The Gift of Conversation

As you may know, we were fortunate enough to receive a $2 million gift from the Malone Foundation two years ago, and since that time, I have had the opportunity to spend quality time with the Heads of School from the other Malone schools. Recently we met and discussed some of the key issues we face in our schools.  I thought you might be interested in the kinds of conversations Heads from around the country are having with each other.

There was an article written very recently in the New York Times about the trend of club athletes specializing in year round programs and then being unable to compete for their school teams. We struggled with this, for we feel that a part of our mission is to educate the whole child. What implications will this have on our schools, our athletic programs, and on the students it affects?

We discussed the tricky situation of what types of disciplinary incidents should be reported to the universities. For example, many of us feel strongly that if a student makes a mistake and learns from it that we need not report that to the colleges. In an age of increased applications, do colleges have the time to understand each situation? Some schools have simply refused to report incidents to colleges. Many heads shared the notion that colleges are particularly concerned with egregious situations, and yet some of the reasons students are suspended in independent schools would not be considered egregious offenses.

Somehow in every meeting, the topics of Advanced Placement courses comes up. Schools are frustrated that curriculum, daily schedules, and the school calendar are all deeply affected by this College Board program. We want our students to have every advantage, and because our students can demonstrate proficiency in these rigorous courses, most of the schools have continued to teach AP classes. But many educators feel we can do a better job by covering topics with greater depth than the AP can. The basic argument is that scientists do not best learn Biology by cramming in a textbook full of topics in a year but rather learn best through in depth experiences that lead to retained understanding.

We then shared examples of what our schools are doing with the theme, “Private Schools working for the Public good.” Of course, with Newman situated in New Orleans we have a myriad of examples of this. Schools were intrigued with our summer jazz school and of course the Breakthrough program.

The group continues to try and find more ways for our schools to collaborate and share resources through online experiences. Stanford University has been helping us think through the issues. Of course, I haven’t covered any of these issues in depth, and we could easily replace these with several others, but I think this will give you a sense of the discourse.

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