Most of you know I am French. Some of you know that my mom is German. My grand-parents were born in Germany during World War I, and they survived WWII. My grand-father was an officer in the Wehrmacht, the regular German army, during WWII. He had to serve his country like all the men of his age. I tried to speak with my grand-parents about their life in Germany during the war. But they never wanted to tell me much about it. My mom was born in Germany in 1949, 4 years after the end of WWII. As a student in school, she had to learn about the 3rd Reich and the rise of Adolf Hitler. She had to study how her country declared war on Europe and then the world, and about the millions of Jewish people who were exterminated during the Holocaust. As a student in Germany nowadays, you keep learning about the 3rd Reich. This is not meant to make you feel guilty. It is to be learned as a cautionary tale, so people remember that a dictatorship can arise in any country anytime and, if we are not careful, History can repeat itself.
During my years in France, we also learned about our History, about the great and dark times of our country. Starting in the 19th century and continuing in the 20th century, my country, along with other European countries, colonized most of Africa. And it is important to remember that European countries started the Atlantic slave trade in the 15th century, until the 19th century. Therefore, Europe shares a great responsibility for slavery, along with the United States.
In 1954, only 63 years ago, the French Army was sent to the North African country of Algeria, which was a colony of France, when the Algerian people stood up to claim their independence from France. At the time, the government and media in France referred to the military operation in Algeria as a law enforcement operation. In Algeria, the French Army was engaged in combat against the Algerian people who fought for their independence. A lot of combatants but also civilians were killed. The French Secret Services arrested and tortured combatants and civilians. It was one of the darkest pages of French History, when my country oppressed the people from another country because they were asking for their independence. It is only in 1999, 17 years ago, that the French government officially recognized that the events in Algeria were actually a war, and that we officially called these events the War of Algeria. It was an important day in France because the government recognized, in the name of the French people, that we did something terribly wrong. If you want to improve, recognizing that you have a problem is the first step. We are now at peace with Algeria but we must never forget our History.
Every country has written great pages and dark pages in History. For the United States, slavery and the Civil War that brought an end to it were definitely some of the darkest pages. And we must never forget.
History is not supposed to make you feel good or bad. History is your best defense against ignorance. Every time you learn about History, you are improving your defense and you are increasing your chances to have a bright future. When you know your History, you are less likely to get manipulated and to get lied to. Educated citizens are essential if we want a healthy democracy. Democracy can be hijacked and replaced by a dictatorship anytime anywhere if we close our eyes and we forget about our History. Don’t ever take anything for granted, keep learning.
We have made progress in this country since the end of the Civil War, thanks to citizen initiatives like the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. We just had the 1st African-American president for 8 years, which is something that would have been unthinkable just 60 years ago. We have made progress but there is still much more work to do until we live in a society where all people have the same chances of success in life.
So, may we all learn this month about our History so we may never repeat our mistakes and we may all together build a brighter future. #StrongeruKnighted
On February 12-14, Episcopal will welcome the visiting accreditation team from SAIS (Southern Association of Independent Schools) and SAES (Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools). During their stay with us, they will take a deep look at our program and offer an outside perspective on what we're doing well and where we have room to improve. The following letter is included in our report and I wanted to share it with you. Thank you for making Episcopal what it is today.
There are many answers and initiatives in the pages that follow categorizing the work of the past five years, but more foundational than any of the information conveyed is the understanding that Episcopal is, first and foremost, “Episcopal.” In other words, our approach to education, governance, fundraising--you name it--is guided by our uniquely Episcopal identity. It’s in our DNA. You will see it on the football field, in the physics classroom, and, most assuredly, in our worship experience. It guides our decisions and frames our most difficult discussions. It allows us to be open to new ideas and the freshness of the Spirit’s guidance. It sustains us and reminds us of our common, shared humanity. We do not always meet the mark, but we continue to strive toward the goal of understanding and love. It’s a lofty ambition, but one we take seriously as a community.
