News that is specifically relevant to parents.
Monday, June 4, 2018 from 3:30-6 p.m.
at the Ancona School Outdoor Learning Space and Gym
Please join us as we kick off a new tradition with our new End of Year Celebration!
We will mark the end of the school year with lots of cake; present the Harelik Award for Outstanding Volunteerism to Penny Cato and Colleen Sims; and celebrate John Zurbrigg, Christina Kuszewski Rouches, Anne Kenealy, and Kirsten Dolan as they begin their next adventures.
A scrap book for each departing teacher will be available in the gym during the event, as well as in the Main Office starting May 29 for those who cannot make the party. We hope that you will share pictures, memories, and well wishes of these beloved members of our community.
At 5:30 p.m. we will gather in the gym to present the Harelik Award and to toast our departing teachers.
A letter from the Ancona School Board of Trustees
Dear Ancona Community,
On behalf of the Search Committee and the Ancona School Board of Trustees, we are thrilled to announce that Nancy Nassr has been chosen as Ancona’s next Head of School. We believe Nancy’s expertise in teaching and learning, her lifelong commitment to social justice and diversity, and her exceptional results this year as interim Head of School make her the ideal person to lead Ancona into our next chapter.
For 55 years, Ancona has been dedicated to diversity in both our community and our curriculum. As a school, we are committed to providing the highest quality progressive education rooted in social justice that empowers our students’ voices. We were thrilled when our world-wide search for our new leader yielded three exceptional finalist candidates. After a rigorous process (which involved extensively interacting with all three), we are confident that Nancy embodies Ancona’s values and can best help us continue to build on our legacy. See below for a more detailed discussion of the process.
Nancy has been an educator for over 15 years: as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and school leader. Nancy joined the Ancona community in 2016 as Assistant Head of School, and has served as Ancona’s Interim Head of School since August, 2017. In her short time as interim, Nancy has worked with the school’s administration to improve our enrollment by all early measures, strengthen our understanding of the school’s financial picture, and to build a climate of both professionalism and joy. She also reimagined the school’s leadership structure, with a goal of empowering teachers and increasing collaboration. She is leading the implementation of various systems and protocols for improved performance, including a new Student Information System for streamlined communications. The midyear faculty and staff survey showed overwhelming agreement that the School is headed in the right direction under Nancy’s leadership.
Before Ancona, Nancy served as Associate Director of Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) Chicago Quest; prior to that, she spent over ten years teaching humanities to middle and high school students. She earned an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.A. in the Teaching of English at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Nancy shares: “To be selected as Ancona’s new Head of School is a great honor, and even greater responsibility. There are no words that would be sufficient enough to describe the overwhelming pride I feel each day I enter our school to work alongside our brilliant educators and staff members, serving our incredible students and their families. For all of us here at Ancona, whether families or employees, we have a choice—a choice to attend school here, a choice to work here, and a choice to stay here. The fact that we each choose this school, in this place, and in this moment in time is a reflection of what I hope to be a fundamental tie that binds us all—the belief that children, if provided with the right setting and supports, can change the world. To truly educate a child is to provide them with choices in how they learn, how they relate to the world and even how they understand themselves. At Ancona this is what we aspire to do everyday. I graciously accept the prodigious task of leading Ancona in its next iteration—cultivating the rich legacies that came before me, and the ones we will create together. Thank you for this opportunity. I hope that we will find and create avenues for thoughtful collaboration and growth as we embark on this journey together. After all, we are each a beautiful thread in the tapestry of this great institution.”
Nancy was born in Egypt and immigrated with her family to the United States as a child. “In my household, we were raised with the belief that sound character and education were fundamental to our existence as human beings. As a practicing Muslim, social justice is a concept that underlies all of our practices as a family. Raising my two beautiful multiracial boys, I am committed to cultivating strong individuals who understand that they too have a responsibility to the people and world around them.”
In her free time, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She is an avid hiker, reader (post-apocalyptic novels are her current favorites), and photographer. Nancy lived in Hyde Park for many years. Her sons were young ones when they lived here, so she is very familiar with all the toddler hot spots. She spends her weekends traveling across the tristate area for her sons’ soccer games.
