September 5, 2018
Greetings! I write this after having just completed our 106th opening day, and the excitement on campus was palpable. It’s so great to see our students return, filling the air with joy and anticipation for the year ahead -- there’s just no way to replicate the feeling they bring with them when they return to campus. As my first opening day as head of school, it was especially memorable for me. I got to spend the day visiting with students, talking with parents, and addressing the community about what it means to be a Pioneer, and how we all share a wonderful responsibility for doing this work together -- more on that in a bit. For now, let’s jump into some start-of-the-year information and logistics.
The Knopp-Hailpern Center continues to look more and more like the building it will become, as the framing portion of the work nears its final stages. The last major part is the beamwork that ties the roof lines together, which will then allow for windows, siding, and all sorts of finishing work. Once that starts to happen, we move into stream installation and working on the hardscape and landscapes -- we even had some windows installed today! This is all so very exciting!
We’ve also just recently completed all of the hiring we needed to do this summer. Soon, we’ll share our new colleagues’ biographies with all of you. I’ve been encouraged by the hiring process because it allowed me to step out of the lead role I’ve historically had, and to watch my colleagues with new roles step in. They’ve done an excellent job, and we’ve been able to tweak our old processes according to our new structures, making the process more efficient. I feel good about the work my colleagues have done in this endeavor, and confident that our wonderful school will be well-served by our new administrative model. The result is a cohort of new colleagues who are eager to join our community and share in our collective good work -- you can likely see why I’m ready for the year to begin.
In my last letter, I wrote about some of the administrative structural changes we’ve made for this year. Now I’d like to expand on that a bit, and to share details as to how these changes will affect the way that you interact with us. Along those lines, here’s a link to an updated Whom to Contact list that is a quick reference for figuring out who the best person is to ask for help when needed:
First and foremost, I’d like you to notice that we have reinstated Park veteran Amy Diati into her former role as School Receptionist. We heard your feedback loud and clear last year, when Ms. Diati shifted over to the Development Office for the year and we moved to an automated answering system. We all missed her cheery voice and disposition, and we felt the absence of having an actual live person to talk to when we called in. So now Ms. Diati is back, and she’ll be located in the main office in the Helen Long building, just inside the orange Park School awning. This was formerly the site of the Head of School’s office (my office is in Hamlin Hall, overlooking the KH Center!), and will now serve as the primary entry point for all visitors coming to and going from campus. It’s also the new check-in and check-out site for students who are arriving late to school, or leaving early. If it’s a planned event, you can (and should!) still call our attendance line at 839-1243, x143 to leave a message, or send an email to email@example.com. Ms. Diati will manage these accounts from her new home in Helen Long.
Ms. Diati’s move also impacts the Health Office in Hamlin Hall, as it will no longer be the place for middle and upper school students to arrive late or leave early (unless they are ill, in which case you’ll hear from our wonderful School Nurse, Ms. Michele Shadden). Ms. Shadden is also no longer the person to call to report a school absence - that will be Ms. Diati and/or the attendance line, as mentioned above. We’d like Nurse Shadden to devote her attention to our community’s health and well-being, so these moves are an attempt to give her more freedom to do so. As always, you can leave messages for Michele on the attendance line or email address listed above if your child is ill and needs to miss school.
My last letter also mentioned that we’ve gone fully back to a Deans of Students model for supporting student life at Park. Chris Downey remains our Lower School Dean, and now he’ll be joined by Matt Johnson as Middle School Dean and Charlie Hartney as Upper School Dean. All three of these gentlemen have long histories of connecting well with students, and deep understandings of how to balance the mix of freedom and support that defines our community. They are your point people for any questions or concerns about your students’ lives at school, especially for broader issues that are beyond one teacher’s or class’ scope. Mr. Downey remains in his classroom in the Helen Long Building, while Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hartney will have offices on either end of Upper Chapin hallway.
Finally, a quick note about traffic on campus, especially during drop off and pick up times. Please remember that the Knopp-Hailpern Science Center construction has required us to alter our traffic patterns for the time being, essentially closing the Circle to all traffic but buses and construction vehicles during the school day. Take a look at the following video that we shot last winter (when we were begging for heat like today!). It will remind you of the appropriate places for dropping off and picking up your students. ONE CHANGE FROM THE VIDEO: the check-in site for late arrivals to school is Ms. Diati’s office in the Helen Long building. All late students should stop there to sign in and secure a late pass. Similarly, all students who are leaving early should sign out there, and leave their note for early dismissal with Ms. Diati.
We recognize that these traffic woes are a hassle, but they are easily balanced out by the fact that they help to ensure student safety.
One last note… I spoke with parents yesterday morning at the Parents Association coffee, and again with the students, teachers, and staff at our Opening Day assembly, about what it means to me to be a Pioneer, and about how I’d like us to define it as a community. In her memoir, An Adventure with Children, our founding headmistress Mary Hammett Lewis set the same tone I’m alluding to when she wrote, “But the real sense of responsibility, as well as our greatest pride, was in our whole school.” To me, being a Pioneer means risking failure, taking the lead on things, and being willing to hold onto civility and kindness while we push back against things with which we disagree, both within our own community and out in the wider world. We take care of each other, especially when it is most difficult to do so. All of this requires bravery, but is made easier within a supportive community like ours.
I balance this with our incredible diversity across races, religions, family structures, socio-economics, gender identities, and personal affinities -- the great myriad of threads that make the collective fabric of our community so vibrant and so strong. We are scholars, athletes, artists, scientists, competitors, teammates, and friends. We are individuals, and we are unique.
I’ll put it to you with two final questions: Who are we? and What are we? Who we are is the multi-layered, excellent list of all the things I just mentioned. It’s complex, interesting, and messy, and so very worth all our efforts to make it all work together.
What we are is much simpler, my friends, and it binds us all together as The Park School.
We are The Pioneers.
Now let’s get out there and act like it! I’m happy and honored to lead the way.
Here’s to a great year,
Head of School
I loved seeing and speaking to all of our students and faculty at Tuesday’s Opening Day Assembly in Rich Activity Center.