The faculty members of The Heights School work with parents to assist in the intellectual, moral, physical, and spiritual education of the boys and young men entrusted to them. They provide academic, athletic and cultural programs for boys in grades three through twelve and opportunities for parents to get involved with the life of the School.
The Heights offers a liberal arts education that focuses on the development of intellectual virtues, helping to foster the practice of concentrated study and a sincere interest in the abundant goodness of the world. The curriculum is strongly grounded in the classic texts of Western civilization. Students achieve impressive results on recognized standards of excellence such as Advanced Placement tests, SAT exams, and ACT exams. Many Heights graduates go on to the best colleges in the nation.
Heights parents and faculty work together to form boys into the type of men they would want their daughters to marry. The all-male faculty strives to present an example of what it means to be a true Christian gentleman, someone striving to do the ordinary things of life extraordinarily well for the love of God and in the service of others. All student programs take place in the context of a personal approach to education where cheerfulness goes hand-in-hand with hard work and a striving to conquer oneself.
This Student & Parent Handbook is intended to serve as an overview of The Heights School, its philosophy and programs. Additional information is also available on the School’s website: www.heights.edu.
A Brief History
A group of Catholic laymen, many belonging to the Prelature of Opus Dei (Work of God), founded The Heights School in 1969. Starting as a middle school on Garrison Street in Northwest Washington, D.C., The Heights aimed to prepare boys for success in high school while inculcating in them a deep Christian formation, an adventurous approach to life’s challenges, and the desire to seek holiness in and through everyday life and work. From the beginning, the School sought guidance from Opus Dei to ensure the Christian orientation of all the School’s activities.
Dr. Robert H. Jackson arrived in 1971 to assume the role of Headmaster and to begin the upper school. Dr. Jackson, an Englishman, left his mark on the School in various ways. A lively and witty approach to the rigors of study and a disdain for false prestige characterized his leadership of the School.
In 1978, The Heights purchased the Potomac campus and started the lower school. By 1983, construction of the main building allowed the entire school, grades three through twelve, to be united on the Potomac campus. The Garrison Street facility reverted to its original use as a supplemental educational center for young men and is now known as the Tenley Study Center.
The growth of the School continued throughout the tenure of Headmaster Joseph McPherson, 1983-1997. Capture-the-Flag on feast days, the Maryland Day Gala, the Senior Project, and the intramural flag football tournament became Heights traditions under his aegis. The Board of Directors adopted a Master Plan for the improvement of the School’s physical plant that was approved by Montgomery County.
Under the leadership of Richard McPherson, Headmaster from 1997 until 2002, The Heights continued to blossom. Heights students distinguished themselves on the national Advanced Placement exams, and increasing numbers of boys were accepted into the nation’s most prestigious universities. A new log cabin was built in 1997, and the library and Chesterton Hall were built in 1999. The School’s entrance was reconfigured, and outdoor basketball and tennis courts were added. The Clans of the Crest began in 2001.
Alvaro de Vicente ’83 assumed the role of Headmaster in July 2002. As an alumnus, a former board member, and a soccer coach, Mr. de Vicente lends to the position a thorough knowledge of the spirit and culture of the School: to educate young men of vision and purpose who look to serve society through their professional work and family life. Mr. de Vicente’s administration, with the active support of the Board of Directors, has focused on attracting and retaining the highest caliber of faculty, while preserving and expanding the campus buildings to match the excellence of the School’s curriculum and academic accomplishments. A new chapel, upper school, and administration building were opened during the 2007-08 school year.
In 2009-2010 the School celebrated its fortieth anniversary. The following five years saw numerous academic, cultural, and athletic initiatives and achievements flourish at the School. The upper school has expanded its curriculum with the addition of the Robert H. Jackson Scholars Program (named in honor of the first Headmaster of The Heights) and the History of Western Thought program. The seventh through tenth grade Humanities “Core” program has enabled students to think broadly and to facilitate their transition to mature learning.
