Q & A with Ben Bonaventura: Improving Student Programs, Academics at Ross

Q&A In his role as assistant head of Upper School, Ben Bonaventura is focused on improving the academic and student experience at Ross School. School News recently talked with Ben about his role in the administration, the School’s new extended-day program, and the boarding program.

Describe your role as assistant head of Upper School. My first priority is to assist Patty Lein, head of Upper School, and our leadership team with implementing the Spiral Curriculum and improving the academic development, boarding program, and community experience for our students, faculty, and staff.

What specific initiatives do you oversee? I manage the teaching and administrative associates as well as the residential life experience.

We currently have 32 very talented professionals at Ross who are assisting our faculty and staff in classrooms and offices, coaching athletic teams, and managing aspects of the community and boarding programs.

Because of our stellar curriculum and the diversity and breadth of our programs, Ross School is a teaching laboratory, and many of our associates will develop into teachers and academic leaders at Ross and other distinguished learning institutions.

The extended-day program kicks off on March 24. Tell us about it. This is a stellar program for all students not already involved in an interscholastic team sport. Between the after-school and dinner hours, boarding students and interested day students can participate in a diverse lineup of activities—from surfing, to jujitsu, to “mathletics,” to yearbook, to art classes. I’m particularly pleased that our students will also have access to the YMCA in East Hampton free of charge.

The important thing is that we’ve listened to what the students want. I’ll hold an assembly in Gandhi Hall next week to give them the details.

What’s new with Residential Life? First and foremost we are concerned with the safety and well-being of all students, and I work closely with our great Residential Life directors Sonja Becker and T.J. Mackey to ensure Ross School provides our boarding students with a safe home away from home.

As a father to four boys, I also know that part of a happy home is providing structure, a ready ear to listen, and, of course, entertainment. So in addition to all the great extracurricular activities, we’re working to turn the Center for Well-Being into more of a student center during off hours. For example, last semester, many of the kids asked for an Internet café, and we delivered. On March 28, we’ll host a Sean “Diddy” Combs–style White Party in the CWB.

Along with my staff, I keep in close communication with the Parents Association throughout the semesters and as we implement new programs, and we’re always appreciative of their support. Most recently, we focused on integrating a Ross School parent group in China into our discussions.

We also just announced a new five-day boarding program for students who live on Long Island or Manhattan and are close enough to campus to return home over the weekends.

All of this keeps us busy, but it’s so rewarding. My wife and I are house parents to 11 students, and one of the things we appreciate most is simply being there when they need to talk. As one student put it, “Mr. B., I hear you’re a man of the people.” I’m still smiling about that one.

What brought you to Ross School? I came to Ross in 2013. In the past, I was head of a boarding school in Virginia and a professor at St. Joseph’s College. I have always taught interdisciplinary cultural history, so Ross School and its Spiral Curriculum were of specific professional interest.

I was thrilled to join Ross School and share my experience in building successful academic, student-life, and boarding programs.

What’s on your spring and summer agenda? We’ll be busy with the extended-day program, Summer Camp @Ross, and Summer Term @Ross. Most of our students will leave the residences on June 19 and return after Labor Day, but we’ll continue to be busy throughout the summer.

Personally, I’m excited for baseball season. I’ve been a coach and mentor at the high school and collegiate levels for 37 years and will continue this summer as assistant coach of the Southampton Breakers.

I’ll also spend time with my four sons, one of whom took home the silver medal this month at the NCAA National Wrestling Championships.