From the Director: The Work Continues

Despite the weather-related challenges this week, we've forged ahead with remote learning and celebrating seniors as we continue to look forward to brighter days and returning to in-person classes.
Just when we thought we’d borne the entire brunt of adverse circumstances of these challenging times for our city, we learned about the power of a derecho (and how can that mean both “straight” and “right,” btw). Then a number of us faced the challenge of remote learning without electricity or internet service. And those of us charged with minding the USN store from a distance needed to find the right balance between shutting our fragile new model down and keeping it running in some form, providing continuity where we could and compassion for all. My favorite emblematic moment was forlornly sending email updates to families whom we knew had not been yet been restored by NES to a capacity to receive those messages.
And still in those moments, the work continued. Might have been the work of clearing limbs from fallen trees, or the work of finding ways to take care of rapidly thawing food reserves, or the work of creating structure in children’s even less predictable days, or just the work of keeping on— with a smile if one could be mustered. My hope is that wherever you were, it was a judgment-free zone. Right now we need to be content knowing that all we can do is all we can do.
We even managed some good progress on the school side. We continued to celebrate what will be known as the historic Class of 2020 with more doorstep deliveries, and the utility-limited Head of High School Quinton Walker found a way to convene seniors with their families to announce in-person commencement plans for Friday, June 26 – as optimistic a date as we can muster given our city’s COVID trend lines. And our Middle School students enjoyed a trivia contest. And our Lower School colleagues continued the work of finding ways to provide meaningful conclusion to their year without invoking too much sadness in the minds of our littlest ones.
Plans for a virtual retirement reception for the fabulous foursome of Ahmed, Godwin, Preston, Viebranz (law firm?) advanced apace, as we learned the details of “webinar” options in our Zoom universe. By all means join us, a week from today for a Facebook Live retirement reception. Think of all the work they’ve done, labor of love style, that we’ll have a chance to celebrate. Another chance to reinvent.
This week also drew 100+ USN faculty and staff for the biweekly (and completely optional) session I’ve been hosting. There we rolled out plans for a reinvented June program landscape— the suggestion box is open, gathering ideas for age-appropriate remote offerings K-12. We will need to fast track that process in the next 10-15 days to get some kind of menu out for USN students, and perhaps a wider audience. Parenthetically, you have my promise that we will not see this as a revenue-boosting initiative, nor will we impose on our teachers. We’ll watch every nickel and endeavor to spend it twice.
And since you’ve read this far, here’s a little bonus on the work continuing theme. A chunk of my own energy this week has been devoted to framing a set of protocols for a return to in-person schooling in Nashville. Linking up with key people from Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Metro Public Health Department, the Mayor's Office, and some planners with experience nationwide, I have had the chance to see the very beginnings of a way for us to get back to our classrooms. Surely it will be different from what we left on Thursday, March 12, but there’s a remarkable convergence of energy on this project. More in coming weeks.
One emerging challenge is managing the adjacency of a still very adherent Davidson County with the “resumption of normal” mindset of our neighboring jurisdictions. Certainly, it goes far beyond the reach of this kind of column, but how are we going to make sense of that urban/suburban divide? Each day brings more questions about living in that disequilibrium. Would that we can all just commit to responsibility for one another. Thanks much for what I see so regularly and reliably from the USN community on that score.
Enough for now. And there, I made it to the end without reference to murder hornets.
Yours in all of it,
    • Director Vince Durnan

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