Report Cards, Level Changes, and Archmere Night School

Good Morning, Few Readers,

I’m kicking back  and drinking coffee at the Cherry Alley Cafe in Lewisburg, PA.  This is my hometown–go Green Dragons–and this is the best coffee shop in this college town.  Bucknell, by the way.

Anyway, report cards published with no problems.  Our online posting of report cards is so much better than the whole mailing nightmare; the cost alone in envelopes and postage makes this online posting so smart…and convenient.

But do know that any student who wants to level DOWN in a course needs to do so by Friday, November 7.  (Students may not level UP at this point.)  After November, students could only withdraw from a course:  this can only happen if six core classes remain after the withdrawal; a permanent W will appear on the transcript.

I hope you got the email for Archmere Night School.  We’re up to 55 students (parents and alumni) registered, and we have room for so many more.  I’m excited about these two nights…and I need to prepare my own classes, too!

Thanks for checking in.  It’s All Saints’ Day.  Need to know more?  Click here.



Big Pitch for Archmere Night School in November!

Hey Folks,
Two years ago, I initiated this Archmere Night School idea, a fun way for parents to experience the excellent teachers their kids have every day.  Offering topics from the Archmere curriculum or something of special interest to the instructor, the teachers volunteering to teach these classes enjoy sharing what they know.  Why should your kids get all the good stuff?
Below is the entire list of courses from which you can choose over two nights (11/11 and 11/13).  Take advantage of this unique learning experience.  People really enjoyed this two years ago, and I am sure they–YOU–will again.  Please register and get others to join in, too!


Tuesday, November 11

Class: Personal Integrity and Social Expectations: A Reading of Sophocles’ Antigone

Description: In the final installment of this Greek trilogy (which begins with Oedipus Rex), readers watch Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter, defy the law. Characters and readers wrestle with which side is right. Download play at ?????

Teacher: Kezia Wolf

Location: SNH 208

Time: 7-8:30PM

Maximum number of students: 20


Class: Jungian Archetypes & Male Spirituality

Description: This course will explore the varieties of masculinities of contemporary American men and their implications for Christian Spirituality. It will place specific emphasis on the major archetypes (King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover) of Carl Jung and their importance for understanding the identity and behavior of men.

Teacher: Michael Burdziak

Location: SNH 116

Time: 7-8:30PM

Maximum number of students: 20


Class: Teenage Parenting 101?–A Close Look at Desire and Control in Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing”

Description: Tillie Olsen’s 1961 story “I Stand Here Ironing” is standard fare in short fiction anthologies.  This seminar will discuss the themes of parental control and desire in the context of parental duty.  We will consider the narrator’s motivations, regrets, and wishes for her children and in what ways those resonate (or do not resonate) with us as parents.

Teacher: John Jordan

Location: SNH 211

Time: 7-8PM

Maximum number of students: 16


Class: Rugby? That’s like football without pads, right?

Description: This 90-minute course will attempt to de-mystify what is now one of the fastest growing sports in the country. We’ll talk about the history of the sport, it’s relationship to American football, and of course, watch some game footage.

Teacher: Andrew Cocco

Location: SNH 209

Time: 7-8:30PM

Maximum number of students: 20


Class: Counting to Infinity

Description: Come hear the strange story of the Hilbert Hotel, where there’s always a vacancy, even when every room is occupied. Learn about the bizarre world that lies beyond the finite, and answer the question, “Are some infinities infinit-ier than others?”

Teacher: Ethan Levine

Location: SNH 203

Time: 7-8PM

Maximum number of students: 22


Class: A Tour of the Patio

Description: We will discuss the history of the building, its inspirational design and significance, and include conversation about the Raskob family that formerly lived in the home.

Teacher: Michael Marinelli

Location: The Patio

Time: 7-9:00PM

Maximum number of students: 15


Class: Pope Francis and the Evolving Catholic Church

Description: This course will provide a survey of the career of Pope Francis. We will dive into his life, focusing on his major encyclicals, revolutionized actions identifying the Catholic Church with the poorest of poor, and his love for living out a life like Christ, liberating all peoples.

