Head of School INNSider: February 2024

Head of School INNSider: February 2024

Dear SCH Families,

Every couple of weeks, a different senior advisory meets me in The Exchange and we stroll down the street to Jennings House, the head of school residence. There, the seniors grab some snacks and a soda and plop themselves down on the cozy sectional in the living room. I let them get settled with their first bites, sips, and peeks around the room and then say, “Let’s go around and share what you love about SCH, a favorite memory you have, and maybe something you’re looking forward to before you graduate.” 

The seniors invariably offer up times when a teacher or friend showed them grace (“I just needed someone to listen without judging me.”); times when they dug deep with their fellow Players cast members during tech week to put on a great show (“Going into the show we were excited and exhausted, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way.”); times when a class became an intellectual safe haven (“Even though it was hard, it was the best class. We learned a lot; the teacher was always pushing us to go deeper.”). 

Afterward, I divide them into two teams and play a classic game, Taboo, where each person draws a card and, using clues, tries to get their teammates to guess a target word or phrase without using several closely related words listed on a card (“taboo words”). The goal is to accumulate as many correct answers—and a point for each one—in 60 seconds or under! Once in a while, students get stumped and pass on the card. Sometimes, they find themselves on a roll and amass seven or eight points on one turn! Most of the time I play host; on occasion, I join a team. Often, the advisor is recruited to balance teams. Routinely, my wife, Davirah, finds herself in between work calls to keep score. 

In a four-on-four matchup just last week, a group of senior girls found themselves in a tight match. The first round was tame. One player yelled, “Giant vessel. Old. Movie. Sea. Death.” Two or three of her teammates shouted, "Titanic," the correct target word. After that, there were tests of guile and guts: dance moves that punctuated space, clue cards that streamed to the floor, hands that carved figures in the air, some on all fours. And when the game ended in a draw, there was no leaving Jennings without resolution. So an additional round it was, one team coming for another. Yet, there were no disputes, only clear and present fun. 

Ten minutes of sharing followed by 20 minutes of old-school gaming offers camaraderie and another annotation in their senior year. Whether planned or spontaneous, memorable moments matter. According to The Power of Moments, they have four defining features: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. This year, in the process of deepening our understanding of our school’s core strengths and distinctive assets, I have seen generous portions of all four. 

The strategy development process has included constituent surveys, an all-employees town hall/world cafe experience, market research, meetings with individuals, and a series of SCHarrettes. SCHarrette, our SCH spin on "charrette," is “a collaborative planning process that harnesses the talents and energies of all interested parties to create and support a master plan that represents transformative community change.” 

In a sense, this self-study architecture has captured our community at its best. For instance, we should feel proud that nearly 200 people engaged in a SCHarrette, 86% of our parents completed the survey, and the vast majority across all constituent groups identified “community” as our most treasured asset. Our brand is characterized not by the label on the bottle, but by the extraordinary impact of our relationships with one another. What’s more, our culture teems with optimism, balance, and joy. These and other significant insights will help to blaze a surer path for our school’s future direction. 

Parents are invited to a readout of survey results on April 8, 7 - 8:00 PM via Zoom (watch the SCHout for a link!) by the survey’s developer, Kevin Graham from Lookout Management, Inc. This virtual presentation will summarize the data and associated recommendations. 

As we reflect on the ways we create defining moments in our community, we will refine and synthesize the information we are capturing. In the months to come, we’ll interpret what the findings mean for us and answer a fundamental question: How will we position our school for the future, raising evermore our level of ambition? Until my next update, enjoy the second half of winter and bend yourself toward the possibilities springtime brings. 


Delvin Dinkins
Head of School

Read more from Dr. Dinkins