A Magazine for the Curtis Community

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A Magazine for the Curtis Community Powered By Docstoc
					A Magazine for the Curtis Community

            Winter 2009
In This
Curtis Mock Election                   2

Student Council—                       3
A Training Ground
for Leadership

Technology Integration                 5

Around the Quad                        7

Camera Obscura                       10

Headmaster Switzer      11
A Look Back on Progress

Curtis Rocks the House!              19

Halloween on Parade                  22

Five-Star Service                    23

3rd Annual Turkey                    25
Trot/Fun Run

Coach’s Notebook                     26

Faculty Professional                 27

Winter Arts Holiday                  29

Meet the Parents                     30

Alumni News                          31

Alumni Profiles                       33

Alumni Quick Takes                   36

Arts & Letters                       37

Sixth grader Courtney O’Brien drives
the ball across the Upper Field during a
soccer game against Campbell Hall.

Colorful totems made by students
in grades DK-3 from two-liter plastic
bottles covered with plaster and painted
in traditional totem colors create a
dazzling display and add a whimsical
touch to the school entrance. The
project was inspired by Alaskan Tlingit
artist Nathan Jackson.
Curtis School
Holds First-ever
Mock Election
The return to school in the fall is tinged with
the excitement inherent in the promise of a
brand new year. The looming U.S. presidential
election added its own overtones of anticipation
to the Curtis campus in the weeks leading up to              Third grader Jack Shane signs in at the voter registration table
Election Day and offered an ideal opportunity to             before picking up a ballot. Voter information packets helped
                                                             the students learn about the issues before voting.
practice the democratic process at school.

Seizing the moment, Charley Martin, Director of the          November 4. Student Council poll workers
Experiential Education Program, floated the idea of           guided faculty, staff and students to tables where
an Upper Elementary mock election for president              they signed voting registers and picked up
and the California propositions, and Student Council         ballots. Poll workers showed voters to booths,
ran with it. Mr. Martin sees his role as “creating           helped them drop their ballots in the appropriate
a structure in the background to help the students           ballot box and handed out stickers that
be successful.” His objective is to give them the            proclaimed “I Voted!” and “I Respect Others’
opportunity to carry out a goal without relying on           Opinions.”
adults to make it happen. Drawing on their own
experience watching elections and visiting polling           The turnout was high: 219 of 253 students
places with their parents, the students created a            (87%) in the third through sixth grades cast
list of jobs and assigned themselves to the roles            ballots. Participation in fifth and sixth grades
necessary to mount and run the election.                     was 91% and 94% respectively. Because the poll
                                                             workers were well prepared and performed their
In preparation for Election Day, Student Council             jobs conscientiously, they were able to process
members made signs and ballot boxes for the                  270 voters in roughly 30 minutes. Mr. Martin
polling place and hundreds of stickers. They                 was thrilled with the way the mock election
announced the upcoming election at flag and                   turned out. “The students made it happen,” he
encouraged faculty, staff and all Upper Elementary           says. “It’s working if I can stand on the sidelines
students to cast their votes. Voter information              and the event runs on its own.”
packets were made available so that students could
study up on the issues.
                                                                                U.S. Presidential Election Results
On October 30, voters entering the Ahmanson                                        Barak Obama/          John McCain/
                                                                                     Joe Biden            Sarah Palin
Auditorium stepped into a polling place as real in                                Democratic Party      Republican Party             All Others
appearance as any of the hundreds of thousands                                       Popular Vote          Popular Vote             Popular Vote
of neighborhood garages around the country                                        Percentage of Total   Percentage of Total      Percentage of Total

that would double as official voting locations on                                      66,862,039            58,319,442                1,649,005
                                                                 United States1
                                                                                        52.7%                 46.0%                     1.3%

                                                                                      8,274,473             5,011,781                  275,646
                                                                                        61.0%                 37.0%                     2.0%

                                                                                      2,295,853              956,425                   65,970
                                                                 Los Angeles
                                                                                        69.2%                 28.8%                     2.0%

                                                                                         195                    72                        1
                                                                 Curtis School3
                                                                                        73.0%                 27.0%                     <1.0%

                                                               Popular vote reported by The New York Times, December 9, 2008, http://elections.nytimes.
                                                               com/2008/results/president/map.html. Percentages compiled from state results published in
                                                               the same source.
Students took seriously the opportunity to choose the next   2
                                                               Official Statement of Vote, certified by the Secretary of State of California, December 13,
U.S. President in Curtis’ mock election. Cardboard polling     2008,
booths ensured voter privacy.                                3
                                                               Election results for Curtis School reported by Charley Martin.

                                                                                                          curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 2
    The polling place ready, Student Council waits for the lunch time crush of voters. Its efforts to get the vote out were rewarded by
    a high turnout. This energetic group of student representatives also organized the Talent Show, a charitable fundraiser and a winter
    clothes drive.

    Upper Elementary Student Council
    A Training Ground for Leadership
    In an election year, it makes good sense to take a careful look                           representatives classmates who
    at how as citizens we select our leaders. At Curtis, students                             best embodied those traits. The
    have been encouraged to do just that in casting their votes for                           eight who were chosen, a boy
    sixth grade Student Council representatives last October and                              and a girl from each of the four
                                                                                              sixth grade classes, comprise
    student body president this year. Following a thoughtful review
                                                                                              the Executive Council—the core
    of the selection process for these offices, election procedures were
                                                                                              leadership body within the larger
    redesigned to reduce the influences of popularity and campaigning
                                                                                              Upper Elementary Student Council
    and provide a framework for choice based on demonstrated
                                                                                              and the pool of candidates for
    qualities of leadership.
                                                                                              student body president.
    The sixth grade three-day retreat in Temescal Canyon at the                               The Executive Council develops
    beginning of the school year provided an ideal opportunity to                             the agenda for Student Council,
    begin the process. The trip focused on developing leadership and                          leads weekly meetings and
    social communication skills through a variety of activities. The                          engages members to contribute
    students were challenged by group initiatives and cooperated in                           ideas and carry out plans.
    a joint community service project with a group of students from                           Ultimately, the Executive Council
    LAUSD schools that works with the Los Angeles Conservation                                is responsible for moving ideas
    Corps. Throughout the experience, the trip leaders facilitated                            from the drawing board to reality.
    discussion with the students about what worked, what didn’t, and                          Working together, the Student
    what constituted good leadership. “There’s a fine line between                             Council accomplished three
    group dynamics and leadership,” says Charley Martin, Director of                          ambitious projects in the first
    the Experiential Education Program. “Facilitating the group, helping                      months of the current year. In
    the group move forward, being a good communicator, cooperating                            November alone, it organized a
    with and listening to others are all qualities of a good leader,” he                      talent show for students in grades
    explains.                                                                                 four through six, held a mock
                                                                                              election of the U.S. President, put
    Having explored “what makes a good leader” as peers during the                            on a bake sale that raised almost
    retreat, the sixth graders were later encouraged to reflect on the                         $1,100 to benefit the victims
    qualities they had identified and elect as their Student Council                           of recent Los Angeles area fires,
3 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
and collected winter clothing for needy families.
The successful outcome of each of these projects
required Student Council members to plan, divide
up jobs, assume responsibility for their own roles
and cooperate closely.

These projects also provided opportunities for
Executive Council members to demonstrate their
leadership skills within the larger Student Council,
an important factor in the way the student body
president is now elected. In past years, candidates
have actively campaigned by giving speeches and
making posters, and all students in the fourth
through sixth grades were eligible to vote. This
year, voting will be limited to Student Council
representatives in grades four through six—those
students who have had a genuine opportunity to
observe and work with the candidates.

Before the election, Mr. Martin will engage the
Student Council in a discussion about leadership,
mirroring the process undertaken with the sixth          The 2008-2009 Executive Council (top to bottom, left to
                                                         right): Brian Adler, Paige Dubelko, Ethan Madison, Sara Evall,
graders during their retreat. Student Council            Roman Holthouse, Victoria Haglund, Sarah Winshel and Jason
representatives will be encouraged to base their         Oberman (not pictured). The Executive Council is the core
votes for president on the Executive Council             leadership group within Student Council.

members’ performances in Student Council meetings
and their contributions to advancing the Student
Council agenda so far. “The candidates for president
have the opportunity to earn the office,” says Mr.
Martin. And, the Student Council representatives,
who have worked with the candidates for half a
year now, will be well positioned to choose a good

Although campaigning would not play a part in
choosing the student body president this year, Mr.
Martin did not want the sixth grade representatives
to lose a valuable opportunity for public speaking.
He offered them the choice of speaking individually
about what each proposed to bring to Student
Council or developing a joint presentation about
what they wanted to accomplish as a group.
Demonstrating a remarkable level of cooperation
and cohesion from the start, they chose to work
together. The students brainstormed ideas as a
group, and each wrote a segment describing one of
the goals of the Executive Council this year.

Within one week of its election, the Executive           Ethan Madison takes his turn at the podium to present the
                                                         Executive Council’s goals for the year to an assembly of the
Council had assembled a visually rich PowerPoint         Upper Elementary students.
presentation and, with each member speaking in
turn, delivered it to an assembly of the Upper
Elementary division. The sixth grade representatives
were already putting into action the very qualities of
leadership that had earned them a position on the
Executive Council: facilitating the group, helping
it move forward, communicating, cooperating and
listening. The new system is working.
                                                                                        curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 4
                                                                               not as a subject but as a tool to
                                                                               be used every day in the course
                                                                               of learning and creating, much as
                                                                               reading and writing are tools that
                                                                               support learning in core subjects.
                                                                               The parallel goal for teachers is
                                                                               not to “teach” technology per se
                                                                               but to use it as a way to impart

                                                                               To support these objectives, Mr.
                                                                               Moore works closely with teachers
                                                                               in both the Lower and Upper
                                                                               Elementary divisions. He meets
    SMART specialist Jason Moore is helping teachers put technology where it
                                                                               cyclically with Upper Elementary
    belongs—in the curriculum.                                                 teachers to suggest ways in which
                                                                               different technologies can be
                                                                               applied to specific lesson plans
    Integrating Technology                                                     and follows up with classroom
                                                                               visits to give students the skills
    into Classroom Learning                                                    they need to apply the selected
                                                                               technologies to the lessons.

