Dear SAES Community,
August is the month for school leaders to write their “Welcome Back” letters and outline school opening protocols. I am mightily impressed by these letters that I have been sampling over the last few days. Our school heads are demonstrating courage, intelligence, resiliency, and determination that I find profoundly inspiring. Who among us suspected on March 15, 2020, that we would still be struggling with COVID as we head into the third school year under the pandemic? But you are demonstrating hopeful optimism; one head put it this way, “Our Episcopal identity is exemplified through joyous embrace of the world’s complicated problems.” The faith and courage that is found in your thinking and writing gives us strong reason for hope and confidence in our schools’ futures. We at SAES also know that our school leaders are carrying a heavy load this month, and we are here to provide our schools and school leaders support as we launch ourselves into the 2021-2022 school year. Please let us know how we can serve and support you.
Before leaving the topic of leading in challenging times, I highly recommend both David Madison’s and Dan Heischman’s letters in the NAES August newsletter. David describes well what I have been feeling: that it is our faith and our schools’ Episcopal identity that will help us lead through another year of challenge. David put it this way, “We are coming out of a year and a half of challenges and struggles the likes of which many of us have never experienced before. Considering that reality, I remain excited and encouraged because I know that our Episcopal identity prepares us for whatever challenge we may find ourselves facing today and tomorrow.” And, though the slog has been long and slow, we all know so much more about running a school in this pandemic than we did a year ago, and your opening plans and COVID protocols are a testament to your competence, commitment, and your selfless leadership.
In a board governance workshop that I facilitated recently, I acknowledged that we were fortunate to be in Episcopal schools--particularly in these times. Our Episcopal identity is the school leader’s navigational aid. Being a sailor, I know what it is like to be at the helm, offshore, and in a storm. But Dan assures us that “Episcopal schools, by their nature and mission, possess a unique framework for dealing with…traps of leadership.” Dan goes on to say, “Keeping one’s eyes on the stars may well be one of the crucial elements of maintaining the ship’s course.” Steer toward your school’s mission and vision and with the bearing of your Episcopal identity.
At SAES this summer, Pat Blevins, Mary Katherine Duffy, Jeanie Stark, and I have kept the tiller steady. Thanks to our able professional colleagues, our Biennial is planned, and registration is open on the SAES website. We will be live in Houston, and we will also stream much of the content. The registration brochure has the details. Our accreditation campus visits start early in September and are spread out into May. Numerous professional development opportunities are well under way and will continue throughout the school year. My thanks to Pat, Mary Katherine, and Jeanie for their excellent leadership. The SAES website holds the depth and breadth of this work ahead.
In closing, I have been reflecting on the relationship between the SAES organization and our member schools. It seems to me that we benefit from each other. Each webinar I participate in, or each campus I visit makes me a better association interim executive director and we at SAES learn from school leadership in every conversation. I trust that the work that SAES leadership—both our professional staff and our board--provides in professional development, school visits, and accreditation helps schools in their self-reflection, growth, and improvement. In a recent novel, Ghosts of New York, a character describes it this way:
"She’s going to remember it well: the scent in the air, the luxury of the campus, the pride of the dean and the affection of the professor. She’ll be sitting in a comfortable wooden chair, …when it’ll all come back to her, all at once...she’s been thinking this: They say the butterfly evolved so that its wings would resemble the petals of the flowers; but what if it’s the flowers that evolved to look like the butterfly’s wings?”
The author’s point seems clear; together we make each other better. Together we grow and evolve and there is something transformative in this blessed process.