Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Starting from scratch

Through a professional connection from my friend Sam Herrick at Live Oak School in San Francisco, I was introduced to the East Bay School for Boys, also known as e.b.s.b.. (And, yes, their graphic is done with that e.e. cummings look.) This is a brand new, single-sex middle school. They opened last year with 17 students; this year they have 90. And as of my visit earlier this month, they were investigating new, larger facilities to meet the continued demand they foresee.

What really struck me about my visit is the incredible thought that went into the design of this school. I had a wonderful tour from the head of school, Jason Baeten, who shared with me the considerations, thoughts, and ideas behind every bit of the space, program, curriculum, philosophy and even their motto: empowering the engaged, thoughtful and courageous men of tomorrow…. We had a great exchange about their choice of “courageous” and he told me about the other words with which they wrestled and why they landed on courageous.

It was a real privilege to think and hear about how a 21st century school was carefully crafted from scratch, how nothing was taken for granted or done “because it’d always been done that way”. They were unencumbered in their construction of this new school, limited by only their imaginations. How daunting. But how exciting!

And then I returned from my trip to the disappointing news that I was losing my wonderful assistant director. With her pending departure this summer and a year-long maternity leave I need to fill in the next six weeks (you read that right: maternity leaves are a year up here!), that’s half the Upper School recruitment team of four! If anyone from the Lower School office or my support staff tells me they’re also leaving, I just may lose my marbles!

But then I thought of e.b.s.b. and paused. They inspire me. And as I type this, I am giving serious consideration to what a 21st century admissions team and office might look like. How has our practice and profession evolved? How, what and why should we be doing things differently than we did ten years ago, fifteen years ago? Two years ago? While staff changes are never easy and the process of hiring is arduous and takes up a tremendous amount of time and energy, when will I next have the gift of considering two full-time positions at once and designing how I might re-allocate those 80 hours a week?

I don’t have any answers yet and I certainly welcome anybody’s input. In the meantime, I’m going to try and tackle this living up to the inspiring and challenging ideals of e.b.s.b.: engaged, thoughtful and courageous….

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