Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new. Thomas Merton
Many schools contend to serve the “whole child.” The Episcopal Mission and Ministry calls for developing the “whole child.”
Every now and then in a meeting of faculty or administrators, someone asserts that “whole child” is trite. That can lead to a discussion of what the term -- “whole child”—actually means to us. As the discussion deepens, typically we all come to a new realization of the term’s importance and centrality to all that we do.
The alternatives to developing the whole child, when one thinks about it, are neither feasible nor attractive. Would a parent send a child to a school that offered to develop “most” of a child or, perhaps, “a portion”?
To me, even highly specialized schools with narrow curricula seek, in most cases, the full human development of their students.
Not everything that has been around for a long time in education has lost its usefulness. For me, keeping in mind the “whole child” is one of the “oldies but goodies” that should be played and replayed. As a disc-jockey friend of mine used to say on his late night college radio show, “Here is one from the groove yard.” (Note that this prior reference requires awareness that once d-j’s played records with grooves in them.)
Even the official, dictionary definition of “trite” has an exception for old things that remain effective and have not lost their meaningfulness. If something remains effective, it is not “trite.”
When the Episcopal Board of Trustees engages in strategic planning, every five years or so, the Mission and Ministry always gets a once over. After many thoughtful discussions during my time here, the Board has kept the Mission and Ministry of Episcopal “as is.” Plenty of running room can be found in the Mission and Ministry and in the concept of the “whole child.”
Changing times and changing contexts may call for adjustments in emphases, but the overall concept of the “whole child” remains valid.
We have adjusted internally the “whole child” concept to make it more individualized or personalized. A while ago, Howard Gardner brought to public attention an educational analysis of “multiple intelligences.” In short, his research showed that reaching any group of students in the most effective way involves employing a range of teaching styles, tailored to the “intelligence” of each child. We have adjusted our teaching modes at Episcopal to suit better the “multiple intelligences” (i.e., the various ways a range of students get interested and performs). In effect, we have applied the “whole child” concept individually and, by that, use modes personalized to all.
Episcopal today offers a broader range of developmental experiences than before, including more age-appropriate student choices. Many of these offerings produce student recognitions. A long list of these offerings can be reviewed at the end of this blog.
My point is that in the academic arena, Episcopal is addressing the “whole child” --- and our children’s multiple intelligences – through a range of opportunities for motivated students. We are far from a “one size fits all” school.
An Episcopal student today --- male or female --- can decide to develop and compete in a broad range of sports, for example. That is a strong “whole child” point, noting that over 80% of both our Upper and Middle School students participate in a school-sponsored sport. Our PE program is second to none, with the vast majority of instruction given by Episcopal’s varsity coaches, including PE classes in Lower School.
Choir, band, drama, stage productions, ceramics, dance, and instrument instruction are parts of students’ lives from Lower School through Upper School. We encourage experimentation in the early stages and specialization later. The artistic talent within each child is addressed through these deep and comprehensive programs.
Student spirituality is developed both inside and outside the Chapel. Father Knight’s leadership, with advice from the Student Vestries in Middle and Upper School, in worship is apparent in the lives of all students. We provide first-rate academic classes for Bible and religious studies. The Center for Service Learning represents another need and outlet for our students to learn through service in their hometown.
For those of you familiar with the Class of 2017, I know that you see, along with me, the benefit and the reality of the “whole child” approach. Student choice could be said to have defined that class, as each student found an almost unique set of opportunities to take up. But, there was an underlying unity and respect for each other in that class that was an even more important vote of confidence in the “whole child” approach.
Our approach is effective as each year more and more selective and highly selective colleges seek Episcopal’s graduates.
I think Thomas Merton would agree:
Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.
Whattayasay, let’s keep the old “whole child” approach and continue our efforts to seek feasible personalization of our learning experiences and come out with something that is “always new”?