                                                                               He has helped the UE students
    Technology touches every aspect of our lives from the                      integrate technology into a variety
    moment we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep                      of projects and subject areas.
    at night. New technologies emerge in a continuous and                      For example, he taught fourth
    rapid stream and are changing the way people live, work,                   graders effective Internet search
    play, socialize, create and learn. The pervasive influence of               techniques to find information for
    technology on our lives is also changing the way educators                 their projects on the California
    look at teaching and using it in schools.                                  missions. Students learned about
                                                                               web browsers, what constitutes
    Keeping Curtis on the cutting edge of digital learning, technology         a trusted site and how to sift
    literacy is being incorporated increasingly into the core classroom        through “hits” to locate the
    curriculum. Two of the most visible signposts of this evolution are        specific facts they needed. In
    the expansion of SMART Boards on the campus and the elimination            language arts, he helped fourth
    this year of computer science as a discrete subject in grades four         graders use skills in Word beyond
    through six. A third is the hiring of a specialist to facilitate the       basic keyboarding to publish
    transition.                                                                their poems. He introduced
                                                                               PowerPoint to students in the fifth
    Jason Moore, the new Technology Integration Specialist, brings a           grade classes who were studying
    skill set uniquely suited to accomplishing this goal. Mr. Moore,           the presidential election and
    who moved from Melbourne, Australia, to join the Curtis faculty,           showed them how they could
    combines a background in education as an elementary school                 use it to compare and contrast
    teacher and technology coordinator with experience as an Education         the candidates’ stances on issues
    Specialist Accounts Manager for Australia’s leading SMART Board            like taxes, the war in Iraq, and
    company. In that position, he helped schools implement SMART               the environment. And, in sixth
    Board technology and provided professional development for                 grade, Mr. Moore led students
    teachers on how to use it effectively within the curriculum.               through a critique of PowerPoint
                                                                               presentations they had already
    At Curtis, Mr. Moore’s primary role is to support teachers’                created and showed them how to
    initiatives to integrate technology into the classroom. Academic           incorporate more advanced visual
    Dean and Acting Head of Upper Elementary Chris Thinnes and Mr.             presentation skills—including
    Moore share the philosophy that technology should not be taught            color palettes, fonts, images and
    as a specialty class but rather should be incorporated into every          animation—to enhance their
    facet of the curriculum. They want students to view technology             subject.

5 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
Sandy Kiratsoulis gives a lesson on short and long vowel sounds   With her fingertips, second grader Vienna Webb sorts a list of
using one of the school’s new interactive SMART Boards. SMART     words, dragging them into circles on the SMART Board that
technology allows both the teacher and class to manipulate what   correspond to their vowel sounds.
is on the screen.

With the expansion of SMART Boards on campus                      the board. Instructors and students can interact
this year, Mr. Moore’s particular expertise in this               with the computer by touching the board or
technology has been especially valuable. SMART                    writing on wireless slates that can be passed
integration is a focus in the first and second grade               around the class. SMART Boards are effective
classrooms, all of which are now equipped with the                because they support the three principal learning
boards. Mr. Moore is mentoring the teachers in these              styles: visual, kinesthetic and auditory. According
grades, helping them learn the technology and, as                 to Mr. Moore, studies show that SMART Boards
needed, providing ideas about how it can be used                  retain students’ attention for longer periods than
to deliver the curriculum. Given his background as                do traditional whiteboards. In addition, SMART
a teacher, he has also been able to suggest lesson                Boards increase efficiency and reinforce learning.
ideas to assist with integration. Armed with SMART                Teachers can save work the class has done on the
Board skills, the teachers are now creating interactive           SMART Board and recall it to continue or review
lessons in math, English and social studies on their              later.
                                                                  “SMART Boards are the tip of the iceberg,”
For now, Mr. Moore’s role is hands-on, but in time                says Mr. Moore. “They open up a new range
he will provide background support. “The goal                     of possibilities for interactive learning.” Add-
is to give teachers and students the skills to use                ons to SMART Boards like Senteo, an instant
technology effectively in what they are doing every               polling device that allows students to answer
day,” he says. “Once the skills are in place, the                 questions with a remote control and provides
teachers can utilize them in future learning.”                    instant feedback of results, and the interactive
                                                                  SMART Table, a touch system that allows a
The current vision is to make SMART Boards                        group of students to manipulate what is on the
the standard on campus, as they are a powerful                    LCD tabletop, engage students and increase their
educational tool for the current generation of digital            retention rates and performance, according to
learners. SMART Boards are interactive hardboard                  Mr. Moore. “Where we are at the moment is at
screens fitted with electronic sensors that allow users            the infancy of where interactive technology is,
to control a computer (usually the instructor’s) from             but we are heading in a very positive direction.”

                                                                                                 curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 6
    Around the Quad

    A Flag Assembly is momentarily interrupted with the glide-by of a great red-tailed hawk that draws the students’ attention and
    “oohs” and “aahs” of general admiration.

    Clean-up is as good as play to Ben Walter (DK) and his classmates under                 In-N-Out Burger Day brings a smile to fifth
    showery faucets in the roomy outdoor art sink.                                          grader Joe Katz’ face.

7 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
The sixth grade boys’ red football team huddles to discuss strategy between plays.

Mr. Albert, Headmaster Switzer and Mr. Kolb (left to right) set up sundaes at the 4th    Jacqui Maatta (Kindergarten) savors a
and 5th grade ice cream social, a popular yearly Party Book event.                       cupful of sweetness.

Mirabelle Weinbach (Grade 1) and other Seedlings make festive          Adam Blackman (Kindergarten) trades a dollar for a tasty
Thanksgiving napkin rings for Para Los Niños families.                 homemade treat at the Student Council bake sale fundraiser
                                                                       for fire victims.
                                                                                                     curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 8
    Dad’s Pancake Breakfast chefs Larry Richman, Don Muller, Glenn Levie, Steve Beeks, Andrew Goldsmith and Jim Harris (left to
    right) flip flapjacks for a hungry crowd at the Holiday Boutique.

                                                                   Let it snow! Katie Suchniak (Grade 1) cuts out paper snowflakes
                                                                   for scenery at the Winter Arts Showcase.

    Demonstrating the Curtis motto, Pilar Schrage (Grade 2)        Jason Dulberg laughs between takes at a rehearsal of
    shows her compassionate heart by offering a kind hand to a     the First Grade’s winter concert numbers.
    nestling bird found on campus.

9 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
Camera Obscura
As an introduction to photography in the sixth grade
visual arts curriculum, students learned about the
various parts of a camera. Using that knowledge and
their imaginations, they abstracted and redesigned
cameras in acrylic on canvas.

 Jason Oberman                                            Jordan Tager

Will Cox                                               Anna Barnes

Cookie Litvack                                         Josh Krutchik

                                                                         curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 10
    Headmaster Stephen E. Switzer photographed in front of the Kissick Family Pavilion on January 12, 2009.

                                                                   keep Curtis on the leading edge of educational
    Headmaster                                                     currents. Today, Curtis is one of the preeminent
                                                                   elementary schools in the region. At the end of June
                                                                   2009, Mr. Switzer will pass the baton of leadership
    Switzer                                                        to Peter Smailes, former Head of the Middle School
                                                                   (2000-2008) and Upper School (1998-2000; 2001-
    A Look Back on Progress                                        2002).

                                                                   During Headmaster Switzer’s tenure, progress
    Enter the Curtis School campus and you                         has been made in nearly every area of the
    immediately hear the music. Listen to the                      school. It has depended on the willingness of
    lilting melodies of the children’s laughter                    the several constituents that make up Curtis
    as they line up for morning flag. Feel the                      School—administrators, teachers, staff, trustees and
    rhythmic beat of the basketball as it hits                     families—to collaborate to make Curtis the best it
    the court in the Kissick Pavilion. Hear the                    can be. No one is more insistent on this point than
                                                                   Mr. Switzer. “Our success is a direct result of the
    staccato notes of chalk on the blackboard as
                                                                   spirit of partnership and teamwork,” he is quick
    math problems are solved in the classroom.                     to point out. Teamwork has been a hallmark of his
    Relish the quiet respite of concentration                      headmastership, and Board Chair Philip Holthouse
    as students immerse themselves in silent                       has hailed as one of Mr. Switzer’s greatest legacies
    reading. Coming together like the varied                       the leadership team he has created.
    sections of a world-class orchestra, the result
    is a symphony of educational splendor. This                    Curtis is continually evolving. A defining quality
    orchestra has been masterfully led for the past                of Mr. Switzer’s tenure has been the embracing of
    12 years under the artful baton of conductor                   change that constitutes progress consistent with the
    Headmaster Stephen E. Switzer.                                 school’s culture. “A vibrant institution is not static;
                                                                   it must be dynamic,” he says. Supremely conscious
    When he arrived here in the fall of 1997, Mr.                  that the work is never finished, he typically follows
    Switzer took the stage as Curtis’ fifth headmaster.             up any report of progress with the reminder that
    He inherited a school with an already well-                    there is still more to accomplish.
    defined ethos and established traditions that
    had been cultivated by stability in the highest                The focus has remained squarely on what is best
    leadership position. Since then Mr. Switzer has                for children. Curtis is all about children and their
    focused on building upon the school’s existing                 individuality, Mr. Switzer has often said, and that
    strengths, preserving the best of what came                    has been his guidepost through the years. On his
    before, and looking forward and outward to                     first visit to the campus in the spring of 1997, he
11 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
was most struck by how happy the children were and how eager they
were to be here. Stephen Rountree, Chair of the Board of Trustees that
hired Mr. Switzer and a longtime member of the Curtis community,
recalls, “When I first walked around the campus with Steve, he was
the only candidate who instinctively dropped to one knee when a
small child approached so he could talk with her at her level. The kids
were comfortable with Steve and so were the teachers. Those were the
keys.” Mr. Switzer had precisely the qualities of leadership the trustees
were seeking, says Mr. Rountree: “The Board saw in Steve Switzer a
deeply caring and experienced school head, who demonstrated the
commitment to strengthen Curtis’ curriculum while preserving the core

