Welcome to Buxton News
our monthly newsletter to keep our Buxton family in the loop!
Every month, we’ll be sending you a brief note to let you know what’s happening on campus and off, to alert you to upcoming events, and to keep you connected to Buxton and each other.
It’s fitting that we’re starting this newsletter in September, which, to those of us who work in schools, still feels like the beginning of the new year! And, in case you are wondering, Yes, Buxton is open for in-person school this fall!
We are lucky to be in the Berkshires, where COVID-19 cases have been optimally low practically since the beginning. We are also lucky to have such a beautiful, wide-open campus with a lot of outdoor space; classrooms with lots of big windows that open and let air circulate; a small community of students who are so excited to come back to Buxton; and an amazing parent body that is willing to take all the precautions necessary to allow their children to come to school this fall. Sure, Buxton will be different with masks on, walk-through meals, and spread out chairs in the classroom, but compared with staring into a Zoom screen multiple hours a day, we’ll take it!
Our COVID task force, made up of faculty, staff, local health professionals, and the medical professionals on our board of trustees, has developed a comprehensive plan that will allow us to create a safe Buxton Bubble for the fall and give our students the rich in-person education they deserve. If you’d like to look at it, let us know and we can share a copy.
As we have been facing the challenges that COVID has brought us, we have started to think about how best to operate the school and help it thrive during this crucial moment, but also on into the future. Although Buxton has always been—and will always be—a school that puts the kids’ experience first, we have started to realize that the administration of the school needs to combine that commitment with more outward-facing attention and initiatives. In order to accommodate that broadening of our focus, my job will be shifting so that I can focus most of my time and energy on institutional advancement and external affairs. I will still be the director of the school, but where and how I spend my time will be changing.
Luckily, the internal affairs of the school will be in the excellent hands of Peter Beck, who will now have the title of Head of School. Peter will be more focused on the teaching/students/learning aspects of the school, and will take primary responsibility for the day-to-day life of the educational project of Buxton. He has the passion and the vision, and our board of trustees and I feel that the school is in excellent hands with Peter at the head.
To support both Peter and me in our work, we are excited to announce that Ben Ripley will be our new Associate Director. Ben is uniquely well suited for this position and for this moment. As a former student and long-time teacher, Ben knows Buxton from every angle. He is an inventive and versatile teacher, a bedrock believer in the progressive mandate of the school, and someone who has helped integrate creativity into the curriculum throughout his time here. Ben will also bring his visual and verbal acumen to our outreach efforts, helping to marry Buxton’s values and visions with its external expression to the larger community.
We’re excited to head into this unprecedented year with this strong leadership team!
Faculty Comings and Goings
This spring, we said good-bye to one of Buxton’s most gifted and impactful teachers: David Denhard. We will be sending David off to retirement with a featured piece in our Fall Annual Report and Newsletter, which will hit mailboxes and inboxes later this fall. Look for it!
In the meantime, I’d love to introduce you to his replacement, Stuart McKenzie! Stuart grew up in Jamaica, went to boarding school in Texas, and then went on to study music and composition at Amherst College. Stuart is so excited to bring his performance, arranging, composition, teaching, and coaching skills to Buxton, and we are so glad we found him. Stuart will be living on the third floor of the Main House.
I’d also like to (re-) introduce Kevin Reilly, a former English teacher who has returned to the fold this year. A Williams graduate before coming to the school, Kevin taught at Buxton from 2005 to 2011. He then went on to earn two master’s degrees. But, guess what? He never forgot us, and we never forgot him … and now he’s back! I am so pleased to welcome Kevin back to Buxton, where he will be living in the Gatehouse, teaching English to the freshpeople, and teaching half of senior English. He will also be bringing his artistic skills to the studio (one of his advanced degrees is in cartooning and graphic art). I can’t wait for a new cohort of Buxton kids to get to know Kevin!
(P.S. Kevin just had his first cartoon accepted by The New Yorker.)
You may have noticed that we have male-identified teachers living in both the Main House and the Gatehouse. Well, things have changed on campus in recent years! After a winter-term experiment with switching dorms (Main and Gatehouse residents moving into the Barn; Barn residents going to the Main and Gate) in January 2019, we realized that there is actually no reason we can’t switch up the dorms! Last year, we started the year with female-identified students in the Barn, and male-identified students in the Main House, and it worked out really well. This fall, we are continuing with that configuration as well as re-opening the Gatehouse as a gender-neutral living space.
It’s amazing how something that seemed so immutable turned out to be not such a big deal after all. It’s also been amazing to track cultural changes in the various cohorts based on their living spaces. For example, there is much more after-hours hanging out in the hallways of the Barn (and therefore, a little more nighttime noise for dorm faculty to contend with!) not because boys are more rambunctious, it turns out, but because the hallways are nice and wide, and there isn’t really another common space. Whaddaya know??
There’s always so much more to report, but I want to get this first edition out the door sooner rather than later. I’ll be back next month with more news and updates. In the meantime, share your news with us, and we can start including that in upcoming issues of the Buxton News!
All the best,
Franny Shuker-Haines, Director