Hugh M. McIntosh
Head of School
Here are just a few examples of how we address the “whole child” with multiple approaches to learning:
But he could no longer disbelieve in the reality of love, since God Himself had loved his individual soul with divine love from all eternity. Gradually, as his soul was enriched with spiritual knowledge, he saw the whole world forming one vast symmetrical expression of God's power and love. (4.1.9)
-- Students as Artists of Life --
Over the last few months, I have experimented with the thought of striving to be an artist of my own life. This is working well for me. Along the way, I have realized how important this concept is to life at Episcopal. Now as we begin a new school year together, I want to share that message with you.
Talking (or writing) of artistry and love in public does not come naturally or quickly to guys like me. Whispering and low tones are the venues for most of us when love is called forth. Here, in my eighth year at Episcopal and 16th year working in education, the love of God that is palpable at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge pushes me to overcome my “bro-ness” and bring love to light. In the quote above, James Joyce reminds us that we can “no longer disbelieve in the reality of love, since God Himself” has loved our “individual soul with divine love from all eternity.”
Making a commitment to conduct myself as an artist in my daily work never fails to bring me my most enjoyable, productive and kind days. There is something about thinking of myself as an artist of life—or artist of the day--that naturally uplifts my spirits and my conduct. A day seems to go better when I say to myself “Be an artist today” as I leave the car.
Being at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge among our students, colleagues, parents and community members has engendered my thinking about the artistry in us all. In no small way, the Arts Department at Episcopal has brought me closer to the importance of artistry in general. What I used to see as a moat between artists and the rest of us, first became a thin line and, now, has dissolved into a boundary-less, free flowing appreciation of the artistry of life in all of its forms.
As I deepen my focus on this concept, I have come to see the artistry of teachers, coaches and the rest of us on campus expressed in the caring necessary to help students develop well. Through the self-reinforcing stance of my colleagues, I see standards of academic rigor blending completely with student satisfaction in co-curricular activities from the English classroom to the stage and from the athletic field to the robotics lab and the ceramics studio to the Chapel. As the quote above from James Joyce implies, as our souls are “enriched with spiritual knowledge” the world around us becomes “one vast symmetrical expression of God’s power and love.”
In each of the past few years, the school has purchased three works of art from three students - - one from each division. These masterpieces, which are bargains for the school, now hang in the VPAC entry ways, reminding me that all Episcopal students are, in the narrow interpretation of the word, real artists. But, here is the broader motivating thought: Perhaps without thinking of it in just these terms, we are called not only to be artists of life ourselves, but to nurture each student to become the artist of his or her own life. I believe that, the more adults model artistry in their own lives, the more meaningful the students’ experiences at our school will be.
For most of us, art comes from rising above the ordinary and mundane to express a unique and significant point of view. Drawing it, saying it, doing it, making it, reacting to it in just the right way is part of artistry. Artistry changes with the artist. Art is cumulative with each piece building upon the past productions. Working on our lives, as an artist might work on a canvas or a song, allows our souls to be “enriched with spiritual knowledge,” that is both uplifting and rewarding. What more accurate description is there of our Episcopal School of Baton Rouge community?
Parents, students, teachers, coaches, “admins” (as people like me are so respectfully called), Board members, friends, donors, and alumni---please join me in embracing your own artistry. In particular, please join in helping our students become artists of their own lives. What a worthy cause!
And, guys, every now and then talk of love in public. It is okay.
The 27,000 square foot Academic Commons building will be home to 17 new learning spaces. It was designed by Bobby Boudreaux and a team from Crump Wilson Architects. Cangelosi Ward General Contractors, led by Robert Ward, has already commenced construction. In addition to classrooms, suites and project spaces, new modes of teaching and learning, balanced with traditional classroom instruction, will be incorporated as part of innovative learning in the Academic Commons. Math and science offerings with creativity and entrepreneurship will also be added. Episcopal students will benefit from interactions with visiting teachers and lecturers, as well as strategic relationships with outside specialists throughout the community. The Academic Commons will be located on the east side of campus between the Chapel and the Aldrich Library. Construction is slated to begin immediately, with a targeted completion date of August 2018.