With characteristic fundamental concern for the students in the Curtis
symphony, our “piccolos and flutes,” Mr. Switzer orchestrated a
revision of the Mission Statement in his first year as headmaster to
                                                                            Headmaster of Le Jardin Academy
more appropriately focus on the journey of the individual child rather      in Kailua, Hawaii, for 12 years before
than the child the school aimed to produce. “Nurture a student’s            coming to Curtis, Mr. Switzer
natural abilities,” “inspire a love of learning,” “active partnership       began his career in education as an
                                                                            elementary and middle school teacher
between family and school,” and “special joys of childhood” are             in Ohio.
phrases woven into today’s Mission Statement, which reflects Mr.
Switzer’s educational philosophy, sets Curtis’ institutional tone and
guides all work.                                                            The academic program
                                                                            continues to benefit
Programs                                                                    enormously from recent
                                                                            structural changes within
From the start, Mr. Switzer has focused on strengthening Curtis’            the divisions. “The goal
primary mission to provide a well-rounded education that balances           has been to keep class size
academics, the arts and athletics. Former Curtis Trustee Jeff Melvoin, a    as low as possible,” says
member of the Academic Affairs Committee when Mr. Switzer began             Mr. Switzer, reflecting the
his term as headmaster, believes that “the initial challenges were in key   consensus opinion of the
academic and administrative areas where the school needed to evolve to      faculty and administrative
keep pace with the demands of a new century.”                               team. The addition of a fourth
                                                                            homeroom in each grade in
One of the most significant challenges of his administration has been        the Upper Elementary has
the coordination and enrichment of the curriculum. In the early years,      reduced the student-teacher
Mr. Switzer frequently fielded questions at parent meetings about            ratio from 22:1 to 16.5:1.
differences in the curriculum from classroom to classroom within a          In the Lower Elementary,
grade. A major effort has been underway for several years to set clear      the adoption of an Associate
standards for learning and to align the curriculum horizontally—so that     Teacher/Lead Teacher
children within each grade have a similar experience—and vertically—        classroom model now places
so that content and skills learned in one grade build to the next. The      two fully qualified instructors
process is ongoing, but tremendous progress has been made.                  in each of the homerooms
                                                                            in grades K through 2 and
Early on, benchmarks for learning were set for each grade. From             cuts the student-teacher ratio
there, scope and sequence pacing guides have been developed and             in those grades in half (from
implemented in core subjects. These help teachers within a grade stay       22:1 to 11:1). Now teachers
in sync by covering the same content over the same time period. The         in both divisions are able
process has depended on administrative support, divisional leadership,      to give more individualized
faculty commitment and funding from the Parents Association—in              support to learners of all
short, an enormous collaborative effort. Sarina Fierro, Head of the         abilities; assessment of student
Lower Elementary division, believes that cutting-edge tools like            progress is more frequent; and
Curriculum Mapper, along with more systematic grade- and division-          the teaching environment is
level meetings and professional development days, have galvanized           equally enhanced.
alignment within and between the Upper and Lower Elementary.
“Both divisions are on the same track and pace, and there is lots of        Reflecting Curtis’ mission to
collaboration between them,” she says. “This is a huge change.”             serve the individual child,

                                                                                  curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 12
    within his first year as headmaster, Mr. Switzer hired the
    school’s first psychologist. The school psychologist adds
    depth to the larger Curtis orchestra; her value to a decade
    of students, teachers, families and school programs has been
    incalculable. She supports classroom teachers in their efforts
    to address each child’s learning style and needs; provides
    expertise on child development and parenting issues; and
    refers families to appropriate on- and off-campus resources.
    Support services for learners who might benefit from
    additional individualized help in acquiring specific academic
    skills have been greatly expanded under Mr. Switzer’s tenure
    as well.

    When he arrived, the arts were something of a “stepchild”
    compared to academics and athletics, says Mr. Switzer.
    Ten years ago, that changed dramatically when he hired
    Annie Grimes to create an age-appropriate music program
    for the younger children, and, a year later, Jimmy Worth
    to teach the older students. Now, in accordance with the
    school’s mission to balance traditional academics with
                                                                     Aloha, Mr. Switzer! The new headmaster gets an
    “lively experiences in art and music,” there is more             island welcome on his first day at Curtis School.
    equitable support for the arts. “This administration has been
    overwhelmingly supportive of the growth of the music             on average 75 students each year.
    department,” notes Mrs. Grimes. Instruction in the visual and    Elite performance groups, they have
    performing arts benefits the entire curriculum by helping         consistently earned top honors at
    to build 21st century skills children need that require both     local music festivals since they began
    right- and left-brain processing.                                competing. In addition to choir and
                                                                     a new choristers group, the music
    Believing that Curtis deserved its own full-fledged orchestra     program offers an extraordinary array
    program, Mr. Switzer supported Mr. Worth’s creation of           of opportunities, including instruction
    an in-house orchestra to replace the existing outsourced,        in individual instruments, string and
    after-school program that served only 15 students. Today,        wind/percussion sections at several
    the Curtis Choir and Curtis Elementary Symphony number           ability levels, and musicianship skills.
                                                                     Radical improvements in the music
                                                                     department, coupled with the addition
                                                                     of drama to the fifth and sixth grade
                                                                     curriculum, have greatly enlarged the
                                                                     scope of children’s experience in the
                                                                     arts in a few short years.

                                                                     Athletics has always been strong at
                                                                     Curtis, and support for that program
                                                                     has not diminished. Firmly committed
                                                                     to nurturing a “sound mind in a
                                                                     sound body,” Curtis has managed
                                                                     to strengthen the arts and academic
                                                                     programs without diverting resources
                                                                     from or curtailing time allotted to
                                                                     the physical education program. This
                                                                     balance has been maintained through
                                                                     curricular alignment and a modest
                                                                     increase in the length of the school

                                                                     “The administration realizes the value
                                                                     of the athletics program and gives us
    For Mr. Switzer, Curtis is all about children.

13 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
an optimal schedule that accommodates the large               Jay Wintrob, Chair of the Board of Trustees
number of Curtis teams and the many games they                from 2002 to 2005, vividly recalls Mr. Switzer’s
play,” says Athletics Director Mark Nott. There has           “devotion to and true belief in the mission
been consistent support for a full coaching staff             statement of Curtis, and the balance it embraces
under Mr. Switzer’s administration. Having adequate           between academics, athletics/arts and the
personnel enables Curtis to field multiple teams in            development of conscientious, compassionate,
each grade. This in turn maximizes each student’s             ‘good kids’ with a kind heart.” Mr. Wintrob
playing time and supports the child’s developmental           says, “By staying focused on this simple
pace by enabling him/her to play with other                   aspirational message, Steve helped Curtis grow
students of the same ability level.                           and prosper and send many very well prepared
                                                              kids on to the next stage of their academic
One accomplishment of which Mr. Switzer is                    journey.”
extremely proud is Curtis’ lasting contribution to
competitive athletics within the San Fernando Valley          Diversity and Multicultural Perspective
Private School League. In 2005, Coach David Pappin
and the Student Council drafted a Code of Conduct             Deeply committed to creating a symphony
that sets a high standard of behavior for coaches,            in which all instruments’ voices are heard,
teams and spectators at league games. Coach Pappin            Mr. Switzer renewed Curtis’ commitment to
secured the Code’s adoption, and now each year all            diversity in his very first year as headmaster. Jeff
member schools’ athletic directors and coaches must           Melvoin recalls, “The leaders of Curtis School
pledge to uphold it in order to compete in league             had long been interested in promoting diversity
play. The Code is continuing to raise the level of            and multiculturalism on campus and beyond,
sportsmanship and spectator conduct at games, and             but it wasn’t until Steve’s administration that
Curtis’ values are being felt in the larger independent       we were truly in a position to make this a
school community.                                             serious, consistent commitment. With Steve’s
                                                              strong encouragement, we added language
                                                              to the Mission Statement that made progress
                                                              in this area an explicit goal. We convened a
                                                              new Diversity and Multiculturalism Committee
                                                              [DMC], drawing upon teachers, administrators,
                                                              parents, and students to create programs, share
                                                              ideas, and spread awareness.” In addition to
                                                              revising the school Mission Statement, the DMC,
                                                              headed by Mr. Melvoin, drafted the Curtis
                                                              School Diversity Mission Statement, a watershed
                                                              declaration that commits Curtis “to becoming a
                                                              leader among independent elementary schools
                                                              in pursuing diversity within its constituencies
                                                              and in providing multicultural viewpoints in its
Board Chair Philip Holthouse (left) and Mr. Switzer work to
improve Curtis School.                                        programs and daily life.”

Improvements in the balance and content of the                Beyond the statements of mission, real
programs have significantly advanced Curtis’ mission           progress has been made. The diversity of the
to provide a well-rounded education that prepares             student body has doubled, increasing from
children “to pursue confidently the journey of their           approximately 11 percent to 23 percent during
lives.” Curtis is held in high esteem in the local            Mr. Switzer’s tenure. Supporting the goal of
school community. Curtis graduates are known to               increasing the diversity of our student body,
be well prepared academically, well adjusted socially         the DMC sends parent ambassadors to meet
and caring and responsible school citizens. The               with families from preschools that may not
secondary school outplacement process has been                be aware of Curtis. This effort has helped to
greatly personalized and refined during the past               raise Curtis’ profile in the broader Los Angeles
ten years, and Curtis graduates are placed well at a          community and has increased the diversity
diverse number of schools that are a good match for           of our applicant pool. Mr. Switzer and the
them.                                                         administrative team have also actively worked
                                                              to increase the diversity of the faculty and staff
                                                              as positions opened up. Mr. Switzer affirms

                                                                                       curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 14
    Evan Kantor accepts his diploma from Headmaster Switzer at the final graduation of the Upper School classes in June 2007.

    the need to continue to build a more diverse                   he says. “With the election of President Obama, it’s
    Curtis community. “Regardless of how strong                    hard not to feel some sense of pride that we were
    a program we offer in academics, athletics and                 onto something vitally important and in our own
    the arts, the best learning environment for                    small way, perhaps, helped Curtis School ally itself
    our children in the 21st century is one that                   with the vanguard of social progress and equality.”
    realistically reflects the broader community,” he
    declares.                                                      Environment

    Numbers do not tell the whole story; a shift                   Enter the Curtis campus, hear the music and
    in institutional mindset has been transforming                 view the natural landscape of one of the most
    Curtis as well. For several years, the DMC and                 beautiful schools in Los Angeles. The Facilities and
    the Parents Association have initiated events that             Maintenance departments keep the buildings and
    celebrate the world’s cultures and their many                  grounds in superior condition through planning,
    contributions. Planned curriculum and activities               care and foresight. The physical plant has not
    inside and outside the classroom further support               changed fundamentally since the major build-
    the organic development of the children’s                      out of the classrooms and Kissick Pavilion that
    appreciation of differences and teach them about               was completed in 1996, although many smaller
    the diversity of cultures that make up our society             improvements have benefited programs and the
    and world. Instructional materials used in the                 comfort of all who use the campus. Among the most
    classrooms have become increasingly diverse.                   notable are the addition of a second DK classroom,
    Mr. Thinnes attributes this to a greater awareness
    on the part of the faculty of the importance of
    contributions made to our society from a range
    of cultures. Recently, for example, classroom
    libraries were reorganized to include books that
    more accurately reflect, celebrate and explore
    issues relevant to the diverse society in which
    we live.

    Jeff Melvoin fondly remembers the many hours
    he spent with Steve and others in the Curtis
    community in planning the initial objectives of
    the Diversity and Multiculturalism Committee.
    “I am proud that the school, which has always
    prided itself justifiably on its affection and
    concern for its students, has taken a leadership
    position by extending its vision to the broader                    Mr. Switzer, here with Amy Shaughnessy in 2002, cherishes
    community of Los Angeles and the world itself,”                    his time with the students.

15 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
Art imitates life when Mr. Switzer as “The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, surprises the crowd      Exchanging his “headmaster’s robes”
with a spirited rendering of “Born in the U.S.A. at the Curtis American Idol show in 2008.   for a top hat and tails, Mr. Switzer
                                                                                             plays ringmaster at Send-Off for the
                                                                                             Under the Big Top Fair in 2006.

                                                                                             “The administration recognizes
                                                                                             that having what we need
                                                                                             to withstand a manmade or
                                                                                             natural emergency is in the best
                                                                                             interest of the school.”

