New School Year Marks Many Changes for Division

Eddie Jin, Staff Writer

Renovations are underway in Pforzheimer and Rose Hall has a newly decorated interior; the new look is representative of many administrative adjustments that will create a fresh start for the Middle Division next year.

Head of School Dr. Thomas Kelly will replace Robin Ingram as Head of Middle Division, and history teacher Della Brooks will take the role of Dean of the Class of 2024. With the new administrators come new courses, programs, and more mentorship.

“With Mrs. Ingram’s transition to admissions, a natural fracture presented for HM to stop and take stock in what we’ve been doing in the Middle Division and why,” Kelly said. Kelly decided that he would step into the role to examine the Middle Division’s structure, he said.

In the past few months there have been “a handful of changes,” Kelly said. “Almost all of the changes, thus far, have to do with knowing and supporting students better and allocating more time to advisery and work with each of the class deans.”

One of the largest changes is increased student-teacher interaction. In addition to daily fifteen-minute advisery meetings, there will be a full period advisery once a week. Next year’s scheduling changes also creates a 45-minute period for the class deans to meet with their classes. “Having these weekly, grade level meetings will allow all of us in the MD to more readily handle the types of concerns and needs that are characteristic of ‘life in the middle’,” Kelly said.

“We want to connect with them more in a personal and academic way,” MD foreign language teacher and adviser Gabriela Espinosa said.

In previous years, classes had different deans every year and a different adviser in the sixth grade. Starting this year, deans and advisers will follow their assigned class throughout all three years in the MD. Dean of Class of 2025 Michelle Amilicia hopes that this will provide MD students with the consistency and structure that they need at their age, she said.

“We want middle schoolers to understand that there’s a whole group of people working with them and that they can help each other as well,” MD English teacher Isaac Brooks said.

“I’ve always loved my work as an adviser, and becoming Dean for the Class of 2024 offers me the opportunity to build the advisery program as it grows under Dr. Kelly’s leadership,” Della Brooks said.

Della Brooks has been involved in education for the past 34 years, 18 of which have been in the MD History Department. She served as History Department Head for eight years prior to becoming dean. Also a parent of two alumni, Brooks will add new insights into guiding students and their families through the middle school years, Kelly said.

“I’ll be working with the department chairs, the other deans and, of course, Dr. Kelly as we work to make the Middle Division the best place it can be,” she said.

In addition to scheduling changes, there have been curricular changes. “We’ll begin the year with seeing less Physical Education (PE) time across all three grade levels as a means of curtailing some of the major transitions that face our students each day,” Kelly said.

The sixth grade will transition from 10 PE periods to five in the 10 day cycle. The seventh and eighth grades will have PE Monday through Thursday with no PE or athletics (practice or competitions) on Fridays. Kelly hopes to move the MD athletics program afterschool next year or in the near future, Kelly said.

“It’s not easy for the MD students to shift from student to athlete, then back to student in the middle of the school day,” Kelly said. “[Athletics Director] Mr. [Robert] Annunziata has been terrific in looking at other options for the Middle Division, including supporting the new ‘Fridays off’ decision.”

The MD has also stopped mandating the use of iPads for school work. MacBooks and iPads will still be available for in-class work, but at home, assignments can be done on any device. In a letter addressed to parents, Kelly explained that much was learned from the MD’s experimental use of iPads, but “we’ve also realized the social, technological and, at times, instructional challenges of having students tethered to a single device, 24/7,” he said.

Isaac Brooks believes that having an iPad as a personal device can be a distraction in class, he said. “It’s one of those things where you need to take a step back to determine whether it’s worth it,” Amilicia said.

Due to this shift, the MD will issue paper planners. This adjustment has forced some teachers to alter their courses. In past years, teachers have often assigned homework on iPads, which makes file sharing easier. Aryan Palla (7)  used his iPad for homework nearly every night, he said.

“For me, it’s not going to change how I structure my curriculum, but definitely some things about our everyday classroom routine and homework,” Espinosa said.

Several other new features will be added to enhance MD life as well. The Life Skills program will be taught among adviseries instead of randomized classes, a trimester-long social justice and identity course will be taught to the sixth grade, and a Math Lab and Writing Center will open to aid students in their work.