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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

A School Filled With Hope
  • Head of School's Blog
Head of School Joy McGrath ’92

Joy gave these remarks to parents on the Saturday morning of Arts Weekend 2023. 


If we did not sense it before – it is at Arts Weekend that we begin to feel the culmination of the year. 

It has been an absolutely spectacular year in every regard—a classic year at the school, with all of our normal routines and traditions. Your children should be very proud of themselves for all they have accomplished—and you of them! 

The faculty have been absolutely amazing, and I am so grateful to them. 

The campus looks fantastic, thanks to our staff members, and we are so fortunate to be able to gather here this weekend in this setting.

I am looking forward to celebrating the seniors, the Class of 2023, at Commencement in two weeks. I am so grateful to them for their leadership.

Last year, as I considered all the work we needed to do to stick the landing on our post-COVID reset, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would have come this far. 

That is down to these seniors, who truly are a historic class in the school. 

We have begun the process of handing off the leadership of the school to the Class of 2024 and I am so excited to work with them as we continue to build community and connection and live into our high standards for intellectual, artistic, and athletic life as well as personal integrity and growth. 

The future of the school is in capable and energetic hands. 

What does that future hold? 

As I consider our goals for next year, I am thinking about three main areas of work: 

1) How to secure the future of financial aid, which is the cornerstone of our school and community. Robust financial aid policies are a crucial part of the education of every single student, because it is the community we are able to gather from every corner of society that creates the conditions for the creativity, teamwork, and growth you will witness this weekend—and witness throughout your child’s career here. 

2) How we can begin to understand the school’s carbon footprint? Any institution should have a clear path to carbon reduction, and SAS is no exception. I am looking forward to engaging in some serious study of our carbon consumption and development of tools for us to understand, measure, and reduce our carbon footprint—in service of developing a plan to zero carbon. 

3) The continued strengthening of our school culture—dorm life, student leadership, the chapel—including how and when and why we use technology including cell phones and artificial intelligence. For now, we are not using ChatGPT or other AI for academics, and the academic committee is reading and considering carefully the path forward. 

We are taking this period of discernment because we know that the human relationships at the school—between students and between students and faculty—are the timeless essence of a St. Andrew’s education. 

It is our belief in young people—in what their brains can do, their bodies, their spirits—in community with each other, moving within this beautiful ecosystem, that drives this place. 

What is genuine—not what is artificial—is what animates this place. So, we move forward deliberately.

I can say for sure that what we do here will continue to be about the people, about those human spirits and human brains and human relationships—so let me give you some updates on those fronts. 

New Students: Admissions

We are thrilled to welcome 87 new students and families to the school next fall. We searched the world to find families who understand and appreciate what we do here, and we can't wait for so many of you to meet them in the days ahead. 

I am grateful to so many of you who have helped us in this process. 

I know Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Will Robinson and the admission team are planning to recruit many of you to the cause—Will is already planning for the Class of 2028. 

Word of mouth continues to be our most effective tool for finding St. Andrew's families, so please continue to share St. Andrew's with families who you believe would thrive in this community. 

New Faculty: Hiring

As I said before, I am so grateful to our faculty, who have fully immersed themselves in your kids’ whole education: across the classroom, the sports facilities, the stages and studios and in the dormitories. 

Their work is about lighting fires, not filling buckets. 

St. Andrew’s teachers are in the business of throwing open windows and doors, helping students really to see, to observe carefully, to listen carefully, to hypothesize, test and revise, and over time to analyze, critique, solve, create, and investigate important questions.

We have had to find more of these special teachers, because at the end of the year, we will say farewell to Victor Cuicahua, Erin Hanson, Jay Hutchinson, Harvey Johnson, Bertie Miller, Deriba Olana, Neemu Reddy, Liz Torrey, and Will Torrey. 

Although they will be missed, we have hired some spectacular new faculty for next year, and we are in the final stages of our search for a new chaplain after Jay Hutchinson’s more than two decades of service to St. Andrew’s. 

I will share with you more details about our new faculty later in the spring, but here are a few: 

Amelia Browne, a veteran of Yale University’s legendary women’s volleyball team, will join the English Department in the fall and will serve as head coach of the team next year. 

Ben Kang ’13 will join the Math Department and coach football and lacrosse. 

James Garrett will join the English and Art Departments, and coach football and baseball. 

You may not know this, but we include your children in our faculty searches. Every candidate is met by a panel of students, and they also observe at least one class and teach a demo class. The feedback from our students is an important part of our discernment as I consider candidates. 

In many ways, that process is a hallmark of St. Andrew’s, where fundamental to our approach is trusting students, believing in students. 

And why would we not? 

In every experience and opportunity, your students are “all in.” The education we offer our students demands a great deal of them in every dimension—athletics, arts, academics, community life. 

Knowing that we are practicing, knowing perfection is not the goal, your children grow each day in their independence. They are capable of original thought, changing their minds, and persuading others as well. 

Practice and growth require not only curiosity and intelligence, but also ambition, discipline, persistence, and empathy. 

Young people need not only to be ABLE to do hard things, but they must WANT to do hard things. There are so many impossible challenges facing us, and it will be up to these young people to resolve them. 

In this, our arts and sports programs are critical. How do we locate that intrinsic motivation to try hard things? How do we engage others, motivate the team that can accomplish something together that we cannot even attempt on our own? 

Let me tell you a story: The weekend before last, I offered to take a van of students to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, which is one of my favorite art museums. So many students signed up (for a 10:00 a.m. departure on a rainy Sunday!) that Mr. Joshua Meier had to help, and he brought a second van. 

As I perused the collection, our students darted in and out of rooms. They had out their notebooks, and were reading about the details of each work of art. Some were wandering through in silent contemplation, others were in pairs and trios, discussing everything they saw.

Watching them, I saw wonder, awe, and curiosity. 

No one required them to go, no one required them to do anything in particular once we got to the museum. But they were ignited by beauty, by wonder; they were drawn in with curiosity and awe. 

I said earlier that what we do here is light fires, not fill buckets. And that is what art does. It inspires, it lights fires, it captures our attention and says “look, really look.” And when we look, really look, we understand, and we want to look more, understand more, question more. 

On this Arts Weekend, you will see that your children have looked—and they have seen, experienced, and read many things at St. Andrew’s. Taking all of that, they have made NEW things.

Whether it is through painting, singing, playing, acting, drawing, dancing, or making prints or films, our students have an incredible opportunity in the arts to bring themselves and their ideas into the world. 

Their art draws us into a future that is far from derivative, or repetitive, or expected, but rather exciting, thought-provoking, and inspiring.

Creation in all its forms brings with it a sense of accomplishment and—for the audience, the viewers—a sense of progress. That sense of progress quickly yields to hope. 

We are a school filled with hope, because of our students, your children. It is their work, their ambition, their aspirations that show us the future they will envision, practice, and create; a future that is more human, more harmonious, and more beautiful. 

In so doing, they make the world new again. 

Thank you.

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