March HEADlines

In case you missed it in the excitement of spring break, I described a bit of the outstanding activity of the week leading into break in my “Head’s Blog” on March 8. Here’s the link: HEADlines. The songs the fifth through eighth graders wrote with Adam Ezra for the Marshall Fund residency are creative and worth being reminded of.

Eighth Grade

The eighth grade song is particularly poignant. In that context, I am delighted to share that our eighth graders have enjoyed what for the most part has been a very successful set of secondary school outcomes. We are always focused on the best match in our counseling, and families always have individual priorities that impact their goals. We celebrate all students in their journeys, and 89% have achieved acceptance to one of their top two choices. This percentage may even improve, as the other students earned Wait List possibilities at their top choices. It has been gratifying to observe how the students support each other through this process.

Over break we also learned the results of the History Day regional competition. Eleven students qualified for States, and an additional four received recognition as Honorable Mention. That means that, of the domestic students, 71% received recognition, with 52% qualifying for States. Congratulations to them and to their teachers. This is definitely a team effort.


This is the time of year when we discover people’s plans for their future, and we have some poignant retirements to celebrate this year. Mike Mullins, Kathie Grzewinski, and Sandi Rantala will be retiring at year end. Together they represent 79 years of service (with Mike 43 of that!). Mike created “the Mullinites,” a land that his students have been delighted to populate for years. He was the Dean of Students when we had a Middle School and subsequently supported Tally Lent and Lower School. His focus on knowing and valuing each student has been a model for all of us. He doesn’t observe recess, instead he slides down the hill with students in winter, throws the baseball in spring and the football in fall. His students are eager to share poetry with him, and his rendition of Casey at the Bat is a classic.

Kathie introduced the second grade to service through “Grandfriends,” first at The Highlands, and more recently at The Gables. That became the precursor to our development of Arc Buddies and more recently the Head Start outreach that have become hallmarks of Applewild’s Lower School community engagement. Well before our Board of Visitors program, she began introducing community leaders to Applewild through the Community Reading Day. And she has brought the gift of music to Lower School Common Times for years.

Sandi, who, like me, made an earlier attempt at retirement, returned to support the Kindergarten program as a valued assistant after having led the Extended Day program for several years when first working at Applewild. Her creativity and ‘craftiness’ were a welcome addition, and any number of families have enjoyed the clever crafts that their Extended Day children would bring home. Sandi’s colleagues have long been grateful for her wonderful, individually designed holiday, birthday, and special occasion cards.

I know we all have our own memories and will look forward to celebrating their contributions to Applewild and to generations of students. In addition, we will wish ‘fond farewell’ to a few others. Jen Raterman will be married and relocating to Florida at the end of June. She has provided 17 years of service to Applewild, most of them in the admission office. She has been our webmaster and designed the online re-enrollment process that families have found so user friendly the past two years. Deb Maloney, who has been acting as Director of Admission since September, will not return. She provided a vital transition between our former admission model and the External Affairs approach and recognizes that the Admission Office requires a full-time summer presence.

Deb and Jen, under Kelly Jennison’s leadership and with the support of Julie Marabello and Henry Barker, are to be congratulated on a great start to 2019 - 20 enrollment. We are currently ahead of the last nine years in terms of re-enrollment and ahead of this point in the last 18 years in terms of new enrollments. Thanks to all of you who help spread the word! Don’t forget we have an Open House on April 18.

Also leaving us after their first year are Toby Spector  and Henry Barker ’11. Toby has had an outstanding first year with us teaching Upper School Math and coaching. He can't continue to manage his lengthy commute as he and his wife anticipate the birth of their second child. Henry, who joined us as a summer intern in admissions and has thankfully stayed for the year in a variety of capacities, is preparing to apply to grad school in library science.

With Kathie’s retirement, we are delighted that former third grade teacher and current Extended Day Coordinator Jenny Coeur has decided to return to the classroom fulltime. She will move into second grade and will continue as our Math Department Chair. Another change in Lower School will be that Micaela Caiozzo and Lisa Barrette will trade grade levels: Micaela will move into Kindergarten, which she taught for several years in Lexington, and Lisa, who is getting her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in reading, will move to first grade.

Bob Jones is returning but has asked to reduce his load by dropping the counseling piece. Kyle Gillis will become the Coordinator of Secondary School Counseling in Bob’s place.  Kyle began preparing for that role last spring when Bob was out on extended leave, and he continued to serve with Erica and me as a counselor this year with Bob out much of the fall. Kyle plans to begin visiting secondary schools this spring and has already been introducing himself when making some of our February-March phone calls to admission offices to support our students.

Open Positions

As a result of these changes, in addition to the admission roles we are seeking an Upper School math teacher, a Lower School science teacher, and an Extended Day Coordinator. In anticipation of two sections in fifth, we will also be posting a fifth-grade position. Amy Jolly and Kelly are sifting through admission candidates. Amy intends to be very involved in meeting with families and in outreach, and her extensive admission and financial aid experience makes her ideal to support Kelly in the training of our new staff. If you have any recommendations about possible candidates for any of these positions, please reach out to me, Kelly or a Division Head.

Amy Jolly Transition

In addition to doing some specific projects for me, Amy has been sitting in on classes, meeting with teachers and administrators, and making follow up phone calls to those parents who identified themselves in the survey. It has been very helpful to have her on campus this winter and looking ahead to spring, and it will propel her into her first year well ahead of the learning curve that most new Heads have.

For a further introduction to Amy, in case you do not watch Fitchburg Access TV religiously, here is the link to Amy’s and my appearance on the show Barbara and You Tuesday evening. It was Amy’s first TV appearance! It is clear that she already has a deep appreciation for how dedicated Applewild employees are to their roles, their profession, and to children.

Amy and I will also appear on Jane Bouvier’s Around Town program (Groton CATV) on April 11. This is also, of course, must see TV!

As we prepare to greet April, we can anticipate a spring that is filled with student accomplishment, enthusiasm, and pride. It is also filled with events and opportunities to celebrate. Make sure you pay attention so you don’t miss something – and be sure to take the time to revel in your children’s healthy growth.

Taylor Poucel