In addition, the school will be seeing the arrival of 11 new teachers, plus some shifting around by senior administrators. The departure of long serving assistant headmaster Steven Houghton by Meg Kenny, who will be starting her 15th year at the school after serving as a teacher and the dean of faculty, heads that list.
Also moving up in the administrative ranks is Jen Hyatt, who will
"The most important part of the school are the people; that's the key component," said Headmaster Mark Tashjian last week, as her prepared to start his fifth year at the helm of the school. "This year we have new leadership, we have new programs with new people developing those programs; we have a critical mass and a substantial influx of new faculty members and with them come different energy and different ideas."
Perhaps the biggest change in terms
Twenty-one students will be attending Burr and Burton at the Mountain Campus for a semester-long course of study that will be focused on environmental studies. Ben Freeman is the program's executive director, where he will also be teaching along with three other faculty members. But along with using the campus surroundings as an outdoor environmental laboratory, the program also hopes to foster a sense of community among its students as well as challenging them to be "positive agents of change," Freeman said.
"Through that process, and creating a shared sense of community values, .... the students will recognize things they care about and are passionate about, and that they'll want to improve those things," he added.
The landscape and ecology of the area will also be tapped to provide background for literary and historical studies. Students will find themselves reading literature based in northern New England, and history projects may include looking into the local history of the area, he said.
The program will involve an immersion by those students who opted in and were accepted onto it that will make taking part in other extracurricular and athletic activities all but impossible, Freeman said. The transportation and scheduling restrictions - a typical school day at the Mountain Campus will be slightly longer than a school day on the main campus in Manchester mean that those enrolled in the Mountain campus program for that semester would find it difficult to take on additional activities. There will also be overnight and week-long camping trips involved in the new program, he said.
Once it's fully up to speed, Freeman said he expected enrollment during any one semester to peak at 40 students, and ideally a mix of 10th, 11th and 12th graders.
"We want a broad spectrum of students - we want this to be a program that is available to the vast majority of Burr and Burton students," he said. In addition to the mountain Campus, the school is also moving forward on another program designed to boost a perceived collective academic achievement gap between students who hail from low-income backgrounds and those students, as a group, who come from more generally middle class ones, Tashjian, the school's headmaster, said.
Roughly one quarter of the approximately 680 students enrolled at BBA this year qualify as low-income students under federal poverty guidelines. A new program, dubbed the "Student Success Program," and headed up by newcomer Jason Pergament, will attempt to narrow this achievement gap, he said.
"These kids have the same potential as any other kid has, but they haven't necessarily had the same opportunities and expectations," he said. It goes beyond simple economics and into a mindset of expectations and aspirations that allow some students to see Burr and Burton as a stepping stone to the next level - college - and others who see graduation from BBA as the end of their academic careers, he said.
This initiative is still at a developmental stage and under Pergament's leadership will evolve into a full-fledged program.
"I can't think of anything more important than breaking the cycle of poverty, and if anyone's going to do it right, it should be Burr and Burton," he said. "We have the independent governance structure that allows us the flexibility to shape ourselves around these kids."
along with the Mountain Campus and low-income initiative, burr and Burton is also trying to incorporate opportunities presented by mobile computing via smartphones, tablets and laptops, Tashjian said.
By allowing students to bring their own mobile device and load the necessary applications, there may be ways of tapping into online resources that allow for more classroom discussion of previously digested material, rather than spending valuable classroom time on gathering that information, he said.
"That really starts to change the game," he said. "It allows teachers to give assignments and expand the reach of the classroom."
Most students already have such mobile devices, Tashjian said, but for those who don't, a financial aid program could be developed to supply those students who couldn't afford one on their own.
Administratively, the departure of Steven Houghton, a fixture at Burr and Burton for 31 years and a long-serving assistant headmaster, and his replacement by former Dean of Faculty Meg Kenny will be the most visible change. The job of the assistant headmaster is changing as well. Kenny said a focus will be to continue assisting faculty members to develop their professional potential, as she did as dean of faculty. She will also be overseeing the culture and climate of the school from the student side as well, she said.
Other functions, such as coordinating facilities, transportation and the drivers education program, have been siphoned off and given to other departments to manage, she said.
"It's more of an academic leadership position than an administrative position," she said, adding that part of her job will be to assess whether the school is "doing what we say we do."
Burr and Burton's 2012-13 school year began Monday, Aug. 27, with freshman orientation. Tuesday, Aug. 28, was the first day of school. "Our goals are the same," Tashjian said. "We want to serve our sending towns and each and every student in a profound way; we want to create engaging, vigorous educational experiences - that''s what we expect of all of our teachers."