The advent of the Curriculum Alive program in the lower school has provided students with the love of adventure and an interest and passion in drama, mountaineering, culinary delights, gardening and other areas. The upper school Crescite Week seminars and trips have expanded in recent years to include adventures to Japan, Hong Kong, Peru, Ecuador, Iceland, Argentina, and the Holy Land; in addition, a service trip to Jamaica has become an annual addition to Crescite Week. The music, drama and studio art programs have developed outstanding opportunities for our students, with yearly performances and art exhibits. In 2016, the Cavalier Awards expanded to include awards in the music and arts programs.
In November of 2017, The Heights honored its first and only fallen Cavalier, Lt. Andrew Bacevich ’98, with a schoolwide dedication of a memorial plaque. Thanks to members of the class of 1998, the music department, Dr. and Mrs. Bacevich, and the idea of Mr. Chris Breslin, we were able to host this memorable event. In the spring of 2018, a new turf field was inaugurated, and additionally, the following spring, a new baseball field. That same year, a new music hall and rehearsal space with marked acoustical improvement was completed.
The Crest and Motto
The cross buttonee derives from the Crusades and is part of the Crossland-Calvert arms; it appears on the state flag of Maryland. The lily and rose are traditional motifs of the Virgin Mary. The eponymous device of the tower represents the qualities of strength and vision. The motto, Crescite, comes from Genesis 1:28, “Increase and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it…,” and means “to increase, multiply or grow.”
The Clans of the Crest
The School is divided (students, faculty, and staff) into four clans. The clan names are taken from the four elements of the school Crest, each with a motto connected to the ideals that complete a Heights man: (1) Gold Cross – love of God; (2) Red Cross – service; (3) White Lily – pure love and fruitfulness; and, (4) Red Rose – friendship. The Clans of the Crest serve many important purposes including:
- To communicate and encourage the embodiment of the School’s ideals;
- To strengthen the enthusiasm and spirit for the School while giving a strong sense of belonging to a tradition and family;
- To create “rallying points” throughout the year marked by festival days that include holy Mass, competitions, a worthy meal, and spirited games;
- To encourage leadership and a sense of pride at the School.
The Prelature of Opus Dei
Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. Its purpose is to foster among men and women of every walk of life a profound awareness of the universal call to holiness and apostolate, pursued freely and on their own responsibility, in their ordinary work and place in society.
Founded in 1928 by Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Opus Dei received its definitive juridical approval by the Holy See in 1982. It began in the United States in 1949 in Chicago and now serves in over twenty-five cities in the United States and in over sixty countries worldwide. The spiritual direction of The Heights School is entrusted to Opus Dei; additional information is available at www.opusdei.org. All other aspects of the School are the responsibilities of the Board of Directors or the Administrative Council.
The Tenley Study Center
The Tenley Study Center is a not-for-profit supplemental education center dedicated to the character development of young men. Its mission is to provide young men between the ages of twelve and twenty-five with the direction and encouragement they need to see their life’s work and family responsibilities in a larger, more generous way: to view them as a means of serving God and others, a framework for growth in character, and a way to contribute to the common good of society.
An integral aspect of the spirit imparted by Tenley comes through contact with the Center’s experienced and dedicated staff and residents. They provide young men with the example and moral support they need but so often lack. Through this contact, they learn the value of true, enduring friendship and professional dedication – a lesson that lasts a lifetime. The spiritual foundation of Tenley’s programs is entrusted to Opus Dei. Priests of Opus Dei are available to provide spiritual guidance to any staff member, resident, or student who may want it.
Among the programs offered by the Tenley Study Center for middle and high school students are weekly academic and character development seminars for each grade, service projects, and outings. For more information on the Tenley Study Center or any of its programs, please contact Joe Cardenas at 4300 Garrison St., NW; Washington, DC 20016; telephone: 202.362.2419; www.tenley.org.