                                                                                         After a National Association of
                                                                                         Independent Schools (NAIS)
                                                                                         conference on sustainability
                                                                                         in 2007, our headmaster
                                                                                         conductor returned to campus
                                                                                         with a new musical score
                                                                                         that awakened strains of
                                                                                         environmental consciousness at
With grace and good humor, Mr. Switzer granted every request to lend his presence to     Curtis. Mr. Switzer challenged
campus merriment. As head of school, he was a shoo-in to play Dumbledore in the sixth
grade class film last year.
                                                                                         the Curtis community to take a
                                                                                         leadership role in modeling and
the installation of new playground equipment and a                  teaching stewardship of the Earth’s resources. As a
climbing wall, the recent upgrade of the Ahmanson                   result, a green movement is gaining momentum
Building and the construction of restrooms on the                   in all quarters of the school and conscious efforts
Upper Field.                                                        are being made to achieve that goal.

Security, virtually nonexistent when Mr. Switzer                      At this time, all trash is sorted for recycling;
came to Curtis, has been a major focus of planning                    all clippings are sent for composting; and most
and resources. Under Mr. Switzer, a kiosk was                         buildings have been retrofitted with energy-saving
built to secure the entrance to the school, a                         light fixtures and low-flush toilets. To conserve
security company monitors the campus daily, and                       precious water, satellite-driven irrigation systems
surveillance cameras have been installed throughout                   turn off sprinklers when atmospheric conditions
the grounds. The realization of a secured campus                      are wet. Two years ago, to help reduce the use
creates a safe space in which children can thrive.                    of plastic throwaway bottles, a water filtration
                                                                      system was installed throughout the campus and
Emergency planning and preparedness has also                          the Parents Association bought reusable bottles
improved dramatically in the past decade. With                        for all students and faculty. At about the same
staunch support from Mr. Switzer, the trustees and                    time, CougarNotes, Curtis’ online school news
the administrative team, detailed plans have been                     source, replaced the six-hundred paper copies of
developed to respond to a variety of scenarios and                    the Tuesday Bulletin that were being sent home
ensure the safety of people on campus in the event                    weekly for years. On a path of progress towards
of an emergency or disaster. Fire, earthquake and                     sustainability, Curtis is now poised to join the
lock-down drills are regularly practiced; supplies                    Green Schools Alliance and set benchmarks for
are stockpiled; and all employees are trained in                      further reducing the school’s carbon footprint.
first aid and CPR. Facilities Director Jeff Albert says,

                                                                                                   curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 16
    Support for Curtis

    The growth of the school’s endowment over the
    past twelve years is one of the most significant
    accomplishments of Mr. Switzer’s tenure. When
    he arrived as headmaster, the endowment was
    approximately 3 million dollars. In 2002-2003,
                                                                   “Headmaster for a Day” Ali Iken confers with his mentor.
    the school launched the “Securing the Future
    Campaign,” with the ambitious goal of raising
    8 million dollars to ensure continued financial                 looked forward to her weekly meetings with Mr.
    stability and more closely conform to the NAIS                 Switzer and recalls their collaboration as a “true
    recommendation for a school of Curtis’ size.                   partnership.” “He was genuinely interested in
    At the end of the campaign, in June 2005,                      learning about everything the PA was doing, and he
    more than 9 million dollars had been raised.                   never missed a single event I told him about,” she
    The endowment has since risen to 13.5 million                  recalls. “Never failing to express his appreciation for
    dollars.                                                       each person’s contribution, Steve’s presence, warmth
                                                                   and caring were felt at every meeting and event.”
    The campaign’s success is one measure of the
    supportive and cooperative partnership between                 This close relationship is reflected in PA-sponsored
                                                                   events and activities that honor and support the
                                                                   faculty, staff and administrators. In addition, the PA
                                                                   contributes to both the endowment and scholarship
                                                                   funds and allocates several hundred thousand
                                                                   dollars in monies raised to Curtis each year. Parents
                                                                   Association funding has provided critical additional
                                                                   support for programs, professional development,
                                                                   improvements in the physical plant and the
                                                                   acquisition of new technologies.

                                                                   Into the 21st Century

    Mr. Switzer briefs parents about the state of the school and
                                                                   The world of technology has exploded at Curtis
    administrative matters in the monthly Parents Association      during the last 12 years. From the advent of a
    meeting.                                                       school-wide email system in 2002 to the current
                                                                   integration of SMART Boards into classrooms
    the parents and the school that is a hallmark                  across the campus, Curtis is striving to stay on
    of Mr. Switzer’s leadership. “The generosity of                the cutting edge of educational technology and
    the parent body who supported the campaign                     communication. Under Mr. Switzer, a school website
    created a permanent benefit to our school,”                     was created; mobile computer labs were purchased;
    notes Chief Operating and Financial Officer Bob                 and wireless networking now links technologies
    Kolb. That generosity is visible in the area of                and users throughout the campus. Staying abreast
    annual fundraising as well. Over the past 12                   of best educational practices, Curtis is increasingly
    years, parent participation in Annual Giving has               integrating technology learning into the core
    risen markedly and is consistently in the range of             curriculum.
    90 to 95 percent of families—another testament
    to the close relationship that has been fostered               Progress achieved in the school during Mr. Switzer’s
    between the school and Curtis families.                        tenure was affirmed in the official report issued in
                                                                   2008 by the California Association of Independent
    The Parents Association has always played a                    Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of
    central role at Curtis. Parents work with the                  Schools and Colleges (WASC) that granted Curtis
    school’s administration to support and enhance                 a new six-year term of accreditation, the longest
    programs, and cooperation has increased during                 possible and least restrictive term. The grant
    Mr. Switzer’s tenure. “Parents feel connected                  followed the school’s exhaustive self-study and
    to the school and want to give back,” explains                 an external review by the CAIS-WASC Visiting
    Beth Kleid, President of the Parents Association               Committee. The committee’s report includes 11
    in 2006-2007. As PA President, Ms. Kleid                       major commendations for contributions made by

17 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
the Board of Trustees, headmaster, administration,                   The school has become a close-knit family
faculty, staff, students and families in many areas of               under Mr. Switzer. New parent meetings help
the school, its programs and governance. The Action                  to connect the newest members of the family
plan that grew out of the self-study and accreditation               to Curtis early in the year. Administrators,
recommendations will guide future progress.                          faculty and staff are welcoming and available.
                                                                     And teamwork is the keynote of Mr. Switzer’s
Mr. Switzer has identified as one of the school’s most                addresses to faculty and staff at in-service
important challenges the creation of global citizens.                meetings.
“The world our children will inhabit as adults
will be faster paced, more global in outlook and                     Mr. Switzer daily nurtures Curtis’ partnership
more interconnected on every level than the one                      between school and family. Carrying on the
we grew up in,” he predicts. “We must educate                        longstanding tradition of the headmaster’s
students for the world of the future so they will                    greeting at drop-off, Mr. Switzer is in the circle
be optimally prepared to meet whatever challenges                    every morning. He is never too busy to pause
that world may bring.” It is a concern that he has                   to listen to a child. The morning flag ceremony,
brought to the forefront of the school community’s                   when the whole school gathers together as a
consciousness within the last year.                                  family, is one of his favorite times.

To tackle that question and others that he believes                  One of the composers and arrangers of the
will significantly differentiate Curtis and take the                  music that has been heard over the last decade
school to a higher level of excellence, Mr. Switzer                  is Peter Smailes. When Headmaster Switzer
convened Research Study Groups in the Arts,                          passes the baton of leadership to Mr. Smailes at
Educational Technology, Global Awareness and                         the end of the school year, the music of a new
Science. The work of the Research Study Groups                       conductor will be heard at Curtis. But it will
will continue to provide guidance as Curtis moves                    still be made by an orchestra of many sections
forward in developing educational programs and                       playing in harmony, a legacy of Mr. Switzer’s
implementing the Master Plan.                                        years as conductor and headmaster.

A snowshoe enthusiast, Mr. Switzer cuts a frosty trail at the base of the majestic Grand Tetons in Wyoming, where he and Mrs.
Switzer make their second home.

                                                                                                  curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 18
    Up, down and winding around, Go Gator is a perennial favorite of young fairgoers.   Step right up! Carny Curtis dad Uri
                                                                                        Blackman takes tickets for a chance at the
                                                                                        Water Clown Race.

                      Curtis Rocks
                                                                                        club to capacity for the Pre-Fair
                      the House!                                                        Party. This traditional, adults-
                                                                                        only event gives Curtis parents,
                      By Pam Beeks, Parents Association President                       faculty and staff an opportunity
                                                                                        to take a break from the frenzy
                                                                                        before the Fair and socialize in a
                      At the beginning of every year, our annual
                                                                                        fun environment, while raising
                      Fair brings the Curtis community together in
                                                                                        money for the school at the same
                      the most amazing way, and this fall was no                        time.
                      exception. The hottest ticket in town was the
                      Curtis Rocks! Tour 2008 Fair, which took the                      The night began in the club’s
                      stage on campus on Sunday, October 12.                            private courtyard, a stone-paved,
                                                                                        elegant outdoor anteroom heated
                      Our extraordinarily talented and hardworking Tour                 by a roaring fireplace. In this
                      Producers, Dagny Dubelko, Cindy LeBauer, Susan                    urban oasis, the silent auction
                      Samuels and Kristi Stearns, brought the house down                was stunningly staged in cabanas
                      with non-stop entertainment that lasted all weekend               ranged around a reflecting pool.
                      long. These Fair Chairs are what rock legends are                 Here, trays of delectable hors
                      made of, and the Curtis Rocks! Fair is definitely                  d’oeuvres were passed to the
                      headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.                         guests, who chatted and soaked
                                                                                        up the club’s unique ambiance.
                      The fun began on Friday afternoon with the highly                 Afterwards, the crowd moved
                      anticipated Fair Send-off show, Curtis American                   into the beautifully appointed
                      Idol. The kids sat in awe as they watched (through                ballroom for a spirited live
                      John Lennon-inspired spectacles) the contestants,                 auction.
                      our very own star-studded teachers, administrators
                      and staff members, give Grammy Award-winning                      But, the party really kicked
                      performances as legends of rock past and present.                 into high gear when George
                      Directed, produced and choreographed by ultra-                    Thorogood and the Destroyers
                      talented music teacher Annie Grimes, the show                     claimed the stage. The band
                      was a rollicking musical romp punctuated by the                   delivered a high-octane concert
                      hilarious commentary of our very own Simon, Paula                 that exhilarated the crowd and
                      and Randy.                                                        kept everyone dancing all night
                                                                                        and getting “B-b-b-bad to the
                      The festivities moved to Boulevard 3 in Hollywood                 Bone” with rocker and Curtis dad
                      that evening, where 400 people packed the chic                    George Thorogood.

