September 6, 2018


Drum roll, please


There’s a point each summer, typically mid-August, when the folks who work at Harley through the dog days go into a kind of mild existential funk. We can only survive so long in the absence of kids! It makes the hallways too quiet, the parking lot too tumble-weedy, and soon our energy and purposefulness starts to flag.



Thank heavens that’s over! It is so exciting to be on the cusp of Harley’s second century, and it is such a delight to welcome all the students back. Their energy and enthusiasm and joy is really what ignites this excellent school. The students and parents of the school are always, rightly, #1 on the school’s agenda.

But is there anything else that might be that agenda, you ask? Well, we’re always up to something. In retrospect, last year was incredibly busy: the New York State Association of Independent Schools Accreditation, Harley’s Centennial, the launch of a new Professional Development & Evaluation system at the faculty level, the largest gift in the history of the school, searches for a new Head and Head of Upper School, the conceptualization and commencement of three marvelous new spaces (the Peckham Wellness Center, the Moore/Brown Center for Creative Media, and the Winslow Natural Playground and Learning Center)…wow!

And this year? For me, it’s mainly focusing on the core stuff: knowing and supporting students and families, building relationships, helping teachers in their work. We have a lot more already in motion, of course, from finishing our building projects to turning the NYSAIS report into action, but everything flows from our work with students and families. The agenda is you.

By way of introducing the following video: Body language


I had a colleague years ago, a dance teacher, who used to say, “Body language is actually a language and I happen to be fluent in it!” This was her way of getting the attention of students who might be leaning back, arms folded, slouching into a kind of passivity in a given class. In fact, most people are fluent in this language, and watching body language can tell you a ton about a given subject, often much more than the words actually uttered.

Watch the body language of the adults in this video. Not just that of our division heads—Terry Fonda Smith, Hassan Jones, and Kim McDowell—but that of the teaching faculty and staff. Ask yourself what it tells you about how they engage our students, about the tone we try to set here at Harley.

Both (a) all the research and (b) your gut will tell you that students need to feel safe and known in order to do their best learning. The trust and rapport we build with our students is key to how we do what we do.


Please hold your applause until the end


The Harley community has been the subject of all sorts of recognition that came in over the summer. We’ve gathered a few highlights here.

Biomimicry Club Takes Third Place

The Upper School Biomimicry Club earned third place in the Biomimicry Institute’s National Youth Design Challenge. The design concept competition encourages young people to develop bio-inspired solutions to real-world sustainability problems.

Led by Betsy Vinton, science department co-chair and also a teacher of mathematics, the club created “huMANGROVE,” inspired by the roots of mangrove trees. The project is designed to combat intensifying weather patterns by breaking storm surges on the coast and to partially hold off rising water levels, which contribute to erosion and cause flooding and damage in coastline communities.

Enjoy Channel 8’s reporting here.





Harley School Ranked #1 Private High School in Greater Rochester

While I have deep-seated qualms about the ranking of schools, I am nonetheless happy to report that Harley has been ranked the Best Private High School in Rochester according to Niche, a company that specializes in data on educational institutions.

Niche’s 2019 Best Private High Schools ranking is based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and reviews from students and parents. Ranking factors include SAT/ACT scores, the quality of colleges that students consider, student-teacher ratio, private school ratings, and more.

Hats off to our incredible Upper School!

Keeping it cool

The Rochester Business Journal recognized The Commons building on their inaugural Rochester’s Coolest Spaces list, created to honor unique and interesting locations throughout the region.

RBJ readers submitted nearly 200 nominations for cool spaces and the editorial staff selected 30 locations to be recognized.



Groundbreaking of Winslow Natural Playground & Outdoor Learning Center in the News

The joyful sounds of children anticipating our new spaces were in concert with the whir of the TV crews’ cameras during our groundbreaking. We had full coverage of the event in my previous blog, and here’s a little taste of one of the news broadcasts as well.

Watch the Channel 13 story here.

Here we go! Let the fun begin!