Chesonis Commons Groundbreaking on November 26, 2012

Speech by Valerie Myntti, Interim Head of School

Good Morning Friends of the Harley School!

My name is Valerie Myntti and I am the Interim Head of the Harley School.

We are delighted to welcome you to this exciting event—one that we have waited for with bated breadth—the groundbreaking of the Chesonis Commons. It took the vision— the hard work—the talent—and the treasure of many dedicated Harley supporters—many of whom are gathered in this room today to bring this extraordinary endeavor to fruition. For that we are profoundly grateful.

The Chesonis Commons is a 21st Century barn that will house a cutting edge educational experience for Harley students—dedicated to creating a sustainable future. There is no other building or educational program like it—anywhere!

In 1926, Harley’s first Head of School, Louise Sumner, bought a 32-acre property covered with aging apple trees, a small white farmhouse and a large barn for $13,000 at 1981 Clover Street. The barn was torn down in 1974—and there are still members of our community to this day who mourn the passing of that old barn. Today, we will begin to re-raise the 21st Century version of the Harley barn. The Chesonis Commons will bring The Harley School into the forefront of innovative educational practice in science and sustainability AND connect us with our humble but sweet beginnings.

In the Commons, we are taking on the challenge of a net-zero building AND—as is our progressive school tradition—we will put the responsibility of achieving a minimal operational footprint in the hands of our students. The Commons will include a greenhouse and systems for sequestering carbon, a green wall and a solar chimney to naturally regulate the temperature in the building. Solar panels will be installed along with systems for rainwater collection and a solar hot water heating system. The Commons earns its status as a living building because it will generate its own energy—heat and cool with renewable—non-toxic resources—capture and utilize water and carbon in its greenhouse—and operate efficiently using students as the brains or controls for managing its operations. Systems will be controlled and monitored from a central control room operated by students. The Commons will demand that the Harley students keep a careful eye on its systems to be sure they have the energy needed to power lights, equipment, and to heat and cool the space. Students will have multiple opportunities to democratically decide how to inhabit this space—simple decisions such as deciding whether to keep the temperature at 60 degrees in the winter and encourage their peers to don sweaters. These discussions will become a part of the daily life in the Commons.

Chesonis Commons will be home to three new educational resources at the school including the Briggs Center for Civic Engagement, the Center for Mindfulness and Empathy Education, and a state of the art Science Center. In addition the basement will house a Projects Space and Work Shop—essentially a creative problem solving and innovative design program—a hands-on area that will provide students in grades K-12 with the space and support necessary for design thinking and student exploration focused on bringing ideas to reality.

Tom Johnson is the designer of the Commons, The Nichols Team is the Construction Company building the Commons, and Chris Costanza is the architect. We thank them for their brilliant work on this project.

Thank you for your generosity and your continued good will as we break ground for the Chesonis Commons.

At this time, I would like to introduce Peter Willsea, the President of Harley’s Board of Trustees.

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