A Magazine for the Curtis Community
Curtis Mock Election 2
Student Council— 3
A Training Ground
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
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
ON THE COVER
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.
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
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
69.2% 28.8% 2.0%
195 72 1
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, http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/sov/2008_general/contents.htm.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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”
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
be like this. This is my utopia.
Apple pie, cider, juice
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
Robin Keith Winshel
Dede Mendenhall Haglund
Robin Keith Winshel
Joanna Behr Hameetman
Dede Mendenhall Haglund
Robin Keith Winshel
Have you received the Curtis
Magazine at your preferred
Don’t miss an issue of the
Curtis Magazine! If you did
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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
BACK COVER help us update our records. Thank
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Audrey Regan (Grade 1)
Tempera on paper, 2008
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Around the Quad 7
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
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