Because of the deep roots in our Episcopal identity, I can, with confidence, state that:
Episcopal is Strong
Students at Episcopal are benefitting from an ever expanding menu of opportunities:
Our college admissions office has seen a 6% uptick in selective applications and admissions over the past three years. The college counseling staff continues to educate our students and parents, beginning in the eighth grade, raising awareness of the possibilities of study both inside and outside the state of Louisiana.
Episcopal continues to track the changes occurring on the college admission front, particularly in the area of the Coalition for Access & Affordability and has taken steps to insure that our students, regardless of application format, are prepared and competitive for the college admissions process.
Faculty and Staff Professionalism
We have been fortunate to attract teachers and staff members with impressive credentials and experiences in the past five years, but beyond their qualifications lies a new sense of emotional intelligence and “fit” within our community that has afforded an awakening of curiosity and joy throughout the campus.
Episcopal Is Growing
We’re popular! After the initial decline in enrollment after the economic downturn, it’s nice to say that with confidence. Positive word of mouth within the Baton Rouge community and an increase in current family referrals yielded a greater interest in tours and open houses from prospective families. As a result, the Admission Office has seen steady growth in both the applicant pool and in new student enrollment. Along with new student growth, our annual attrition rate has decreased slightly, resulting in increased overall enrollment. We are not resting on our laurels and continue to research new markets and methods to insure a continued pool of qualified applicants for the future.
As enrollment continued to grow it became evident that new academic space was necessary to accommodate growth. After our initial success with the Chapel renovation project, we are now pivoting to fundraising activities focused on a multi-use Academic Commons that will house science, math, engineering, and entrepreneurial classrooms. We then intend to repurpose Foster Hall (the current science and math building) to serve as an innovative learning center with flexible spaces for the Lower and Middle School.
Episcopal is Resilient
2016: a Summer of Unrest and Disaster
The events of the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge had a profound effect on our community. We returned from the summer break and immediately began a process of dialogue, equipping our teachers to deal with the first few days of class and the resolution of conflict that could arise. Then, on the first full-class day into the school year, a rain event of unprecedented proportions blanketed the Baton Rouge area, causing catastrophic flooding in the community and damaging multiple buildings and all of our athletic facilities.
Because of the resilience of our community, particularly our resourceful maintenance staff, and the steady, meaningful communication we were able to provide to our constituents, Episcopal was back up and running in less than a week. The Lower School was relocated to the VPAC and World Language, P.E., and Arts classes were scattered about campus. Within a month, we had returned to normal facilities and operation, with the exception of our athletic program.
Throughout our ordeal, parents, donors, students, faculty, and staff maintained and increased their support, allowing us to “bounce back” to normal operations faster than any educational institution in Baton Rouge affected by the flood. Further, the powerful example of Episcopal students mucking houses and stripping sheet rock in the homes of those displaced by flooding cemented the broader community’s understanding that Episcopal students give back.
Episcopal is Relevant
Preparing the Student for the Path
We continue to maintain a balanced approach to academics, arts, athletics, and spirituality while exploring and implementing new programs that draw us to the edge of current pedagogy. We carefully balance our approach to teaching, cognizant of the fact that we are preparing students for their college experience. Examples abound:
Recent collaborations in the Upper School between Department Chairs and Administrators has set in motion a path to distinction in each subject area for the 2017-18 school year. Students with passions that might not include a traditionally recognized strengths in the Humanities or Sciences will soon receive graduation distinctions for other areas of academic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular work.
The past five years have been marked by a deepened and reflective transformation in the Service Learning area of school life, with an emphasis on extended relationships with area organizations and student created service experience. As our students connect to and support service areas in which they see need, we believe they are intrinsically motivated to go beyond our requirements and form lasting relationships.
Episcopal is Planning for the Future
Episcopal’s Board of Trustees maintains its strategic focus, aligning its function closely with NAIS best practices. With the recently adopted five year strategic plan, a framework for growth through 2020 has been outlined. The recent, catastrophic flooding in Baton Rouge and on the Episcopal campus has necessitated a few course corrections, but the engagement and care the board has demonstrated “after the flood” has allowed Episcopal to recover quickly and turn its attention, once more, to strategic needs.
