The faculty and staff of Sparhawk Academy work with parents to assist in the intellectual, moral, physical, and spiritual education of the boys entrusted to their care. They provide academic, athletic and cultural programs for boys in grades 3-8 and opportunities for parents to get involved with the life of the School.
Sparhawk Academy offers a liberal arts education that focuses on the development of intellectual virtues, helping to foster the practice of concentrated study and a sincere interest in the abundant goodness of the world. The curriculum is strongly grounded in the classic texts of Western civilization.
Sparhawk Academy parents and faculty work together to form boys into the type of men they would want their daughters to marry. The all-male faculty strives to present an example of what it means to be a true Christian gentleman, someone striving to do the ordinary things of life extraordinarily well for the love of God and in the service of others. All student programs take place in the context of a personal approach to education where cheerfulness goes hand-in-hand with hard work and a striving to conquer oneself.
This Student Handbook is intended to serve as an overview of Sparhawk Academy, its philosophy and programs. Additional information is also available in other sections of the School’s website: www.sparhawkacademy.org.
A Brief History
In 2013 a group of Catholic families, many belonging to the Prelature of Opus Dei (“Work of God”), began to lay the foundation for a boys school in the MetroWest area of Boston. By the summer of 2015, the project launched in earnest as the founding families developed a Vision Statement and determined there was sufficient interest to incorporate as The Mill Brook School. In the fall of 2017 the School was able to purchase the Sparhawk Farm in Millis for use as our campus, and assumed the name Sparhawk Academy. The School opened in September 2018 with grades 3-8.
Sparhawk Academy aims to prepare boys for success in high school while inculcating in them a deep Christian formation, an adventurous approach to life’s challenges, and the desire to seek holiness in and through everyday life and work. From the beginning, the School has sought guidance from Opus Dei to ensure the Christian orientation of all the School’s activities.
The Prelature of Opus Dei
Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. Its purpose is to foster among men and women of every walk of life a profound awareness of the universal call to holiness and apostolate, pursued freely and on their own responsibility, in their ordinary work and place in society.
Founded in 1928 by Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Opus Dei received its definitive juridical approval by the Holy See in 1982. It began in the United States in 1949 in Chicago and now serves in over twenty-five cities in the United States and in over sixty countries worldwide. The spiritual direction of Sparhawk Academy is entrusted to Opus Dei; additional information is available at www.opusdei.org. All other aspects of the School are the responsibilities of the Board of Trustees or the Administrative Council.
The Chestnut Hill Center
Chestnut Hill Center helps high school men to develop the values, skills, and attitudes necessary to be effective in college and later on as fathers, professionals, and citizens. Its activities put a particular emphasis on learning the value of hard work. Chestnut Hill Center also offers students a Christian formation that is valuable for their whole life.
Students and graduates of Sparhawk Academy are welcome to participate in the various formational activities offered at the Center. An integral aspect of the spirit imparted by Chestnut Hill comes through contact with the Center’s experienced and dedicated staff and residents. They provide young men with the example and moral support they need but so often lack. Through this contact, they learn the value of true, enduring friendship and professional dedication – a lesson that lasts a lifetime. The spiritual foundation of Chestnut Hill’s programs is entrusted to Opus Dei. Priests of Opus Dei are available to provide spiritual guidance to any staff member, resident, or student who may want it.
Among the programs offered by the Chestnut Hill Center for middle and high school students are The Sebago Leadership Camp, regular academic and character development seminars for each grade, service projects, and outings. For more information on the Chestnut Hill Center or any of its programs, please contact Joe Billmeier at 481 Hammond Street, Chestnut Hill, MA 02468; telephone: 617-738-7348; www.chestnuthillcenter.org.
Statement of Values
Sparhawk Academy is a school that is grounded in the Catholic faith. It encourages its students to pursue their studies with professional excellence, to become young men of virtue with a spirit of adventure and optimism toward life’s challenges.
The school understands its educational mission as a collaboration with parents, who have the primary responsibility for the education of their sons. Therefore, harmony between the intellectual and moral education received at school and the formation received at home is necessary for the school’s educational effectiveness. Upon enrolling at Sparhawk, parents, students, and families commit themselves to upholding this collaborative ideal.
