August 1, 2014

Dear Cary Academy Students and Parents,

Hope you and your families are enjoying these fabulous days. Lovely cool mornings during a summer in NC? Enjoy it while it lasts.

Throughout June and July our many Summer Quest campers kept the energy level high on campus, but we do miss our students. Now the time has come to turn our full attention to the 2014-2015 school year. Our faculty began their work together on August 4, joined by 12 new teachers from North Carolina, Germany, Bulgaria, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida, and New York. You’ll learn more in upcoming communication from the divisional heads and a piece in the fall Access Newsletter.

The early highlight of the new school year will undoubtedly be the distribution of our Lenovo Yoga tablets. Thanks to the record-breaking success of last year’s annual CA Fund, we were able to double the RAM in the new tablets before placing the final order this summer. Couple that with the switch from a disk to a solid-state hard drive, and I think our students will be blown away with the responsiveness of their new machines.

This summer has seen several smaller but significant changes to our campus:

  • Our multimedia classroom in the top floor of the library has been converted into a makerspace design lab. This is the new hub for the design studio that is part of the Upper School art and design classes as well as the home base for our new robotics program, which has both in-school classes and an after-school component.
  • Thanks to a gift from the PTAA and our CA Fund, the student lounge in the SEA has been updated with new paint, carpet, and furniture. It looks wonderful.
  • Those of you entering the Upper School next week will notice a reconfigured front office, with new windows greatly increasing visibility to the parking lot entrance. We hope this space makes getting in and out of the office easier, and we know it will help with our security profile.
  • Field House construction will begin shortly, after a slight hold up in the planning process. Once begun, it will last six months. Our athletic teams and PE classes will still have access to the tennis courts, track, and stadium field during construction. We do anticipate the new building being ready to go for the spring sports season.

While summer presents an important opportunity to take a break and spend time with family, many of our faculty do use this time for significant professional learning experiences. More than 30 of us participated in multi-day courses, conferences, or workshops. They included institutes for biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer programming, US history, and foreign language instruction. Some covered other topics such as diversity leadership, athletics leadership, assessment, the teaching of writing, and current research on the most successful pedagogical practices. Ten of us spent two weeks together in June to start development on seven technology-rich blended courses in the Upper School. After getting feedback from each other and a host of invited outside experts, we worked individually the rest of the summer to pull our courses together. We will continue our collaborative efforts throughout the year to provide feedback to one another and fine-tune our work.

As you can see, “camp” is not just for kids!

In any given school year, there are many targeted initiatives taking place. This year we see two additional big areas of focus: technology conversion and strategic planning. In addition to the launch of the new laptops, we are transitioning to Windows 8, adding some Apple computers into the mix, and moving everything into the cloud with Office 365. The latter will represent a big change for the way we work and collaborate, and I ask everybody for patience as we go through the inevitable ups and downs. In a separate letter at the end of the month, I will outline the process for both strategic planning and accreditation. I also will be sharing out information from last year’s brainstorming and data collection exercises in a variety of forums throughout the fall and culminating at the regular PTAA State of the School presentation in January.

On August 13, we will open our 18th year with 753 students. Our attrition rate (the number of students who leave before their senior year) is at its lowest point on record. We are thrilled about what our new students and employees will bring to our community, and we can’t wait to get the year started.

See you all very soon,

Best wishes,

Michael Ehrhardt
Head of School