As graduation day approaches, PA students ready themselves to say goodbye to the class of 2005. But this year the PA community has already bid farewell to individual students on much less joyous terms. A relatively high number of students from the class of 2006 have already left Andover. Every year, at least 10 students leave Andover voluntarily or are forced to leave. In the past years, according to Pot Pourri, 18 members of the class of 2001 left Andover before graduation, 19 left from the class of 2002, 42 from the class of 2003, and 20 from the class of 2004. Although PA’s current Uppers have only been at Andover for three years, 29 members of the class of 2006 have departed the Academy. Nine students from the class of 2007 have left the school, and two students from class of 2008 have decided to leave. To date, in the 2004-2005 school year, two Juniors, four Lowers, 13 Uppers, and six Seniors have left Andover. Three of the 19 total departed students were dismissed, nine voluntarily withdrew, and seven are currently on a leave of absence until the fall of 2005. According to the Blue Book, a student is required to withdraw on two accounts. A cluster discipline committee recommends to the Dean of Students the dismissal of a student who fails to live up to the expectations and rules of the school. It is up to the Dean of Students to make the final decision after having reviewed the case with the Academy psychologist, the disciplinary committee, and any other people who can provide assistance. Secondly, a student is asked to withdraw if the Year-End Review decides that the student is unable to meet the academic standards of the school. Any students who judge that PA is unsuitable for them may take a leave of absence from the Academy or withdraw voluntarily. To receive a leave of absence, the student’s parent must ask Dr. Curtis for permission or withdraw their child, sometimes with discipline pending. Leaves of absence allow the student to return after a set date. A former three-year Upper who was asked to leave the Academy this year wrote in an e-mailed statement, “Prior to PA, I attended public schools in my hometown and was always a straight-A student. The decision to come to Andover was tough, and the transition once I was there was even tougher. I guess I never really got fully adapted to the school; the bad habits I had developed while breezing through middle school proved too hard to break even after three years attending Andover.” The former student wrote of the school’s decision, “Being asked to leave Andover was extremely tough for me. I think the school may need to reconsider their priorities to some extent. Not to delve into the issue of disciplinary committee reform, but it seems unfair to me that a student found to be in the possession of drugs will almost always remain at the school after being caught only once, while a student beginning to struggle academically has a much more capricious future.” He continued, “But I am only now realizing through this new perspective all of the things I took for granted while I was there. I made many friends whom I would like to keep, and I hope to see some of them again in college and beyond.” Since the student left, he has enrolled at another prestigious New England boarding school and looks forward to pursuing his interests there. Another student who decided to leave Andover said, “I had a great time at Andover, well at least for the first term. The people were wonderful and the dorm life was fun, but the workload began to get heavy, and I had some personal issues with those around me. I decided that it would be better for me to live with my family who would provide unconditional support.” She continued, “I am right now attending a public school. If there was one thing that I benefited from PA, it’s the exposure to college-level work. Classes are a breeze. I’m back with my old friends and living with my family. I am going off to college in a few years and there isn’t much time left to spend some quality time with the family. I’m glad I made the decision to leave.” According to Associate Dean of Students and Psychological Counselor Cilla Bonney-Smith, many students who request a leave of absence attribute their decisions to academic and social reasons. Ms. Bonney-Smith said, “Living in a boarding school is a huge change. Kids are not used to so much academic learning. For students who have interests in athletics and social life, most of their free time is consumed by homework. PA is a fairly competitive environment and many kids are overwhelmed. Competitive students may come to think ‘this friend sitting next to me might also want that spot in Brown.’” She continued, “Although it’s important that a student likes being in a communal life, it really depends on one’s priorities. A person could be a loner and still be happy here, because [he/she is] nourished by studies, sports, music. It works for them…. Kids constantly search for ‘the place where I can become the best me.’ It may be here, or it may be at home.”
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