It is the overall health and strength of our school community that makes it possible now to consider this capital investment. Everything you have done over the years to support the school - participation in the Parents’ Guild, Squires, serving lunch, feeding teams, supporting The e-Fund and the Campus Bounce Back Fund, volunteering, partnering with our faculty and staff, referring mission appropriate students, sacrificing to pay tuition, active Board service, and on and on - has helped us get to this sanguine point. The school is strong because of your ongoing support.
Now, your help is needed to fund completion of the Academic Commons through cash gifts or through pledges over three to five years. Investments to the “Spirit, Mind, Body” campaign will help fulfill the mission and ministry of our school and will positively affect the life of each student. To learn how you can support this campaign and to explore giving opportunities, please visit the Capital Campaign website at www.spiritmindbodybr.org. If you are in need of additional information or if you have questions regarding ways you can support Episcopal and honor or memorialize someone of importance to you, I invite you to reach out to me directly or contact a member of our Development Team.
Now is the time, friends, for us to ensure Episcopal’s continued educational leadership in Baton Rouge. Please consider a gift to help build momentum.
Hugh M. McIntosh
Leading the groundbreaking ceremony were community members Scott Berg, Episcopal alumnus ‘94 and parent; Robert Ward of Cangelosi Ward, General Contractors; Bobby Boudreaux, Architect at Crump Wilson; Jennifer Eplett Reilly, Former Board Member and Episcopal parent; John Kojis, Director of Operations; Hugh McIntosh, Head of School; Michael Ferachi, Former Board Chair; Jewel Reuter, Associate Head of School; and Sean Reilly, Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign Cabinet, Board Member, Episcopal alumnus ‘79 and parent. Not photographed: Todd Graves, Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign Cabinet, Episcopal alumnus ‘90 and parent.
Dear Episcopal School of Baton Rouge Community Members,
Many individual life lessons could be extracted and commented upon in a year-end letter such as this one. For me, there is one unifying thread, however, that ran through the unique blend of challenges and opportunities of the 2016-2017 school year: This year revealed our community’s massive, positive strength, and our unwavering dedication to putting students first.
Heroes and heroines emerged in the face of the flood. Students led the way, discovering their collective strength and goodwill toward others. Donors responded before the rain stopped with Bounce Back funding necessary for the early supply of needed things from football helmets to volleyballs to mowers. Faculty and staff members re-discovered the strengths of their colleagues as more and more co-operation was called for to get the school open and to share classroom spaces. The Knights’ coaches and PE instructors rallied again and again to put together practices and games. The parents were more attentive than ever in handling all the schedule changes and in looking out for the well-being of students. No Board of Trustees at this school has worked harder than our Board did during this school year to manage campus repair with financial prudence. I feel privileged to have seen it all happen and come together. What unity, focus, strength and dedication from all corners of the community!
The flood, however, fairly quickly lost dominance of the scene to student accomplishment. Throughout the year, the strength and goodness of the student body provided evidence that it would take more than the August flood to weaken the ethos of this school.
The year-end academic and athletic accolades were confirming like no other year for me. Perhaps the best comprehensive example lies in our Class of 2017’s college admission success, reflecting a new degree of hard work of so many bright and motivated students. In reviewing this year’s college admissions results, you will marvel at the list of selective and highly selective colleges that have
re-discovered Episcopal through the achievements of this great graduating class. The 2016-2017 school year was not, after all, the year of the flood; it was the year that student achievement abounded in new degrees and with greater breadth.
With the Main Gym's return to use in February, flooded buildings including the Phillips Gym, the Lower School building, Penniman Hall, and all flooded courts and fields were fully repaired. All the flooded facilities are in markedly better shape than they were in before the flood. The flood is no longer the story.
On Tuesday, May 30, construction will begin on the Academic Commons - the school’s first new academic building in quite some time. Plans are also underway to invest in expanding athletic facilities as promptly as prudence and funding allow. We are excited to share detailed information with you after Memorial Day regarding these new building initiatives.
From my vantage point, Episcopal has entered a new era of unity and strength around its Mission & Ministry. This community showed itself, in 2016-2017, to be populated with an abundance of natural leadership and strength in students, faculty, coaches, parents, administration, and Board. It was a year for the “strong silent types” to carry the day and not be deterred by distractions and those who lost their way.