A New Approach to Fundraising
The flood altered our plans for a capital campaign to address both future academic and athletic needs. As philanthropic focus shifted, for many of our donors in the Baton Rouge area, to local flood recovery, it was evident that a major capital campaign would not fit with our new reality. We have shifted to a more project and interest-based approach, which has seen the successful completion of the chapel renovation and a good start to fundraising for the Academic Commons.
Athletic Transitions and Task Force
2017 marked a transition in leadership for the Athletic Program at Episcopal. Myra Mansur, who served as Episcopal’s Athletic Director for many years retired and Randy Richard, former Dean of Students, Coach, and long time employee took the reins in a seamless transition.
Then the flood came. Episcopal’s Athletic Program was, by far, the most deeply damaged area of school life. Randy and the Athletic Department rose to the occasion, rescheduling events and finding practice venues all over town. Our athletes lost very little field time, and, indeed, demonstrated the values of Episcopal by gutting houses in the community.
Knowing the program was in good hands freed me and the Board of Trustees to work on the replacement of athletic facilities while at the same time imagining their improvement. From these conversations, the Athletic Taskforce was born. I look forward to its findings and our new plan for athletic facilities at Episcopal later in the spring.
Episcopal is Ready
We are ready to listen and inwardly digest the suggestions and observations resulting from this accreditation process. Our campus culture is geared toward questioning what we do, tweaking things that could work better and seeking out new understanding that will serve our students. We welcome you to our campus and look forward to engaging in a productive dialogue about what Episcopal is.
Did you know that the musical instrument known as a dulcimer is derived from a Latin adjective meaning “sweet?” If you were one of the four Episcopal students that medaled on this year’s examination of the National Classical Etymology Exam, this was probably one of the easier questions you faced.
Administered in October 2016, the NCEE is based on English vocabulary words that are derived from Latin and Greek, with emphasis on academic and SAT vocabulary words.
The exam, organized by the National Junior Classical League, tests a student’s ability to handle both Latin and Greek derivatives and their usage in the English language. This is the seventh year of the exam and over 5,400 students from around the country participated.
The study of the Classics continues to flourish at Episcopal . The Upper School chapter of the Junior Classical League, sponsored by US teacher Micheal Posey, boasts more than 35 members. This year’s NCEE winners all earned Silver medals at the Intermediate Level (grades 9 & 10).
Winners (from left to right): Silver medal winners this year included: current 10th graders, Wilson Russ, Grant Curry, Ben Levine; 9th grader, Hudson Graham.
A few weekends ago, while cheering on the 3rd grade Knights basketball team, my mother pointed my attention toward incoming fans. “That’s your first soccer coach over there.” I squinted; both he and my eyes have grown much older since my days playing for the Wookies.
Baton Rouge soccer was in its infancy when I started playing. Not only was I the only girl on the team, I was one of the few playing at all. I loved the game (still true) even though I wasn’t a very good player (also still true). I’m not all that competitive, and truth be told, I’m kind of scared of the ball. So it shouldn’t come as much surprise that when it came time to hand out end-of-year awards, mine was this: Best Listener.
Which, once you get past the implied lack of athleticism, is actually a pretty awesome award for a kid to win. Listening is an important job skill, tied to effective leadership and healthy relationships.
Designate a time to listen to each of your children.
Children learn by observing our behavior. When we are inattentive, scrolling through social media feed or thinking about what we’ll cook for supper, they pick up on our disinterest. Worse, they learn to mimic these behaviors. Acknowledge distractions when they are present ("I’m having a hard time paying attention. Let me finish my task so I can really listen.") so that kids start identifying potential listening barriers themselves and learning how to push past them.
The majority of our communication is nonverbal. Make sure you “listen” to body language and facial expressions along with your child’s words. Ask follow up questions. In short, make this chunk of time all about your child.
Cook (or do something else) together.
If you have a middle schooler, I have no doubt you laughed your way through that first tip. Sometimes it seems like nonverbal communication makes up 100% of what they say.
How was school?
What are you up to these days?
As a middle school teacher, I can reassure you that kids do, indeed, talk. Maybe not to you, and probably not on command. Sometimes it seems like the more interest you show, the less willing they are to reward you with information. I’ve got a 14-year-old; I know your pain.
