Head of School’s Blog

Traditions November 29, 2018

Our collective spirits buoyed by Will’s return from a semester in Idaho and Chile, the Norry family contemplated several options this past Friday night. Take in a movie? Family game night? Laze around the house in a tryptophan-induced food coma?

Eschewing these more conventional choices, Will, Kate and I headed to Greensboro, Page High School to be precise, for the second round of the North Carolina 4A state playoffs in football. (We picked up my father-in-law along the way.) We pulled hard for our beloved Pirates, but a blocked extra point in the fourth quarter loomed large. Page’s final drive ended with an interception in the last minute, and they fell 28-27 to Porter Ridge, ending their season.

For the record, no one in our family has any formal ties to Page, nor do we know anyone on the team. My father-in-law did grow up in Greensboro, but he attended a different public high school. The temperature was a balmy 35 degrees at kickoff, but it soon plunged below freezing. It took most of the car ride home for our toes to thaw.

So why did we drive an hour each way and subject ourselves to frigid temperatures to watch a seemingly random high school football game? To borrow a line from the opening number in Fiddler on the Roof: Tradition. Tradition!

Many years ago, our Thanksgiving trips from Maryland to Greensboro involved a five-night stay in a full house. By Friday night, I was looking for an activity. The local newspaper highlighted several playoff games across the region, including Page v. Mallard Creek (a perennial powerhouse from Charlotte). That night, Page engineered a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, and I was hooked. Will and I have been faithful November/December attendees for ten years, crisscrossing the Piedmont in our Page gear to support the Pirates in their runs through the playoffs. This has included two trips to state championship games. Emily has no interest, but Kate joined us for the first time on Friday. I think she’ll be back next year!

Especially during holiday times, traditions abound in our families, and they tend to stick in our memories. Whether stories, rituals, or customs, research suggests that traditions undergird strong family relationships between generations. In addition, many traditions help children develop an identity and sense of belonging, reinforce cultural and religious heritage, and strengthen family values. Linking these virtues to our obsession with high school football might be a stretch, but I can tell you that Will and I have shared some deep conversations during our many late night drives home, we regularly hum the Pirates fight song in the winter, and we revel in wearing our Page sweatshirts around Durham. In fact, I believe that witnessing all of this is what motivated Kate to join us on Friday.

To be sure, traditions range from the straightforward (my mom reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to our children on December 24th, no matter their age) to the quirky (Go Pirates!), but they all matter, and children hold onto these memories long after they’ve forgotten what gifts they received. Whether your children are in TK or Middle School, December is a wonderful time to both honor age-old family traditions and start new ones.

Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

Hardin Academic Center Dedication, November 8, 2018


It was wonderful to see many of you this past Saturday evening at the dedication of the Hardin Academic Center. Current and alumni parents, faculty, and friends explored every inch of our new Commons, STORM Lab, art studio, science lab, library, and classrooms while enjoying hearty fare from the Refectory Café. 


I reminded everyone present that, beyond these stunning new spaces, the HAC has paved the way toward a campus reorganization of sorts:


  • First and second grades are now together on the same hall, with each of these four classes now enjoying a larger room than they were in last year.
  • The Upper Elementary grades have completely taken over the Back Building.
  • The Middle School now has its own Commons, library, and lounge. These game-changing spaces are used virtually every hour of every school day by our older kids.

Finally, the Hardin Academic Center has allowed us to get rid of the trailer, has brought the physical space at TDS in line with the superior academic program, and has given us the capacity to grow toward a fully enrolled school of 300 kids.


As a TDS parent, Jane Hardin was a frequent chaperone on field trips and was involved with the Parents Association. Amie Tedeschi recalls, “You’d see John and Jane at the auction, but also at Parent Work Day, staying until the end.” John served multiple terms on the TDS Board, including the role of Board Chair. He led a strategic planning campaign in 2006, and he was involved in the search for two Heads of School, chairing the search that brought me to TDS in 2013. With their younger daughter now a senior in college, the Hardins are known by only a few current TDS parents. I appreciate your taking the time to read more below about John and Jane, and all they have done for TDS over the past several years. To help with this, I have leaned on a handful of ‘TDS heroes’ who know them well.


Jean Service (Administrative Assistant, Alumni Parent and Liaison)

“As board chair during a very rough period, John remained calm, reasonable, and respectful to everyone. He is professional, level-headed. Jane is kind and thoughtful, fun to be around and to work with. She quietly makes everything work. Together they are so very generous. They give from the heart with no need for accolades or recognition. They are humble. They are unwavering advocates and supporters for TDS. John and Jane recognized the potential of TDS when they enrolled their daughters and gave tirelessly to ensure the growth and expansion of the school.”


John Board (Alumni Parent, Former Board Member and Chair)

“John helped write the 2006 strategic plan, an ambitious but well-reasoned plan for steady, thoughtful, metrics-driven growth over five years, setting the school up for physical growth in the future.  And then the land across the street went on sale.  This is where I met John Hardin the tactical leader. Strategic thinking is important, but when the facts on the ground change without notice, you have to react.  John’s level-headedness and steady hand were essential as we went on the wild ride of growing the school’s physical plant five years ahead of schedule. There were risks involved, but they were carefully calculated and considered, as were the risks of not acting  and being bold won the day.”


