Category: Head of School

Greetings from the Head of School

Thank you to all the students and families who have completed their surveys.

The timing of the surveys coincided with some hot water and ongoing internet problems which may have swayed the results in several areas.  However, I’m happy to report that initial analysis indicates that families continue to be very impressed with our quality of education, quality of teaching, and various community factors that we view as a source of pride.  I will share more detail of our strengths and weakness as time permits.

I want to let you know that we intend to survey again in the fall when we have addressed our internet issues more fully so that those issues do not unduly influence other ratings.

Earlier this week, a magnolia tree was planted in the center of the front circle of our campus.


On Thursday, May 29th at 3:45 we will have a brief ceremony where we will dedicate the tree in Skyler Anderson-Coughlin’s memory.

All MacDuffie community members are welcome.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to our Senior Parents for the gift of the multi-timezone clock.  The official unveiling of the clock will take place at Commencement.

Earlier this week, I encouraged our students to make a final push toward the end of the year, in both the academic and behavioral realms.   As spring finally makes itself felt, it is easy to slow down and lose sight of our final goals.   All students, but especially seniors, might have one foot out the door.  It’s important to enjoy these final few weeks, which are full of tradition and ceremony, before moving on.

I hope to see many of you at our Commencement on June 7th.

Best regards,

Steve Griffin

Head of School

Greetings from the Head of School

Moments of silence.

It seems like we’ve had far too many moments of silence at our school, remembering tragic events and fallen loved ones. Just this past week, we’ve remembered the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. Additionally, we stood in silence to recognize the more recent catastrophic events in Korea, where a ferry went down filled with many high school students and teachers, and the death toll continues to rise.

For young, impressionable students, these moments can often be overwhelming.

That’s why it’s so important to remind students of the good in the world, and the change that they can make themselves.

This reminds me of a quote by Mattie Stepanek:

“…if you live feeling like your glass is half empty, well, it may as well be empty all the way.”

So much, then, of education is about establishing and restoring faith. As much as we have been recognizing tragedy, we have also been recognizing events that help cast this world in a more positive light.

Earlier this week, I celebrated two of our students in assembly, who stepped in to help a citizen in the throes of a grand mal seizure.

The Boston Marathon was run again this year in the spirit of optimism that nothing will deter the celebration of the freedom of assembly.

A day committed to celebrating diversity and a group of thirty visitors from France reminded us of how exciting it is to be exposed to different cultures and ideas. It made us conscious of all of the diversity that exists within our walls, and prompted us to explore that diversity a bit more. I hope that day families, and all of our returning students, can recreate the same sort of enthusiasm for our new group of student this fall.

Our involvement this coming Saturday in the Run For Hope shows that we can unite our community around a common cause, and bring hope to those victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines who might not be feeling optimistic about the future.

All of these events, combined with the hint of Spring weather, allow us to restore our faith in the good, and to live our lives with a healthy optimism.

I look forward to seeing many of you on our campus this Saturday.


Steve Griffin

Greetings from the Head of School

I was listening to sports talk radio while driving to school the other day (I will refrain from naming the station). The hosts on the show made such ignorant comments about countries that they had never even visited; it made me angry enough to write a letter to the station manager. Their comments, and the silence that followed because I turned my radio off, allowed me to reflect yet again on the value of a MacDuffie education.

Recently, a large group of roughly forty day and boarding students completed a successful run of “Once Upon a Mattress” and five basketball teams were celebrated at Tuesday’s Winter Sports Awards. My first-hand experience this winter was on the ball hockey court with twenty-seven different players from seven different countries.

As we head our separate ways for March Break, you should also know that we have a group of boarding and day students heading to Italy with Mr. Vennell. Another group is competing in “Destination Imagination”, an international creativity competition. A third group is heading to the Columbia Journalism conference; a fourth, to the regional science fair.

In each of these cases, students come together to develop a new universal language, whether it be the language of theatre, creativity, or sport. Our students travel together, take classes together, play and act together. They learn from one another, about each other’s culture, and about working together through stressful situations.

