Parent Newsletter

Welcome to the parents' newsletter from the Head of School, Emily Jones. Here you will find notes about life on campus, upcoming events, updates on schedule changes and links to our most recent website news items. Comments, feedback or requests should go to Emily via Katy Wolfe.

May 15, 2014

Dear Parents,

The last day of spring classes is less than two weeks away!  Project Week begins on May 29, and before that we have our Exhibition Day.  Starting at 10:30 on May 28, twenty-two seniors will present their exhibitions, the culmination of independent work they have been doing since late March.  The topics are as various as the students, including classical ballet, building an energy producing bike, Vermont's medicinal plants, and Balinese ritual.   There is an outside evaluator for each exhibition; someone who is an expert in the field.  Younger students choose which exhibitions to attend, and generally find the work both impressive and inspirational as they go into their own project weeks.  Parents often attend their own child's exhibition, and all of you are welcome at any you would like to see.  We will publish the schedule and locations shortly.

Earlier in the day on May 28 all students involved in the Longitudinal Study (most of the school) will be doing those questions for the year.  If you have a day student, please make sure to arrive on time, as it is painful to have to make this up later.  This is our 6th year of the study, and we are accumulating wonderful data which will help us learn more about adolescent development and progressive education in both theory and practice.

Thank you to all of you who completed our Parent Survey.  We have responses from roughly two thirds of parents, which is pretty good.  We will leave the survey open until the end of the day Friday so you can still do it if you have not.

This Friday, May 16, we are having a special milk lunch in the Michael S. Currier Center Gallery before assembly. Christopher Irion, who photographed roughly 80% of The Putney School community for his Photo Booth installation, will be here generously giving away the displayed prints as he takes down the show. If you would like to order additional prints, you may do so here.

Once again, I would like to encourage you to stay for Graduation. You can access the weekend's schedule here.  Please come if you can!

All the best to all of you,




May 1, 2014

Dear Parents,

It was wonderful to see so many of you over family weekend.  It was nice to have quite a number of grandparents here as well as parents, aunts and uncles, and siblings.  Now that we are in May, it suddenly feels as if the end of the year is very close.  The seniors' diplomas are already being painted by other students in secret places (the legend is that if seniors see their diploma before graduation, they won't graduate.)  If you don't know what a Putney diploma looks like, you can see the last several years of them here.  

It is also legitimately spring now--the lettuce is in, and there are flats of seedlings from the greenhouses waiting to be transplanted.  There are lambs being born, and the alpacas will be shorn soon.  The cows spend the nights out, so AM Barn chores start with bringing them in from the field on Watertower Hill for milking.  I've read many a college essay about dawn walks to round up the cows on a spring morning.

We have a charitable work day coming up on the 10th of May.  This is now a four year tradition at Putney, and involves all the students hiring themselves out around the community to do yard work, painting, brush clearing or other odd jobs.  All the money earned goes to a charity the students have chosen; this year they are supporting Citta, an NGO which works on health and education projects in India and Nepal.  If you live within driving distance and would be able to hire some students on the 10th, you can sign up here and let us know what you need.

All the best to all of you,





April 1, 2014

Dear Parents,

We are finally seeing spring up here, and we are ready!  The lacrosse sticks are out, and even a few tiny and hardy flowers.  Alas, the sugaring season was very poor, as it stayed cold a long time. Good sugaring weather is cold at night and warm in the day, and we just didn't get that.  We'll take what we can get, though, and are happy to see the end of the snow for this year.

Our revisit day is April 2, and we are excited to host a big group of admitted students. Thank you to the many of you who recommended Putney to prospective families, and to those who answered their questions.  I well remember some of our seniors when they were 8th graders at revisit day - they are all grown up!

The second cohort of fellows of the Progressive Education Lab has arrived on campus and will be with us through graduation.  They come from Bowdoin, Dartmouth, The University of Michigan and Washington University in St. Louis, and are all bent on becoming progressive teachers.  Since September they have been learning the craft at the other three schools in the program, and we have them for the final quarter of their first year.  In the second year of the program each fellow is placed for a full year internship at one of the schools.  I have been delighted to see that as our first cohort goes on the job market, they are doing very well. They are being sought after by not only progressive schools, but more traditional schools who want to become more progressive.  Since the mission of the program is "Preparing new teachers to become powerful educators and agents of change in the profession" this makes me very happy. 

We are looking forward to seeing many of you for Family Weekend, and the schedule for the weekend is available here.  It includes meetings for parents of students interested in the trimester abroad programs; applications for those are due just after Family Weekend. There will also be meetings for parents of students in each grade level.