19 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
From face painting to cookie decorating,   Lighthearted jesting and the hidden musical talents of faculty and staff “rock stars”
the Fair is a child’s delight.             tickled and entertained students at the Fair Send-Off show, Curtis American Idol.

The headliner of the weekend, of course, was the                 surpassed my expectations. It was bigger, better,
Curtis Rocks! Fair. On Sunday, the campus was                    more fun, more exciting, more challenging and
transformed into an all-access concert event that                more rewarding than I ever imagined it would
rocked all day long with thrilling rides, games of               be. Seeing the way everyone banded together to
skill and chance, mouth-watering food and one                    create something so amazing made me feel more
of the best silent auctions ever. In the maze of                 connected to the school and its parents. I am so
activity, one thing stood out—the spirit of the                  happy I said ‘yes’ to being a Fair Chair!”
Curtis community. The Fair captured the essence
of what Curtis is all about: working side-by-side                Perhaps our Master of Ceremonies, Headmaster
and bringing the Curtis family together.                         Steve Switzer, summed up best what the Curtis
                                                                 Fair is all about when he said, “It is brought to
“It is amazing to see how the countless hours                    you each year through inspiration, organization,
of hard work by so many resulted in a day                        creativity, commitment and sheer hard work.
that looked effortless,” said Fair Chair Susan                   This year was no exception. The many volunteers
Samuels. What looked effortless was actually the                 who unselfishly gave of their time, talents,
result of an all-out community effort. Forty-two                 energy and resources made the Curtis Rocks!
committees worked for thousands of hours in                      Tour 2008 a day we will always remember and
the months, weeks and days leading up to the                     cherish.”
Fair. And, on Fair day itself, all parents were
called to duty. Of course, the show could not go                 The Fair was more than an enjoyable and
on without the steadfast support, encouragement                  rewarding event for participants and planners
and participation of the school’s administration,                alike, it was a successful fundraiser too. The
faculty and staff. “It was incredibly gratifying                 Parents Association has already allocated a
to see the combined work of so many people                       large portion of Fair proceeds to items on the
transform the campus, and we [Fair Chairs] were                  school’s wish list. Chief Operating and Financial
all grateful to have played a part in making it                  Officer Bob Kolb notes that the allocations
happen,” said Cindy LeBauer.                                     “will allow us to improve our communications
                                                                 and technology infrastructure, continue to
The reward for all the hard work, the Fair                       develop curriculum support for the faculty,
Chairs agreed, was the pleasure the Fair gave the                continue to improve individual classrooms, and
community, especially the children. Kristi Stearns               make visible improvements to our athletic and
recalled, “It was wonderful to see all of those                  restroom facilities.” Most importantly, according
smiling faces and hear the laughter as our kids                  to Mr. Kolb, the PA continued its traditional
enjoyed themselves.” And, there were personal                    contribution to financial aid, providing support
rewards as well. Dagny Dubelko reflected,                         that “will help our school community weather
“Working on Curtis Rocks! Tour 2008 totally                      the current economic difficulties and emerge
                                                                 stronger down the road.”

                                                                                                 curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 20
    Fair Chairs Dagny Dubelko, Cindy LeBauer, Susan Samuels and Kristi Stearns rocked the house with Curtis Rocks! Tour 2008.

    The stage lights are down
    now, the crowds have gone
    home, and the roadies have
    loaded up the vans and
    headed off to other gigs. But
    for those of us lucky enough
    to have shared the experience,
    echoes of Curtis Rocks! Tour
    2008 Fair will continue to
    reverberate with messages
    of community and a shared
    commitment to Curtis.

                                            A hands-free ride on a slippery mat supersizes the thrill of the giant slide.

                                            Cooper Klein (DK) gets a bird’s-eye view of      Ethan Rose (DK) indulges his sweet tooth
                                            the action and catches a free ride around        and bites into a heavenly cloud of blue
                                            the Fair.                                        cotton candy.
21 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
Halloween on Parade

                      curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 22
    The Curtis Maintenance team is Pepé Jimenez, Supervisor Athula Aturugirige, Manny Henriquez, Eladio Hernandez, Rocky Gonzalez
    (left to right) and Andrew Davis (facing page).

                                                                 properly,” says Mr. Albert—“it” being shorthand for
    Five-Star Service                                            everything in, on or about Curtis’ 70,000 square feet
                                                                 of interior space and 27-acre site. That’s a tall order,
    The Maintenance Team                                         and Curtis’ crack Maintenance team fills it day in and
                                                                 day out.
    Behind the Scenes
                                                                 There is not much that Mr. Albert, Mr. Aturugirige
    Coming to Curtis for the first time, many                     and the small but multi-talented and hard-working
                                                                 team cannot handle. The regular day crew, Rocky
    visitors are awed by the beautiful and
                                                                 Gonzalez, Manny Henriquez, Eladio Hernandez
    spacious campus. For the regulars—students,
                                                                 and Jose (Pepé) Jimenez, are a full-service staff.
    parents, teachers and staff—the graceful                     They provide routine care for the school’s facilities
    surroundings are an integral part of the                     and perform most of the electrical, plumbing and
    ever-unfolding Curtis experience, daily                      painting work. Daily, they keep the campus picked
    pleasing the senses, inspiring productivity                  up and the trash moving out. They clean the lunch
    and creating a haven from the bustle of the                  tables, distribute supplies throughout the school and
    surrounding city.                                            tend the grounds. Maintenance repairs everything
                                                                 that needs fixing, from tools and furniture to
    The landscape is a harmonious blend of native                sprinklers and electrical wiring. In a place the size of
    hillsides, naturalized slopes, seasonally planted            Curtis, that’s a daily job.
    flowerbeds and ample, crisply mown lawns.
    The buildings, the youngest of which are now                 A fifth essential member of the Maintenance team,
    nearing 25 years old, belie their age, as they               Andrew Davis is “the eyes and ears of the school at
    have been caringly tended. The grounds are neat              nighttime,” according to Mr. Albert. The cleaning of
    and pretty near spotless considering that they               the classrooms and other buildings is outsourced to a
    serve as the school, playgrounds and workplace               crew of four who begin a night shift at 3 p.m. That
    for about 600 people during eight or more                    is when Mr. Davis, the night monitor, takes over.
    hours each day.                                              He keeps the 4th and 5th grade classroom building
                                                                 in shipshape, oversees the work performed by the
    The appearance is so dependable that its                     cleaning company and informs the day crew about
    achievement seems almost effortless. And                     anything that needs repair.
    Director of Facilities Jeff Albert, Maintenance
    Supervisor Athula Aturugirige and the                        Keeping the grounds in top condition requires
    Maintenance staff work tirelessly to keep it that            constant attention. The landscape includes 20 acres
    way. “It has to be clean; it has to be safe; and             of grass and 500 trees. Independent contractor Valley
    it has to work, or the school doesn’t function               Crest Landscaping mows the Upper Field and prunes
23 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
                                           required to run the event. They manage to finish between three
                                           and four o’clock in the afternoon.

                                           Breakdown of the Fair on Sunday evening proceeds at a similarly
                                           astonishing pace, and the crew of four is done by about 10 p.m.
                                           On Monday, a mountain of trash is moved out and the campus
                                           tidied up. By Tuesday, except for the trampled quad, hardly a trace
                                           remains of the weekend’s festivity and thousands of visitors. In the
                                           week following the Fair, Maintenance reseeds and feeds the grass
                                           so that it is restored to its usual luster within a month. The key to
                                           their productivity, according to Mr. Aturugirige, is planning, good
Andrew Davis, who has been at Curtis for
17 years, oversees the campus at night.    communication and a great crew.

the tallest trees, but Maintenance         There is no summer break for Maintenance. When school is out,
does everything else. The team             new jobs are added to the routine. “Curtis looks brand new,
grooms the lawns and flower                 because we are constantly planning, looking ahead and fixing
beds on the lower campus, trims            everything that needs work,” says Mr. Albert. The team paints,
shrubbery and trees, replants              repairs and undertakes a major cleanup of the buildings, “from A
seasonally for annual color and            to Z,” according to Mr. Aturugirige. The classrooms are emptied,
adjusts and repairs the irrigation         one by one, for the ritual summer cleaning, and the rooms are
system.                                    wiped down from ceiling to floor. Carpets are cleaned, floors are
                                           waxed and desks, chairs, counters—even the light fixtures—are
The constant turnover of setups is         washed.
a huge part of the job. Curtis held
between 450 and 500 events in              Summer brings a continuous stream of packages and crates of
the past year, ranging in size from        every shape and size, filled with supplies for the next school year.
a three-person meeting in the              Arriving in 1000s of boxes, orders placed by the teachers and staff,
Library Conference Room to a sit-          ranging from pencils and erasers to books and office furniture,
down event for 600 people in the           must be delivered throughout the campus, and the Maintenance
Pavilion. While Facilities schedules       team works like a deputized UPS service to get the job done.
the events, the job of setting up
and breaking down all the tables,          In addition to its regular workload, last summer the team took on
chairs, rentals and additional             major responsibility in the remodeling of the Ahmanson building,
equipment (microphones,                    logging extra-long hours in order to finish the project before
speakers, podia, cabling and even          the beginning of the new school year. Working with Mr. Albert,
coffee urns) falls to Maintenance.         Maintenance completed all the demolition for the project, tearing
In a single day, the team may              out tile, flooring and walls. The men also replaced, plastered and
be called on to set up and break           painted the drywall and installed the electrical needed for the new
down the auditorium several                auto-flush toilets in the Ahmanson building bathrooms.
times for different constituents. A
Parents Association meeting in the         Special projects are all in a day’s work for Maintenance. This fall,
morning needs to make way for a            Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Henriquez have been busy installing new
performing arts class, and another         SMART Boards around the campus. The team also made major
setup might be required for an             repairs to the school’s water main line. Within the last year, the
evening presentation.                      men rebuilt the skyboxes on the Upper Field and repaired the
                                           school’s extensive fencing.
The Fair is one of the most
awe-inspiring testaments to the            No two days are exactly alike. And that is part of the appeal for Mr.
Maintenance team’s organizational          Aturugirige and his team. The average tenure of the members of
skill and efficiency. At least a week       the Mainentance staff (excepting Mr. Gonzalez, who was hired in
in advance, Mr. Aturugirige gets           2007) is 15 years. Mr. Aturugirige attributes that longevity as much
plans for the layout of booths,            to the relationship of the team members—“they communicate and
rides and concessions and begins           work well together”—as the working environment.
to assemble what is needed. On
Friday, the Maintenance crew               With hard work and good humor, the Maintenance team keeps the
sets up the rentals and installs           school “clean, safe and working” and, by doing so, ensures that
the extensive electrical cabling,          Curtis School continues to provide the best environment possible
phone lines and other equipment            for the people and programs on this campus.
                                                                                       curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 24
                                                                 of exercise. In the weeks preceding the Turkey
    3rd Annual Turkey                                            Trot, the coaches talked to the children about
                                                                 the importance of exercising the body’s most
    Trot / Fun Run                                               important muscle—the heart. They also helped
                                                                 the children work up to the approximately half-
                                                                 mile course with practice warm-up runs during
    Lower Elementary Students                                    P.E. class.
    Run for Health
                                                                 The Turkey Trot course follows the inside of
    Pop and rock music floated into the crisp                     the white perimeter fence on the Upper Field
    autumn air from a boombox on the Upper                       for about half its
                                                                 length, then the
    Field as students in grades K through 3
                                                                 children cross
    stretched and warmed up on the last day before               to the outside
    the Thanksgiving break. At a signal from Coaches             of the fence
    Saken and Chistolini, they hurried to the starting           and wind back
    gate, one foot forward, leaning eagerly into the             to the starting
    course. At a blast of the whistle, each group tore           point on the
    out across the grass with shrieks and shouts of glee.        paved walkway.
                                                                 The coaches
    Divided into two P.E. periods and staggered starts,          were stationed
    more than 250 Lower Elementary students ran for              around the
    pleasure and health                                          course to provide
    in the 3rd Annual                                            encouragement
    Turkey Trot/                                                 and cheer the
    Fun Run. Turkey                                              children to the
    Trots are typically                                          finish, a practical
    non-competitive                                              arrangement as     First grader Sam Green powers
    footraces                                                                       through the Turkey Trot course.
                                                                 some runners
    associated with                                              were distracted
    Thanksgiving and                                             along the way by sticks and bugs and all the
    are traditional in                                           wonders of the outdoors that are irresistible to
    many parts of the                                            young children.
    country. Runners
    aim to burn off                                              All the participants finished tired but satisfied.
    calories before                                              After some cool-down stretching and well earned
    the Thanksgiving                                             gulps of water, they received certificates attesting
    feast. At Curtis, the                                        that they “flew through the turkey trot course,
    focus is on health Gia Kokotakis (Grade 1) takes the half-   carved out a good habit and left behind tracks for
    and the value         mile Fun Run in stride.
                                                                 fellow pilgrims to follow.”
25 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
A Message from
Mark Nott,
Athletics Director