Teacher: Tom Mengers

Location:   SNH 119

Time: 7-8:30PM (also offered same time and place on Thursday, November 13)

Maximum number of students: 20


Class: Improv to Scripts – Using Theatre Games as a Conduit to Creativity

Description: Using improvisation games (as seen on shows like Whose Line is it Anyway?) to develop an original script or scene.  The class will teach basic improv skills first, then use those skills to build and develop scenes.  A good skill for breaking out of any writer’s block.  No acting talent needed!

Teacher: Brian Manelski

Location: Archmere Theater

Time: 7-9PM

Maximum number of students: no maximum


Class: Create Your Own Glass Tiles

Description: The process of creating a design, cutting glass, assembling, and then firing the tiles will be the focus of the class.  Students will have one square foot of glass to use as the sub-surface. Their work will be fired, ready for critique in two days.  I would recommend that students have a working design ready for discussion at the beginning of class. Students will pick up their tiles on Thursday.

Teacher: Hoffman

Location: Manor

Time: 7-9PM

Maximum number of students: 10


Class: Diagramming Sentences and the Objectivity of Grammar

Description: Gain a deeper of understanding of the sentences you read and write by breaking down them down into their discrete pieces. Bring paper and pencil.

Teacher: Tim Dougherty

Location: SNH 206

Time: 7-8:30

Maximum number of students: 20


Thursday, November 13


Class: Pope Francis and the Evolving Catholic Church

Description: This course will provide a survey of the career of Pope Francis. We will dive into his life, focusing on his major encyclicals, revolutionized actions identifying the Catholic Church with the poorest of poor, and his love for living out a life like Christ, liberating all peoples.

Teacher: Tom Mengers

Location:   SNH 119

Time: 7-9 PM (also offered same time and place on Tuesday, November 11)

Maximum number of students: 20


Class: The Higgs Boson for Poets: Why Were We Searching For it and What Does it Mean?

Description: The Higgs field and the Higgs boson are recent discoveries from CERN about the deep weirdness of ordinary matter. We’ll discuss bosons and fields, as well as exotic modern physics: spin, antimatter, quantum uncertainty, matter-energy equivalence, etc. Just concepts, no math, and no recollection of high-school physics is required!

Teacher: Jillian Waldman

Location: S12

Time: 7-8:30PM

Maximum number of students: 15


Class: Happy Hour with Watercolor

Description: Eliminate your day’s stress through the magical, transcendental medium of watercolor. Former Delaware Art Educator of the Year Terry Newitt takes you on his spirited “guided tour.”

No experience needed. Watercolor-wash all your cares away. All materials provided.

Teacher: Terry Newitt

Location: Manor 011

Time: 7-9PM

Maximum number of students: 10


Class: What the Heck are Google Docs and How Do I Use Them?

Description: Students will get a brief description about the various uses for Google Docs; discussion will address the specific needs of the participants.

Teacher: Michael Johnson

Location: SNH 008

Time: 7-8:30PM

Maximum number of students: 15


Class: Violence, Fairy Tales and Rock & Roll 
Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”: Violence, Fairy Tales and Rock & Roll
Description: We will explore ways of reading Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,” a short story we teach in several of our senior electives. It’s an unsettling, suspenseful story, first published in 1966, that can open up discussions about gender and teenagers, about the blend of fact and fiction, about the influence of popular culture. We’ll dive into the story, and the class will be a discovery process. In a broader sense, though, we will also talk about the variety of ways we can read stories and the ways stories can relate to our lives.
Teacher: Mr. Steve Klinge

Location: SNH 211

Length: 7-8:30

Maximum number of students: 15


Class: Revolutionize Your Writing

Description: Learn a variety of sentence patterns that can improve the pace, the structure, the voice, and the impact of your writing.

Teacher: Tim Dougherty

Location: SNH 206

Time: 7-9PM

Maximum number of students: 20





Okay, let me try this again.

Well, fans (I think there are six of you.  Are you there, Mrs. Buck?  Mrs. Lynch?).  I am going to re-commit to this blog now that Denise Starnes, our new Communications Assistant, has given me a refresher course.  I’m still struggling with the pix.

