications department. Marcus comes to us from St. Sebastian’s School, and is well-versed in multimedia presentations and social media strategies. He earned his B.A. in Writing from Drake University, and completed his Master’s at Emerson College in Writing, Literature and Publishing.

LAURIE POTTER will join Kelly Depin in the Terry Library as our Assistant Librarian. Laurie is a past parent of two Derby students, and after earning her B.A. from Brown University, completed her M.B.A. at Boston University. Laurie’s most recent experience includes development work at the Winsor School. She also worked in corporate giving for the Gillette Company.

Also joining the arts department is EMILY SHEPARD. Emily will be our Lower School art teacher as well as work on set design and teach art electives for Grades 7 & 8. She is a graduate of Ithaca College with a B.A. in Visual Arts Education and a minor in Art History. Emily also has an M.Ed. in Arts in Education from Harvard University. She has most recently been the lead K-1 teacher at the Conservatory Lab Charter School.

Our new second grade teacher will be LANI WRIGHT. A graduate of St. Mark’s School, Lani has a B.A. from Middlebury College in Psychology/SociologyAnthropology. She also has a M.Ed. from Harvard University in Learning and Teaching. Lani’s experience includes a year of teaching English to students between 11 and 20 years of age at a small village in Tanzania. Closer to home, she has worked at Greenwich Academy, Kent School and Wolfeboro: The Summer Boarding School.

Familiar faces in new positions:

DERELYN KAHLER will continue to be our Musical Director this year and will also be taking on the role of After School Program Assistant.

KATHLEEN MALONE who assisted in the math department last year will the Math Enrichment Coordinator as well as teaching both 6th grade engineering design and the 5th grade projects class.

CAITLYN MCDONNELL will continue to be an Assistant Teacher in the Lower School. She is moving down the hall from second grade to first grade.

JULIE MCOSKER, formerly the After School Programs Assistant, will now be joining the Admission Team as the new Admission Coordinator.

RUTH ROTHMAN, who worked part-time for Derby last year, will now be full-time assisting in our Pre-K class this year and teaching in our morning and afternoon enrichment programs.

I would also like to send a Derby CONGRATULATIONS and GOOD LUCK to Julie Rizzo, former Director of Advancement, as she begins a new chapter. We wish her all the best in her new role as the Development Director at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester (MA).

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Greetings from the Head of School

Dear Parents,

As we all enjoy these last couple of weeks of summer, I wanted to let you know that our campus is becoming busier every day. We are seeing facility projects wrap up nicely, faculty working through webinars and testing new technology, students stopping in for class gatherings, and classrooms getting reorganized and ready for September 10. Every year I get excited as the first day of school begins to become a reality, and this year I am especially happy to be a “new student” here at Derby Academy.

We all remember the excitement, anticipation and sometimes longing that accompanied the transition from summer to a new school year. You are all giving your children the special gift of the Derby experience as their foundation of schooling and childhood memories. Derby’s facilities, faculty, culture and community support all aspects of childhood and adolescence; I look forward to being a part of this unique school community for years to come. It is an honor and my pleasure to send this, my first official “August Letter” announcing the start of the 2015-2016 school year.

Starting this afternoon you can log in to our website and find all the pertinent information needed for the start of school. John Houghton and Polly Rizzotto have posted their “start of school” letters and class lists. Please go to the “Resource Boards” page and click on the “Back to School 2015” page to view this information (or use the log in link below).

Be safe, stay healthy (perhaps remind your MS/US students about summer readings and IXL work) and soak in these remaining days of summer with family and friends. I look forward to seeing you on campus shortly and hope to get to know you throughout the year.


Please Note: Derby has recently updated its phone system. All existing two-digit extensions are now preceded by a 1. For example, extension 34 is now 134. Please refer to our Faculty & Staff Directory if you have any questions.
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The Beginning of a New Adventure

“The school should, with a keen sense of responsibility, choose nothing either because it is old or because it is new, but everything because it is good…We must lead children to become active explorers in the field of knowledge. We must help them to think for themselves; but we must also help them to discover and appreciate what is worth thinking about…We must set before ourselves the ideal of bringing up children who shall be prepared, both intellectually and morally, to help make the world more fit to live in.”

This is where we started last September: words from a brochure about Derby Academy written in 1931. When I included these in my first blog last fall, little did I know just how much Derby continues to live out these words. This is what I have seen throughout the year: focus on the ideal of preparing our students, both morally and intellectually, to help make the world more fit to live in.

