Farewell from Headmaster Clement

In this final farewell to the community, Headmaster Stephen M. Clement, III reflects on his 28 years of leadership at Browning and the gratitude he owes to the community – the boys, the parents, the alumni, the faculty and the trustees. Press play button to watch.

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"The Voice of the Turtle is Heard in Our Land"

March 17, 2016

Throughout the morning in my office, I have been hearing strains of music on Fifth Avenue wafting over from the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The balmy weather and the eager anticipation of the 38 boys and their coaches leaving soon on the annual Browning sports training trip to Florida mark the end of winter. At this time of year I think of the verses from the “Song of Solomon” as a predictor of spring: “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

The "turtle" in this case is not Browning’s own Tommy the Turtle, denizen of the Lower School Science Lab, but rather the cooing turtle doves, harbingers of spring. My own local harbinger is the Bartlett pear tree I look at outside my window on 62nd Street, with buds about to pop.

Of course, as a native of Buffalo I know that up ahead April is the cruelest month; nevertheless, I do feel a sense of the turn of seasons. Let me look back on winter at Browning and capture some of our highlights. From Lower School Head Laurie Gruhn, Middle School Head Chris Dunham and Upper School Head Jim Reynolds, I am appreciative of their examples of achievements. I also deeply appreciate their leadership; we have been a cohesive team of four for the past 10 years.

Ms. Kingsdale's Pre-primary boys observe a ball python in science class.

In the Lower School, in addition to our resident turtle, we had a visit from a snake handler (not charmer!) who brought five specimens, including a corn snake, ball python, Kenyan sand boa (now an adoptee affectionately named Sandy) and two rat snakes. And we could not be prouder of our boys’ success at the New York State Chess Championships, held last weekend in Saratoga Springs. For a small school, what a big showing!

We use New York City well. Pre-primary boys continued their study of penguins in Central Park; they have also started programming in Computer Class. First grade is gearing up for LEGO robot world championships. As part of their study of the history of New York and Black History Month, the second grade boys traveled to Harlem to visit the Apollo Theater. Third graders culminated their study of the Pilgrims with a play, and fourth graders pursued their knowledge of Vikings at the Discovery Times Square exhibit.

The third graders perform a play about the pilgrims' story of coming to the New World.

In the Middle School a capstone experience was Math-Science Night on February 10. Exhibiting in the Lower Gym, Cafeteria, the Chemistry Lab and Kingson Biology Lab, our boys displayed deep knowledge of their projects and conciseness in their presentations. Bravo!

Middle School winter athletics had a strong season, and the collective win-loss ratio of all Middle School basketball teams was 27 wins to 15 losses. Our basketball teams benefited from supplemental coaching made possible through the Parents Association, in addition to that of our own Browning coaches. Squash at the Harmonie Club yielded a record numbers of players and competitors.

Browning fifth graders participate in a regional programming hackathon at Riverdale Country School.

Browning’s technology department hosted the exciting Harvard CS50 hackathon. In the Upper School, the boys also participated in a computer hackathon series as part of the Agile Youth Challenge competition. The Upper School Math Team participated in the Interschool Math Bowl, hosted by Brearley in February. The Form IV Frost Valley trip with Brearley, Chapin, Nightingale, Spence and Collegiate was a powerful experience for all, and our Form VI peer leaders received kudos from the leaders of the other participating schools. Powerful assemblies included the Multicultural Club’s presentation on micro-aggressions to commemorate the work of Martin Luther King, which followed up on the work of Bryan Stevenson and his Common Book, “Just Mercy.” Past parent David Keyko (Christopher Keyko '15), Valerie Jacobs and alumnus Samora Legros '03 also spoke at an assembly on a similar topic. Browning’s Mock Trial Team competed and won against Global Learning Collaborative HS, placing them in the top 32 schools from the NYC region, out of over 100 when the season began.

Lower School parents and boys view week-long Art Show in Lower Gym.

As we head into Spring Break, the 2016 Art Show this week has been enjoyed by the entire Browning community.

So with sounds of turtles ringing in our ears, we are all ready for two weeks of spring vacation. I want to thank all of the faculty and staff, boys and their parents, for a very stimulating and productive winter term.


The Browning School Welcome NYSAIS Members

Browning hosted the September 21 NYSAIS Regional Meeting, with Headmaster Clement proudly welcoming all those in attendance to our newly renovated School. As a lively starter to the morning, he showed the video of Opening Assembly at which Lower School music teacher Lucy Warner sang “At Last,” complete with “new” lyrics co-written with Mr. Clement. The classic song, as revamped, began like this: “At last, our school has come along. Construction years are over and life is like a song.” Click here to watch the performance.

Mr. Clement then turned over the program to NYSAIS Executive Director Mark W. Lauria, who explained that NYSAIS Regional Meetings provide an opportunity for school heads, business managers, senior administrators and trustees in each region to meet and discuss issues of importance. Among the topics discussed on September 21 were current trends in education on the national and state levels; the advantages of the NYSAIS website and Listservs; the ways in which NYSAIS support schools encountering adverse conditions; and accreditation and professional development updates. 

This Regional Meeting was a wonderful introduction for new members of NYSAIS and proved most successful in assisting NYSIAS leadership with its plans for the 2015-16 school year and beyond. Mr. Lauria noted, “We had in attendance 38 schools, which is a good turnout for NYC. Kicking off our 2015 Regional Meetings at Browning really got us off to a good start!” Mr. Clement added, “It was great ‘at last’ to welcome our NYSAIS friends to Browning. I’m proud to show off the School!”

