Dear BUA Family,
The images from the assault on the Capitol yesterday have stayed with me, and I imagine the same is true for many of you. There is something particularly upsetting about seeing rioters breaking Capitol windows, parading through the Statuary Hall unchecked, waving a Confederate flag near the entrance to the Senate, vandalizing Congressional offices, and posing for pictures on the dais of the Senate floor.
The Capitol is as close as we come to a national sacred space. Generations of American middle schoolers, including students now at BUA, have made the annual pilgrimage to Washington, DC to visit the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the monuments on the National Mall. Even as an adult and student of history -- familiar with both the beautiful, groundbreaking steps forward our country has taken in those halls and the ugliness of some of the policies and rhetoric that has come from those chambers -- I can’t help but feel a sense of wonder when I visit. I think that’s why yesterday’s images made such an impact. Yesterday’s rioters momentarily pierced my vision of the Capitol as a safe, sacred space and upset my equilibrium.
Within a few hours, members of Congress were back on the floor going about the people’s business, condemning the riots and fulfilling their symbolic role in affirming the will of the people in the presidential election. Waking to the news that Congress had certified the election brought me more balance. We are moving back to normal.
We welcome students back to campus today. Like always, their teachers and I are here for them. If students want to talk about yesterday’s events, these extraordinary adults who know and love them will listen and help them process. And while we are not a partisan institution, there is nothing partisan about denouncing yesterday’s violence. The assault on the Capitol was wildly misaligned with our nation’s values and the core values of this school, most notably our commitment to a caring, inclusive community and our celebration of reasoned inquiry.
So, today, we return to our school rituals: class discussions, labs, hallway conversations, club meetings. There is comfort in those rituals. We will also find strength in community and weather this new challenge--like all the others in a most unusual school year--together.
Head of School
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit families hard. Many families are dealing with disruption to routine, threats to employment, and the loss of social supports. Many parents are worried that their children will emerge traumatized from this long disruption. In this talk, Dr. Evans and Dr. Thompson will address the issues and fears affecting families and will offer psychologically sound suggestions for steadying their children and themselves in this difficult time. This virtual workshop is free and open to the public.
Robert Evans, Ed.D., is a psychologist and school consultant. A former high school and preschool teacher and a former child and family therapist, he has consulted to more than 1,700 schools. He has also served for nearly 40 years as executive director of the Human Relations Service, a nonprofit mental health agency in Wellesley, MA.
Dr. Evans’s interests are in leadership, helping schools manage change, improving adult relationships within schools, and crisis intervention. He is the author of many articles and three books, including Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving and The Human Side of School Change.
Evans is an independent school graduate, and his children and grandchildren have all attended independent schools.
Michael Thompson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, author, and school consultant. He has worked in schools for 50 years, starting out as a middle school teacher and later training as a counselor and psychologist.
Now the supervising psychologist for the Belmont Hill School (MA), he has worked with more than 700 schools in the U.S., Asia, Africa, Europe, and Central America. In addition, he served as the longtime facilitator for the NAIS Institute for New Heads and later for the Academy of International School Heads. He has served on the board of American Camp Association.
Thompson is the author or coauthor of nine books, including the New York Times bestseller Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys and Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children.
Like Evans, Thompson attended independent schools, as did his children and grandchildren.
Two commissioned compositions by BUA Music Instructor Dr. Brett Abigaña’s were released on the latest album by the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West, "American Tapestry." The first piece, entitled Through the Kármán Line, is about crossing the line between Earth’s atmosphere and space, and is dedicated to Col. Guion Bluford, the first African American in space. The piece attempts to place the listener inside the astronaut’s helmet as they cross the line and look back to see Earth in all its glorious imperfection for the first time. The piece is also written so that it can be played backwards, so that one can experience leaving the International Space Station and crossing through the line again, returning to the reality that is life “down below.” The second composition, Locrian Riffs, is written about and dedicated to the women collectively referred to and represented by “Rosie the Riveter.” The piece uses a Locrian scale and bebop riffs to replicate the sounds of a factory at full production.
Twenty-three members of the Boston University Class of 2021 -- 43% of the senior class -- were commended by national recognition programs for their high school academic achievements.