Ancona Board Chair Lara Moynihan says: “Our commitment to the pursuit and practice of cultivating diversity within our community made Nancy, an accomplished Muslim woman of color, an outstanding choice that reflects who we are and what we stand for. With over 80% of heads of independent schools being white, and 66% being men, we are thrilled to have this opportunity to reflect diversity in our leadership. The Board of Trustees heard from many members of the search committee that the search afforded them an opportunity to sit with Nancy and have authentic and inspiring conversations about leading Ancona. They shared with us that everyone in the community should have that opportunity because Nancy’s virtues of integrity, commitment, and self-reflection truly set her apart. As Nancy moves forward in her role as Ancona’s Head of School, she looks forward to hearing from and sharing with all members of our community who afford her that opportunity.”
About our process:
The Head of School search process was extensive and international in scope. The Search Committee was tasked with assessing and refining the Head of School job description, recruiting applicants, creating a vetting process specifically designed to identify candidates whose skills matched the core competencies we identified as essential for this role, identifying a slate of top candidates for the position, leading the community in engaging with the finalists, and making a final recommendation to the Ancona Board of Trustees. The fourteen search committee members represented the Ancona faculty, staff, parent, and alumni parent communities. Each member was chosen based on their expertise in the areas of education, social justice, and/or executive search.
The Search Committee reviewed over 50 applications for the position. They narrowed down the exemplary pool of candidates to 18 first-round candidates, seven semi-finalists, and finally three finalist candidates. After compiling feedback from the student, parent, faculty, staff, alumni, and alumni parent communities, reviewing each candidate’s performance during the finalist interviews, and engaging in thoughtful conversations with the candidates’ references, the Search Committee presented their findings to the Board of Trustees. Ultimately, the Board determined that Nancy’s training, experience, skill set, and passions make her the best candidate for the role.
Throughout the process, the Search Committee welcomed and encouraged input from stakeholders across the Ancona community in a variety of ways, including: surveys; two town meeting events; extensive discussion with faculty and staff; dialogues with students; and a community forum with the finalist candidates. We are so excited that well over 200 members of the community participated in this process. Your contributions were incredibly valuable in making this important decision.
The Head of School Search Committee was led by co-chairs, and Ancona parents, Monica Santana Rosen and Rachel Waldron. Monica, CEO of Alma Advisory Group, an education leadership search and development firm, says: “As co-chair of the Head of School Search Committee, I understood the effort before us as we launched this search. I came into the process ready to find the best-qualified candidate for our school. As someone who focuses on school leadership everyday in my work life, I feel so confident in the decision to offer the Head of School position to Nancy. At every step of the process, Nancy demonstrated an exceptional ability to lead a strong educational program, to help our faculty learn and grow, and to inspire both current and prospective families. I look forward to getting to see Nancy lead our school into the next stage of its development, while protecting those aspects of our culture and progressive education model that make our school such a special place.”
Thank you to the Search Committee for their tireless work to ensure a thorough and equitable search process and to you, our wonderful community, for your guidance and insight throughout the search. Please reach out via email at gro.l1527476140oohcs1527476140anocn1527476140a@hcr1527476140aesan1527476140ocna1527476140 if you have any questions or feedback.
The Ancona School Board of Trustees
This week, I wanted to take a moment to share my gratitude with our community, and the ways in which you have welcomed me into Ancona. It has been my distinct honor and privilege to lead this school over the past several months, and I am incredibly proud of the work we have been able to accomplish this year. Despite challenges, we are growing, we are thriving, and prospective families are falling in love with who we are.
Ancona is a school with a rich history, and strong mission that is helping reimagine what education can and should look like. This a community replete with the belief that education is a powerful tool for positive change, and we are doing great things as a collective, committed to these ideals. I could not be more proud of our accomplishments this year. This is a special school with an extraordinary team of people who work tirelessly to fundamentally support our students and their families. A school is greater than any one person, and we each play a role in making this a place that truly celebrates, cultivates and enriches our students.
