"As Head of School, I am committing us to substantive actions that ensure we live up to our promise of providing a safe and inclusive environment for all—a place where all of our students belong regardless of race or any other social identity that they may carry."
Almost a full year has passed since SSFS completed its diversity audit, a comprehensive examination of our progress in fulfilling the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals of our mission and strategic plan. It is a fair time to consider what progress has been made towards the action items spelled out in the report to the community distributed last fall.
The most recent incidents of police brutality against Blacks has stirred the conscience of many Whites. If you are one of us, here is a summer school lesson plan, in the form of five “Don’ts,” as starting points for a bunch of Do’s.
The act of “speaking truth to power” is the manner in which Quaker spirituality is made manifest. In an abstract sense, it is the thread that connects the inner Light to our boundless faith in humanity’s unrealized potential. As a more concrete action, it can be defined as a non-violent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of oppressive, authoritarian regimes and institutions.
When I count my blessings, high up on the list, just a smidge below having married well and having two kids who I admire and love to hang out with, is that I have been the Head of Sandy Spring Friends School for the past ten years.
When I was hired, I didn’t know what it would be like and I wasn’t able to get a straight answer from Ken Smith, the previous Head of School. All he would say is that being Head of Sandy Spring Friends School is the greatest job in the world.
Welcome everyone to our graduation ceremony honoring the Sandy Spring Friends School Class of 2020. I want to recognize the parents and family members, the grandfriends and neighbors, the brothers and sisters and, of course, the incredible faculty who have zoomed today to celebrate these young people who have earned not just a diploma from Sandy Spring Friends School but our respect and gratitude. Each of you, all members of the Class of 2020, have argued with us, debated us, irritated us, made us laugh, pointed out our mistakes, given us pause, amazed us, improved our minds—and now, you carry our hopes.
As a school community, what do we want to be known for at this time? That we rose to the occasion. We sought advice from experts, we viewed every decision through the prism of compassion. We never forgot to put the health and safety of all members of our community first. We remained true to our mission. We kept our promises.
But there is another pandemic ravaging our country, one that is routinely dismissed and quickly forgotten despite its lethal nature: systemic racism. This scourge deserves—requires—the same urgent attention we are giving to Covid-19.
In the face of so many recent uncertainties, the strong community ties that are the hallmarks of a Sandy Spring Friends School education have served as a source of constancy and comfort. Students have not only continued to progress academically during the spring of 2020; they have also continued to connect and engage socially and emotionally with one another, and with faculty and staff. Our families have reached out to one another--and to our community at large--to offer assistance and support. Now, more than ever, our sense of community is what sustains us, even as we are obligated to remain apart.
When the coronavirus came here and we stopped gathering together at 16923 Norwood Road, we did that so that we could all be safe since the virus is contagious. For the past few months, we have all experienced a big disruption. When things are disrupted, turned upside down, often, it becomes a time when we can learn a lot about ourselves and what is important. What have we learned, what we now understand, that “school” is not the noun we thought it was. It is not a building or even a place. When we stopped coming to school, we had to reinvent what school means.
I have been thinking about the take-aways during this time of COVID-19. Among the things this pandemic has revealed is that a society that is dependent on an economy that only works for some and, even then, only when it is constantly expanding, is not sustainable into perpetuity... While physical growth is finite, our capacity to understand (continuing revelation!) is not. Even now. Especially now.