Study and Homework
Study is the first priority of students. This activity occurs at school, in the classroom, and at home. Time spent each school night on homework should be about 1-1.5 hours for lower school students, 1.5-2 hours for middle school students, and 2-3 hours for upper school students. A regular time (sooner rather than later) and a regular place for homework, study, and review (in addition to written assignments) help develop the habits of mind necessary to succeed academically. Students who are absent from school are expected to make up the work they missed as soon as they reasonably can. Participation in athletics or other activities does not excuse a student from academic responsibilities.
Classes are where the spirit of study intensifies. It is the responsibility of a student to be materially, physically, and mentally prepared for study and class work. Students are expected to bring pens, pencils, notebooks, textbooks, and any other required materials to class. Students need regular amounts of sleep as well as breakfast and lunch in order to be able to concentrate. Punctuality and outward appearance in dress and posture are signs of a student’s attitude and willingness to work.
Additional information about the academic program is found on the School website: heights.edu/academics.
Report cards are issued quarterly. Interim progress reports are sent via email to parents twice each quarter for quarters one through three and once for quarter four.
The Grading Scale
- A 90 – 100 Excellent
- B 80 – 89 Good
- C 70 – 79 Average
- D 60 – 69 Poor
- F Below 60 Failing
- S – Satisfactory
- U – Unsatisfactory
- P – Pass
- I – Incomplete
Academic honesty is critical to the School’s mission. By academic dishonesty, students commit an injustice against others, damage morale, and harm themselves by replacing honest effort with fraud.
An offense against academic honesty may be committed by:
- cheating on a quiz or test;
- plagiarism or the unacknowledged borrowing of the work of an author;
- using unauthorized aids;
- copying another student’s homework.
An offense against academic honesty will lead to a failing grade and parental notification. A second offense may result in lack of credit, immediate parental conference, failure for the marking period in which the offense is committed, and suspension. A third offense may result in further suspension or expulsion from school.
The Mentoring Program is a unique and integral part of the educational mission of The Heights School. Each student will have a faculty mentor with whom to discuss his academic and personal progress.
The Mentoring Program seeks to bring together all of the different aspects of the School’s programs – academic, athletic, and spiritual – into one single conversation. In so doing, mentors help each student reach his full potential both in his academic endeavors and in his personal formation.
Students may be excused from class to meet with their mentors. Regular communication fosters fruitful conversation, goal setting, encouragement, support, and accountability. The most basic duty of a mentor is to look out for his mentee, taking an active interest in his life and his development.
Since parents are the primary educators of their sons and the ones who know him best, cooperation between parents and mentors is a necessary component for an effective mentoring program. Regular communication between parents and mentors is welcomed and encouraged.
The Heights College Counseling Office assists upper school students and their parents through the college selection and application process.
Beginning in 10th grade, students are assigned a college counselor who will meet personally with him and assist him in the application process. From preparing for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT tests, to providing guidance about the college selection process, the college counselors offer years of expertise and care in assisting students and their families in finding the college that will meet their needs and lay the groundwork for their future success.
The college counseling office offers numerous opportunities and workshops where students can broaden their college horizons and develop their applications, as well as opportunities for parents to learn more about the process. More information on this program can be found on the school website at www.heights.edu/college-counseling.
The Heights SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) Coordinator works through the college counseling department to assist families in applying for standardized testing accommodations (e.g. extended time). For more information, contact Dr. Gojko Stare at email@example.com.
Guidelines for Students
Regular and punctual attendance is expected and required of all students at The Heights. Detention will be given for unexcused absences or lateness.
The school day begins at 8:20 a.m. each morning. A student who comes to his first class after 8:20 a.m. must report to the main office to notify the secretary of his presence and to receive a tardy slip in order to be admitted to class. Tardy students may be subject to after-school detention.
In case of absence from school for illness or some other serious reason, a parent or guardian should call or email the School’s main office and inform the secretary of the student’s absence. You can reach the front office at 301-365-4300, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If parents wish to take a student out of school for several days for personal reasons, it is advisable to discuss it with the appropriate Head of School. Should a student be absent for an extended period of time, please contact your son’s School Head or mentor, and make plans for homework and assignments that he will miss. Again, please notify the main office.