Stuart Smith (Alumni Parent, Former Board Member)

“As much as anyone since the founding families, the Hardins gave what was needed when it mattered most.”


The Hardin Academic Center is a fitting tribute to John and Jane Hardin for their two decades of engagement, service, leadership, and philanthropy at Triangle Day School. I hope that all in our community are both appreciative of their efforts and also inspired to support TDS so that future generations of students may benefit, as our children are doing now. 

Drive and Prudence, October 26, 2018

This past Saturday, more than 300 runners and walkers wound their way through American Village in the 2018 Twister Trot. Thank you for taking part in this wonderful event, for honoring Marcy Speer and the many others in our community who have battled cancer with courage and strength. I was struck by the number of names submitted by all of you to be read during the opening ceremony: 116. So many in our extended TDS family have fought this terrible disease.

In particular, I’d like to thank Casey Speer (TDS ’10, Riverside HS ’14, and Georgetown University ’18) for returning to TDS to speak about her mom, and what this race means to her. Now in the working world, Casey flew home from Detroit, MI, and she brought a dozen friends with her, including SarahBelle Selig (TDS ’10, Jordan ’14, University of Southern California ’18), her best friend since Kindergarten. They were blown away by all of the amazing changes on campus since they graduated.

Thanks as well to the many volunteers who made this event possible, to the TDS Chorus for singing the National Anthem, and to the cheerleaders for helping many of us find that final burst to cross the finish line, and for providing the post-race entertainment.

Here are some 5K race results:

Overall Winners

  • Male – Matt Hirschey
  • Female – Kate Newman
  • Male, TDS Middle School – Wil Schneider (6th)
  • Female, TDS Middle School – Avery Keats (6th)
  • Male, TDS Lower School – PJ Lefebvre (3rd)
  • Female, TDS Lower School – Lingfei Tang (4th)

Students Crossing the Finish Line Ahead of Mr. Norry (boys) or Ms. Hoffman (girls) – These students enjoyed an all-you-can-eat lunch from Cookout today:

  • 2nd – Bella Boytor, Olivia Neely, Skylar Offield
  • 3rd – Milan Krishnamoorthy, PJ Lefebvre, Avery Neely
  • 4th – Lingfei Tang, Irena Rand
  • 5th – Nayan Valdez, Connor Winstead
  • 6th – Avery Keats, Wil Schneider
  • 7th – Kylie Hansell
  • 8th – Adri Garcia

Assuming that my time was respectable, what accounts for these kids being so fast? Some are definitely athletes who run plenty; a few were core members of the TDS Cross Country team. Some no doubt have the benefit of “running” genes. In a few cases, their parents were pacing them through the race! But I think it’s more than physical attributes.

All of this got me thinking about an article that appeared a while back in Education Week which highlights a study conducted by the Brookings Institution and the Center on Children and Families. The study attempts to measure the impact of performance character traits on long-term success in life.

To begin, the authors distinguish between performance character (qualities that make us more likely to work hard, develop our talents, and achieve our goals) and moral character (qualities needed to be ethical). For this study, researchers focused on two performance character strengths:

  • Drive – Defined as the ability to apply oneself to a task and stick with it, even when it becomes difficult or boring. This strength combines hard work and resilience.


  • Prudence – Defined as “the ability to defer gratification and look to the future.” Those with prudence can plan for the future and exert self-control in the moment.

This study relied on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which first questioned a cohort of mothers about their children at age 5-6, then again at 10-11, and then tracked those children into adulthood. Analyzing this longitudinal data set, the authors concluded that children who scored high on drive and prudence go on to “attain more years of education, earn more, and likely outperform other individuals in other areas of life.” More specifically, when analyzing correlations with academic success, it seems that drive and prudence matter as much as math and reading scores.

I’m not suggesting that 5K race results have any long-term predictive value when it comes to success in life. That said, I can tell you that I saw plenty of drive as we made our way through American Village. Just to single out one child, there were plenty of times during the race when I approached Milan K. and assumed I would pass him. He looked like he desperately wanted to walk, but every time I got close, he pushed his little legs to move even faster.

These performance character traits complement our core values at TDS, and it is certainly our goal to help develop them in all children. During the upcoming parent-teacher conferences, I encourage you to ask teachers whether they observe these traits in your children, as well as how parents and teachers can work together to build them.


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

Upcoming Twister Trot – October 12,2018

Middle School students have Physical Education classes each day at TDS. Under the leadership of Coach Morrison, students develop athletic skills, play games focusing on teamwork and problem-solving, and build their physical fitness. To that end, Wednesdays are running days – either the mile or the pacer – and Coach M charts their progress.

