August 3, 2020
Our Daily Commitment to Health, Safety, and Families
I am a huge proponent of consistency. If one wants to be successful academically, the key is not about rising to the occasion on the day of the ACT but about meaningful time in the books today. A happy marriage does not hinge on a romantic getaway, but on a regular evening strolls. Success under Friday night lights results from challenging afternoon practices and early morning lifts. As a lifelong educator, I believe that great teaching is not measured by the latest program but by the level of student engagement during the second period on a random Monday morning.
During these challenging times, I have had the pleasure of speaking and corresponding with many members of our community about the issues we face today and the importance of working together to meet our children's needs safely. Simply stated, our children need school. They need it for the academic growth it promises and vital relationships, experiences, social interaction, and challenges that accompany the classroom, stage, and fields of play.
Our team has worked all summer to develop plans and procedures to ensure the health and wellness of our students, faculty, and staff. Know that we are committed to following these plans and to the consistent focus their implementation will require. We cannot "lighten up" or look the other way. To make this work, our parents must also be "all in." Success in this endeavor will require support, communication, patience, and cooperation by everyone involved.
We understand that these short-term sacrifices will allow us to accomplish our long-term objectives. So today, I wear my mask, social distance, and scrub up! We are committed to
doing things differently. The classroom, performance, and game won't look the same as they did in March, but we can and will do this to meet the needs of children and advance our mission.
Speaking of March, we remember when so many schools "closed up shop," our teachers rolled up their sleeves, cracked open their laptops, and went to work. They did not shirk from the call in the spring, and they will answer the bell in the fall. They will do the difficult things today, and we will not retreat from making hard decisions. We will make mistakes, learn from them, and adjust accordingly.
I cannot promise you 100% safety. Life is not 100% safe. We take risks by driving cars, flying in planes, and walking out our front door. What I can promise is that we will be committed to the consistent implementation of our plan and procedures. When things get difficult, we will not walk away from this responsibility, from our friends, family, churches, nor our school community. USJ has been here for our families for 50 years, we are here today, and when this current crisis is over, we will still be standing...together.
I look forward to seeing you on campus soon.
Head of School
July 13, 2020
The Heart of Decision-Making
The mission. We all should know it…
“We instill a passion for academic, artistic, and athletic excellence, while committing to personal integrity, mutual respect, and lifelong learning.”
At the heart of this mission lies one objective: growing people. This frames everything we do. The Head of School must grow. Our Board of Trustees, administrative team, and faculty are all dedicated to improvement, and we are all committed to growing our students. We are works in progress, and in order to better serve, we need to learn.
Therefore, every decision we make is centered around growing our people. Learning, whether it be solving algebraic equations, playing the trumpet, or fielding a ground ball, is what we do. Woven throughout learning we find the theme of the second half of the mission statement: character. Without integrity and respect for others, it really matters not how adept you are in the other areas.
So this idea of growing students pervades every aspect of our operation. Who we hire, how we allocate dollars, set our schedule, lead our classrooms, and manage our athletic teams all center around learning. This is why we exist and who we are as a school. Let me say it again: we exist to grow people.
In our current environment, I understand we face many challenges and anxieties that are very real. People are concerned about a virus one cannot see, are worried about safety for our families, economic issues, and we are experiencing a political climate and media that play on our differences and fears. These uncertainties lead to many of the questions I hear concerning the details of how we at USJ will begin the school year. I get it. As we finalize our plan which will be communicated next week, we must respond to a bigger question…
It isn’t just how will we start the year, but how will we sustain it?
We must be prepared to move forward to grow our students. The times and situations are very fluid, but our objective does not change. We must do this for them. So we research. We collaborate. We ask difficult questions. We listen. Then, we make decisions that will meet their needs. Needs that are academic, developmental, and social. Furthermore, we must do so with our minds not just on growth, but safety.
Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning as well as Simon Sinek’s It Starts With Why both address this very theme in their respective works. Essentially, much anxiety in life derives from the inability to find meaning, and once we understand the reason for what we are doing, our decision-making becomes focused and our motivation heightened. Our mission should guide me as Head of School in relations with the Board, our staff and our families. The question must always be, “What do we need to do to best grow our people?”
I understand that this is not easy. I do not believe we exist to do the easy thing, to make people happy, or do what I want. We stay on mission. This must be the address of where decision-making lives.
Thank you for the privilege of partnering with you in growing your child.
Head of School
June 22, 2020
Greetings USJ Families,
While our leadership team has recently been focusing on the challenges of ending the spring semester, recognizing the accomplishments of our students, and now starting school in the fall, I feel I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to share and to challenge our school community in the wake of recent national events that, no doubt, also impact us as a school family.
Our nation has experienced trying times through the COVID-19 pandemic, the accompanying social and economic stresses, and now we have been moved by accounts of racial injustice, and daily scenes elucidate how these have shaken our nation. Like everyone, I have been deeply troubled by images of racism, frustrated by violence in the streets, and inspired by acts of kindness and reconciliation. As a long-time student and teacher of history, I understand how the issue of race has shaped our nation, how much progress has been made in this regard, as well as the challenges we continue to face as Americans. We are now living in a critical period in our history.
As an educator in an independent school whose mission expressly values mutual respect, I see this as an opportunity for us to practice what we preach. I have taught in many institutions, none of whom value diversity more or are more welcoming of all students than USJ. This being said, we must always recognize that we are all works in progress, have room to grow, and much to learn. It is my hope that we as individual families and as a school community use our current state as a society to initiate conversations with our children that challenge them to rise above the negativity and political noise and seek to advance the cause of understanding and love for our fellow man.
Education is a noble profession, one that calls us to higher things. I love our school and the principles upon which we were founded. We value all people and are proud to be a part of an inclusive community. We strive daily to live up to the ideals of our Judeo-Christian tradition, which teach us to embody love and to strive toward the standard that we treat others the way we wish to be treated. Let us always be willing to speak out against the injustice of racism and to use our voice to defend those who defend the helpless. Let us as an institution of learning seize this moment to encourage our children to act in a peaceful and positive manner that might bring about a better world and to live lives that constantly place others before self. These ideals are consistent with the mission of USJ and are worthy of our efforts as a school community.
Sincerely and Optimistically,
Head of School
Our Daily Commitment to Health, Safety, and Families I am a huge proponent of consistency. If one wants to be successful academically, the key is not about rising to the occasion on the day of the ACT but about meaningful time in the books today. A happy marriage does...Read More
July 13, 2020 The mission. We all should know it… “We instill a passion for academic, artistic, and athletic excellence, while committing to personal integrity, mutual respect, and lifelong learning.” At the heart of this mission lies one objective: growing people. This frames everything we...Read More
Greetings USJ Families, While our leadership team has recently been focusing on the challenges of ending the spring semester, recognizing the accomplishments of our students, and now starting school in the fall, I feel I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to share and...Read More
The University School of Jackson is pleased to announce that Don Roe has assumed the role of Head of School at USJ. Don is entering his 27th year as a leader in education and has been a part of the USJ family since 2012. During his tenure with the school, Don...Read More