Appointments for doctors, dentists, driving tests, etc., should be made outside of school hours, such as on half days or vacation days. If it is necessary to leave school during the day, a note, dated and signed by a parent or guardian indicating the reason, must be presented before the beginning of school to the main office. An early dismissal slip will then be issued.
A student may be excused from a class for a sports event, a mentoring meeting, or for a specific purpose at school, but it is advisable to do so with the prior permission of his teacher. Any work covered during the missed class is the responsibility
of the student.
Frequent absence and habitual tardiness are detrimental to a student and his studies. A parental conference may be requested if there is a problem with attendance or punctuality. Parents are asked to support the School’s efforts to promote its lateness and attendance policies.
Severe Allergy Guidelines
If your son might require immediate access to emergency medication such as an EpiPen, please make sure you follow the important guidelines below. Following these two guidelines allows us to ensure that we will always have the right response prepared for an allergic reaction on campus.
- Provide any EpiPens that are prescribed by your son’s pediatrician to our front office in a bag with his name on it. At the beginning of each year, please confirm that the EpiPens we have on file are updated and unexpired. EpiPens should not be dropped off anywhere but the front desk (sent to homerooms etc.) in order to ensure that they are present in the event they become needed.
- Please know that any EpiPens you provide to the front office will remain at the front office and will not ever be sent on field trips or off campus to athletic events. If your son leaves the campus for any reason, including school sponsored events, please know that it is your responsibility to send a different EpiPen set with him and either notify the faculty member who is leading the trip of this situation or provide it directly to the faculty member who is leading the trip.
The Heights School is a training ground for adult responsibility and for a professional sense of work. Appropriate standards of dress and grooming will be maintained. Common sense is an indispensable guide, but the following specific guidelines apply.
Extreme and inappropriate hairstyles (long hair – in the eyes, over the collar) violate the dress code. Students must be clean shaven.
Faculty and administration will enforce dress and grooming regulations with regular scheduled detentions after school. Egregious or continuous violations may result in more serious punishments, including suspension, until the dress or grooming is corrected.
- Upper school and eighth grade students: sport coat with the following – dress trousers, dress shirt, tie, belt, dress shoes, and socks.
- Sixth and seventh grade students: dress trousers, dress shirt, tie, belt, shoes, socks, and a sweater as needed.
- Lower school students: trousers, dress shirt, tie, belt, sturdy shoes, and socks.
The complete school dress (including coat or sweater) must be worn at all times during school hours with the following exceptions: when a teacher allows a sport coat to be taken off in class; physical education period, in which case appropriate physical education dress is to be worn; field trips, provided that the faculty guide or the Headmaster has specified another appropriate manner of dress.
During break period and lunch, students may take off their sport coats and sweaters. Outer garments are to be worn only outside in cold weather.
If a student has a legitimate reason to be out of proper dress, he must have a signed and currently dated note from a parent.
Note the following:
- Dress pants must hold a crease; no jeans, jean styles or any form of denim pants; no mid-thigh pockets, painter’s pants, or fatigue pants.
- Dress shirts must have a collar; no denim or jean styles, flannel, or turtlenecks are to be worn. Shirts must be tucked in at all times.
- Dress shoes do not include any type of athletic footwear. All shoes and leather boots with laces must be laced up through all eyelets and tied.
- Outer garments are not to be worn inside the school buildings.
- Colors should be consistent with professional work; “loud” or other inappropriate clothing will not be allowed. Examples of other dress code violations include: hats in any building, head bands, bandanas, ornamental jewelry (e.g., earrings), torn clothing and anything inconsistent with the tone of this policy, which is one of professional work.