Four BUA students were honored through the College Board National Recognition Program (NRP) by scoring in the top 2.5% of PSAT/NMSQT test takers who identify as African American, Hispanic American or Latinx, or Indigenous.
Nineteen BUA seniors were named National Merit Commended Scholars in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program. According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), “commended scholars place among the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2021 competition by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).”
Out of BUA’s 19 commended National Merit scholars, five BUA seniors were named National Merit Semifinalists. In a press release, the NMSC announced: “Approximately 16,000 academically talented high school seniors have been named as Semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. They will have the opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.” National Merit Scholar finalists will be announced on February 8, 2021.
Congratulations to all of BUA’s honorees on this well-deserved recognition!
Reflecting on this week's uncertainty following the election, Head of School Chris Kolovos shared the following message with BUA students, parents, faculty, and staff on the morning of November 4:
"I imagine that many of you stayed up late to watch election results come in; I was right there with you, and the morning came too early. We all find ourselves now in the unusual, but not unprecedented, position of a November 4 without clarity about who won the presidential election. We are all sitting in uncertainty, and I know that can be uncomfortable. Research shows what we know intuitively: sitting in uncertainty can lead to stress and anxiety, hampering focus and attention. If you find yourself a little distracted or tense today, you are not alone.
At times like this, I take comfort in routine. At our house, like at yours, the sun came up. The cats let us know they were hungry, as did baby Charlie. The dog let us know that she wanted to go for a walk -- no matter the temperature. At school, our classrooms today will be full and engaging. We will connect during advisories to be together. And I’m sure that there will be as many conversations about ideas, friendships, and GSU lunch choices as there will be about the election.
The uncertainty will pass. I have faith in our institutions across this country; we will count votes fairly, reach an outcome, and move forward together. As a nation, we have been through much harder moments than this. It will take some time and there will be arguments. But we will have clarity.
In the meantime, keep doing those things that make this community so special: listen to one another with curiosity, engage in productive dialogue, and, most importantly, be kind to one another. I know you will."
Head of School Chris Kolovos shares how BUA is preparing its students -- and the broader school community -- for the 2020 election.
On Wednesday, we held a virtual All School Meeting. Even though we could only see one other through individual boxes on a Zoom screen, it felt good to be together as a community -- something we have not done since our opening day.
Our focus was preparing for the upcoming election, and the highlight was a debate on police funding at the state and local level between two of our seniors; the debate was moderated by alumna Abby Walsh ‘04, who works at the Council on Criminal Justice in Washington, DC. It was one of the most beautiful moments of the school year. Knowing that there are precious few examples of productive civil discourse in the political arena right now, we turned to our students to provide a model. And they delivered. They found and pinpointed areas of agreement (imagine that!) and offered thoughtful arguments on areas where they disagreed -- at times sharply, but civilly and sometimes with good humor. They painted a nuanced picture of an issue that has been caricatured in the media as an all-or-nothing choice between militarization and anarchy. They entertained 200 of their classmates and teachers in the process. And it was a reminder to me, and all of us, of what can happen when we unleash these amazing young people on issues that matter. I left the session feeling better about our collective future and invite you to watch part of the exchange.
To frame the meeting, I offered some thoughts repeating themes that I’ve shared with all of you before. As a long-time American history teacher, I know that this is by no means the first time in our nation’s history where partisan division feels extreme; where the political discourse feels less civil and more personal; where racial and other biases are leveraged for political gain; where there are questions about electoral outcomes and processes. That said, I also shared with these students that, at least in my lifetime, this election cycle feels different; debates feel less substantive, division more extreme, compromise more vilified, and bias more out in the open. And while there is good news that we have a more engaged electorate than we have in a century, that silver lining feels less reassuring than it might.
