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Face Time (not FaceTime) with the Headmaster

Once a month, fifth-grade students have their very own face time with the Headmaster.

"Headmaster's Break," as it is called, is an eight-year-old practice—a daily, 10-minute, mid-morning snack time for Grade 5 students and opportunity for their teachers to make announcements. This year, at the suggestion of Lower School Assistant Director Dr. Sandy Lizaire-Duff, the Headmaster himself has been added to the "break."

Mr. Conard's appearance, once a month, is a way for the students—on the cusp of transitioning to the Basking Ridge Campus—to get better acquainted with him. It is also an opportunity for students to ask questions about what lies ahead in the Middle School (Middle School Director Ms. Laurie Piette will attend a future gathering). Inquiries about lunch and recess loom large, and the occasional curve ball can be thrown—"What is the philosophy behind the advisory program?" a student once asked. Indeed, this year's class of fifth graders is nothing if not indefatigably curious and remarkably self-assured. Recently, they all assembled in the Grade 5 Commons, munching on pretzels, awaiting their face time with the Headmaster. Not five seconds after Mr. Conard suggested they take a few moments to think about the questions they'd like to ask, several hands shot up.

Below, snippets from the "Headmaster's Break" in January:

What is your average day like?
There really isn't any such thing as an average day. I meet with faculty and staff members and, especially now, discuss the Strategic Plan. But often, things just happen, and my day can take a completely different direction. It's always fun, and I never know quite what's going to happen!

What do you do when you visit the Lower School?
I come to the Short Hills campus one morning each week, but because of your six-day schedule, it's never the same day. I always start the day out in front of school with Mr. Corvino, shaking hands with all the students entering. I need to find a way to greet the students getting off the bus in the back. Then, I meet with Dr. Duff and Mr. Corvino and walk around the hallways, see what's happening in the classrooms, and meet with faculty members.

How long will our classes be?
The Middle School has a seven-day rotating schedule, and each class period meets five times. Two of those meetings are 60 minutes long and three are 45 minutes.

Do we get to choose any classes in our schedule, or just sports?
I get to choose all your classes! You do get to choose a few electives, but mostly, all the major disciplines are predetermined.

What are our foreign language options?
Spanish, Latin, German, French, and Mandarin.

What will we be doing before 8:05 a.m., when classes start?
When I enter through the Middle School on my way in every morning, I see people playing ping pong, hanging out with friends, talking with teachers in classrooms, getting ready for classes, running around outside, and completing homework (though that's not recommended the morning-of!).

After 15 minutes—which also included a question about how Mr. Ski [Dave Szelingowski, former Grade 5 teacher who became Middle School Dean of Students last fall] was adjusting—Dr. Duff had to cut them off. Still, some lingered to chat further.

"I want students to know that Mr. Conard is not just the man walking the hallways or taking to the stage in Hauser Auditorium once a year at graduation," Dr. Duff explains. "Because we are separated by campus location, I also want them to know that we're a single community, a single school."

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer,