Head of School’s Blog

End of the Year Thoughts

If a picture is worth 1000 words, perhaps I should stop right here.


What does this picture say to you? ‘I’m not afraid to toss convention aside; I’ve found a better way!’ Or more likely: ‘I’m exhausted. At the end of my rope. Something has to give!’

As a parent, eleven years ago (when my children were 1, 4, and 5), I recall feeling like this all the time. Today, this utter exhaustion is tied to certain times of the year. While the passing of time slows to a crawl from November to February, the end of the year has the same furious, frantic pace as the beginning. Our students have done their best to remain on task, but, as I am sure you have observed, it becomes progressively more challenging to stay focused as the thermometer rises and we all count down the final days. Since starting Kindergarten with Mrs. Beecher forty years ago, I have been living and measuring my life in nine-month chapters. Some of you have heard me say that nothing should last longer than nine months. That was the length of my engagement, and, having delivered our oldest child two weeks late, I know my wife would agree about the duration of a pregnancy.

Truth be told, the school year is closer to 9.5 months, but nonetheless, it will be over soon. Routines will relax. We’ll have yelling-free mornings, breakfast at the table instead of in the car, and homework-free afternoons. In short, we’ll feel the calm after the storm. The TP will go back on the dispenser.

And what should we do with all this calm? While the tendency in 2018 is to fill every waking moment with travel-team practices, camps, rehearsals, classes, and educational trips, I would advocate that you preserve some time for your children to “do nothing.” This downtime might entail simply hanging out with family and friends. It might involve walking barefoot through the grass, building a sandcastle, catching lightning bugs, sketching a flower from the front yard, watching the sunrise, skipping stones at a lake, stargazing, or creating a sidewalk mural. Summer is an opportune time for over-programmed, over-scheduled kids to develop their powers of imagination and creativity, and to learn how to amuse themselves.

To clarify, down time does not mean plopping oneself on the couch to play Fortnite. In his book, Last Child in the Woods (2005), Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to describe the phenomenon of children spending more and more time inside. Now is our chance to combat this trend. You’ll note that all of the suggested activities above take place outdoors. Apply sunscreen if necessary, hand your children water bottles, and then boot them out of the house. Summer is also a time to be less plugged in, less connected to the various media that monopolize our daily lives. Take the family camping, preferably to a spot where there is no cell phone service, or, as my mother-in-law advised in a toast at our wedding, just “play in the dirt.”

My second recommendation is that you encourage your children to try something new. Several years ago, I worked at a school where all students, in between their junior and senior years, undertook a “personal challenge.” Some learned how to rollerblade, others taught themselves how to cook or take black-and-white photographs, and one non-athlete even spent the summer completing an exercise regimen designed to allow him to dunk a basketball. The common thread through all of these activities was that students, only nine months away from being on their own, were expanding their interests, skills, and passions. Much is written today about the opportunity that summer presents as an “extended learning session.” While I agree with this sentiment, I would rather see children learning how to set up a tent than studying quadratic equations.

With completing construction of the new building, moving the location of twelve classrooms, and working on numerous other projects, life at TDS will continue at high speed this summer. That said, we welcome visitors, particularly those willing to carry a box, so stop by if you’re in the neighborhood. May your summers be filled with new experiences and memorable family moments.


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

Fieldtrips near and far – May 18, 2018

While daily routines are certainly important at TDS, we also believe that some of the best learning opportunities take place outside the walls of the classroom. Along these lines, each grade has taken multiple field trips this year, within Durham and beyond. In the upper grades, these trips include an overnight component.

Our fourth graders were slated to travel to Beaufort today, visiting the NC Maritime Museum and Fort Macon before taking the ferry to Shackleford Island. The driving rain forced Ms. Tedeschi to postpone this trip until next week. Instead, fourth graders are ruling the roost at TDS.

In the fall, each fifth grader researched, designed, and presented a three-day, two-night trip to a city within a six-hour radius of Durham, complete with a full itinerary and budget. This constituted the first component of the Great Fifth Grade Adventure (GFGA). After much presenting, politicking, and deliberation, the class eventually settled on Hershey, PA, following an itinerary that reflected the detailed work and creativity of Oliver Guan and Jake Pettibone. Mr. Forringer, Ms. Tignor, and their charges left early yesterday morning, reenacting the Battle of Gettysburg and touring Indian Echo Caverns on the way. Today’s highlights include Chocolate World and ZooAmerica.

