Our Common Bonds

Kathy Giles
Grateful to be on the grounds, and grateful to be engaged in our work together
Greetings from the grounds! In the middle of February, we have the benefit of good snow for our skiers, frozen ponds for our skaters, and plenty to do for everyone. We’re engaged in winter sports, the play festival featuring one-acts, and activities like Relay for Life. This year, our work with Black History Month has taken center stage, as we have on a daily basis celebrated the lives of Black leaders through student voices. Our work with VISIONS, Inc., a leading national firm specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training, came to us just as we as a school grappled with a teacher’s finding that a Black Lives Matter classroom sign had a small red “ALL” written at the top of the “L” in “Lives.” We have spent a significant amount of time and energy as a community working through the event and its aftermath; you can review the conversation here.
 
Last Saturday, we spent the winter Living in Community (LINC) Day working with VISIONS’ guidelines for community conversation and work together. They are few but powerful, and if your interest is captured, you might visit VISIONS’ website to learn more about their approach (https://www.visions-inc.org/who-we-are.html). There are two principles of particular interest that I believe will have special resonance for our students and community. The first is “practice ‘both/and’ thinking” as a way to be able to entertain multiple truths and to use them to work on conflicts that do not have easy solutions. The second is “be aware of both the intent and impact of your actions,” becoming aware that in many situations, the impact of our behavior may not match our intent, specifically the fact that it is possible to be both well-intentioned and to cause hurt through words and actions. In the context of our School prayer, VISIONS’ principles offer us great ways to put our good intentions into actions that support equity and justice in our community. The work has been ongoing, and it is good work to be doing at this time in our country.
 
It is also the time of year when our Board meets to work on the School, as well. For the past year, the Board has met monthly, with multiple extra meetings to work on the School’s COVID response and DEI work. This past two-day winter Board meeting included review of the school’s mission statement; extended conversation about updating the Board’s Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest policies; discussing the School’s need to create a “data catalog” across functions to aggregate data and better inform decision-making and reporting; and the ongoing work regarding selecting an outside investments counsel to support the Board’s Investments Committee and the School’s Business Office, among other important topics. This month, the Board will meet to consider the possibility of converting one of the central heating plant boilers to renewable fuel (thus diminishing the School’s carbon footprint by 30%) and the possibility of an on-the-grounds solar farm; a “program planning” study of possible changes to the performing arts and their venues and spaces; and ongoing careful scrutiny of the work necessary to meet the deferred maintenance needs of this beautiful, antique campus.
 
Mid-February is a good time to look forward to spring, and while this spring will be another relatively quiet spring after last spring’s COVID eclipse, this year we look forward to having our students here – masked, socially-distanced, “bubbled” – but in person, filling the grounds with their energy and optimism. One of the important ideas coming out of the mission statement review is the idea that at SPS, learning in all venues is social and interdependent; that we educate each other and learn that sharing our diverse experiences and perspectives creates better learning for everyone; and that out of this mutual interdependence students find and create their own individuality. One of the most important truths highlighted during this pandemic is the importance of the bonds of common humanity that link us together and incorporate us into community. It is easy, even in the mid-winter gloom, to be humbled by the understanding that truly, this education depends on community, and to be grateful, grateful, grateful to be able to be here, safe and in-person, to do that work with and for our students.

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