Our students are indeed active explorers who have gone far beyond the campus of 56 Burditt Avenue. Our teachers have engaged with them and challenged them to stretch their minds and their hearts. Our students have “done special” in a myriad of ways. The culminating events of Last Chapel and Derby Day capped our year together in rich and meaningful ways.

Thank you to all who have been a part of Derby Academy this year – students, faculty, staff, and parents. It has been a year that far surpassed my expectations. An interim year is many things but one thing it is not: it is not an end. While it has its own “last day” date, that date also marks the beginning of a new adventure on the Derby campus. Enjoy it and participate in it as you have participated this year. I wish you all a wonderful summer and a joyful year in 2015-2016!


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Thinking Up a Solution

“Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” This quote comes from science writer Robert Lewin. For me, it is an interesting statement of two different ways to approach teaching. Rote memorization was often used in mathematics, in spelling, in dates, and in science facts in our grandparents’ era. For many this seemed to work, at least at the time. But did all that information “stick” once the school year was over?

Walking around campus the past couple of weeks, I have had opportunities to see how your children are being taught at Derby. Certainly, there are some basics that need to be absorbed, be it through memorization, rhymes, mnemonics, or other “answers to remember.” More often than not, however, I was observing students being given a problem to solve that required them having to determine what they needed to know in order to accomplish the task.

Preparing for the 3rd Grade Invention Convention, students worked with magnets or circuits or sewing needles to solve problems, some that they themselves had invented. In a 5th grade math class, the topic was geometry but rather than memorize a formula, the students needed to think about what information was given in the problem and how they would then “construct” a method for finding area and perimeter. 7th grade is working on their year-end projects that integrate English, science and history. Inventions include the water wheel, the printing press and the radio. After investigating how a transistor radio works, one group of students constructed their radio out of used materials. It worked, picking up WBZ’s signal, but could not receive any other – until one student applied some creativity and developed a method to create a capacitor utilizing her notebook and aluminum foil. She and her team were then able to pick up a radio signal from another AM station!

In each of these stories, the teacher was not giving the students answers (formulas, ready-made directions, boxed kits) but problems that needed solutions. So it is in the world beyond Derby. “Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges.” (Joyce A. Meyers) We are fortunate to have teachers who have learned the proportions for that mix. As we look forward to summer vacation, so too can parents change their children’s lives with the right mix of fun and challenges. I encourage you to give your children problems to solve. Planning an entire family dinner – purchasing, cooking, cleaning up after; deciding the amount of mulch needed for the garden as well as the cost of how to transport it home; making a spreadsheet to determine baseball team averages – there are many ways we can change “giving an answer” to “thinking up a solution” that will engage your child’s mind and stretch the thinking process.


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The Return of a Derby Day Tradition

A school of many traditions, Derby Academy has been the focus of two different books, one by Ted Roscoe published in 1984 and one by Jay Sadlon published in 2010. Each book brings to life some of the traditions that are part of Derby as well as much of the history that is associated with Derby. For many years, a “tradition” at Derby Day Exercises was the singing of the hymn Jerusalem. It has not been sung for the past few years, but this will be part of our Derby Day program on June 11. I asked Mike Connelly, retired (and legendary!) Latin and English teacher who has returned to campus this spring, if he would do some research on the why of singing Jerusalem at Derby. Many schools have this hymn as part of their commencement ceremonies, but why does Derby?

What follows is from Mike; you may be surprised at what you read!

In 1940, during World War II, the air force of Nazi Germany ran intense bombing raids against London and other important cities in England. This was called the Blitzkrieg. Thirteen young English girls and boys, some orphans and all refugees, escaped the violence and came here to Hingham to wait out the war in safety. They were put up in the homes of several local families, and they all attended Derby Academy. At the Derby Day ceremonies in 1941, the Derby community joined in singing the popular English hymn, Jerusalem, in solidarity with those English students we had welcomed and befriended. Jerusalem became a part of Derby Day tradition up until only a few years ago.

Today, 75 years after the English children came to Derby, we continue to reach out and welcome the people of the world to our campus. We Skype with schools in Pakistan. We help raise money to improve living conditions in Malawi. We have supported Wounded Warriors, Fisher House and other organizations that honor our veterans. The words of “Jerusalem” remind us each year of our duty to love freedom and do everything we can to make the world a better place.

Through the years Derby has been a special place in many ways and for many people. “Do special” has been a theme since last September. It unknowingly blended well with decisions made back in 1941 to do something special for these young students from England.


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