If you missed me at carpool, that’s because I’m writing this from our nation’s capital. I have joined Ms. McAllister, Sr. Dowd, Ms. Carnes, and Ms. Khan on our Middle School trip to Washington, D.C. Yesterday, we were afforded a firsthand look at the highest levels of two of our three branches of government. First, we visited the Senate chamber and were witness to several speeches. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) argued in favor of net neutrality only hours before the Senate voted in favor of a resolution that would keep the FCC’s rules in place, and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) spoke passionately in support of Gina Haspel’s leadership of the CIA, again, only one day in advance of the full Senate vote on her confirmation. How special it was to see our federal government in action! Immediately following this, we headed across the street to learn about the history, significance, and personalities of the Supreme Court while sitting in the hallowed courtroom. Having visited various museums today, we’re all looking forward to our nighttime tour of the monuments and memorials this evening.

It was fun to see many of our students share my excitement about the inner workings of our government. Still, they would no doubt point to simply being together as the true highlight of the trip. They carry these memories throughout their time at TDS, and beyond. I’m sure my colleagues concur that there’s still more to be taught this year – another book to read, Spanish verb tense to learn, science lab to complete – but we also agree that these trips, and these experiences, are well worth the time.


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

Reaccreditation complete – May 4, 2018

Message from the Head of School:

As a member of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), TDS must apply for reaccreditation every five years. This rigorous process, which began more than a year ago, has three components: compliance, growth, and review.

The compliance portion contains 53 standards related to best practices in the following areas: mission; governance and leadership; teaching and learning; stakeholder communication and relationships; and resources and support systems. Gathering information from multiple sources, Kelly Aguilar comprehensively explained how TDS meets each of these standards.

The more significant, and far more interesting, portion of the reaccreditation process involves identifying areas of potential growth and then crafting a plan to address each of these areas. Several months ago, the TDS faculty debated several ideas before settling on four: meeting students’ needs; ensuring continuity and flow within the curriculum; identifying and articulating the TDS brand; and improving communication among various constituencies. For each of these, a team of faculty and administrators (1) assessed where we are now by surveying different groups, (2) investigated best practices, (3) established a vision of where we’d like to be, and (4) crafted a plan, a roadmap toward our goal.

In most cases, we did not wait for the SAIS process to conclude before moving forward. For example, with the faculty’s help, Emily McAllister (Middle School Director) created a more robust advisory program (with weekly academic check-ins and extended sessions to address the TDS Core Values), introduced an anti-bullying program, and designed a new disciplinary system with improved consistency and communication, all to more effectively meet the academic and social-emotional needs of our older students. In other cases, the bulk of the work lies ahead. To be sure, we will always have more work to do when it comes to communicating our unique identity to a wider audience.

The final phase of the SAIS process involves review by peers. In our case, TDS was quite fortunate to have three experienced independent school professionals – Pat Taylor (former Head of School at Jackson Academy), Jill Connett (Director of Academics at Episcopal Day School), and Beth Murray-Wilson (Coordinator of Studies at Jackson Academy) – spend three days on campus a few weeks ago. This trio visited classes, interviewed all constituencies (students, faculty & administration, parents, Trustees, and alumni), read countless documents, and ultimately offered sage guidance related to our self-identified areas of growth. In short, they got to know us quite well over the course of three days.

Amidst a plethora of more specific commendations and recommendations – and a unanimous vote in favor of reaccreditation – I felt proud and pleased that our team honed in on what makes TDS truly unique. In their words: “the family-oriented ethos that permeates all aspects of the school” and the “individual care and nurturing of each student and recognition of each student’s given talents.” That, in essence, is TDS.

For those interested in reading the full report from the Visiting Team, click here.


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

2018 Science Olympiad – April 19, 2018

A few months ago, nearly 3,000 Olympians from 92 nations descended upon PyeongChang, South Korea to realize their dreams by competing for gold, silver, and bronze medals. This past Saturday, eighteen students from Triangle Day School traveled to Southern High School for a different kind of Olympic experience.

Founded in 1984, Science Olympiad hosts exciting tournaments and competitions in all fifty states that offer rigorous, standards-based challenges. On Saturday, Lower School teams (grades 3 through 6) from fifteen area schools competed in nineteen different events, showcasing their science knowledge and abilities, collaborating well with teammates, and having fun while doing science!

The TDS team worked diligently with Coach Lori Khan, Middle School Science Teacher, to prepare. Congratulations to Harrison (3), Henry (3), Anna(3), Ellie(3), Nureen(3), Jenna(3), Kai(3), Wills(3), Jas (3), Imani (4), Ben (4), Anisha(4), Cora(4), Conlan(4), Oliver (5), Logan(5), Kate(6) and Lulu(6) for representing TDS so well.

