Known for its long tradition, its one-of-a-kind culture and its distinguished alumni, Staten Island Academy has been a staple in our community for almost a century and a half. When Mr. Albert Cauz became the Head of School seven years ago, he had a new vision for the school, one that was innovative and ingenious. He got to work quickly and assembled a committee who formulated a five-year plan with three crucial objectives. First, a new academic building was to be built to sustain the fast-moving educational climate around us. Next, an increased endowment for financial aid was to be established to make it possible for any qualified student to get equal access to our integrated curriculum. Lastly, adding more specialists to our growing Patrick Academic Resource Center (PARC) rounds out the Renaissance Campaign. These three tenets would emphasize SIA’s “school metric.” Standardized test scores tend to track income and background of the school students are coming from. Mr. Cauz believes the best metric for quality of an independent school is relationships; relationships among students and relationships between students and teachers.
The Renaissance Campaign is literally a “rebirth” of core educational values and skills fine-tuned to modern times. Mr. Cauz wants the campaign to emphasize three different ideals that he believes makes a great student and a successful adult. The first is discrete skills, the ones that aren’t outwardly apparent. He wants critical thinking and intellectual curiosity to become part of the school, for students to grow into natural problem solvers, ready for everything that the world has to throw at them when they graduate from SIA. Next, he wants to emphasize the importance of mastery and show students that grades are not everything and knowledge is key. Lastly, it is important for students to realize that failure is temporary and can be prevented in the future. The central academic building will put emphasis on those three important principles.
Inside the building will be eight new classrooms, one flexible space and several learning hubs. The purpose of the new building is to create comfortable spaces and instill confidence in students to push limits and set high standards. The learning hubs will be in the center of four of the new classrooms and self-directed and will feature writable walls and private study rooms. Mr. Cauz wants to integrate all different curriculums and have resources at arms reach. Besides the new building, there will be a new change to the curriculum. For juniors and seniors, there will be an optional year-long senior signature project which will be similar to a college thesis. This will prepare those who are ready for intensive research and passion-driven projects that they will encounter at the next level of education.
The goal is simple. Strong academics. Strong admissions. Strong financial aid. Mr. Cauz and the Board want to “create an energy where we are going to be considered one of the top independent schools in New York City.” So far, we have reached over 60% of our ten million dollar goal. The intention is to break ground on the project by summer of 2020.
While I won’t be here to experience the place I love flourish and thrive, I know that the Lower and Middle Schoolers are lucky to be in a place that cares about their education, their relationships and their happiness. I can’t wait to watch SIA alumni run the world one day, knowing it all started at the little school up on the hill. Below is one possible conceptual design of the project in the Renaissance Campaign.
Maxine V. ’19