With our centenary Commencement now in the steamed up rear-view mirror, it’s time for taking stock of what all happened in the run since August. My favorite lens to provide focus for that project is gratitude. Not surprisingly, there’s plenty to reference, and here goes, though by no means exhaustively, followed by a short wish list for your summer hiatus at the end.
By Vince Durnan, Director
Thanks for taking such good care of our school extends to:
Our students, for finding ways to make use of this rare educational opportunity, whether it was our Lower Schoolers bringing programs to residents of the Wedgewood Towers in Edgehill, or the Middle Schoolers sharing immersive theatre with crowds at Fort Negley, or the High Schoolers’ Habitat for Humanity chapter continuing builds for first time homeowners. Not to mention the research that these young minds do K-12, from the smallest classroom experiments to published bench research in VU labs, and all the ways they represent us citywide in every kind of extracurricular pursuit.
Our families, for sharing their cultures and traditions season by season, especially in After-School, but informally and organically and generously in myriad ways. And for encouraging so many good people to come to knock on the Admissions door. And for the breadth and depth of Annual Fund philanthropic support, including 100% from those new to USN, 100% from our Kindergarten households, and 100% from those who've been here for the full 13-year journey. And most of all for seeing this whole thing as a partnership and not a product—that’s all too rare in the stories I hear from schools nationwide.
Our faculty, in these days of constant worry and friction locally about the direction of big school systems and effects on the lives of teachers, for keeping the high standards and warm hearts that have defined USN for generations. And for sailing us smoothly through reaccreditation. And for managing the burgeoning anxiety created by SAT scandals, narcissistic pop culture examples, and a national backdrop of incivility. Somehow this place can feel like a sanctuary when it needs to be and a bridge to the important questions of our day when it should be, in large measure because of the wisdom of these caring adults.
Our Operations and support teams, for saying yes so often to what must be one of the busiest calendars of a school our size anywhere. They set and reset that Auditorium, often multiple times each day, they get our buses safely through an annual total drive that would circumnavigate the earth, they respond to tens of thousands of calls and inquiries in real time, with real answers, and together they keep USN humming and safe from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. almost every day of the year, smiling more than we have a right to expect.
Our USNA volunteers, numbering close to 700 in our current families alone, for helping us to celebrate books, and art, and learning, and music, and community. The spokes of the wheel they create so beautifully are strong one by one but even stronger when tied together. Their calendar is really our calendar at USN—when something big is happening that opens our doors wide, or when any of us are facing challenges that would be overwhelming to bear alone, USNA is there.
Our quiet but hardworking Board of Trustees, managing the $25 million budget with a combination of fiscal prudence and deep commitment to the people and programs we all love at USN. They meet, in committees and as a full Board, almost every month, governing rather than micromanaging, expecting the best from us and ready to pitch in to get us there, without fanfare or acclaim. And they’re one of the reasons so many of us have stayed here so long. Special thanks to Brett Sweet, whose three-year term as president, characterized by equal measures of insight and humility, concludes this month.
Finally, our graduates, now including the 93 members of USN '19, for heading forth to live interesting, thoughtful, increasingly connected lives as part of the more than 4,000 diploma holders from our school now walking the world. It's in their stories that we come to understand and appreciate the meaning and significance of education at 2000 Edgehill Ave.
Now for the summer wish list from me:
Find a way for each kid to pitch in around the house and as soon as appropriate, know what it feels like to have a job.
Make time to read, and don’t be fussy about what, for a while every day, and beware of screen time > reading time.
Embrace the beauty of a different daily routine, along with the importance of having routines in the first place.
Appreciate the chance to be outside and active, even if it’s warm.
Stop by if there's anything we can do to help, or if there's a conversation you never found time to start—lots of us are here in the 8 to 5 version of USN for the next 10 weeks.
And be on the lookout for an annual survey from me coming out in late June, once the dust has settled and we’re all a little more philosophically-minded.
Read on to get to know P.E. Teacher Rye Daily, Second Grade Teacher Megan Petterson, Administrative Assistant Annie Stewart, Counselor Laurie Drummond, and Assistant Head of Lower School Felicia Holst.