The fall season is always a busy time in athletics      Curtis team placed second in the league for the
at Curtis. In addition to the regular season            season.
sports, flag football for the boys and basketball
for the girls in grades four through six, Curtis        Each September, the incoming fourth grade
                                                        class joins the sports program. The transition
fields a co-curricular, fifth and sixth grade
                                                        brings novelties like lockers and uniforms and
swim team. Students in the fourth grade make an
                                                        the challenge of learning to play as a team and
important transition into competitive sports and,
                                                        compete against students from other schools.
beginning this year, third grade P.E. has a new
                                                        The coaches look forward to this exciting
structure and curriculum. Lastly, annual fitness
                                                        time for the children they have known, taught
testing that is mandated by the State of California
                                                        and guided from their earliest years at Curtis.
also begins at this time.
                                                        The fourth graders made a terrific start in the
                                                        competitive program, earning five of Curtis’
During the fall, twenty-one teams, including
                                                        seven championships and co-championships in
the swim team, competed in 138 games and
                                                        their first season.
meets in just six weeks. Curtis teams won three
championships (4th grade boys’ white football team
                                                        This year, third grade moved to the Upper
and 4th and 5th grade girls’ white basketball teams)
                                                        Elementary division. In keeping with the
and four co-championships (4th grade girls’ red,
                                                        treatment of third grade as a transitional year
blue and gold basketball teams and 5th grade girls’
                                                        in the academic program, third graders now
red basketball team).
                                                        follow a modified fourth through sixth grade
                                                        curriculum in P.E. Although they do not compete
Excitement ran high at the end of the season
                                                        in league games, they now practice and play on
when all six of Curtis’ sixth grade teams made the
                                                        single-sex teams four out of five days during the
playoffs, and three teams advanced to the finals. The
                                                        week. In addition, third graders now concentrate
boys’ red football team played hard all the way to
                                                        on each sport for three to four weeks (rather
the wire, but came up short in the final outcome.
                                                        than one week), which gives them more time
The girls’ white and red basketball teams lost by one
                                                        to build skills and practice fundamentals before
point in the final seconds of both of their games.
                                                        moving on.
For the girls’ red team, the loss ended a winning
streak that began for this group of girls in the
                                                        At the end of the fall season, the coaches
fourth grade. The team’s remarkable record for three
                                                        administered in the Upper Elementary P.E.
seasons was 21-1.
                                                        classes the first of a series of fitness tests. The
                                                        tests challenge students to do their personal
The losses in the finals and semi-finals were
                                                        best and give them an opportunity to qualify
heartbreaking, but all the athletes handled them
                                                        for Presidential and National Fitness Awards
with dignity and class, and I cannot commend
                                                        and Curtis’ Decathlon Award. Testing will be
them highly enough. Their comportment set a great
                                                        completed in February.
example for the younger children who are coming
up through the program.
                                                        The winter season is now in swing. The coaches
                                                        and I look forward to continuing to work with
The swim team was competitive and very popular
                                                        the children, helping them grow as athletes and
again this year. Roughly a quarter of the students in
                                                        individuals through sports. We appreciate your
the fifth and sixth grades joined the team. Interested
                                                        support of the athletics program and hope to see
fourth graders were invited to practices and had the
                                                        you at the games.
opportunity to compete in one of the meets. The

                                                                                  curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 26
    Faculty Professional Development

    Education is a dynamic discipline. Research           Some teachers travel to national conferences, which
    continually advances our understanding of             offer a unique opportunity to share ideas and
    how children learn and how to teach them              collaborate within wider national and international
    effectively. Pedagogy evolves as educational          communities of educators. New teachers in both
                                                          divisions, and those who have been trained but
    theories are developed and tested. In turn,
                                                          are due for a refresher, attend the National Users’
    best teaching practices are developed in
                                                          Conference for Everyday Math. Lower Elementary
    response to the current state of knowledge            teachers attend a variety of conferences related to
    about education.                                      the several strands of the Balanced Literacy Program,
                                                          and Upper Elementary teachers also attend literacy
    To be as effective as possible, educators need to     conferences related to their curriculum.
    stay informed about the most recent theories and
    practices. “As a teacher, you are never done,”        In some cases, Curtis brings experts to campus to
    says Sarina Fierro, Head of the Lower Elementary      conduct in-house workshops that are tailored to our
    division. “There is always new research; there        school’s particular needs. This fall, faculty in both
    will always be new pedagogy to consider. Part         divisions were trained to use Curriculum Mapper,
    of being professional is being aware of the           newly acquired software that allows the teachers in
    contemporary discourse on learning and tailoring      each grade level to document curricular content,
    it to us,” she says.                                  skills, methods of assessment, and resources in a
                                                          common, searchable database. The sessions spurred
    Professional development serves this goal. It         productive collaboration within the grade-level teams
    brings teachers in contact with the latest research   as the teachers explored and adapted the tool to their
    and data on instructional methodologies and           curricula.
    promotes a dialogue within the school on the
    direction of education. Ms. Fierro and Chris          The second element that must be in place for
    Thinnes, Academic Dean and Acting Head of             professional development is time to implement and
    the Upper Elementary, agree that a successful         assess new practices. Ideally, teachers need time
    professional development program requires that        to share with, coach and mentor each other; set
    the school foster a culture of learning, allot        goals for implementing new practices; and receive
    time for teachers to implement and assess new         feedback from division heads and other faculty
    practices, and provide adequate financial support      members. Time is a logistical challenge in an already
    for teacher education.                                full schedule, but regular and consistent twice-
                                                          monthly grade-level and once-weekly division-level
    A culture of learning does exist at Curtis.           meetings provide a forum for communication and
    Teachers expect, and are expected, to continue        feedback. Moreover, the transition to an Associate
    to learn and grow. “We provide the latest             Teacher/Lead Teacher instruction model in the Lower
    curriculum materials and training and build           Elementary classrooms puts the lead teacher in the
    professional development opportunities into           position of mentor to the associate teacher every day.
    the program,” says Ms. Fierro. Each year,
    teachers in both divisions attend conferences         A meaningful professional development program
    and workshops and receive training in teaching        also requires a sustained commitment of financial
    tools that are aligned with curriculum, division-     resources. The school annually budgets for
    wide or school-wide initiatives. Last summer, for     professional development. And, traditionally, the
    example, faculty members attended the SMART           Parents Association has also provided significant
    Board Educators Academy in conjunction with           financial support, by allocating money to items
    the decision to install additional SMART Boards       on the school’s wish list that support professional
    in classrooms this year.                              growth.

27 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
Kyra Terenzio (Grade 3) daubs paint directly from the bottle to create an original work in the style of Aboriginal art.

Professional development has been on a growth                             a culture of learning and committing the time
continuum at Curtis during the past six years.                            and money required for continuing professional
The culture of learning, the time and the funding                         growth, Curtis is keeping our teachers on the
necessary to support professional development are on                      cutting edge of education.
an upswing, according to Ms. Fierro. By maintaining

                                                                                                         curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 28
    Winter Arts Holiday

29 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
Meet the

Each fall brings a flood of
activities to the Curtis School
campus. For new parents and
their children, the first days
and weeks can be daunting.
The top priority for any parent
is ensuring that their Curtis
student makes a seamless
transition into the classroom.
Parents enjoy nothing better than
hearing their youngster say, “I
wish it weren’t Saturday because I      Mr. Switzer, Mr. Kolb, Kris Chavez and Jeff Sklar (left to right) listen as parents share
want to go to school!”                  perspectives. Small group meetings enable the administration to hear from new
                                        parents at the beginning of the year.

Students are not the only ones
entering unknown territory. New parents are                     expectations. “Parents give us a new set of eyes
faced with myriad questions and opportunities                   to see with, and they frequently make helpful
for socializing and meeting other members of the                suggestions in areas that we may overlook
Curtis community. Just to name a few: the Back-to-              because we are so close to the day to day
School Picnic (“Did you pick up your Handbook &                 activities at school,” he explains.
Directory?”), Parents Association Meetings (“How
exactly does carpool work if my daughter is an                  Feedback from new families helps the school
Early Bird?”), Grade Level Coffees (“Did you sign               refine its presentations and procedures. Small
up for a field trip or a classroom party?”), First               changes can have a significant impact. For
Friday Flag and Back to School Night. The Curtis                example, key academic administrators are now
Parents Association also offers a plethora of volunteer         introduced to prospective parents on admissions
positions and social activities from which to choose.           testing days as a result of one parent’s
Has the Room Parent position already been filled?                suggestion. Comments from parents also led to
Then how about joining a PA committee? “What is                 improvements in the “buddy family” program
Party Book anyway?” “Did I order my Fair t-shirt                this year. Mr. Kolb confirms the benefits of
yet?” All this activity culminates in the annual Curtis         parent input: “The new parent meetings help us
School Fair held in mid-October. Once the Fair                  establish a culture of continual improvement. We
passes, however, life at Curtis takes on a significantly         always strive to get the little things right, so that
slower pace.                                                    interactions between families and the school are
                                                                as smooth as possible.”
It is during this lull that all new parents are invited
to attend one of a series of small group meetings               Good communication is the cornerstone of a
with Headmaster Stephen Switzer and Chief                       successful partnership. The school strives to
Operating and Financial Officer Bob Kolb that take               provide frequent and timely information to
place at the headmaster’s residence. The purpose                families through the website, via electronic
of new parent meetings is to give administrators                communications and in written correspondence.
valuable feedback on topics ranging from the                    But communication is a two-way street.
admissions process to carpool procedures. These                 These new parent “conversations” offer a
small gatherings of six to ten parents help Mr.                 unique opportunity for parents to talk and
Switzer find out how well the school is meeting                  administrators to listen.