“At Last” Construction is Complete!

Above, watch Headmaster Clement proudly proclaim that “at last” construction at The Browning School is complete after five years, resulting in a transformation of the entire school house and providing both new and fully renovated academic space. Click on the photographs below to see the progress made this summer.

A Midsummer Message from the Headmaster

Headmaster Clement surveys the construction in the lobby.

“Charles Cook calling.”

Actually, it’s Steve Clement emailing, with a midsummer update from Browning! One of our summer changes at school has been the installation of a new phone system that gives us many options (which I have yet to master...). An oddity as the kinks are worked out is that many calls emanating from Browning are identified as coming from Charles Cook, my predecessor! He retired as Headmaster 28 years ago, so as I begin my last year, I wonder what my legacy will be in the next 28 years. When I took over Charlie Cook’s desk on July 1, 1988, I found two old phones, one the School’s and one personal, and an “industrial strength” typewriter. Imagine the changes in technology that lie ahead for my successor!

Speaking of changes, anyone who saw the School this spring will not recognize it this summer. For the big picture, this is what’s happening: the original school building, 52 East 62nd Street, stands completely gutted on the five floors between the Upper and Lower Gyms. In the 40 East 62nd Street building, the five school floors are also receiving adjustments to the spaces we inaugurated last fall. We are in the final year of the five-stage physical transformation of Browning, and no one is more eager for completion of the project than I! Below are a series of pictures taken by Jeremy Katz ’04, director of communications design, which show the progress of work to date. These photos are essentially a "before and after" depiction of our progress, allowing for an appreciation of all we've accomplished to date. Obviously it is easier to demolish than to build, but on the top floors in 52 we are beginning to see the structural changes which will be the bones of the “new” school.

Of course any school is so much more than bricks and mortar. High points this past spring were the many closing ceremonies: “Let’s Go on a Safari” for the Lower School on 6/5, Prize Day on 6/9, and Graduation on 6/10. In case you missed it, here is the link to the superb speech given by our graduation speaker Leymah Gbowee P '15, Nobel laureate and Browning mom. Here are two other end-of-year videos you might have overlooked, the fifth grade Portuguese Caravel Project and the Form II Subway Design Presentation.

Other quantifiable successes this year include the outstanding college admission record for the Class of 2015 and the news that the 2014-15 Annual Fund broke many records, raising over $1.9 million. We received 100% participation from the following groups: the Board of Trustees, The Browning School faculty, the Class of 2015, the Alumni Council, and parents of the Classes of 2023, 2025, 2026 and 2027. Total parent participation in the Annual Fund increased to 90% for the 2014-15 fiscal year, a school record!

Thank you all for making 2014-15 such a terrific year for Browning. You have given us a great platform for the new 2015-16 school year. During the remaining time, have a wonderful summer!

July 15, 2015

Leaving On A Jetplane for Spring Break

As the Upper School boys on the baseball, tennis and track teams prepared to leave for spring training in Florida yesterday, their suitcases in the lobby reminded me of the lyrics to a song most readers of the PA newsletter are too young to remember: “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go.” “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane,” written in 1966 by John Denver, was recorded by him and later by Peter, Paul and Mary.

What a winter this has been! February in New York was the coldest it has been since one year in the Great Depression, and a quick survey of the faculty on Wednesday showed over half of us had been sick this semester. However, winter term ended on a great note at Browning with the Annual Art Show, and the “snowbird” athletes’ departure for five days in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

On a personal note, I have had a very busy winter. My announcement to retire in June of 2016 was quickly followed by the annual meeting of the Headmasters Association.  As president this year, I was so proud of our list of speakers, including Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institute and former Deputy Secretary of State; Adam Faulk, president of Williams College; and Vijay Prashad, professor of International Studies at Trinity College. The members of Headmasters had been encouraged to read Henry Kissinger’s “World Order” in advance. Last week, I was away from school leading the four-day accreditation visit to Regis, for NYSAIS. This venerable Jesuit high school celebrated its centennial last year and invited independent school educators to review their rigorous self study; Browning will be preparing its self study for NYSAIS next year.

Browning boys and teachers have had a busy winter, too.  Highlights in the Lower School have included the annual Spelling Bee, the New York Cares coat drive, sandwich making for the homeless through the New York Common Pantry, and an assembly featuring Vincent Lionti, father of Nicholas ’19 and violist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and Michael Cedric Smith, a classical guitarist and father of Brogan ’17.

Every Middle School boy participated in a most impressive Math-Science Night with a record number of original experiments, as well as in the Modern Language Talent show featuring song, film and acting. A final victory placed the sixth grade basketball team in the School’s history books, as they enjoyed an undefeated (9-0) season!

In the Upper School, a very successful Model UN Team competed strongly at the ILMUNC competition at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Mock Trial team has won two competitions and been awarded a bye. The Round 4 match will be on Tuesday, April 14, at 5 p.m., at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse (100 Centre St). The college acceptance record of our current Form VI boys continues to be stronger and stronger.

What a winter. And guess what? Spring at Browning will be even busier!

March 13, 2015

Moving Back In And Moving Forward

Welcome back to Browning! Above, you can watch Headmaster Clement discuss the ongoing construction at the School and what lies ahead in the next year. Click on the photographs below to see the the progress made this summer.

November 10, 2014