Prudence dictates against bringing large amounts of money or valuables to school. All personal belongings of a student are his own responsibility and should be kept in a secure place when not on his person. The School provides lockers for this purpose. The misplacement and forgetful leaving of personal property by students is unfortunate. We urge parents at least to label personal property with their names. Names should be included on backpacks, jackets, clothing, books, calculators, and other items.
Personal Electronic Devices Policy
Electronic devices that give access to the Internet, make audio or visual recordings, or play recordings, include, but are not restricted to, cell phones, smart phones, flip phones, smart watches, headphones, and cameras. These, and any other types of personal belongings not appropriate in a school atmosphere, are not permitted on campus before, during, or after the school day, or on any school-sponsored trip.
In addition, detection of electronic devices in a classroom during a quiz or test falls under the category of a possible “unauthorized aid” that is mentioned in the Academic Honesty section of the handbook. Students are liable to the penalties prescribed in the handbook.
While phones are considered electronic devices, a specific detailed school policy applies for all types of phones and is explained below.
Courtesy and respect should govern all conduct within the School community. The restriction of these devices is driven by a concern for the right to privacy of each student, member of the faculty, and staff of the School. The unauthorized recordings, audio or visual, of these devices during the school day to share via social media by students is unacceptable. This distribution is an extremely grave matter.
Cell Phone Policy
OBJECTIVE: The academic day at The Heights is a privileged time and place for students. The goal of this policy is to keep them free from the distractions caused by these devices during the school day.
The School’s cell phone policy will begin on the first day of school. It is as follows:
- Students in grades three through eight may not bring cell phones to school.
- Students in grades nine through eleven — We recommend that students do not bring cell phones to school. However, if they choose to do so, their phones must be off. Phones will be collected and securely stored at the beginning of the school day and returned at the end of the day as listed below.
- 9th grade — drop off when entering the classroom of first period core teacher: Mr. Cardenas, Mr. Hatch, Mr. Hude, Mr. Lopes; cell phone storage containers will be taken to the front office when attendance is collected; pick up in room 32 after 3:05 dismissal;
- 10th grade — drop off and pick up in the office of Mr. Tom Royals;
- 11th grade — drop off and pick up in the office of Mr. Michael Moynihan.
** Please note: if there is a two-hour inclement weather delay, students should drop off their phones before third period at the following locations: 9th grade – front office; 10th grade – office of Mr. Tom Royals; 11th grade – office of Mr. Michael Moynihan.
- Students in grade twelve — Seniors are permitted to bring cell phones to campus and must abide by the following code of conduct:
- Phones must be off and locked either in the student’s car or locker, and no phone use will be permitted before 3:05 p.m. on campus.
- After 3:05 p.m. phones may be used outside school buildings for communication purposes only.
- A student arriving late to school is responsible for both reporting in and turning his phone in to the secretaries at the front office before proceeding to class.
- A student who is dismissed early for sports or other matters must inform the front office to receive an early dismissal slip, and make necessary arrangements with the front office for phone pick up when he is leaving school.
- After 3:05 p.m. phones may be used outside school buildings for communication purposes only. Faculty may restrict the use of phones or confiscate them for apparent misuse after 3:05 p.m.
- Violations and Consequences
- If any student is observed with a cell phone during the school day, or if a student in grades nine, ten, or eleven fails to turn in his cell phone and the phone is observed during the school day, the student will be assigned a detention and his phone will be confiscated for a significant period of time – a week or more.
- Repeated infractions by a student would be seen as a violation of the Policy and evidence of unwillingness to comply with the School’s Code of Conduct. The phone will be held for a period of time – a month to a full marking period – and the student may be suspended from classes.
- Parents should contact the front office when information must be communicated to their son. The office will locate the student and convey messages as needed. A phone is available for student use at the front office.
Students who drive are expected to drive carefully. The speed limit on the driveway is 15 mph. A driver takes full responsibility for himself and others. Reckless driving or leaving campus without permission will result in a conference with the parents of the student and possible suspension of parking or driving privileges.
- Only seniors will have a designated campus parking area. Satellite parking areas near campus will be designated for juniors and sophomores. School-run shuttles will provide students rides in the morning and afternoon.