                                                                                                curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 30
                                                                   exceeded our wildest expectations. And, as old
    Alumni News                                                    friends arrived and embraced, a palpable buzz of
                                                                   genuine excitement filled the room. Nothing is
    A Special Evening Honoring                                     more heartwarming than reuniting with childhood
    30 Years of Excellence                                         friends and teachers, gazing upon familiar faces and
                                                                   surroundings as if no time has passed. This historical
    By Joanna Behr Hameetman, Alumni Council                       evening gave alumni an opportunity to show
                                                                   appreciation for our revered teachers and school, all
                                                                   while evoking precious memories of growing up
    Through the support and organization of
                                                                   with Curtis.
    Curtis School’s dedicated Alumni Council,
    there are more opportunities than ever                         The spectacular night featured a cocktail hour,
    for alumni to return home to Curtis and                        catered sit-down dinner and a touching photo
    reconnect with our cherished school and                        montage of the five honorees that included pictures
    childhood friends. And 2008 marked an                          taken over the past 30 years. A highlight of the
    exceptionally special year for both alumni and                 evening were the beautiful and moving presentations
    the entire Curtis family. On November 13,                      given by alumni Ari Bass, Ginger Healy, Nick
    2008, jubilant alumni, past parents, and current               Melvoin, Tracy Myer Minker and Scott Wilson about
    and former faculty and administrators gathered                 each of the honored faculty members. As a special
    together in the Kissick Pavilion to honor faculty              treat, our Headmaster, Stephen Switzer, joined
    members Deborah Atkinson, Marna Biederman,                     former Headmaster “Baddy” Badham on stage to
    David Pappin, Kathie Reed and Dorothy Serrao                   share delightful and humorous stories about our
    and celebrate their 30 years of loyalty and                    treasured faculty and school. The five honorees
    devotion to Curtis School.                                     touched the lives of so many students and their
                                                                   families, and we give special thanks to this year’s
    The Pavilion was transformed into a beautiful                  Alumni Council for bringing everyone back home to
    setting for a magical and inspiring event. The                 Curtis to celebrate this wonderful milestone in Curtis
    staggering number of alumni and past parents                   family history.
    who attended this evening of celebration

                                                                       The mission of the Curtis School Alumni
                                                                       Council is to unite, inform and involve
                                                                       alumni and friends in support of Curtis
                                                                       School. The Council fulfills this vision
                                                                       by promoting a sense of Curtis pride
                                                                       among all graduates; keeping alumni
    Former Curtis Headmaster “Baddy” Badham (center) is
    joined by alumni Matt Clark and Elizabeth Guber Sugarman           aware of the programs, activities and
    (left) and Jonas Heller (right).
                                                                       goals of the school; and providing
                                                                       opportunities for alumni to contribute
                                                                       to Curtis School’s continued success.

                                                                               Give us an update!
                                                                             Post your class note at
    John Thomas Dye’s Headmaster, Ray Michaud (right),
    congratulates 30-year Curtis teacher and administrator David
    Pappin (left), one of the evening’s honorees.

31 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
Left to right: Debbie Atkinson, Dotti Serrao, Kathie Reed, David Pappin and Marna Biederman, cherished members of the Curtis
family. Each has given 30 years of dedicated service to Curtis School and has benefited many hundreds of students and families
who have passed through Curtis in that time.

Sixth grade teacher Marna Biederman (center) is joined by (left     Librarian Debbie Atkinson is celebrated at dinner by colleague
to right) daughter-in-law Anna Biederman, son Jeff Biederman,       Barbara Bomes, Kathi Switzer and Headmaster Stephen
daughter Melissa Biederman, former student Scott Wilson (H.S.       Switzer (left to right).
Class of ’96) and close family friend Lane Bishop.

A group of young Curtis alumni gather for a mini-reunion at the     Curtis classmates Devon Kellgren, Dominique Odekerken
30-Year event that brought graduates from many decades back to      Merrick and Michelle Lund (left to right) (H.S. Class of ’88)
Curtis.                                                             welcome the chance to catch up.

                                                                                                   curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 32
    Frank-Robert Kline (left) and DARPA Urban Challenge teammate Noah Zych (right) take Team Cornell’s
    autonomous car out for an old-fashioned spin.
                                                                      safely in turn through the intersection; merge
                                                                      into and out of two-way traffic; avoid other
    Alumni Profiles                                                    vehicles; pull into and out of parking spaces;
                                                                      and reroute themselves when confronted with
                                                                      roadblocks, all the while obeying traffic laws.
    Frank-Robert Kline                                                Kline was responsible for all of these and for
    High School Class of ’04                                          the car’s ability to plan a route from one point
                                                                      to another—“pretty much everything that goes
    Frank-Robert Kline has spent much of his                          through a human’s head when interacting with
    undergraduate career as a pivotal member of                       other vehicles and that makes the car drive
    Cornell’s DARPA Urban Challenge Team, a                           rationally on the road,” he says.
    small, elite group of engineering and computer
                                                                      Although Team Cornell did not win the race,
    science students at Cornell University who                        Skynet was one of only six vehicles that finished
    developed an autonomous car—a car that                            the course. Kline and other members of the
    navigates and drives itself without a human                       finishing teams were invited to the Pentagon,
    operator or remote control. The vehicle, a                        where they met with high-ranking officials
    converted Chevy Tahoe named “Skynet” for the                      and, bringing their vehicles with them, had an
    artificial intelligence in the Terminator movies,                  opportunity “to show off the ‘tip of the spear’ of
    successfully competed in a complex groundbreaking                 autonomous technology.”
    trial in November 2007, and the technology Kline
    developed will be transferred to the military to help             Rather than resting on well-deserved laurels,
    protect U.S. troops.                                              Kline was keeping busy away from Cornell again
                                                                      in 2008. After interning last summer at Palantir
    DARPA (the Defense Advanced Projects Research                     Industries in Palo Also, Kline accepted “a fantastic
    Agency) is the central research and development                   offer” to stay on for the fall term and return after
    organization of the Department of Defense. Its                    graduation in summer 2009. While at Palantir,
    mission is to maintain the United States’ lead in                 Kline was the main software developer for an
    applying state-of-the-art technology to military                  administration and management suite to manage
    capabilities. In response to a 2001 Congressional                 the company’s main software product.
    mandate that one-third of ground combat vehicles
    be unmanned by 2015, DARPA created a series                       The time Kline has spent away from Cornell,
    of challenges to encourage the development of an                  particularly working on the DARPA Challenge,
    autonomous vehicle. Team Cornell was one of only                  has made completing his coursework more
    11 teams to receive funding for the project from                  challenging, but he has still managed to maintain
    DARPA—a $1 million grant.                                         a superior grade point average, make the Dean’s
                                                                      List and publish two scholarly papers from his
    After playing a smaller role in an earlier challenge,             work in artificial intelligence on the Urban
    Kline had major responsibility as the software                    Challenge. When he graduates in June, Kline will
    developer of the high-level artificial intelligence for            have earned more than a B.S. in Engineering.
    Skynet in the Urban Challenge. The culminating                    He will leave with invaluable hands-on research
    and most difficult of the trials, it required cars to              experience that has benefited the field of artificial
    do unaided all the things a human driver must                     intelligence, and he will transition seamlessly into
    normally do in city traffic: navigate 4-way stops by               a job that is already waiting for him in Silicon
    determining order of precedence and proceeding                    Valley.
33 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
Kate Weiskopf
High School Class of ’05

Jimmy Worth received an unexpected early holiday
present before school let out in December when a
former student who was home from college for the
winter break rang him up with news that was music
to his ears. Kate Weiskopf told her former teacher
that she had followed a path in music because of
him, studying voice after leaving Curtis, winning a
major competition for young classical singers and
earning admission to one of the best vocal programs
in the nation. Weiskopf is now a senior majoring in
vocal performance at Illinois Wesleyan University. She
will graduate in June with a Bachelor’s degree in Music
Performance and a bright future in the performing arts.        A solo performance in the Spring Concert set
                                                               talented soprano Kate Weiskopf on a musical path.
                                                               She will graduate in June with a degree in vocal
“I called to thank him for giving me my start,” Weiskopf       performance from Illinois Wesleyan University.
says, referring to the solo Mr. Worth gave her in the
Spring Concert in 2001, her last year at Curtis. The           baccalaureate degree in June, she will
reception to her performance—she received a standing           have completed extensive coursework
ovation—and Mr. Worth’s encouragement to develop               in musical literature and theory,
her considerable natural talent, proved to be the ignition     demonstrated proficiency on the piano
source that sparked Weiskopf’s passion for singing and set     and given culminating vocal recitals in
her on her current course.                                     her junior and senior years. At present,
                                                               the singer is preparing intensively for her
When Mr. Worth held an open audition for a soloist             senior recital in the spring, when she will
to sing “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” a hymn by             sing 14 pieces in Italian, French, German,
Henry van Dyke that is traditionally set to the music of       Russian and English that demonstrate her
Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” Weiskopf applied. She took the       mastery as a vocal musician to a jury of
piece home and really worked hard on it, embellishing it       music department faculty.
artistically with feeling and emotion and making it all her
own, Mr. Worth recalls. “You don’t characteristically see      Weiskopf, a soprano, specializes in
that ability in someone so young,” he notes. Mr. Worth         classical technique. It is no coincidence
describes her performance as “astonishing and emotionally      that her new pet, an abandoned kitten
overwhelming,” not least because her talent had been           she rescued, is named Tosca. The heroine
hidden at school until then. Believing that Weiskopf had a     of the eponymous opera by Puccini is
genuine ability to interpret music that was a rare gift, Mr.   her dream role. Although she “fell into
Worth urged her to take vocal lessons.                         opera,” as she says, rather by chance
                                                               (her first private teacher was an opera
Weiskopf took his advice. “I’d always enjoyed singing for      singer), she is fairly certain now that she
fun,” she says, “but it hadn’t occurred to me that I could     wants to pursue a career in that musical
sing professionally.” She began to study vocal musicianship    style. Last year, she took a huge step in
formally for the first time from a private teacher and          that direction when she studied for five
in classes at Van Nuys High School’s Performing Arts           months in Vienna under internationally
Magnet, where she was a student after graduating from          renowned classical singer Donna Robin.
Curtis’ Upper School. Her talent, drive and discipline
were extraordinary and, by the time she was 15 years old,      About singing, she says, “I’m a very
she took first place in voice at the prestigious Southern       emotional person and singing helps me
California Junior Bach Festival, a competition so stringent    channel that energy and emotion into a
that first prize is not even awarded in some years.             work of art.” After graduation, Weiskopf
                                                               plans to take a year off to spend more
Drawn to Wesleyan University by the strength of its music      time with her family before continuing
program and a “whopping scholarship,” Weiskopf follows         her studies at the graduate level.
a rigorous course of vocal study. When she receives her
                                                                                    curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 34
    Charlie Melvoin
    High School Class of ’05

    “The world is a book, and those
    who do not travel read only
    one page.” The admonition
    attributed to St. Augustine prefaces
    a website, “Charlie’s Travels”
    (, that
    traces the global peregrinations of
    outward-looking scholar and world
                                               Charlie Melvoin sits in with Bob Costas at the 2008 Summer Olympics in
    explorer Charlie Melvoin. It was the       Beijing. The Harvard junior’s knowledge of Mandarin landed him a coveted job
    motivation for his gap year.               as a guide for NBC’s VIP guests.