Episcopal is not the “school that flooded.” Episcopal is stronger for facing these challenges - from nature and from within - and putting first our sacred duty to nurture and educate our students.
Thank you. It is my privilege to be among those with such positive, reaffirming strength and the willingness to work hard on behalf of this worthy institution.
May we each use these precious days of summer wisely and return in early August to answer the call: Let’s Go!
Hugh M. McIntosh
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? - Micah 6:8
Dear Episcopal School of Baton Rouge Community Members,
Last night in the Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd, two things became clear to me:
Mr. Carter Smith, Episcopal’s Director of Choral Activities, conducted our Select Choir (with orchestra accompaniment) in the “Seven Last Words,” a recent composition by Dr. Michael John Trotta, a former student at LSU. The work features seven groups of words from Scripture involved in the Passion of Christ: “Father, Forgive Them” and “My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?” are among the better-known examples. The four solos were each beautiful. As all The Select Choir voices unified in a moment of crescendo, the presence of the Holy Spirit and Divine inspiration suffused the Chapel. Only the purest truth can unite individuals in such concert and inspire the artistry I witnessed last night.
Contemplating, during that concert, the great and indescribable love God has for us, this verse from the Book of John came to mind. It reminds me, in Jesus’ own words, that this is the least I can do in response to the gifts of love from God:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34.”
Best wishes for a meaningful end to Holy Week and a safe, enjoyable break.
Hugh M. McIntosh
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.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters; he restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3
A U-Knighted Homecoming
Dear Episcopal School of Baton Rouge Community Members and Friends,
As the waters of the Flood of 2016 started to recede, the Episcopal community began to rise up. In the ugliness of the carnage, the Episcopal community went to work for others and on rebuilding physical damage and loss to the school. In those early moments, responding was visceral, automatic and free of ambiguity. The actions of a few--students, school staff, coaches, parents, and faculty-- inspired many and brought forth a powerful, grassroots movement for good and goodness.
“Angels with smiles and pizza” is the way a family member on Woodland Ridge described the Epsicopal students who waded through water and muck to bring food and, more importantly, feelings of unity to her family, forced to move to the curb so much of what they owned. The movement ignited spontaneously within Episcopal was a part of the glorious collective actions of good people throughout Baton Rouge. Episcopal folks were tightly united in the post-flood effort from showing up at Celtic Studios to enlisting in the Cajun Navy and more. We were dedicated before the rains stopped to ensuring, too, that the school would be “there” and “strong” for its students, families and employees. From the epicenter of the flood in zip code 70816, we were early to open. It was a start of school like none other.
Tonight, symbolism will abound at Homecoming. Baton Rouge and Episcopal are winning the war against the flood’s evil. Much work is yet to be done, but the positive outcome becomes clearer every day. Looking back, perhaps the 23rd Psalm was in our subconscious, reminding us that we would be led to “still waters” and that our souls, bruised as they were, would be restored. I believe the faith represented in our school buoyed us, one and all. Tonight, with humility, we will pause and be grateful and rededicate ourselves to fulfilling our school’s unique role in Baton Rouge.
Tonight, the gathering will be a symbol of how we are “UKnighted” by common bonds. Tonight, a signal will be sent that Episcopal will continue to be a sustaining institution of Greater Baton Rouge, remaining “Strong to Serve.” Tonight, alumni will recall times over the 50-plus years Episcopal has stood like a strong tree beside the waters and brought so much good to thousands of students and families. Tonight, also, our air will be heavy with empathy for our fellow citizens in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina as we watch with enhanced sensitivity the troubles arriving on their shores. Tonight, we will sense that the bonds of our union---our “U-Knighthood” ---now extend beyond the field of play before us to embrace human dignity and goodness wherever found.
There is so much for which to be thankful. So much in which to take pride. So much compelling work to be done. So much living and loving ahead. Let us be joyous and thankful and more U-Knighted.
Hugh M. McIntosh