One of the best ways to get an adolescent talking is to do things with them. Cooking’s great because, hey, you were probably planning on eating anyway, and plus, you’ve got a structure for your conversation. But your common interest doesn’t have to be so practical. Love the outdoors? Go explore. Music fan? Have your kid teach you why Spotify is superior to your current music platform (Truth!).
Take a quiet walk.
When we talk about listening in my study skills class, we start with Julian Treasure’s TED talk. In it, he explores why we’re losing our ability to listen and what we might do to remedy that loss. My favorite of his tips is to listen for “channels” of sound.
Take a walk with your child, paying particular attention to all the sounds you can hear. Bird calls? Laughter? Crunching leaves? How many sounds are you hearing all at once? Can you trace each sound to its source?
Listening for channels of sound is fun to do in all kinds of environments: coffee shops, traffic, grocery stores. Point out sounds you find particularly satisfying. Compare which ones work your last nerves.
There are all kinds of language-based board games out there that require us to listen. Apples to Apples, Scattergories, and Outburst both have versions for younger players.
My favorite, 20 Questions, doesn’t require any equipment at all, yet has carried us through many bored moments waiting for appointments to begin. Make the rules as easy or as complicated as they need to be to make it fun.
You didn’t think you’d get out of this without hearing about the power of books, did you? Reading out loud to your child is amazing for vocabulary development. If you ask good questions (Why do you think the character did that? What would you do in this situation?) you’re building analytical reasoning and empathy, too.
As my daughter entered adolescence, I’m telling you, there were days she didn’t want to speak to me, even non-verbally. Frankly, there were days I didn’t particularly enjoy being around her, either. Those days happen; they just do. But no matter how bad things were, she and I could both count on our reading time right before bed. Because what’s stronger than anger? Imagination. Books allowed us to escape whatever conflict we'd had with each other and focus on the magic of Harry Potter, the strength of Katniss Everdeen, the allure of vampire boyfriends.
As children do, she outgrew those stories, so now we read side-by-side, comparing notes when it’s time for bed.
In that noisy gymnasium, Coach Teeple told me about his children and his children’s children. I’m grateful, of course, for his introducing me to the beautiful game, but even more so for his recognition of the gift of listening.
Martha Guarisco is a National Board Certified English Language Arts teacher and freelance writer. Prior to joining the faculty at Episcopal 13 years ago, she taught in Ascension Parish, where she was Teacher of the Year. She earned both her BA in English literature and her M.Ed. in English education from Louisiana State University. One of her particular areas of recent study is literature’s effect on adolescents’ empathy development.
Cancer's impact hits close to our hearts at Episcopal. We know that family, friends, colleagues and students have all been touched by its effects. As a community, we wish we could do more to eradicate the disease and its painful reach. Join our small effort to raise awareness, and be inspired by one of Episcopal's champions, Cali Sabolik, as she tells her story. #WeCanICan #WorldCancerDay
Share your story by leaving us a comment. Let the conversation begin!
"A truly global event taking place every year on 4 February, World Cancer Day unites the world’s population in the fight against cancer.
It aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action."
*World Cancer Day graphics are courtesy of worldcancerday.org
In all honesty, picking a college is one of the most difficult decisions one makes in their lifetime. You are picking the “next chapter” of your life that will have a significant role in writing some of the later chapters of your life. Are you feeling pressure? If you are, do not worry: I was in your shoes only a couple of months ago. Close to Christmas, I had learned that I would be attending American University in Washington, DC. I applied via the Early Decision plan because I knew that AU was the one for me. But, what influenced my momentous decision?
1. Its location
At the beginning of my college search, I desired a campus in an urban setting and out of state. As I had added more colleges to my list, I started to refine my preference of location from region to city. As time progressed, I focused my search from Mid-Atlantic/New England to that of the DC area. In the DC area, I found that AU is not in the middle of the city, but rather in a more suburban green area. So ultimately, in the beginning, think of a type of region and campus type that you are comfortable with (urban, rural, suburban) and filter your search with these preferences; but, consider the possibility that this may change!