We have some fit, fast students at TDS. To date, our grade-level leaders for the mile are:

  • 8th grade – Kyle  (6:55) and Adri  (7:18)
  • 7th grade – Otto (6:01) and Kate (7:25)
  • 6th grade – Wil  (5:57) and Avery (6:47)

To add some perspective, I have a vivid memory of lining up next to my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Murray, to await the start of the Apple Pie Invitational in the spring of 1984. Mr. Murray had proclaimed that any sixth grader who beat him in the two-mile race would enjoy no homework for one month! My plan was simple: stay right on his heels until the end, then sprint in front. The plan lasted one hundred yards, after which I collapsed and walked the rest of the race with my mom. I think Mr. Murray’s pace was in the 6:30 range. He would not be able to make that proclamation at TDS in 2018!

Looking ahead to next Saturday, the entire TDS community will have the opportunity to gather for a morning of exercise and fun. Calling all runners and walkers: I hope to see you on campus on Saturday, October 20th at 9:00 AM for our 5K run, or 1-mile fun run, through American Village.

The TDS Twister Trot, formerly Marcy’s Run, is a race to honor the courage and strength of our community. Marcy Speer was a dedicated wife, mother, and world-renowned geneticist at Duke University. She lost her battle with cancer in 2006. At the time, Marcy’s Run was created as a way to honor her memory as well as her contributions to the TDS community, and to support science education. Sadly, in the years since the race began, the TDS community has had many other families affected by cancer. With the blessing of the Speer family, the race took on a new a few years ago. The Twister Trot honors all families who have been or currently are being affected by this terrible disease, and we invite all of our racers to honor a friend or family member impacted by cancer at our race.

Racers will have much to look forward to upon crossing the finish line, including some treats from local merchants, face painting, a performance by the TDS cheerleading squad, a bouncy house in the gym, and a fire truck to explore! You, and more importantly your children, will not want to miss this community event! Click here to register for the race.

To ensure the success of this race, we need a team of volunteers. If running or walking isn’t your thing, please consider directing runners on the course, managing the water station, or helping with race-day registration or parking. Click here to join a team of dedicated race-day volunteers.

Finally, my annual challenge for TDS students (not alums!), which has lightened my wallet in recent years.  All boys who cross the 5K finish line ahead of me, and all girls who finish the 5K ahead of Ms. Hoffman (our Lower School Spanish teacher and, I certainly hope, a fast runner!), will earn an all-you-can-eat lunch! Last year, several students beat me, including [then 2ndgrader] P.J. Look out, P.J., I’ve been training! Please consider joining us for this fun-filled morning at TDS. Sign up today!

Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

Core Values – October 4, 2018

With apologies to Middle School parents, I’m using this week’s letter to share my remarks at last Thursday’s Back to School Night with a wider audience.

This morning, like every other morning, my daughter Kate and I got into my car to drive to school, and she did what she always does, she turned off the radio. In the 5-10 seconds that NPR was playing, of course, we heard the term “sexual assault.” We’ve probably heard that term 10-15 times over the past several weeks, and that’s just in the few seconds that she lets me listen to the radio. And if it’s not sexual assault, then it’s something else that I have mixed emotions about her hearing.

I don’t know if the world is appreciably different from when we were in Middle School, but our access to the world is exponentially greater – the 24 hour news cycle, our phones, social media – it can be overwhelming. As Hurricane Florence was battering the Carolinas, we saw corresponding imagery of Typhoon Mangkhut moving across parts of Asia, causing death and destruction. And as we now mobilize to help victims in our state, should we care any less about those halfway around the world? These are tough questions that, even though many of us feel the urge to shield our children from what’s out there, they will have to grapple with as they transition to adulthood.

And I haven’t even mentioned politics and competing ideologies. Spend a few hours watching CNBC and Fox News on split screen, and you might conclude that they are reporting about different countries.

More than ever, we need to teach our students to think critically for themselves, to be thoughtful and skeptical consumers of information, to tell fact from fiction, to understand bias, and to be able to clearly articulate their own views both orally and in written form. In fact, this is a major focus in both Language Arts and Social Studies, particularly in 7th grade, as students deconstruct, analyze and write persuasive pieces, discuss biases and motivations, and investigate primary sources. Math and science get in on the act as well. Just a few weeks ago we read stories in class which exposed the dangers of inferring causation from correlation.

Simply put, there is just so much noise, we need to give our kids the skills to make sense of it all. So, even during this time of adolescence when self-absorption is the norm, we need to expose them to what’s going on in the world, with no specific agenda other than that they should begin to interpret the world, and they should figure out what they care about.

Finally, in today’s world, it seems more important than ever to focus on the TDS core values. If our children graduate from TDS more honest with themselves and others, more respectful of everyone, particularly those with whom they don’t agree, more responsible when it comes to their duties, but also when it comes to this planet, more compassionate, empathetic friends who listen before they talk, and more resilient, not shying away from challenges but rather using failure as fuel to try harder and get stronger, then we will truly have succeeded at providing a transformational experience, and they will be far more than prepared for high school, they will be well on their way to leading lives of purpose, which our world so desperately needs.

Douglas E. Norry
Head of School