A Sparhawk education seeks to form the will as well as the mind, and to foster in students a deep desire to practice moral virtues: hard work, generosity, self-control, courage, magnanimity, etc. It also encourages living practical details of order, punctuality, cleanliness, and care for material things.
Sparhawk seeks to provide each student with individual attention. Each boy is assigned a mentor from among the faculty who, together with the boy’s parents, facilitates his full development as a man. The mentor meets frequently with him one-on-one and, through his example, advice, and encouragement, helps the young man to grow in self-knowledge, achieve his maximum academic potential, and motivate him to struggle for virtue. The success of the mentoring program requires ongoing communication and cooperation between the parents and the mentor.
A defining characteristic of Sparhawk is the Christian spirit which imbues all of its activities. Sparhawk looks to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as the final authority concerning morality and divinely revealed truth. All Sparhawk activities are carried out in a manner consistent with that Magisterium.
Sparhawk provides courses on the Catholic faith in each grade level. The Catholic Prelature of Opus Dei provides Sparhawk with chaplains to oversee the religion curriculum, celebrate Mass, administer the Sacraments, be available for spiritual direction, and occasionally teach.
Sparhawk is operated by The Mill Brook School Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation incorporated in the state of Massachusetts. It is governed by a Board of Directors and managed on a day-to-day basis by a Head of School with an Administrative Council. Both the Board and the Head of School have the duty to ensure that the religious and educational principles stated in this statement are consistently observed.
Study and Homework
Study is the first priority of students. This activity occurs at school, in the classroom, and at home. Time spent each school night on homework should be about 1-1.5 hours for lower school students and 1.5-2 hours for middle school students. A regular time (sooner rather than later) and a regular place for homework, study, and review (in addition to written assignments) help develop the habits of mind necessary to succeed academically. Students who are absent from school are expected to make up the work they missed as soon as they reasonably can. Participation in athletics or other activities does not excuse a student from academic responsibilities.
Classes are where the spirit of study intensifies. It is the responsibility of a student to be materially, physically, and mentally prepared for study and class work. Students are expected to bring pens, pencils, notebooks, textbooks, and any other required materials to class. Students need regular amounts of sleep as well as breakfast and lunch in order to be able to concentrate. Punctuality and outward appearance in dress and posture are signs of a student’s attitude and willingness to work.
Academic honesty is critical to the School’s mission. By academic dishonesty, students commit an injustice against others, damage morale, and harm themselves by replacing honest effort with fraud.
An offense against academic honesty may be committed by:
- cheating on a quiz or test;
- plagiarism or the unacknowledged borrowing of the work of an author;
- using unauthorized aids;
- copying another student’s homework.
An offense against academic honesty will lead to a failing grade and parental notification. A second offense may result in lack of credit, immediate parental conference, failure for the marking period in which the offense is committed, and suspension. A third offense may result in further suspension or expulsion from school.
Report cards are issued quarterly. Interim progress reports are sent via email to parents twice each quarter for quarters one through three and once for quarter four.
The Grading Scale
- A 90 – 100 Excellent
- B 80 – 89 Good
- C 70 – 79 Average
- D 60 – 69 Poor
- F Below 60 Failing
- S – Satisfactory
- U – Unsatisfactory
- P – Pass
- I – Incomplete
Any student who receives a failing grade, more than one grade in the D range, and/or has a D+ average or lower at the end of a term will be put on academic probation. During this period he will not be allowed to participate in elective after school activities (homework club excepted) for at least 4 weeks while he focuses on improving his academic performance. The decision about when the student comes off academic probation will be made by the Head of School in consultation with the student’s mentor and teachers
Additional information about the academic program is found in the Student Life section of the School website: www.sparhawkacademy.org/academics.
The Mentoring Program is a unique and integral part of the educational mission of Sparhawk Academy. Each student will have a faculty mentor with whom to discuss his academic and personal progress.
The Mentoring Program aims to encourage boys to grow in four primary areas of formation – intellectual, moral, physical, and spiritual – by means of a regular conversation with his designated mentor. This personal conversation between mentor and mentee will help each student reach his full potential both in his academic endeavors and in his personal formation.
Students may be excused from class to meet with their mentors. Regular communication fosters fruitful conversation, goal setting, encouragement, support, and accountability. The most basic duty of a mentor is to look out for his mentee, taking an active interest in his life and his development.