- Students’ cars should be parked in one of the lower lots.
- Cars are not lockers; students should not have to return to their cars for anything during the school day.
Drug and Psychoactive Substance Abuse Policy
Any student who uses illegal drugs or psychoactive substances on campus or during school-sponsored activities will be immediately suspended and, after parental conference, may be removed from the School. In addition, such students and any student arrested for illegal drug use will be required to be tested for drug use bimonthly for six months at parental expense. Failure to pass a drug test during this period will result in expulsion. In addition, such students may be required to enroll in a drug/alcohol treatment program at parental expense.
Because drug use adversely impacts the academic and social tone of the School, the School will inform parents if it even hears of drug use by their son when off campus during non-school hours, to alert the parents to the possibility and to require the student to take a drug test.
The Heights faculty strives to work with parents so that punishments assigned to students redress and correct the wrong and help the boys to improve.
After-school detentions are one common form of punishment used to maintain the appropriate tone at The Heights School. A faculty member will inform a student when he has a detention. Also, for some upper school detentions, lists of students who are expected to serve after school will be posted. Sometimes a faculty member will inform parents directly that a student has detention. These attempts by the faculty to effectively communicate when students have detentions will help students and parents work out carpool arrangements in advance. It is primarily the responsibility of the student, however, and not The Heights faculty, to inform parents of after-school detentions. Detentions will generally go from 3:10 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. but may be longer for certain situations.
Athletes will miss practice and sometimes miss games when they coincide with an assigned detention. Students assigned to after-school detention are expected to be prompt. Any student late for assigned detention may be expected to serve that day and the next detention day as well.
The following offenses merit either suspension immediately after the offense and for the next school day, or, in repeated cases, expulsion:
- Vandalism of the School or another student’s property;
- Drug or alcohol use or possession on campus (see Drug and Psychoactive Substance Abuse Policy);
- Possession of obscene materials;
- Any intentional act that puts someone in danger of serious harm;
- Repeating an inordinate number of smaller offenses;
- Any other offense that is serious enough to warrant these measures.
An immediate conference with parents and school administrators will be called in some cases. In cases of suspension, readmission will be permitted only after a written request from the student for readmission that is also signed by a parent.
Other Behavior Guidelines
Every student should strive to contribute to the good atmosphere of the School by respecting the rights of others, especially their right to learn. A student is expected to conduct himself at all times in a noble manner befitting a Heights man.
In particular, the following infractions are punishable:
- Unexcused absence from class or leaving campus without permission;
- Display of disrespect for faculty (suspension for blatant offenses);
- Reckless driving (speeding, peeling out, riding on hood of car, etc.);
- Taunts of a racial, religious, or derogatory nature;
- Unjustified physical aggression or hazing;
- Foul or blasphemous language;
- Disruption of a class or study hall, or failure to use class or study hall time well;
- Misuse or lack of respect for school property (e.g., throwing textbooks, marking a desk, using a window as a door, littering);
- Unauthorized entry or presence in a building; entering areas that are off-limits;
- Dress code violations;
- Lack of class materials (textbooks, pen, homework, notebook, etc.);
- Lack of appropriate clothing for physical education (change of shirt, pants, shoes);
- Eating or drinking in unauthorized areas of the school building or gym;
- Use of the copier without permission;
- Throwing food;
- Smoking, use of all tobacco products, and use of vaping devices/e-cigarettes;
- Inappropriate use or possession of cell phones before 3:05 p.m. or in a school building; please see the Personal Electronic Devices Policy and Cell Phone Policy in this handbook;
- Any other behavior that affects the tone of the School negatively, whether done willfully or thoughtlessly.
The Heights School is committed to preserving an environment free of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature (visual, physical, or verbal) that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Complaints regarding violations of this policy will be promptly investigated by the Headmaster. Retaliation against anyone lodging a complaint will not be tolerated. Violators of this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.