Basically, all is well in my Archmere world, especially now that scheduling and course changes have passed:  I have come up for air.  This pocket of time between the end of course changes the posting of Q1 report cards represents the least harried time of the year for me.  I embrace it while it lasts:  the pleasing everyday busyness of Archmere life still drives the day, but there is something a little more manageable about right now year versus March – September, August, with its multitude of varied tasks, being the most challenging.  Still, I enjoy it all;  my tasks, even when focusing on minutiae, contribute to the overall functioning of the school.  So there’s that.

Overall, schedules turned out well:  one of my goals since I took this position has been to reduce the number of course changes during drop/add week during our second cycle of classes; the number of changes has dropped by 50% since 2011-12 school year.  This is good, so good.

The next big thing for me is the musical.  With expert help from David Ifkovits (music) Damian Demnicki (set), and Dorothy Brown (choreograhy), I will be directing Fiddler on the Roof.  Auditions for the show are Monday and Tuesday, November 17 and 18, respectively.  The show runs Thursday-Saturday, February 26-28.   Look for the Thursday night Charity Soup Bowl event again…more on that as it approaches.

Actually, before THAT is the fall play, Teach Me How to Cry, directed by Mr. Manelski.  From what I’ve heard, not only are the actors doing a great job, but there is the promise of very interesting costume, set, and make-up designs.  It’s a must-see.

Actually, I lied.  My next big thing is Archmere Night School!  It’s happening the Tuesday and Thursday nights (November 11 and 13) after the fall play:  one-night classes taught by Mr. Levine, Ms. Waldman, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Manelski, Mrs. Hoffman, Mr. Burdziak, and me…and still others.  You can sign up right here or click on the Archmere Night School box under Resources on your parent page of this website.  Check out the offerings and spread the word.

Ok, that’s enough for me..for now.  I will try to be more vigilant about posting.

Happy Homecoming!

I’m a Recruiter!

The Dunkin’ Donuts on the border between Gibbstown and Paulsboro is the site of my writing inspiration right now.   I think Hemingway and Steinbeck and Fitzgerald found settings a touch more bucolic or fertile, but, to be honest, I like the scene.  Besides, my mother grew up near here, in Clarksboro, on Cohawkin Road.  I drive by her house now and then, reaching for some fleeting sense of nostalgia and a NJ connection, but the dismantled pick-up in the front lawn cuts into the warmth a little.

Anyway, I’m participating in a school fair (is that the term?) at the Guardian Angels school…and I think it’s in Gibbstown.  I drove by it first, and it’s an adorable building nestled between homes on a residential street.  I saw grass.  For the last three years, I’ve helped Admissions by acting as Archmere’s (freshly-shaved) face, and dang if I haven’t managed to steer some of the best and brightest to Archmere.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  Mullica Hill was the school I visited the last two years, and a school in Drexel Hill the year before that.  It’s an easy task, given the excellent product I am “selling,” but, still, I don’t consider myself a salesperson.  Which reminds me…

In 1988 and 1989, I left teaching for a few years to pursue a career in the hospitality industry, thinking hotels and restaurants would bring me new happiness.  Turns out I just liked free food, low pay, and no sleep.  There was this resort/golf course place in Downingtown called Brandywine Hotel and Resort, on Route 30, right across from the Tabas Hotel:  Mickey Rooney’s cartoon face on a billboard stared at me all day.  I was in convention sales.  It was nuts.  My boss stole our secretary’s codeine every day, dead birds kept appearing on people’s balconies,  and I think the banquet staff were running guns.  Somehow I managed to become a top salesperson, but I spent most of my time revising all the correspondence leaving the hotel:  nobody could write, and I became the in-house proofreader.  Teaching was calling me back.  I call this era My Great Hotel Sickness.

But recruiting students and families to Archmere rises far above the dark days at Brandywine, and the food is better, if not free.  I have cool giveaways, some videos to show, our snazzy viewbooks, and some candy to spread about my table.  I’ll be joined by a Guardian Angels graduate, a current Archmere senior, so this will be a fun night.  So, wish me luck!

