Salisbury Academy Upper School welcomes visitors for open house

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 27, 2023

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Academy Upper School is preparing to open its doors for the first time. Administrators hosted an open house for anyone interested in their experiential take on education.

Historically, Salisbury Academy has just served students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. The new facility will be available to all high schoolers eventually, but the first year, it is just for the first three grades of secondary education.

The school’s target number of students for the first year is 15 to 20. Currently, 13 students are signed up to attend.

“That is across 9th, 10th and 11th grades,” said Meredith Williams, the head of the Salisbury Academy Upper School. “We are working on a few more.”

The Upper School is designed to give its students unique, hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.

“Instead of just taking a test, our students will apply what they know to community problems, solve challenges and have a lot of great work that will show the kind of learner they are for whatever comes next after high school,” Williams said. “The downtown location puts our students within steps of all of that real work that we are always talking about.”

So what will that look like?

“Students will have immersion classes where they will visit local gyms, local art museums, work with local artists and connect with local government,” Williams said. “They will be meeting with and interacting with folks that they can simply walk to see the work that they are doing.”

The setup lends itself to encouraging the students to become independent learners while also curating a group think tank style approach.

“They will get to eat lunch off campus some days, enjoy local coffee shops as they learn to manage their time,” Williams said. “We have classrooms, but I don’t think that any of our classrooms would be considered traditional simply because they are built around the student rather than the system. So [there is] flexible furniture that is not only comfortable for the students, but it encourages collaboration. There is space to move around and interact. The spaces are large enough for multiple classes to meet together and have interactions. All of that is a part of this phenomenal space.”

The Upper School structures itself like a college to prepare students for the next chapter of their education.

“One of the things we are doing from the very beginning is helping them understand how a college schedules words,” Williams said. “They will have seminar time with their teachers as well as lab time.”

Williams said that while college may not be the next step for every graduate, the goal to set them up for success remains the same.

“We want to graduate students who are motivated students but are also great communicators who can manage their time and have a respect for balance,” Williams said.

One of the teachers tasked with preparing those students for the next step is Scott Stieg, who will instruct them in mathematics.

“We are prepping them for whatever is next, whether it is college or career,” Stieg said. “Whether you are going to college, the military or a trade school, I think a solid foundation in mathematics is important.”

Stieg has taught at various levels across multiple states.

“It’s going to be a lot like when I taught in Arizona,” Stieg said. “The school I worked for out there was pretty much a college prep with a better than 99% graduation rate. I think this is going to be similar to that.

“I have done a little bit of adjunct work at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, so I am a little bit familiar with the collegiate thing. I am going to try and generate a college prep sort of atmosphere.”

Stieg’s colleague, Sergio Ossorio, will teach 9th and 10th graders English.

He began teaching in Harlem, New York and spent some time on the administrative side before returning to teaching. He spent the past two years at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis.

“I think the focus is a little bit different here, and it’s something that I am really looking forward to getting my feet wet in,” Ossorio said. The idea is for us to give them a very experiential experience. In public education, my experience has been to give a traditional school experience to the students. Here, we want them to really integrate into the community.

“I am trying to wrap my head around what that can look like and envisioning that. We have some great things in store for them, and it’s going to be great to see how that plays out.”

The Salisbury Academy Upper School is located at 316 Depot Street in downtown Salisbury.