Since parents are the primary educators of their sons and the ones who know him best, cooperation between parents and mentors is a necessary component for an effective mentoring program. Regular communication between parents and mentors is welcomed and encouraged.
Guidelines for Students
Regular and punctual attendance is expected and required of all students at Sparhawk Academy. Detention will be given for unexcused absences or lateness.
A normal school day begins with each boy seated in his homeroom period by 8:15 am. At this time we address administrative details, take attendance, make announcements, and organize the day. Each grade has its own homeroom and homeroom teacher. The first class of the day begins at 8:20 am. In addition to lunch, two daily recesses, and the opportunity to attend Mass or a silent reading period, there are seven 45 minute class periods throughout the day The school day ends at the conclusion of seventh period at 3:15 pm.
Outside School Hours
Unaccompanied students should not be present on School grounds before 7:45 a.m or after 3:45 p.m. without permission.
The school day begins with homeroom at 8:15 a.m. each morning. A student who arrives after 8:15 a.m. must report to the reception area to notify the receptionist of his presence and to receive a tardy slip in order to be admitted to class. Tardy students may be subject to after-school detention.
In case of absence from school for illness or some other serious reason, a parent or guardian should call or email the School’s reception desk and inform the receptionist of the student’s absence. You can reach the reception desk at 617-727-4295, or send an email to email@example.com.
If parents wish to take a student out of school for several days for personal reasons, it is advisable to discuss it with the Head of School. Should a student be absent for an extended period of time, please contact the Head of School or mentor, and make plans for homework and assignments that he will miss. Again, please notify the main office.
Appointments for doctors, dentists, etc., normally should be made outside of school hours, such as on half days or vacation days. If it is necessary to leave school during the day, a note, dated and signed by a parent or guardian indicating the reason, must be presented before the beginning of school to the main office. An early dismissal slip will then be issued.
A student may be excused from a class for a sports event, a mentoring meeting, or for a specific purpose at school, but it is advisable to do so with the prior permission of his teacher. Any work covered during the missed class is the responsibility of the student.
Frequent absence and habitual tardiness are detrimental to a student and his studies. A parental conference may be requested if there is a problem with attendance or punctuality. Parents are asked to support the School’s efforts to promote its lateness and attendance policies.
Severe Allergy Guidelines
If your son might require immediate access to emergency medication such as an epipen, please make sure you follow the important guidelines below. Following these two guidelines allows us to ensure that we will always have the right response prepared for an allergic reaction on campus.
- Provide any epipens that are prescribed by your son’s pediatrician to our front office in a bag with his name on it. At the beginning of each year, please confirm that the epipens we have on file are updated and unexpired. Epipens should not be dropped off anywhere but the front desk (not sent to homerooms etc.) in order to ensure that they are present in the event they become needed.
- Please know that any epipens you provide to the front office will remain at the front office and will not ever be sent on field trips or off campus to athletic events. If your son leaves the campus for any reason, including school sponsored events, please know that it is your responsibility to send a different epipen set with him and either notify the faculty member who is leading the trip of this situation or provide it directly to the faculty member who is leading the trip.
Sparhawk Academy is a training ground for adult responsibility and for a professional sense of work. Appropriate standards of dress and grooming will be maintained. Common sense is an indispensable guide, but the following specific guidelines apply.
Sparhawk staff and students show respect for one another in many ways, including how they dress. There is no uniform (except for during Physical Education: see below), but rather a dress code: dress pants, shoes, shirt and tie (and sport coat for grade 8). The colors and styles are at the student’s discretion. This freedom gives students an opportunity to learn to dress professionally.
- Eighth grade students: sport coat with the following – dress trousers, dress shirt, tie, belt, shoes, and socks.
- Sixth and seventh grade students: dress trousers, dress shirt, tie, belt, shoes, socks, and a sweater as needed.
- Lower school students: trousers, dress shirt, tie, belt, shoes, and socks.
The complete school dress (including coat or sweater) must be worn at all times during school hours with the following exceptions: when a teacher allows a sport coat to be taken off in class; physical education period, in which case appropriate physical education dress is to be worn; field trips, provided that the faculty guide or the Head of School has specified another appropriate manner of dress.
