Dear Episcopal School of Baton Rouge Community,
Traumatic and tragic events which have transpired over the past days are an all-too-familiar reminder that racism and hatred against black people continue to exist in our society today. We grieve over the death of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others whose lives have been needlessly cut short. As Father Skully wrote in his message to our on-campus community this week, racism and hatred have no place in our school or our community. Through its mission statement, Episcopal is charged with nurturing and developing the whole child – spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically – through challenging academic and co-curricular programs which prepare our graduates for college and purposeful lives. Racism and hatred cannot be part of that experience. We deeply value people of color as a part of the Episcopal community while recognizing that our desire for human dignity has not always reached the highest mark.
Recent comments from alumni make clear that this must remain an absolute priority. While Episcopal, regrettably, did not do better for these alums in their years at Episcopal, we are committed to ensuring that current and future black students do not experience the same issues.
Actions speak louder than words. While Episcopal has made significant strides in recent years in terms of diversity and inclusion, we acknowledge that there still is much work to do. As part of its commitment to that work, Episcopal will be forming a task force dedicated to addressing racism, diversity, equity and inclusion.
With God’s Help,
Christopher D. Kiesel - Board Chair
Dr. Carrie Steakley - Incoming Head of School
Tom Forti - Head of Upper School
Mark Engstrom - Head of Middle School
Beth Gardner - Incoming Head of Lower School
“You give them something to eat.” This is one of my favorite lines in all of scripture. It is from Luke 9, the Feeding of the Five Thousand. The disciples turn to Jesus and tell him to “Send the crowd away.” The people need to eat. We cannot feed everyone. The problem is too big for us. And he says to them, “You give them something to eat.” Jesus gives the disciples instructions, gathers what they have, blesses it, and sends them out to feed the people. And it works. There is more than enough for everyone-there is an abundance. If we ask for God’s help, we can do wonderful things, but God does not do the work for us.
We are at our core, an Episcopal school, a Christian school. And it is in our baptism that we promise to be just that. But we acknowledge-even as we make those promises-our limitations and our imminent failure, because we do not respond to the questions with “yes” or “I will.” We respond with, “I will, with God’s help.” We realize as we are promising to give our lives to God, to follow the way, that we cannot do it alone. We need help. We need God’s help.
The last two questions in The Baptismal Covenant are, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
And our promise is, “I will, with God’s help.” At Episcopal, that cannot and will not be an empty promise.
Make no mistake, Episcopal recognizes the pain and grief recent events have caused for many members of the Episcopal community. And we must remember that our foundation, our commitment as an institution lies in the words of that Baptismal Covenant. We must acknowledge and honor those promises, and as a school we must also teach them to the students who are entrusted to our care.
I am proud to work at a school where inclusion, diversity, and respect are something we strive for and work on daily. But it is not easy work. I suppose it would be easy if we all looked the same, thought the same, and had the same story, but we do not. And that is what makes us great. Learning about the perspectives of our fellow human beings, and especially those that differ from us the most, are the things that make an Episcopal experience uniquely enriching.
Racism, hatred, and violence have no place in our school, our community, or our world. On that we can all agree. But to make that just and peaceful world a reality, we must work at it. Jesus tells us the work is ours to do. We must listen to one another. We must listen to the voices of those who speak out and speak up with truth that may be hard to hear. We must seek and serve Christ in all people, love all of our neighbors, strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being. We must work together, and we must do it all, with God’s help.
A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Diversity of Races and Cultures
O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The 2019-2020 school year has been unlike any other. We successfully transitioned to Distance Learning and we rallied around members of the Class of 2020. Now, we are preparing to say goodbye to Head of School Hugh McIntosh on June 30th.
With McIntosh at the helm for the past decade, Episcopal students have thrived. The continued commitment to academic excellence is evident in a consistently high number of National Merit Finalists reflecting the highest percentage of seniors earning such recognition in the region. Upper School students are also enjoying opportunities for university research through the ESTAAR program and Middle School students are earning Duke TIP honors.