Whatever the outcome of the Head of School search, I want you all to know that it has been my distinct pleasure to serve Ancona, and the larger community in which our beautiful school is situated. My greatest hope for Ancona is that we can all support, and work with, whoever our next Head of School is so that we can continue to grow a school whose future is as rich as its past.
Thank you for your care and for your warmth since my arrival here at Ancona. The future of our school is bright with possibility, and I am humbled to be a part of that story.
The weather is slowly changing, the sun is returning, and here at Ancona, things are humming with the anticipation of spring. Tomorrow at the African American Heritage Assembly, our first and second graders will take the lead in an exploration of the work of African American artists from Chicago. The assembly will take an historical perspective that explores music, performing and visual arts.
On Saturday, March 10 we will host our 6th annual Diversity Symposium exploring Race and Green Space in Chicago. New this year, the Symposium will offer a parallel kids track so that our children can engage in the learning alongside adults. Please make sure to register and spread the word. Conference sign-ups open tomorrow so be sure to secure your time with teachers. And in two short weeks, our eighth graders will be off to Oaxaca!
Looking ahead, please keep an eye out for an email from me that will share a detailed explanation of the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) accreditation process, which Ancona goes through every 7 years. This is an important part of our learning and growth as an organization, and it requires a tremendous amount of work on the parts of our staff, teachers, and administrators. Accreditation is essential to our institutional integrity, and the process allows us to reflect on the mission, practices, programs, and governance of our school.
We are currently in year one of the process, and an important part of this year’s work is to engage our stakeholders in a survey which asks them to share their feedback on any number of topics related to Ancona. Everyone in our community—students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, alumni, and Board—is asked to participate; your feedback is essential to the process, and helps us grow and get better. Be on the lookout for the survey links and more detailed information on the ISACS accreditation process coming soon.
I look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow at our African American Heritage Assembly!
Yesterday evening we hosted an incredible Curriculum Night! Over 70 people were in attendance and of that number, almost half were prospective families. It was a wonderful evening filled with stimulating conversation and community building. Teachers made the learning visible through wonderful displays of student work and thoughtful presentations of our learning models. Parents shared with me how informative the event was in helping them understand teaching and learning at Ancona.
Our prospective families were thrilled to meet teachers and parents alike—they engaged in wonderful discussions about the school, and expressed that they hoped to be with us next year. It was a challenge ushering attendants out at the close of the evening as everyone wanted to continue the conversations.
As I have shared in previous messages and at different forums this year, one of our goals as a school is to continually improve communications with our families, particularly as they relate to learning. The theme continues to be visible learning. As such, I have been hard at work planning a parent education series that will launch in a few short weeks! One of the primary goals of this initiative is to help parents navigate the different developmental stages of their children, and the respective challenges associated with these milestones. I look forward to sharing more information with you, and hearing from each of you, what else you would like to see as a part of this initiative.
We have so many wonderful things happening here at Ancona, and I’m excited about all that is to come. Thank you all for your continued partnership.
We look forward to seeing many of you at our Middle School Social Justice Data Fair this Friday! The Social Justice Data Fair is a great example of how we integrate learning from across the curriculum into one comprehensive project driven by student interest.
After students select a topic rooted in a social justice issue, they are then prompted to generate a research question that explores the issue. For example, students might explore gender equality, incarceration rates in different countries, healthcare, environmental rights, or any number of other topics that pique a genuine interest for our learners. Students spend a good deal of time researching the topic, crafting a thesis, and then presenting their findings and solutions using mathematical models learned in class.
Initially, students learn to compare and explore numbers using percentages, compare data from different sample sizes, and investigate the relative size of numbers using pie charts. Over the years, this learning grows into a more nuanced understanding of statistical correlations and applications using scatter plots and other more complex visual representations.
The work culminates in a synthesis of the students’ learning when our student researchers prepare and present proposed solutions for tackling the issue. It’s truly an incredible learning experience for our students, combining our commitment to issues that matter with specific, content-area application. It simply should not be missed. Come help us celebrate our students and their learning by joining us this Friday!
Welcome back, and Happy New Year!
