Dear SCH Families,
The other day, I walked into a 7th-grade math class and did some algebra with the students. At first, I just stood at the doorway, noting how rapt they were with their teacher’s lesson. After a few moments, my presence was noticed. “Hi, Dr. Dinkins,” the teacher said. “We’re just doing a little algebra. Does it look familiar? Would you like to come in and join us, perhaps even come to the board?” There it was–the invitation. Inside I went. I smiled and greeted her and the students, whose heads rubbernecked as I passed by their desks and made my way to the board. “Simplify.” That was the key word on the worksheet projected on the screen. It was like a call to adventure. At the teacher’s prompting, I conjured up the distributive property and “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” After combining like terms, I was all set. I had done algebra, or at least the basics. Even more than that, I had spent some quality time in a classroom. It was enjoyable. Moments later, I found myself in an English class, peeking into the laptops of 6th graders writing about Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” a short story classic that packs a punch through its economy. A few days later, I found myself sitting in a circle of kindergarteners during their morning meeting.
I have a little-known ritual that is at once a goal, a philosophy, and a practice that I’ll make plain here: Every classroom, every week. I try to swing by every classroom every week. While I may not stroll in to check things out every time, I’ll wave to the teacher, nod to a student, linger at the doorway, or listen for a poignant moment. I like walking the ship. I learn a lot doing so. Whether crisscrossing the campus, eating with faculty, staff, and students, or connecting during recess or in the halls, stairwells, and library, I appreciate engaging directly with students, staff, and faculty. I delight in being active in campus life.
As we recommit ourselves to a shared purpose this academic year, two books are fresh on my mind: Making Good Neighbors and Belonging through a Culture of Dignity. Making Good Neighbors chronicles the mid-to-late 20th-century fight of residents to maintain an intentionally diverse neighborhood in West Mount Airy despite persistent and swirling headwinds. Like Belonging through a Culture of Dignity, the book’s heart pulses with our values: diversity, courage, thoughtfulness, resilience, and integrity. When people feel a sense of belonging, they are more likely to flourish.
As I think about the power of neighborliness and belongingness, we have initiated a national search for a new director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. I anticipate significant interest in the role, given our position in the market and our commitment to DEIB. Diversity is one of our school values, and we view it as a condition of excellence. I will chair the search committee. While the search has begun, it is likely our new director’s tenure will begin on July 1, 2024. I have appointed Zana Bass, Middle School teacher and member of the Diversity Leadership Team (DLT), as interim chair. I am grateful for the knowledge, skill, and energy of the DLT and the collective work of faculty and staff to ensure that all members of the community, but especially our students, feel a sense of belonging and thrive at SCH.
As I have mentioned in previous messages, during the 2023-2024 academic year we will engage in a strategy development process to help our school envision its aspirations and press its advantages. This fulsome effort will engage the school community, utilize important data, generate institutional priorities, and seize opportunities that will advance our mission. Please stay tuned, as parents will be asked to complete an all-important survey in November.
With warm regard, this year I hope we center neighborliness in our conversations about what it means to be a community committed to caring about one another and this great school. Each of us, in our own way, plays a helpful role in cultivating community at SCH. I look forward to connecting with you across campus.
Head of School