Monday, June 01, 2020
Dear Episcopal Community Members,
Students have completed their work for the 2019-2020 school year. Student achievement and development this year were outstanding, the government’s mandates, distance learning and virus responses aside. Diplomas have been delivered without a traditional Commencement celebration ritual for the Class of 2020. “The Promise” has been made to the Class of 2020, however, to do whatever we can to provide them “sometime, somewhere” a proper Commencement ceremony in the Chapel. Right now, we are all looking into early August as a time to complete the graduation pageantry for the Class of 2020.
No one will forget the year when a pandemic pushed us off our beautiful campus and fields in the last part of the second semester. Given that this remarkable year is the last year of my Decade at Episcopal, I certainly will not forget it!
Please accept my gratitude for the privilege of being the fourth Head of School at Episcopal since June 2010. Not being among the more consistently emotionally effusive folks around, perhaps I can persuade you that these ten years have been extremely rewarding and meaningful for me, personally and professionally. For those who volunteered your time, talent or treasure as volunteers for the cause, I hold special gratitude as co-workers.
My sadness at departing is overcome many times over by my joy in presenting to Dr. Carrie Steakley, Episcopal’s fifth Head of School-- on July 1, the keys to an extremely strong school community. Episcopal has more than our fair share of bright and motivated students in Baton Rouge, a brilliant and hard-working faculty and staff, gracious and energetic parents, engaged and generous alumni, and a solid foundation upon which to build. I have become fond of saying that my wish for Episcopal’s future is that the great progress to be made in the next few years will make the last decade’s accomplishments appear small. I believe that is where the trail into the future leads!
Each school year comes with its own set of issues. The challenge is to handle the year’s idiosyncratic issues while maintaining the community’s focus on the core of our Mission & Ministry—educating and developing students. When I signed up in 2009 and arrived in 2010, the Great Recession was at a rolling boil. The 50 or so students lost over that summer were replaced within the next two years. The flood of August 2016 gave us a surprise start to the 2016-2017 school year and damaged us physically. This community made lemonade out of the flood and helped others in Baton Rouge recover; no one withdrew. As a Saturday Night Live comedian was known for saying, “There’s always something.”
Throughout, our community---faculty, staff, Board, parents, and students—has learned to keep eyes on the ball and to strive toward constant improvement in education and development. Episcopal’s best traditions—including academic excellence, authentic spirituality, strong athletics, bring-down-the-house arts, and inclusivity—have been strengthened by us keeping our focus on the Mission & Ministry while dealing, on the side, with the troublesome aspects of existence that have come our way.
We are working today toward being on campus for the school year 2020-2021---just like in the old days. Soon, expect an increase in the pace of communication about the 2020-2021 school year. Preparations are underway. Of course, schools are subject to being regulated more due to the pandemic and Episcopal will follow the laws and guidelines from governmental authorities.
Dr. Carrie Steakley and I have been working on a seamless transition for several months now. She will formally take over leadership as Head of School on July 1, but I have asked her during June to guide me and the faculty and staff in all decisions relevant to next year. I know she is prepared---and I believe she will have the faculty and staff prepared--to serve students and families well in the 2020-2021 school year.
I believe fiercely in the independent school tradition that exiting Heads of School are expected not to interfere with future school operations. The pandemic has caused me to change plans for a prompt sale of my house and exit from Baton Rouge. When we run into each other going forward, please, know I will be only positive about Episcopal’s future. You are always welcome, however, to tell me that you have forgiven me for all my mistakes and then let me know how much you appreciate one or two of the things done during my Decade at Episcopal.
Bishop Thompson often starts a benediction with these words: “My friends, life is short…” Life can feel short, indeed, particular if you have gratitude for life—and all that comes with it--as I do. Truly meaningful experiences within a life seem poignantly short, as well. Witnessing much and contributing some to the building and changing of a 900-plus student school community that offers a nationally recognized education along with myriad co-curricular options has filled my Decade at Episcopal with awe and wonder at how much can be done for others in a unified and supportive community. Helping people learn to use their God-given gifts has been gratifying. One could say, “That’s what it is all about.”. It has been my privilege to be at Episcopal and it will be my privilege to take away wonderful memories of Episcopal and its people. Believe me; a decade can feel short! And long!
“Happy Trails to You,” as the old Western song goes, “until we meet again…keep smiling until then.” Thank you.
Head of School
Episcopal School of Baton Rouge | PreK-3 to 12th Grade