My sincere thanks to the 119 parents who have sent contributions to our Annual Fund. We are well on our way to meeting or exceeding the 71% participation rate from last year. If you have not yet given, you will soon receive a mailing from the school asking you to make a gift to the Annual Fund. We hope you will respond, as these contributions are enormously important to maintaining the quality of the program here. If you have any questions about the Annual Fund, please email Carlotta Cuerdon, Annual Fund Manager, or bring your questions to Family Weekend.

All the best to all of you,




March 1, 2014

Dear Parents,

Have you ever wondered how you could get involved at Putney?  As many of you will remember, we have had a silent auction at several recent Harvest Festivals.  Many parents and alumni donated wonderful auction items, as did quite a number of local businesses.  There were weeks at lovely cottages, beautiful pieces of art, and a wide range of services offered.  The auctions were lots of fun, and the profits went to support financial aid for student trips.  However....the time spent on the organization and presentation of the auctions was tough on the development office, on top of their other jobs for Harvest Festival.  We are hoping that there may be one or two parents who might volunteer to take this project on for next year.  We'd happily explain how it works (and if you don't already have a full time job, it is really quite manageable).  If you have some time, and some energy, and some vision for what could be done and think this would be fun, please do let me know.  We would so love to have the auction happen, but have decided that on top of the rest of Harvest Festival it's too much to continue to do with just our staff.

I am sure you are happy to have your children home for the break.  We are looking forward to seeing many of you back here for Family Weekend, which is April 18-19.  A detailed schedule will be sent to you shortly, but if you have any questions please email Katy at  

New on the website is information about the programs in China, France and Mexico for next year, as well as two summer programs we are offering, one in India and one in the American South.  You can find these at Please take some time to discuss these opportunities with your child over the break, as we will be discussing them in greater detail with the students when they return to campus.

We will be getting some photos and videos of the wonderful student work from project week up on the website shortly.   Some of it was quite astonishing.

With wishes for a wonderful spring break,




February 15, 2014

Dear Parents,

After almost a week of snow, we have bright blue skies and astonishing clarity of light.  Keeping the campus roads and paths clear is an ongoing task, as the snow drifts to fill in the spaces we've plowed or shoveled.  Students have been cheerfully digging themselves out of their dorms in the mornings and wading through drifts to bring their artwork to the Currier Center for the end of term art show.    The show will still be up for those of you who will pick up your children for spring vacation. 

The end of the term is full of what might be called 'opportunities to show mastery'. Not only are the ways students learn changing, so are the ways in which they ought to be able to communicate what they know.  I've recently seen quite a few videos produced by students for one purpose or another, and am struck by how quickly this form of communication is becoming a natural part of students' toolkits.  When I first came to Putney seven years ago, only a few students knew how to make videos, and with a few notable exceptions, their productions were dreadful.  No teachers outside the film class asked them to show their work this way, and most students seemed to see video as an opportunity to see how much 'inappropriate' content they could get away with.  Things are beginning to change as technology has made editing easier, and we have realized that being able to communicate understanding in video form has at least as much utility to students as the traditional essay.  Students in the 9th grade integrated class, Humans in the Natural World, recently made videos about global commodities - rice, coffee, silk, copper, etc.  Each pair of students researched their commodity's production, geographic and economic niches, environmental impact, and local ties, if any, and then figured out the best way to present their work in a short video. The quality varied, of course, but it was clear that the students were comfortable behind and in front of the camera, and many of the films were well edited.  Each dorm (and the day students) recently made a video as part of our 'dorm olympics', and these were of noticeably higher quality than in previous years. Our students are ahead of most of our teachers in facility in this medium at this point, and it will be interesting to see how we can take advantage of their knowledge and help them hone their skills at the same time.

It is not spring yet, but:

For parents of freshmen, sophomores and juniors:
As you are planning for the end of the year, be aware that students will generally want to stay through graduation on Sunday June 8.  Although attendance is not actually required, it is a wonderful community event, and a mental picture of Putney graduation has helped many a student through a slump along the way.  Of course parents of students in all grade levels are welcome to join us, and many do.

For parents of seniors:
We will send you a detailed graduation schedule in April, but since many of you will be planning with your student over spring break, here is the gist of how this works:

Everyone is welcome to graduation. There are no tickets, and we don't need to know how many people you are bringing. It is helpful to know ahead of time if there will be guests who will need special assistance.

Saturday June 7 is the last day of Project Week, and there will be presentations and performances all day.  In the evening there is a special dinner for the seniors and their families, followed by the spring play. (If you want to attend the play, you will need to reserve seats. Your son or daughter can do that for you.)

On Sunday June 8 the graduation ceremony begins at 10:30 am.  Before that there is brunch, and an opportunity to view the diplomas, which as usual will be individually hand painted for each student.  After the graduation ceremony there is a simple lunch and time to finish packing up. I recommend making lodging reservations soon, as things fill up quickly. 

All the best to all of you,






The Putney School | Elm Lea Farm, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, Vermont 05346-8675
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