Integration of day students with boarding students is a challenge that many independent schools face. While we can always do better, I am proud of the opportunities that we do have for our international and domestic students to work and play side by side. From these intercultural experiences comes a group of students that respects the diversity around them and who can say they truly know “someone from there”. This diversity, and the respect that we promote, is one of the fundamental tenets of our mission. It’s what makes us who we are. I am proud of our accomplishments here at MacDuffie but even more so because they are accomplished in the spirit of intercultural sharing.

Oh, and by the way: call me snooty, but I’m going back to NPR!

Have a pleasant March vacation,

Steve Griffin

Greetings from the Head of School


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As many of you know, I travelled to China in early December.  It was a whirlwind tour, with a Wednesday arrival and a Sunday departure.  However, I was able to pack in a good deal of school business, and mix it with some fun.  I must say that four days in China truly opened my eyes to the people and the culture of China.

Stepping off the plane after two days of travel, I was greeted by our Chinese representative, Mr. Shawn Zhang.  I then went to dinner with the mother of Scott Zhang (‘14) and Livia Ling’s (‘14) parents.  I now know why our Chinese students miss their food so much in the boarding house – American Chinese food is NOT Chinese food!  I was also able to dine with a mother who is interested in MacDuffie for her children.  I was able to interview her intelligent, accomplished daughter later in the trip – and lost badly to her 6th grade son at chess!

Two days were set aside for the business portion of the trip.  On the first day, I visited Mr. Wang, the Principal of Ma’anshan school #2, in Anhui province.  We signed a Memorandum of Understanding which stated that they intend to offer the MacDuffie diploma at their school.  Since then, I have been busy preparing supporting documents for their application to the Chinese government for partnership approval.

The next day, I met with the Dean of International Curriculum and Director of the International Department of Shenzhen Middle School in morning.  They are considering partners for their international programs, so we explored that possibility.  I also met with representatives from an education company in Guangzhou in the afternoon.

With the business portion of my trip completed, the highlight of my trip was a visit to the ancient city of Xi’an.  One of two walled cities in China (Beijing being the other), Xi’an is also the site of the Terra Cotta Warriors, and the Mausoleum of China’s first emperor.  I was also able to walk a 1000-year-old street in Xi’an’s Muslim quarter, purchasing interesting food from street vendors and eating WAY too many dumplings.

With our budding school relationships, we will be returning to China more regularly.  I hope to visit with more MacDuffie families, and learn more about the fascinating culture that many of our students call their own.

Best regards,

Steve Griffin

Head of School Blog

photo of school headGreetings from the Head of School,

As our students finish up their exams and head their separate ways for a well-earned break, I wanted to take a moment to make you aware of two exciting initiatives that are on the way at MacDuffie.

BYOD – “Bring Your Own Device”

We will soon be sending out information as to why and how MacDuffie will be transitioning to become a BYOD school for the 2014-15 school year.

In the end, computing devices are simply tools, and how and when they are used depends on our faculty. The majority of our faculty are using classroom technology regularly, and our computer lab bookings continue to rise. Turning every classroom into a computer lab is the next step in providing a dynamic learning environment for our students.

I want to give you lots of notice about BYOD so that you may plan your technology spending for your household. If you have questions or concerns about the plan, please make sure you read the FAQ that we will be sending before contacting me.

Electronic Textbooks

MacDuffie is officially an Electronic Textbook-friendly school! E-text producers have come a long way in creating annotation software that allows texts to be used interactively. With our adoption of Google web-based productivity software, we are ready for the next step of using electronics in the classroom.

Currently, over one third (88 of 251) of our class texts are available in electronic format. Starting next September, we will be listing the electronic book as an alternative on Any new textbooks that are introduced at MacDuffie will have an electronic option. It is our hope that a move to E-books will not only produce some cost savings, but will also allow for a reduction in weight in our students’ heavy backpacks.

It is not too soon to start trying electronic texts. If you wish, you may search the ISBN of your current text, and look at the pricing for an alternative text. Some families may see the benefit of the purchase, allowing textbooks to be left at home while E-Books are used in the classroom, or vice versa.

I wish you a restful, restorative holiday!

Steven Griffin