2. The opportunities
As you may know, DC is buzzing with politics, as it is our nation’s capital. I consider myself to be a very political person and I would like to be involved with advocacy in social justice movements, so DC is the place to be! Frequently, AU features many notable speakers that interact with its students. Past speakers have included former President Barack Obama and incumbent Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In my interview, I told the admissions counselor that I had heard that the current Human Rights Campaign Communications Director had graduated from the school. Immediately, the counselor stated that he knows her personally and that he could get me in touch with her should I be accepted! Knowing that my university had connections with influential political figures was a big factor in my decision.
3. Its traditions
I cannot count the number of times that I have heard, “Our campus is distinct from others: we play Quidditch on the Quad each Saturday!” This particular tradition, because almost each university advertises it, does not seem like a local tradition and one that caught my interest. In contrast, each Halloween at AU, the students trick-or-treat at the Embassies of Embassy Row. Each General Election, the Democratic and Republican Student Clubs host a watch party, together. These are traditions that entice and interest me.
4. Its connectivity
In the college search process, you will find that many universities prohibit first-year students (or all students) from bringing their cars to campus. This is sometimes because parking space is limited. My top two choices both prohibited freshmen parking, but one was in the city of DC while the other was in rural Pennsylvania. In DC, having a car is almost practically unnecessary due to its mass transit system. I learned later on that AU students are the only ones in the DC area that receive an exclusively discounted “Metrocard.” So, not only do I never have to worry about how to get from Point A to Point B, but also about those pesky rush hour fares!
5. Its academic opportunities and room for curiosity
As you may know, almost every college nationwide has offerings that are popular, such as anthropology and psychology. Another is political science. I was torn between political science and communications, as I want to pursue a future involving advocacy. However, I eventually discovered an interdisciplinary major within the School of Public Affairs, called “CLEG: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government.” Of course, I have enough time if I want to change my mind because I only have to declare a major by the end of sophomore year. Remember that just because one particular major sounds unusual does not mean it should not be considered!
When I was four-years old, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. My long-term goal in kindergarten was to attend “Harvort,” and I’m happy to say that Sienna from the past would be proud of me. Although I ended up coming full circle with my college decision, I consumed just about every college pamphlet that came my way in the mail, went through a myriad of charts and campus tours, and agonized over my final choice for Early Decision. While the process felt daunting at the time, I am glad that I used those tools to feel confident in my choice. Here are a few things that helped me to realize that Harvard was the school for me.
Visiting The Campus
As we meandered through the campuses with our guides, my mother and I tried to truly experience the college life. We explored the towns, tried the food, and generally wanted to get a good feeling of the area that I would commit to for the next four years. Take your time getting to know the campus and surrounding area. Go to a museum. Audit a class. Attend a summer program. The right college is the one that feels like home.
Reading The Material
There is a plethora of valuable information to be found on each college website. I felt like each click was a form of “speed dating” my college options. I learned the general sizes of the schools, estimated tuition cost, whether I would be in a dorm or off-campus, and whether or not I could have a car with just a few clicks. The websites and pamphlets helped me to consider college perks and drawbacks that I never imagined.
Making a Chart
As we traveled across the country, I made a point to write notes about what I liked and disliked about each college that I visited. These notes were vital when making my final decision. They gave me a snapshot into my true first impressions of each college. You will be amazed how details about that delightful restaurant in Seattle or the striking Atlanta skyline can blur as you blaze through tour after tour.
I was lucky enough to meet several students and alumni at each college that I visited. This helped me to understand the “vibe” of each school. When exploring college options, I wanted to get a taste of each one. Every school has its own flavor, and it is important to choose one that suits you, whether it is the zest of a bustling city or a home-style countryside retreat.
The largest part of college selection is internal. While taking in the campus and reading the material helps to cushion the weight of the decision, choosing a college is a leap of faith. As a student, you are the only one who can determine if you will thrive in any particular environment. As you explore your college options, dream big, reflect, and remember to be honest with yourself as you enter a wonderful and exciting chapter of your life.