Opening Day is Here!

It’s about time I posted a few words.  Now that schedules are loaded and the website is live, I can kick back–just a bit–to write a little here.

By this point, I hope everyone (students and parents) has taken the time to log in to his or her My Archmere account to see the new pages, linking them to teachers and courses and schedules and more.  It all looks good to me; and with little or no guidance, I think everyone could poke around, click about, and figure things out.  The pages are clean and navigable, intuitive and fast.  We have been looking to do something like this for several years; in fact, I remember discussing teacher pages back in 2008.  I had less gray hair then.  I think I will be offering some webpage training during the upcoming parent nights.

Very quickly, these pages will become part of the Archmere fabric, something as comfortable and positive as the community itself.  They are a one-stop warehouse of all things Archmere.  For parents, having access to the same teacher pages their children see provides a whole new level of oversight.  I need to connect the grade book this week so that everyone can monitor academic progress, too.  Then report cards will follow in October.  My hope is that we stop mailing report cards home; instead, I will grant access to them for a period of time.  Parents and students can print their own on embedded letterhead.  Why waste the paper and the postage, right?  It’s 2013.

What really excites me?  Getting back into the classroom.  I thoroughly enjoy the puzzle of scheduling, but I see myself as a teacher first.  I’ve been teaching since 1982 (first position:  Williamson Jr.-Sr. High School in Tioga, PA) and teaching at Archmere has given me the most satisfaction:  great faculty, wonderful curriculum, demanding standards, supportive community, invested parents, and most of all, truly terrific students.  I might expound on the subject of our students another  day, but, for now, I can say that interacting with Archmere students is always redeeming.

Good luck with your new pages.  Now I’m off to pick out my first-day-of-school clothes.  Always a thrill.

If I’m so tired and my legs hurt so much after the senior boys hike, why am I blogging now, and why didn’t I lose ten pounds?

Well, I just got back from the 2013 senior boys hike.  This was the fourth year Archmere Academy has organized this trip to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  We had a great time.  And by “we,” I mean four teachers (Mr. Jordan, Mr. Cocco, Mr. Levine, and I) and 34 senior boys.  Over three days, we hiked just short of twenty miles on three different hikes, the final two proving to be far more difficult than the first uphill amble–and the last one, the most enjoyable.  On Tuesday we climbed the highly anticipated Old Rag, the last 30-45 minutes of which is an invigorating (and I use that term loosely) scramble through very challenging natural rock formations.

At two different points on this third hike–on a flat rock at about 2500 feet and at the summit at about 3500 feet–we stopped to admire the views and eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches.  Everyone enjoyed the hike thoroughly…but nature’s water slides were a big hit, too, on Day 2, during the White Oak/Cedar Run hike.

Mr.  Cocco calculated that we burned thousands and thousands of calories during Monday and Tuesday’s hikes, but I’m not so sure; I’m not seeing it yet.  All I know is that this annual exhaustion is well worth it, considering how terrific the boys were the entire trip.  And, oh my, if you want to know the minds of high school boys, simply sit behind the wheel of a moving vehicle filled with them because, clearly, you will become, to them, invisible and deaf.  Fascinating and hilarious stuff.  (Note to parents:  please let your boys know that Taco Bell does not have “the best meat ever.”)  And all the information I gleaned was expressed–thank goodness–with the candid purity of amazing and decent kids.  I always feel privileged to be around our students.

We ate, too:  Mr. Jordan and Mr. Cocco grilled burgers and dogs the first night; I ordered out for DELICIOUS chicken and fries from the Big Meadows  camp store/restaurant on the second night; on the last night we ate in the main lodge’s basement eatery–burgers and chicken wings and dessert.  The boys played a lot of cards, Mr. Levine challenged them with a playing card riddle I swiftly walked away from, campfires roared, and there was always a football in the air.  With tents spread over five sites, sleeping arrangements were commodious, and the overnight temperatures were perfectly chilling.  Everything went exceedingly well.

