Dear SPS Community,
Last June, I wrote in a community update that the Board of Trustees had, at our May meeting, adopted an amended policy with regard to gifts and recognition, as well as a set of principles on renaming
. As I said at the time, renaming has become an issue at many institutions, and the Board believed that it is important to have an appropriate policy that aligns our gift and naming acceptance policies with our values.
Over the course of the summer, the Board has been prompted to address serious questions of such alignment with regard to buildings on the grounds named in honor of two former Rectors, Bill Oates and Bill Matthews. These questions have arisen as a result of our ongoing work regarding the safety and well-being of SPS students, both historical and current, as well as the School’s responsibilities in complying with our 2018 Memorandum of Understanding with the Concord Police Department and our 2018 Settlement Agreement with the New Hampshire Attorney General. Both Rectors are beloved figures in our community, and their contributions and personal commitment to the School have been and are extraordinary. However, as we have undertaken careful scrutiny of student experience over the past number of years, instances of decision-making at odds with our responsibility to place student safety and well-being first have come to light in ways that have required the Board, in our fiduciary duties of loyalty, care, and obedience to the mission and values of the School, to examine past naming decisions in light of what has come to be known through our own and through external investigations.
In using this naming policy to structure our inquiry and discussions, we made use of a fact-finding committee composed of three alumni who are former trustees, one senior member of the faculty, and an attorney experienced in conducting such proceedings. The committee held a number of meetings, reviewed documents, and talked with many people. Members of the committee, as well as many trustees, have received significant feedback from community members, principally alumni/ae, with strong beliefs expressed regarding both leaving the names in place and taking them down. There is no question that personal loyalty and affection are the basis of many strong connections forged at the School, and both men in their service have positively affected the lives of myriad alumni/ae.
However, two of the School’s cardinal values, reflected in our handbooks and prayer books, are the values of honesty and integrity, and the most important responsibility this School – its trustees, its faculty and staff, and its community – has, is to the safety and well-being of children. School leaders have the obligation to receive information about difficult matters with openness and accountability. School leaders must provide honest information, including honest references, so as to ensure the safety of children at all times. For many people, the removal of these names might feel like a betrayal of friendship or disrespect for service and leadership. At the same time, these sentiments cannot stand in the way of our greater obligation to uphold the values of our School. As compelling as these personal feelings can be, there is no alternative context for the trustees, in our fiduciary duties to the present and future school, as well as to the past, in which we can examine the instances of the Rectors’ failures to protect and safeguard children.
After receiving the fact-finding report, the Board also reached out to the Oates family and to Rector Matthews. Rector Oates’ sons requested that their father’s name be removed from the performing arts building, and the Board voted to accept that request. The Board also voted to remove Mr. Matthews’ name from the hockey center. This decision, while wrenching for many, aligns with the School’s values and priority placed on honesty, integrity, and student safety and well-being.
In making this communication to the community, we appreciate the engagement of many. We will continue to work to strengthen and support the School’s mission.