We have had a wonderful start to our new year, with students and teachers diving into new learnings. Students in middle school are working fervently on completing their Social Justice Data Fair projects for their upcoming presentations, while third and fourth graders are steadily working on preparing their play for the Peace and Justice Assembly.
This year will also mark the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. For many of us, this will be a time of reflection as we think about the implications of losing one of the greatest social justice activists our country has ever seen. For others, it will be a time of action, or perhaps some combination of both. In either case, I invite you to think about the words of Dr. King when he stated: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” At Ancona, we take a position and we care about the fundamental dignity of every human being. We are an organization that will continue to challenge students academically and educate the whole child in the context of activism and care.
For those of you thinking about how you might want to spend time with your children on this momentous day of commemoration, take some time to peruse the the options being presented by the National Civil Rights Museum. This link will take you to a wonderful symposium they are hosting called “Where Do We Go From Here”; the symposium is happening in April with tickets still available.
We are off to a great start, and I look forward to a strong finish.
Earlier this week, I got to spend some time in Anne’s 5th and 6th grade social studies class as students prepared to engage in a role play of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the first-ever women’s rights convention held in the United States. I was able to watch and interact with our students as they took on the identities of different marginalized women’s groups—Cherokee women, Enslaved African-American women, New Mexican women, etc. Students were asked to consider the needs of these groups individually and then prioritize them with the goal of unifying all the groups to present at the convention later that week.
I was moved by the way this lesson humanized the people often written out of the historical record. Not only were students given the opportunity to learn about these groups, they were then empowered to use that knowledge to champion for the social, cultural, ethnic, and religious rights of women. What an incredible way to live our commitment to social justice in practice.
It goes without saying that our current cultural and social climate as it relates to women is fraught with challenges. If the #metoo movement is any indication of where we are in terms of gender equity and equality, the world is in need of change and far from where we might want it to be. Each time I walk into a class, I am reminded that our classrooms are the incubators for that change. We are doing the work of both educating our students and helping them engage critically in the world around them.
I can’t believe we are only a week and a day away from winter break! It’s been such a busy year and I hope you enjoy this well-deserved time off. I wish you all a restful weekend with your loved ones.
In our ever-changing world, one of the challenges we face as educators is making sure we design learning experiences that will help anticipate the challenges and problems of the world our young people will be ushered into. One of the ways the workforce is changing is that employers have started to identify a need to hire emotionally intelligent employees. In fact, conversations in the world of education have shifted quite dramatically over the last forty years from an emphasis on a child’s IQ (intelligence quotient) to a focus on their EQ (emotional quotient)
If a student has a high degree of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management they are more likely to graduate and excel in life. Researchers have also found a strong correlation between great leaders and individuals who exhibit the aforementioned qualities.
One of the ways we work with our students at Ancona is by cultivating a sense of self-awareness early on. We support that work in a number of ways, including through our use of restorative practices. The goal of restorative practices is to empower children and adults alike with the agency to contribute positively or change situations and relationships that aren’t quite “right.” The power of restorative practices is rooted in the idea of community and that we are all capable of positive change.
I share this as a way of highlighting just one of the robust ways we support the emotional growth of our children at Ancona. Helping students take ownership over their actions, even when they are negative, provides students with opportunities to reflect on the “why” of their choices. An important part of any child’s development is how they come to learn who they are, and why they make the choices they do. The more time we commit to metacognitive practices with our students, the greater degree of growth and development we will see in their emotional intelligence and maturity—a characteristic that will serve them well, long after they have left us.
Stay warm and cozy!
We are excited to announce our After School offerings for Winter, 2018!
The majority of our student-centered, experiential programming is included with your After School registration. Two of our partner organizations—Sticky Fingers Cooking and Renaissance Knights Chess— require registration and fees separate from After School. You are not required to sign your child(ren) up for After School if they would like to participate in either of these two programs. If students remain in After School beyond the duration of the partner class, the After School daily drop-in rate will apply.
In addition to our new offerings, we are happy to continue providing Homework Help and the Middle School Lounge and Cafe as part of our After School program.