    A top student at Harvard-Westlake, where               Beijing Academy, a two-month intensive language
    he earned the Lester Medvene Award as the              immersion program and, most recently, when he
    outstanding sophomore student, the Bishops             worked as a guide for NBC’s Client Hospitality
    Award as the outstanding male graduating               Program at the Beijing Olympics last summer. On
    student, and the Foreign Language Award,               the strength of an interview and his knowledge of
    Melvoin took a break from the classroom                Chinese, Melvoin managed to snag one of only 30
    between high school and college in 2005-2006           plum positions for American guides of NBC’s 1,600
    to do what he loves most—travel. His year              VIP guests to the Olympics.
    off was no Grand Tour of Europe, but rather
    a trek—in many places on foot—through 22               As an NBC guide, he escorted employees, sponsors
    developing countries in Asia, Africa, South            and friends of the network and its affiliates—
    America and the South Pacific.                          including celebrities and athletes—to and from
                                                           sporting events and other activities in and around
    A consummate storyteller, Melvoin kept a witty         the capital city. On one memorable sightseeing
    and insightful running blog along the way that         excursion, Melvoin gave Olympic gold-medal
    showcases his journalistic talent and makes the        gymnast Shawn Johnson a tour of the Great Wall.
    reader feel like she’s on the trail with him. After    In the cable car on the way up to the Wall, she
    nine months of backpacking around the world,           mentioned to him that she was thinking about
    he returned with a storehouse of experiences and       doing a handstand once she got there. Jokingly, he
    lessons about “things that simply can’t be taught      said, “Me too.” But she thought it was such a great
    in school,” he says.                                   idea that they actually carried out the plan, to the
                                                           enormous delight of onlookers. “Hers was better,”
    Now, as a junior at Harvard University, Melvoin        he admits with characteristic dry humor.
    is immersed in the study of Chinese language
    and culture. His self-professed passion for the        Melvoin is majoring in American History and
    language grew out of his fascination with China        Literature and plans to write a senior thesis
    after seeing the martial arts epic, “Crouching         combining that with Chinese language and culture.
    Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” filmed against such              When he is not working on his major, he is
    spectacular backdrops as the Gobi Desert and           studying Chinese and writing for The Harvard Crimson.
    Beijing’s Forbidden City. He saw the film               After graduation, he plans to continue to travel
    13 times in its opening week and became                and to pursue a career with a global perspective.
    determined to learn Chinese in order to more           He’ll be doing both this summer in Uganda, where
    fully access the culture.                              he has obtained a position working under that
                                                           country’s director of the United Nations World Food
    His passion has not wavered. Fast forward to           Programme. He will spend two months learning
    today. Melvoin is eight years into his study           about operational strategies at the UN headquarters
    of Mandarin, which he began in ninth grade.            in Kampala and carrying out fieldwork before
    Along the way, he has visited China four               returning to Harvard for his senior year.
    times, once as a student of Harvard University’s

35 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
                                                        birth of a son, Augustus Grier Sugarman,
Alumni                                                  on August 8, 2008. In addition to being a
                                                        new mom, Elizabeth is completing a Ph.D.
Quick Takes                                             dissertation in Child Psychology. She formerly
                                                        worked as a psychologist in private practice
Lauren Abell (H.S. Class of ’05) is an English          and also at Crossroads School. Kate Phillips
teacher at her high school alma mater, Brentwood        Wiczyk (H.S. Class of ’91) and her husband
School. She attended Duke University, where she         Modi Wiczyk welcomed twins, a son Jesse and
majored in psychology, minored in English and           a daughter Sloane, on September 14, 2008.
graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa.           Jess Jennings Clark (H.S. Class of ’96) and
Ms. Abell also holds a secondary school teaching        Jon Clark are the proud parents of a girl, Piper
certificate. After college, she returned to Brentwood,   Simon Clark, who was born on November 23,
where she has been teaching for the past four           2008.
years. This year she took on the additional role
of Admissions Counselor. Last summer, Ms. Abell         Brett Pierce (H.S. Class of ’03) and Charlie
was a Klingenstein Fellow at Columbia University.       James (H.S. Class of ’03) made news when
She recently created the Young Leaders Board for        The Los Angeles Times staff writer Eric Sondheimer
the Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF), to         singled out the two for attracting attention to
give young professionals increased philanthropic        Brentwood School’s football team in a write-
opportunities. ECF is a nonprofit organization that      up of local high school games. At the time of
serves children and adults with developmental,          the article, Pierce had made eight interceptions
learning and emotional disabilities. Ms. Abell is       in eight games, tying for the state record. He
engaged to be married in June 2009.                     also pitches for the Brentwood baseball team
                                                        and sings in the choir, which will perform
Special Deliveries                                      at Carnegie Hall in March. James is a leading
The Curtis family continues to grow as alumni           receiver and defensive player on the football
welcome new children into their own families.           team and plays soccer for Brentwood as well.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Guber Sugarman             James’ 51-yard field goal, his 11th in 14 attempts
(H.S. Class of ’90) and Jason Sugarman on the           during the season at the time, was just two shy
                                                        of the state record.

Alumni at the Fair

                                                                                curtis magazine — winter 2009 | 36
    Arts & Letters
    My Utopia                                                 Ode to an Apple
    By Cece Manze, Grade 6                                   By Mrs. Kiratsoulis’
                                                              2nd Grade Class
    You look past a vast green meadow and see
    the horizon. To your left you see a clear                       From the seed
    ocean and feel the mist land on your tongue.                      Into a tree
    As the sun sets you feel the warm night                             Flowers!
                                                                   Tastes like candy
    cascade around you like a heavy blanket. You
                                                                    Sweet to sour
    lay down on the grass and it feels as if life could
    not get better. If I got my way, life would always
                                                                    Favorite foods
    be like this. This is my utopia.
                                                                Apple pie, cider, juice
                                                                  Applesauce, baked
    You wake up, feeling the warm sun on your
                                                                Cereal, honey, caramel
    eyes. As you get up you see that you somehow
                                                             Apples, apples, everywhere!
    got back to your house. You also notice that
                                                          Please never disappear in thin air.
    you’re already wearing your school clothes. It
                                                            Thank you Johnny Appleseed!
    seems that you’re not hungry yet not full. As you
    walk to school you feel the smooth, crackless
    cement underneath your feet. You get to school
    and pick up your very own tablet P.C. at the
    school office. All the teachers smile and wave            Cinquain Poetry
    at you as you pass them even though you don’t              By Ms. Ivy’s
    even know them. Your school doesn’t give out           4th Grade Students
    grades or homework so you don’t have to worry
    about trying to fit homework into any afterschool
    You walk over to the bike stand and insert twenty              Black and white
    cents. You choose bike twenty-five, walk over to          Beating, banging, booming
    it and unlock it. You bike home, passing all the                 Fun to play
    sleek, modern houses. As you get to the end of                      Music
    your street you see your house. It is classic yet
                                                                 by Jake Caan
    modern and has solar panels on the roof. The
    many windows let in light and make the house
    look almost transparent. You set your bike out
    on the lawn and walk up the porch. As you walk                      Stacy
    in you smell sweet lavender and see that the                      Senior year
    house is spotless as usual. From the inside the          Stressing, fighting, studying
    house looks like a well-put together puzzle, all                I will miss her
    sleek and clean. You walk up the spotless white-                    College
    carpeted stairs and walk up to the balcony. You
    can see children playing in the sand and people
                                                              by Maddy Harbert
    surfboarding on the perfect waves. You close
    your eyes and think about how it must feel,
    riding with the wind in your face and the water                     Socks
    underneath you. You snap out of it as a nice                  Sweaty comfy
    breeze brushes against you.                              Hoping, jumping, sleeping
                                                               Keep my feet warm
    You suddenly run outside and hop on your bike.                     Soft
    You ride on, soon becoming a speck on the
    mountainside. But, you don’t care about leaving,          by Lily Goldsmith
    you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.

37 | curtis magazine — winter 2009
                                                                                               Curtis Magazine
                                                                                               Winter 2009

                                                                                               Robin Keith Winshel
                                                                                               Robin Yamaguchi

                                                                                               Dede Mendenhall Haglund
                                                                                               Robin Keith Winshel

                                                                                               Pam Beeks
                                                                                               Joanna Behr Hameetman
                                                                                               Mark Nott

                                                                                               Rebecca Fenning
                                                                                               Michelle Feynman
                                                                                               Matthew Fienup
                                                                                               Andrew Goldsmith
                                                                                               Dede Mendenhall Haglund
                                                                                               Ruth-Ann Huvane
                                                                                               Sandra Klink
                                                                                               Nikos Kokotakis
                                                                                               Victoria White
                                                                                               Robin Keith Winshel

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A row of self-portrait heads made by fifth graders from recycled materials and sculpting clay   your home, please contact Karen
on a papier-mâché skull base form an arresting group.                                          Harwitt in the Alumni Office,
                                                                                               at (310) 889-3827 or email
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BACK COVER                                                                                     help us update our records. Thank
Aboriginal painting                                                                            you for helping us stay in touch.
Audrey Regan (Grade 1)
Tempera on paper, 2008
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Technology Integration     5
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Camera Obscura            10
                               Address Service Requested
Headmaster Switzer      11
A Look Back on Progress
Curtis Rocks the House!   19
Halloween on Parade       22
Five-Star Service         23
3rd Annual Turkey         25
Trot/Fun Run
Coach’s Notebook          26
Faculty Professional      27
Winter Arts Showcases     29
Meet the Parents          30
Alumni News               31
Alumni Profiles            33
Alumni Quick Takes        36
Arts & Letters            37

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