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Article in the Boston Pilot, January 29, 2021
Character and culture: Forming boys into men
by Bob Sylvain
In September 2018, after many years of prayers and planning, Sparhawk Academy opened for grades three to eight with 36 boys and a faculty of seven on the site of a former horse farm. We designed our boy-friendly curriculum using two guiding principles: parents are the primary educators of their children, and boyhood should be celebrated, not squelched. Sparhawk serves parents by helping their boys to use their freedom wisely in pursuit of their academic, physical, spiritual, and character development. Parents love this. In just over two years we have nearly doubled in size and outgrown the small home we converted into a schoolhouse and chapel. In 2021 we will add a new classroom building, positioning ourselves to grow to 150 students over the next few years.
What constitutes a boy-friendly curriculum? For one thing, lots of time outdoors. Every day boys dash outside during their 15-minute recess and 45-minute lunch period to build forts, climb trees, and catch frogs. Boys can invent games with their own rules or play basketball or football. Daily gym classes and after-school soccer, cross country, basketball, and baseball provide more organized physical activities.
But the outdoors is also a classroom for us. Boys study local bird species by quietly observing their habitat and learning their calls. They may re-enact Pickett’s Charge across our Lower Paddock during history class or sketch the root system of a fallen tree in their science journals.
Article in the Boston Pilot, June 21, 2019
The Future of Boston’s Catholic Schools
by Thomas Carroll
As the new superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, I have enjoyed meeting countless people committed to the future of our schools — principals, teachers, parents, students and clergy. The passion I have seen is nothing short of inspirational, and I look forward to visiting every school in the Boston Archdiocese.
Despite this passion, these are indisputably challenging times. Since the 1960s, enrollment in Catholic schools has dropped from a peak of more than 5 million students to just over 1.7 million students today.
Against this backdrop, the obvious question is: How can Catholic education in the Boston Archdiocese chart a more successful future? After two months as superintendent, a few tentative thoughts come to mind.
In my view, the future belongs to schools with a clear vision and a keen understanding of the local educational landscape of their community.
School leaders need to understand — from a parent’s perspective — what the other options are in the same community. Since many of these options — namely, district and charter schools — are free, the Catholic schools that will survive will be those that offer parents something the free schools don’t. This could be higher quality, smaller class size, stricter discipline, or a distinctive school design or curriculum.
Some Catholic school leaders wrongly believe that they should de-emphasize faith as they seek to market their schools in a broadly secular society. This is a mistake. Given competition from free district schools and free charter schools, a Catholic school will not prevail by positioning itself as a tuition-charging secular (non-religious) school. Our schools can “go further with faith.” What Catholic schools offer is something more transcendent than any secular school can ever offer. This is our strength, not a weakness.
Several Catholic schools in the Boston Archdiocese understand all of this, including Bellesini Academy, Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School, St. Benedict Classical Academy, Sparhawk Academy, and St. Paul’s Choir School. These schools are very different from each other, but each offers a clear vision, strong Catholic identity, and strong academics.
Article in the Milford Daily News, August 20, 2018
New school for boys, focusing on outdoors, to open in Millis
by Alison Bosma
MILLIS – Sparhawk Academy admissions director Raymond Le Grand paused on a stroll through 56 acres of meadows, streams, ponds, and woodland Monday morning, to point out a pair of deer leaping through the trees ahead.
This is where a good chunk of class will take place at the new school for boys, opening this fall.
“We see education moving more and more away from the outdoors,” Head of School Bob Sylvain said. “A lot of the emphasis is on testing and being at your desk all day long. Our experience is that boys are more engaged (when they can get outside).”