Sparhawk News

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Letter from the Chair of the Board of Trustees, June 3, 2023

Dear Sparhawk Community:
        We have much to be thankful for as we come to the end of our fifth year of offering families a complete educational experience for your sons. Certainly, what happens in the classroom, in the mentoring program, in sports and the arts, in the craftsmanship program and informally on the grounds and fields of the school all contribute to the development of well-rounded young men ready for their high school experience. Arguably, the capstone project of our first five years is the opening of the five-classroom schoolhouse and chapel to accommodate more than 100 students. Yes, much has been accomplished, and it is genuinely a pleasure to consider the opportunities that lie ahead.
        We now enter what can be considered Phase Two of Sparhawk’s history. It is time for new leadership, new perspectives, and new ideas. To that end, the Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that Michael Schell, a member of our own parent community, has accepted our offer of the Head of School position to lead Sparhawk for the next generation. Mike’s background in education is wide and deep. He currently serves as Associate Superintendent of Enrollment Management and Marketing for the Archdiocese of Boston’s Catholic Schools. Previously, Mike was Director of Admissions and Enrollment in addition to Director of College Counseling at Catholic Memorial School. Prior to CM, he taught AP History and Theology courses and held various advancement, admissions, college counseling, and coaching roles at St. Sebastian’s School and Groton School. Between 2010 – 2018, he directed The Cannonball Foundation, a nonprofit he founded that delivered programming to elevate the role of character in student-athlete development and the college athletic recruiting process to hundreds of student-athletes, youth coaches, and high school coaches across the country. His work on and off the field earned him a selection to the NCAA’s Buick Human Highlight Reel series, which showcased the stories of a group of former college student-athletes who have given their all to their sport and community.       
        Mike attended high school at The Lawrenceville School in Princeton, NJ, and completed his college studies at Holy Cross. He earned a master’s degree in organizational and education leadership from Columbia University. He is an active member of several school boards and leading educational organizations, and a frequent presenter on various topics related to the K-12 private school experience and college admissions process. Most importantly, he is thoroughly imbued with the Sparhawk spirit, that intangible “something” that makes the Sparhawk experience so unique. We welcome Mike and look forward to his leadership.
        Of course, we all know that Sparhawk is where it is today thanks to the heroic work of Bob Sylvain. It is hard to imagine this project would ever have been launched without his prescient vision, clear insights, dogged determination and selfless dedication to the mission. We owe Bob a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. We are delighted to let you know that Bob will remain a member of the Board of Trustees as we continue to improve upon the Sparhawk experience for your families.
        Please join me in welcoming Mike and thanking Bob. As I said at the beginning of this letter, we have much to be thankful for!

Tim Casey
Chair, Board of Trustees

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.

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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.

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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).”

Click here to access the full article.