Cardigan Mountain School A boarding and day school for boys in grades 6 through 9

Running Like Clockwork

Cardigan students between classes

(Originally published in Spring 2023 in News from the Head of School, Volume 6, Number 1.)

On the outside, an analog wristwatch looks pretty simple. The second hand sweeps noticeably around the dial, the minute hand moves just enough for the staring eye to see, and the hour hand—well, that takes longer. We take the precision involved for granted, as we might the rising and setting of the sun or the budding or falling of leaves. Beneath the watch’s façade, however, churn the inside workings that are its engine room. Each brass or steel gear turns at its own speed, all working in harmony to mark steady progress into the future.

It’s an apt analogy for life on The Point. Our school calendar must be just as precisely balanced in order to function smoothly: class schedules, staff responsibilities, and annual events must be carefully slotted into time and place in order to keep things moving forward. It is all of the folks who come together beneath the School’s visible surface, moving our community forward with precision, who are Cardigan’s inner workings.

Cardigan’s dining staff

Cardigan’s dining staff work through most school celebrations, whether those are focused on the campus community or serve the broader school community. At left, Executive Chef Greg Farrell gives the thumbs up to the main course during this year’s holiday dinner; at right, Dave Cushman grills for a Cardigan gathering in 1987.

Time has been much on my mind this year, particularly during the exhilarating celebration of our School’s 75th Anniversary this fall. What a joy it was to see current students meeting alumni, teachers greeting former students, and multiple generations of Cardigan families strolling across the campus—some for the first time. Different eras seemed layered together, and time seemed to pause for one beautiful, breathtaking weekend. Yet many were working in high gear to create the space for us to experience that interlude—keeping athletes safe, taking pictures all across campus (and on Mount Cardigan!), serving us incredible food late into the evening. On Sunday after guests had departed, our staff were right back at it: moving pumpkins, storing signs, shifting furniture, and—always—preparing us for what comes next.

From the outside the academic calendar may appear to be eight months long, but at Cardigan people work hard during each month of the year, and at almost every hour of the day. On a daily basis, you might find staff members roasting turkey in the Commons in the wee hours of the morning, preparing Humann Theatre for the coming day’s activities, stocking the shelves of the school store, or resurfacing the ice for a Fourths Hockey practice. We all experience the annual rhythm differently as well. During peaceful stretches for many faculty members (March or winter break, for example), you’ll find members of the Admissions and Development teams working double- time, traveling near and far to recruit or connect with the Cardigan community. On campus, these breaks are usually the busiest times of year for our Facilities staff: they work furiously to make repairs and improvements while academic spaces and dorms are temporarily empty. And, of course, summer “vacation” is nothing of the sort for most staff members. Before Summer Session students can burst onto the scene, our buildings and grounds and housekeeping teams must sprint to prepare playing fields, dorm rooms, and classroom buildings...and then repeat the whole process before fall’s opening day.

Healthcare at Cardigan

Healthcare must be available for sick or injured students 24/7 at Cardigan. In the 1960s and 1970s, resident nurse Mary Howe (left) was on call at all times. These days Director of Health Services Karen Gray coordinates a team of nurses, counselors, and other caregivers to ensure full coverage; at right, some of the team greet families at fall registration.

The academic schedule tends to remain front of mind, because it is at the center of Cardigan’s mission. Think of it as our more visible second hand, if you like. But it takes an underlying, intricate, and beautiful machinery to make that schedule run smoothly. The teaching and coaching faculty, most of whom live in the dorms with the boys, are able to focus on the students because of the many skilled and supportive staff members who travel back and forth from The Point every day, all year round, like clockwork. This is why each fall at our opening meeting I welcome faculty and staff by saying: “To those who are returning from time away—happy Cardigan New Year! And to the rest of you, happy Tuesday!” Time never stops on The Point. Our gears are always steadily turning, each of us moving at the speed required to achieve our purpose. By doing our job, we make it possible for someone else to do theirs.

We used to have an old carillon system that tolled out the hours, helping us mark time on The Point. After it conked out a few years ago, we made do with classroom clocks, but this fall we installed a new bell system. The chimes once again ring out to mark the passing of each hour, a welcome and constant reminder of time’s march forward. The new carillon spurs all of us within ear shot to make use of every moment we have together, but with or without the bells chiming on The Point, I know that it is Cardigan’s people—all of us—who work together to move the School forward.

That’s the Cardigan Way.

Chris Day

Christopher D. Day P’12,’13
Head of School

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