Friday Letter

January 25, 2020

Dear Parents,

Yesterday, I was given a stack of tax receipts to sign that was over two inches.  As I rendered my barely legible signature on each page, I meditated on how that stack of papers is a very tangible reflection of love and support from the community for our school.  Many thanks for all you did for us last year.  This school would not exist without the support of so many friends.

For several months, I have been holding on to what I think is a final draft of the 2020-21 academic calendar.  I have to create a draft of that calendar ridiculously early so Mr. Nelson can schedule games over a year in advance, yet I always have to be prepared to make changes based on a few dates in the USD calendar (which does not come out until the end of this month).  I will send that calendar out to you as soon as I have confidence in the dates.

You will notice swimming and track on the Week Ahead calendar.  Ian Blake is swimming for Seabury.  He won two events at the LHS invitational and has qualified for State.  Anna Johnson is representing our school in track and will be running the 60m and 200m sprints at Anschutz on Sunday.

Our Boys Varsity Basketball team is 7-0 and ranked #1 in our 2A division!  Tonight, they go up against 4A ranked Augusta.  

Congratulations to our debate squad for a great season!

Don't forget that January 31st is the deadline to submit re-enrollment contracts and corresponding deposits to the main office in order to reserve a spot for your child.  Please contact Leslie McCaffrey if you have any questions: lesliemccaffrey@seaburyacademy.org. 

This week, Fr. Baldwin brought back the "Ask Father Rob" chapel.  Students and staff were encouraged to ask questions about faith, God, and Episcopal values, and he answered with his usual blend of wit and substance.  One of the questions was "What does it mean to be an Episcopal school?"  I think this is a perennial question, partly because the tenets of Episcopality in education tend to be lived out in our daily practices (community, academic excellence, service learning, equity & justice, and various school traditions) and are not limited to specific articles of faith that are typical to parochial schools.  As our Episcopal accreditation sub-committee put it at a recent meeting, our Episcopality is "baked into" our daily lives and is not restricted to moments of prayer or in chapel.

On a related note, I spoke to the students in Thursday's morning meeting about a topic very frequently on my mind this year.  With the tension of impeachment trials playing out in our nation, I always wonder what our children think and feel at such times.  It is hardly revelatory to observe the extreme divisions and points of debate that have been playing out in our country for many years, and as Head of School, my concern is how to monitor where and how the tensions and animosities seep into our school.  And how could they not?  If we are indeed teaching the students actively and explicitly to be engaged citizens, to participate in the electoral process, and to take responsibility for the world, how can we possibly avoid talking about politics and how we should act on our values?  And what could happen that would cause us to think that talking about values and points of contention would be a negative thing?  Obviously, the concern is when "talking about" becomes "fighting" or "proselytizing."

As part of our school's mission, our responsibility is to teach students how to think critically and develop ideas and opinions that have a sound foundation.  Unlike verbal aggression, true argument should be a constant process of discovery and improving one's opinions and not simply trying to prove that one is right.  But, as I told the students, it is easy to "talk that talk."  It is much harder to "walk the walk."  How willing are we to truly hear a differing opinion and try to understand it?  I tend to think most people bind their personal identity and worth to their opinions, and to question those values is scary.  But who can claim to be absolutely right?

Part of our Episcopal identity is to embrace the conversation itself and to be both rigorous and compassionate in our struggle to improve our understanding of the world.  At the Peoples of Color Conference in December, I was particularly moved by a speaker who observed that--despite the pain that political divisions and ideological disagreements can cause--we should be proud of the fact that we as a country are willing to engage actively in these discussions when so many other countries silence open discussion or refuse to speak authentically.  If I have a goal for our school in this regard, it is to teach all students to practice humility and courage in equal measures and to remember that we should always have a vision of the future that supports the dignity and well-being of all people, including those with whom we disagree. 

I will be in Chicago for most of next week to work on behalf of ISACS, our accrediting organization.  Ms. Czarnecki has kindly offered to write next week's letter.

Yours respectfully,

Dr. Schawang