When it comes to taking care of our BUA family, I am focused on three things. First, there is a danger that this generation misses out on models of productive civil discourse and gets a false sense of what political debate looks like. The debate between our seniors went a long way to reassuring me that not only do these students recognize good discourse, but are more than capable of engaging in it -- like they do in their classrooms every day. Second, I worry that our community could fall into the trap of becoming an echo chamber of one set of ideas, chilling voices that disagree, particularly in a state with a significant majority and minority political split. BUA stands for many things, and a free exchange of ideas is one of them; we will reenforce that commitment, particularly in the next few weeks when outcomes might be uncertain, even after election day. Third, and superficially in tension with the previous point, we cannot compromise on our other values. There is language in the political discourse now that runs afoul of our mission’s commitment to inclusion and community. Issues that may be purely intellectual for some are deeply personal for others. We are not a partisan organization, but we do stand for certain principles; the hate we see in some dark corners of the political arena has no place at BUA.
The coming days will be exciting, contentious, and historic. I feel privileged to be living this experience with this group of students. My wish for them is that they lean into the exchange of ideas, stand up for what they believe in, and, as always, continue being good to one another.
Curious to know what it looks and feels like at BUA these days? Take a peek inside a day in the life at BUA, courtesy of our resident student videographer Rohan Biju '23. Enjoy!
Dr. James Davis, long-time BUA history and philosophy teacher beloved by generations of BUA students, has been selected as a recipient of this year's University of Chicago Outstanding Educator Award.
This distinguished award has existed for more than three decades. Students accepted into the University of Chicago Class of 2024 were asked to nominate an educator whose guidance has helped them along the path toward intellectual growth. Responses were received from thousands of students in recognition of educators who have positively impacted their lives.
An Outstanding Educator shapes young minds in meaningful ways—thoughtfully approaching instruction, sharing an infectious love for learning, and caring for students both inside and outside of the classroom. Each year, newly admitted UChicago students have the opportunity to reflect on their time in school and nominate an educator who played a significant role in their education, made a positive impact in their lives, and whose influence has brought them to where they are today.
Congratulations to Dr. Davis on this well-deserved honor!
On September 2, Boston University Academy officially kicked off the 2020-2021 academic year with a Virtual All-School Meeting for all students and faculty. In his opening remarks, Head of School Chris Kolovos reflected on the “chance that we all have collectively to be the national model that this country needs right now.” Mr. Kolovos challenged students and faculty to "be an upstander in this moment,” noting that “the hard part is actually not taking care of yourself, it's taking care of one another. That's what's going to keep us all safe, and that's the model this country needs right now."
Boston University Academy is one of the only schools in the nation where all students and faculty will receive routine weekly asymptomatic COVID screening tests. Before the start of the school year, all members of the school community were asked to commit to a set of shared norms and expectations that will allow BUA to maintain a safe and healthy campus environment for its students, faculty, and staff.
In the opening All-School Meeting, Student Council President Phevos Paschalidis ‘21 reiterated this message of community and shared responsibility: “Though I have always believed in community, its true power was only revealed in its absence. The spring was a hard time for us all...I am grateful that we, unlike many of our peer schools, will reopen this semester. Our in-person and hybrid interactions will strengthen this community, and thus strengthen each of us in turn. We therefore owe it to the others who have given us so much to remain diligent in following the guidelines BUA and BU have put forth so that we can protect each other and remain open.”
In the 2020-2021 academic year, BUA will hold in-person classes four days a week, with all BUA classes held remotely on Wednesdays. All students have the option to learn from home full- or part-time, joining in-person classes synchronously. Learn more about BUA’s reentry planning and health and safety protocols on our online Guide to Reentry.
Visual Arts Instructor Elizabeth Cellucci announced her retirement from Boston University Academy last month, after a 20-year career at the school. Beloved by generations of BUA students, Ms. Cellucci is known for her calm presence, encouraging guidance, and sharp eye for form and detail. Her many advisees and students over the years loved and respected Liz for her nurturing support, her kindness, and her empathy.
Ms. Cellucci is also the mother of two BUA graduates: Mia ‘06 and Stephen ‘03.
Assistant Head of School Dr. Rosemary White shared:
“Liz is as artistically talented as she is kind. Her students and advisees rely on her for her patience and support. Her students produce amazing work under her guidance, year after year.”
We are grateful for Liz’s two decades of service to Boston University Academy, and will miss her deeply. More information on Ms. Cellucci’s replacement (big shoes to fill, indeed!) will be shared with the BUA community later this summer.
View a slideshow of 25+ years of incredible BUA student artwork under the guidance of Ms. Cellucci here.