Curricular and teaching method changes instituted allow teachers to do more personalization of a student’s pathway through Episcopal, tailoring the program to a student’s strengths, interests and capabilities. In the Upper School, McIntosh was instrumental in launching the Distinctions Program which allows students to pursue specific interests in a range of academic areas, from French to Physics, and, in so doing, to identify their interests in the college admissions process. From the early years, McIntosh ensured that college counseling was expanded to three counselors, that LSU was placed in a “warm embrace” by Episcopal helping many families take advantage of TOPS and convenient location of the college experience for family life, and that a new emphasis was placed on finding new sources of college scholarships for graduates. Under McIntosh’s leadership the LAUNCH program has become an Episcopal tradition which honors student academic research and achievement in the arts. Closer coordination of STEM-related courses have produced a range of math and science closely coordinated learning experiences and more co-curricular outlets for STEM-oriented students. Closer coordination of students’ progress beginning in Lower School and running through Middle School have allowed acceleration and deepening of interests for many students with interests and talent in a particular subject area.
To support this academic rigor, McIntosh has established or expanded partnerships with a range of institutions such as the Ogden Honors College and Math Department at LSU, Burkenroad Reports at Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, the Duke School in Durham, North Carolina, NuVu Schools, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Duke TIP, John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, Klingenstein Center at Teachers College Columbia University, Power Courses, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mastery Prep right here in Baton Rouge. In his Academic Points installments, McIntosh described such partnerships as allowing the school to “punch above our weight” or be “more than just Episcopal” for students and families. Episcopal faculty and staff have certainly done both.
McIntosh has also ensured that Episcopal remains committed to a whole child philosophy, with more opportunities for multiple-intelligences to be recognized. Project-based and experiential learning units in all divisions have made learning more interactive and fluid. Encouraging this type of instruction has allowed teachers more freedom. For example, lessons about geography of the world in Lower School have been supplemented by student teams acting as travel agents presenting to parents and faculty the advantages of vacationing in countries studied in the classroom. Students in all divisions are encouraged to pursue their interests and reach beyond themselves whether it’s in the areas of academics, arts, athletics or service.
As we bid farewell to McIntosh, there are also visible, lasting testaments to his time at Episcopal. As a result of the Spirit Mind Body Capital Campaign, students are worshipping in a renovated Lewis Family Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd and learning cutting edge science, math and technology within the Academic Commons. The new athletic field house is a monument to student health and well-being and will serve students in a variety of exciting ways. Foster Hall is under renovation and will open in August 2020 as the QUEST Center in Foster Hall, which will be an innovative and hands-on Lower and Middle School math, science and technology space. In addition, McIntosh’s tenure has included the renovation of the Webster Refectory, the creation of the Coach Dupe Trail and the improvement of athletic facilities such as the baseball field and scoreboard.
McIntosh has led the school through challenging times. He has ensured that Episcopal is financially prudent even in the face of events such as the flood of 2016 and the global pandemic. He has met the demands of an evolving world by preparing the school with new technology and school security measures. He has led a team that has adapted and found ways to serve students in line with Episcopal values.
Episcopal School of Baton Rouge is prepared for the next decade thanks to the leadership provided by McIntosh. At the April board meeting, the trustees shared with McIntosh the Academic Excellence Futures Fund Endowment that was recently created in his honor. When McInosh first arrived 10 years ago, he saw a need to boost academic excellence and build the school’s endowment. During his tenure as Head of School, academic performance and available resources for all students have grown tremendously. The Academic Excellence Futures Fund Endowment in Honor of Hugh McIntosh was created to help achieve both visions for the next generation of Episcopal students.The Fund will allow the next Head of School, Dr. Carrie Steakley, to direct additional resources to academic areas such as new programming, enhance existing programs, teacher development or special projects all resulting in a stronger Episcopal experience.
The Episcopal community gathered recently to thank McIntosh for his leadership and to wish him a fond farewell. The social distancing car parade was a festive occasion celebrating 10 years of success. We invite you to share a message of congratulations in the comments section below.