I wanted to add pix here, but the images are too big, and I forget how to re-size them, but check in again soon.  Thanks most of all to the parents for trusting their fine boys with us.  This excursion is a summer highlight.

Mr. Dougherty, where’s my schedule?

Even though I’m using a new and fairly robust software to create students’ and teachers’ schedules, almost every student schedule requires additional manual adjustment. For instance, if a student couldn’t be scheduled for a particular elective, I search for one that will fit, meaning I might have to move other courses around to provide a full schedule.  Some of these adjustments take two to three minutes, but most take longer, so the entire scheduling process takes time.  I thought I would be able to mail schedules out by this Friday, July 26, but, oh my, no.  No way.  Uh-uh.  Forget it.

To complicate matters…from Sunday (7/28) through Wednesday (7/31), Misters Jordan, Cocco, Levine, and I will be taking 30+ senior boys on a camping and hiking trip in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.  Fun and important, to be sure.  So I’m cranking on these schedules now and will crank out some more when we return from Virginia.

All I’m saying is that schedules are coming.  If I mailed them out on August 9, that’s still plenty o’ time to know what’s up.  More than true necessity, curiosity drives people’s desire to know their schedules now.  But to keep eveeryone as informed as possible, I will be sending a letter by email this week explaining the upcoming schedules and course changes, etc.

This was the #1 most boring thing I’ve ever written.  Ever.

To compensate, here’s a picture I took of Florence, Italy.

Photo Jul 11, 8 11 42 PM



Maine is more fun than scheduling. That’s just the way it is.

I’ve ventured from the woods of Maine to check email, and so I thought I’d post a quick note from Vacationland.  That’s not a metaphor; that’s what Maine calls itself.  Talk to them.

Let’s be clear:  I’ve not even LOOKED at a schedule since I left last week.  Feels great.  But I have been reading.  What, you ask?  Well, here you go:  Escape from Camp 14; Methland; Run, Brother, Run; Making Haste from Babylon.  Hope to start American Passage later today as I gaze out over the silvery lake from the shore of my cabin.  Maybe even get to The Glamour of Grammar.  Honestly.

With the reading, kayaking, and grilling, I’m appreciating my time off, recharging for two things:  1) continuing to perfect student and teacher schedules and 2) the senior boys’ camping and hiking trip to Virginia on Sunday.

Okay, back to the woods.


Who knew scheduling could be fun?

Yesterday I started the actual scheduling of classes in a new (for Archmere) scheduling program called Rediker.  (Since we’ve moved all of our student data to a new system,  I needed a new scheduling program, too.) All the preparation that has led up to this point (I explained that in my last post) pays off with every click on the track pad.

The program magically (to me) searches for the best spot to place each class to maximize student requests.  People used to do this process by hand (some in smaller schools still do), but that was easier when there were far fewer students requesting courses from a smaller pool of offerings to be scheduled the same period every day.  Archmere has an academic program that is more robust than many others, and it employs an 8-day, 7-period schedule (a diagonal cascading rotation with a drop day) that defies manual construction.  Well, it defies my manual construction:  in other words, I ain’t doing it by hand.

To watch the program compute the best schedules is pretty cool.  I was able to weight courses, too.  For instance, an AP class has more “weight” than an elective:   If AP US History  and Photography are vying for the same period on a student’s schedule, Rediker will grant the period to AP US History.  It won’t move Photography to another period because that’s the period that works for most everyone else who requested it:  this is why not everyone can be scheduled for every elective he or she requests–it’s not always about space; it’s usually about the other courses all students chose.  Rediker, like all programs like it, schedules communities of people, not individual students.  That’s a tough lesson to absorb when you don’t get the art or music or computer elective you wanted.

But the process is moving along, and then there are adjustments to make by hand.  I’m pretty certain that I will be able to mail home  to students (by Friday, August 26) the list of classes they will be enrolled in next year.  And by August 21, everyone will be able to access the new student and parent pages through the Archmere website.  But that’s a bit of a spoiler there…you’ll hear more about that soon. But imagine this:  a life without paper schedules.  You’re welcome.

Okay, I’m off to read about the pilgrims.  Believe it or not, there’s more to know.