Below are descriptions of the challenges that these brave students faced on Saturday:

3,2,1 Blast Off! – Harrison and Henry constructed rockets from soda bottles designed to stay aloft for the greatest amount of time.

Backyard Biologist – Anisha and Cora identified organisms – plants, trees, and birds – and were tested on their habitats and living conditions.

Bridge-a-roni – Anna and Ellie designed a bridge using pasta and glue to hold a maximum weight. Congratulations on a third place finish!

Chew the Fat – Nureen and Jenna identified parts of the digestive system and their functions.

Data Crunchers – Anisha and Cora dug into the data, interpreting graphs, measuring, estimating, and performing all sorts of calculations.

Describe It, Build It – After being handed a device, Lulu wrote detailed instructions on how to build it, and then Kate used the directions to build the exact device. Congratulations on a second place finish!

Duct Tape Challenge – Kai and Ben built a tall, structurally sound tower using mainly duct tape. Congratulations on a fourth place finish!

Ecology Experts – Anna and Cora demonstrated their knowledge of forests, deserts, and grasslands.

Fossil Frenzy – Wills and Jas learned all about geologic time, dinosaurs, fossils, and the fossilization process.

Movers & Shakers – Nureen and Jenna were tested on their knowledge of plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes and related land formations.

Science Password – Anisha, Kate and Lulu took turns giving clues for a variety of scientific terms or concepts for their teammates to guess.

Sky Quest – Imani and Ben learned all about the solar system in preparation for this.

STEM Design Challenge – Harrison, Henry and Conlan built a structure using only K’nex pieces.

Super Sleuths – Kate and Lulu identified mystery powders, distinguished among hair fibers, and examined footprints to decipher a given scenario. Congratulations on a third place finish!

The Heat is On – Oliver and Logan were assessed on their knowledge of energy, physical changes, and changes in states of matter due to heating and cooling. Congratulations on a third place finish!

Trajeggtory – Kai and Conlan built a device to protect a raw egg from breaking when tossed over a bar or barrier.

Weather Permitting – Ben and Wills learned about weather, climate, and severe storms.

What’s the Matter? – Oliver and Logan delved into the physical properties of matter and the behavior of solids, liquids, and gases. Congratulations on a third placefinish!

Work it Out – Anna, Ellie, Imani and Kai competed in a relay race involving all things science.

All in all, it was an exciting day of science fun. This young team is poised to build on their inaugural performance. Ms. Khan hopes to work with even more budding scientists next year.


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

Twister Trot and Spring Fever – April 6, 2018

With third quarter report cards coming out tomorrow, this has been a week of reading rather than writing for me. These documents are just one of many signals that we have crossed the threshold into the final chapter of the school year.

In August, 1994, I was not yet through my first full week of teaching when I received a bit of advice that I still remember today. From Mr. Nuzum, who taught Physical Science down the hall from me: “Anything really important, anything you really want them to learn, make sure you teach it by Thanksgiving.”

Hyperbole? Absolutely. But Mr. Nuzum was on to something. As I discovered that spring, for some Middle Schoolers in particular, there exists a direct correlation between “days left in school” and kids’ attention spans. In April and May, both are hurtling toward zero at what seems like an alarming rate.

As teachers, we summon extra doses of patience and good humor, keep expectations consistent, and keep our feet on the gas. Not surprisingly, children usually respond as we would hope, and summer doesn’t visit our classrooms until…summer. For the past twenty-four years, I’ve employed Mr. Nuzum’s adage with one exception. We teach the important stuff by Memorial Day.

Speaking of spring, I hope to see everyone on campus this Saturday morning for the Twister Trot. Please join us for either the 5K or the 1 mile course through American Village. This race honors the strength and courage of those in our community, and those whose lives have been affected by cancer in particular. Click here to register. On-line registration closes tomorrow at noon, so please act now. Please arrive by 8:30 on Saturday. The opening remarks begin at 8:45, and the race will start promptly at 9:00. Stick around for the fire truck, bouncy house, and performance by the TDS Cheer Team.

Remember, TDS students who finish ahead of Mr. Norry win an all-you-can-eat lunch and the class with highest percentage participation earns a popsicle party. The stats to date show 3rd grade in the lead:

  • TK – 40%
  • K – 35%
  • 1st – 44%
  • 2nd – 29%
  • 3rd – 59%
  • 4th – 45%
  • 5th – 26%
  • 6th – 22%
  • 7th – 22%
  • 8th – 19%


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School