During break period and lunch, students may take off their sport coats and sweaters. Outer garments are to be worn only outside in cold weather.
If a student has a legitimate reason to be out of proper dress, he must have a signed and currently dated note from a parent.
Note the following:
- Shoes worn in class should be presentable and convey the tone of professional work. Dress shoes, work boots, and similar footwear are acceptable. Sneakers, athletic footwear, and oversized rubber boots (muck boots) are not permitted in class. All shoes and leather boots with laces must be laced up through all eyelets and tied.
- Dress pants must hold a crease; no jeans, jean styles or any form of denim pants; no mid-thigh pockets, painter’s pants, or fatigue pants.
- Dress shirts must have a collar; no denim or jean styles, flannel, or turtlenecks are to be worn. Shirts must be tucked in at all times.
- Either a tie or a bow tie can be worn. Clip-on ties or zip up ties are discouraged.
- Outer garments are not to be worn inside the school buildings.
- Special circumstances may make it at times appropriate or necessary to wear other apparel. For instance, in cooler weather boys are permitted to supplement their gym uniform or Craftsmanship clothing with sweatshirts, sweatpants, and other outdoor gear. With permission, other apparel may be decorated with a college or pro logo, but not with unnecessarily flashy corporate logos, political slogans, or anything else that, in the judgement of a teacher, will be a distraction in class. Vulgar or demeaning logos or messages are never permitted.
- Colors should be consistent with professional work; “loud” or other inappropriate clothing will not be allowed. Examples of other dress code violations include: hats in any building, headbands, bandanas, ornamental jewelry (e.g., earrings), torn clothing and anything inconsistent with the tone of this policy, which is one of professional work.
Sparhawk Academy Athletic Department orders custom gym shirts and shorts in bulk that are available to purchase at the school. Cost is $15 for each item. Boys can provide their own seasonal outerwear, sneakers and socks.
Extreme and inappropriate hairstyles (long hair – in the eyes, over the collar) violate the dress code.
Faculty and administration will enforce dress and grooming regulations with regular scheduled detentions after school. Egregious or continuous violations may result in more serious punishments, including suspension, until the dress or grooming is corrected.
Common sense dictates against bringing large amounts of money or valuables to school. All personal belongings of a student are his own responsibility and should be kept in an assigned place when not on his person. The School provides storage cubbies for this purpose. The misplacement and forgetful leaving of personal property by students is unfortunate. We urge parents at least to label personal property with their names. Names should be included on backpacks, jackets, clothing, books, gloves, hats, and other items.
Lockers and Locks
Every student gets a locker at school, but they should only use that locker. Students cannot switch or use other lockers. Sparhawk Academy is not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items: each student is responsible for his property.
Students are encouraged to provide their own lock. Before placing a lock on their locker, the student must give his homeroom teacher a copy of the key or the combination. It must be clearly labeled with the student’s name and locker number. If submitting a combination, the information must be written on an index card. If a student forgets his combination, we have lock-cutters to break the lock open.
Teachers may ask students to open their locker for inspection from time to time, in order to promote cleanliness and order. If the school administration deems necessary, the locker may be accessed directly.
Electronic devices and other types of personal belongings not appropriate in a school atmosphere are not permitted on campus before, during, or after the school day, or on any school-sponsored trip. (See below for more details about cell phones). Detection of electronic devices in a classroom during a quiz or test falls under the category of a possible “unauthorized aid” that is mentioned in the Academic Honesty section of this handbook. Students are liable to the penalties prescribed in the handbook.
Cell Phone Policy
In order to keep the focus on school activities and each other, students should not bring cell phones to school. Anyone who needs to make a phone call from school grounds should arrange to do so with the Receptionist using the school phone.
The restriction of these devices is driven by a concern for the right to privacy of each student and member of the faculty and staff of the school. A breach of this right to privacy by the use of electronic devices can result in serious consequences.
Drug & Psychoactive Substance Abuse Policy
Any student who uses illegal drugs or psychoactive substances on campus or during school-sponsored activities will be immediately suspended and, after parental conference, may be removed from the School. In addition, such students and any student arrested for illegal drug use will be required to be tested for drug use bimonthly for six months, at parental expense. Failure to pass a drug test during this period will result in expulsion. In addition, such students may be required to enroll in a drug/alcohol treatment program, at parental expense.
Drug abuse adversely impacts the academic and social tone of the School. If the School even hears of illicit drug use by a student, even when off campus or during non-school hours, the School will alert the parents to the possibility and may require the student to take a drug test.
The Sparhawk Academy faculty strives to work with parents so that punishments assigned to students redress and correct the wrong and help the boys to improve.
After-school detentions are one common form of punishment used to maintain the appropriate tone at Sparhawk Academy. A faculty member will inform a student when he has a detention. Sometimes a faculty member will inform parents directly that a student has detention. These attempts by the faculty to effectively communicate when students have detentions will help students and parents work out carpool arrangements in advance. It is primarily the responsibility of the student, however, and not Sparhawk Academy faculty, to inform parents of after-school detentions. Detentions will generally go from 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. but may be longer for certain situations.
Athletes will miss practice and sometimes miss games when they coincide with an assigned detention. Students assigned to after-school detention are expected to be prompt. Any student late for assigned detention may be expected to serve that day and the next detention day as well.
Suspension is one of the most serious consequences given to a student. Students may receive an in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension. A suspension can be given by members of the Administrative Council for repeated discipline or a single discipline issue of a more serious matter. Discretion as to the matters that warrant a suspension is left solely up to the Administrative Council. Students serving an in-school or out-of-school suspension will not be allowed to participate in school activities, any after-school activities, and extra-curricular activities or sports competitions during the day(s) of his suspension.
The following offenses, after consideration by the Administrative Council, can merit either suspension immediately after the offense and for the next school day, or, in repeated cases, expulsion:
- Vandalism of the School or another student’s property;
- Drug or alcohol use or possession on campus (see Drug and Psychoactive Substance Abuse Policy);
- Stealing or possession of stolen property;
- Possession of obscene materials;
- Any intentional act that puts someone in danger of serious harm;
- Repeating an inordinate number of smaller offenses;
- Any other offense that is serious enough to warrant these measures.
An immediate conference with parents and school administrators will be called in some cases. In cases of suspension, a student may return to the school contingent on the successful completion of a meeting involving a student, parent, and the Head of School following appropriate consultation with the Administrative Council.
Other Behavior Guidelines
Every student should strive to contribute to the good atmosphere of the School by respecting the rights of others, especially their right to learn. A student is expected to conduct himself at all times in a noble manner befitting a Sparhawk Academy boy.
In particular, the following infractions are punishable:
- Unexcused absence from class or leaving campus without permission;
- Entering into restricted areas or construction zones;
- Display of disrespect for faculty (suspension for blatant offenses);
- Taunts of a racial, religious, or derogatory nature;
- Unjustified physical aggression or hazing;
- Foul or blasphemous language;
- Disruption of a class or study hall, or failure to use class or study hall time well;
- Misuse or lack of respect for school property (e.g., throwing textbooks, marking a desk, using a window as a door, littering);
- Unauthorized entry or presence in a building; entering areas that are off-limits;
- Dress code violations;
- Lack of class materials (textbooks, pen, homework, notebook, etc.);
- Lack of appropriate clothing for physical education (uniform, change of shirt, pants, shoes);
- Eating or drinking in unauthorized areas of the school buildings;
- Use of the copier without permission;
- Throwing food;
- Smoking, use of all tobacco products, and the use of e-cigarettes;
- Unauthorized possession of cell phone;
- Any other behavior that affects the tone of the School negatively, whether done willfully or thoughtlessly.
Sparhawk Academy is committed to preserving an environment free of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature (visual, physical, or verbal) that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Complaints regarding violations of this policy will be promptly investigated by the Head of School and reported to the Board of Directors. Retaliation against anyone lodging a complaint will not be tolerated. Violators of this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.
Conduct in Social Media and Digital Settings
At Sparhawk, we strive to build a culture of respect. This includes the proper use of technology and online interactions. It is beyond Sparhawk’s jurisdiction to regulate off-campus digital behavior. However, any participation on social media or other digital platforms — including postings, texts, messages, comments, likes, and follows, even if anonymously — that the school may reasonably interpret as derogatory or disrespectful in nature against individuals or Sparhawk may be sanctioned. Parents will be informed and corrective measures will be imposed if deemed necessary or prudent.