BLAST FROM THE PAST: Charlotte Nichols remembers SCDS sports, Neukom’s point system, controversial high-school drinking article

Charlotte Nichols was editor-in-chief from 1999-2000 and played varsity volleyball. The school was considering changing campuses, looking at one in Rancho Cordova until a plane crashed on it. Selden Edwards had just been named permanent headmaster after serving a year as interim headmaster. Nichols majored in marketing at Georgetown University, then earned a M.B.A. from Stanford University. She currently works as the director of marketing at UGallery, a small art e-commerce start-up based in San Francisco.

Q: What do you remember about SCDS?

A: My most vivid memories were always at the start of a sports season. There was something exciting about being on a new team and feeling the camaraderie between the classes.

I loved taking the long bus rides on Friday afternoons for the away volleyball games, hanging out at the gym or in the parking lot after basketball games in the winter, or lingering on the soccer field playing fun games even though it was getting dark out. We all would have stayed in the parking lot or on the court forever if we could.

Most high schoolers probably can’t wait for the 3 o’clock bell so they can get out of there, but at Country Day I always remember the feeling of not wanting to leave at the end of the day.

Q: The school got very close to changing campuses when you were a senior. What do you remember about that?

A: At one point we got pretty close to building; the architect firm had floor plans that they put on the library floor, and (students) got to put sticky notes on them to suggest things, which was really fun.

Q: What were the biggest talking points among the students?

A: Parking was a big deal when I was there, and we had just started going to the Uni-lot.

Q: How did the school change while you were there?

A: We had just gone to “the deanery” system, where we had three high-school deans (math teacher Sally Powell, history teacher Sue Nellis and history teacher Daniel Neukom) instead of (one principal). It worked out well, but also meant some of the best teachers were taking on fewer classes.

Q: Is there a class you remember very well?

A: Interestingly, I remember a lot more about specific teachers than classes. I think that speaks to the closeness that we felt with all of the teachers when we were there. I remember Mr. Neukom docking us points for not drawing the Etesian Winds big enough on a quiz, and Mr. Masiel teaching entire classes on a core-strengthening balance ball, and Ms. Fels’s red pens….

Q: Did  headmaster Edwards ever get mad at the Octagon?

A: Several times we published controversial articles that got people mad. Once I wrote an article about drinking in high school, and I interviewed people who said they’d drunk, and that got people mad.

Q: Can you elaborate on this article?

A: It was about high-school aged students and drinking. We had polled high schoolers, asking if they had ever had more than four drinks in a night, and published the results with a controversial headline (“62% of SCDS high schoolers ‘binge’ drink”). The uproar was mainly around whether the data we published was true, because it was a much higher occurrence of drinking than parents or the administration expected.

We also asked whether people “had ever” drunk that much, and then wrote the story in a way that implied they did it all the time.

Regardless of whether the data was right or the article was written objectively, I do think it raised the conversation on campus and got people talking about the subject in a way that hadn’t been done before.

Q: Have you stayed in touch with your classmates?

A: Yes, I’ve stayed close with some of my best friends. I have also become really close with people who weren’t in my class at Country Day, but we have gotten to know each other in San Francisco. It’s the kind of school where you can easily reach out to people no matter where you are.

A shorter version of this column was previously published in the print edition on Oct. 28, 2014.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email