From the Director: What You Can Count on From Us This Summer

Read on for faculty & staff summer plans to prepare for the next academic year. Expect to continue to receive regular email updates, read about future protocols on a safe return to Edgehill Avenue, and learn about virtual summer programming in the coming weeks. Please aid us by responding to surveys and participating in Coffee with the Director on Tuesdays.
And so the semester ends. There seems no way to adequately express gratitude for the combined efforts of students, faculty, and families in finding a way forward for us since March 12—the day everything shifted. Your commitment to working together, to taking on more in this most disrupted of historic moments, saw us through. Now for summer, for the journey from Phase 2 to the thereafter, watching the numbers, minding the protocols. It’s all inherently unpredictable, crystal ball stuff.
 
Seems only fair and right (and reassuring) to confirm some promises we fully intend to keep. Faculty and staff will spend the first part of next week in essential wrap-up meetings, to be followed by 10 days or so of uncharacteristic downshifting at USN. Then those of us with broader responsibilities, reinvigorated and refocused, will return to the facts at hand. What that means, among other things, is that:
 
We’ll be communicating frequently. This is not the summer to spare you regular updates. I’ll keep hosting weekly Tuesday coffees, and the USN Newsletter will continue at least biweekly, with other program-specific messages coming as things evolve. And of course when you call or email, you won’t have to wait long for a response.
 
We’ll make every effort to open up on campus, in person, as planned on August 18. Without cutting corners on safety, attentive to emerging protocols locally and nationally, we’ll spare no effort to get back together. We’re finally seeing some convergence on guidelines and best practices. By July 1 the picture should offer much-needed clarity, and we’ll have outlined the specific measures that need to be in place in advance of a safe return to 2000 Edgehill. I’m actually looking forward to dedicating a stretch of uninterrupted hours and days to planning exercises with Admin Team colleagues.
 
We’ll act on lessons from the peaks and valleys of remote learning. What we’ve done this spring can be best described as an emergency response, for good or ill. Now, in so many ways, we know what we couldn’t have before. If at some point we need to return, however briefly or infrequently or substantially, to that modality, we’ll have made a host of adjustments—based on what we hear from all quarters. Please take time to respond to surveys when they find you. Two months for teachers to plan for those moments feels like such a luxury and at the same time such a necessity.
 
We’ll make earnest efforts to offer summer program options as conditions permit. Faculty, wrung out though many understandably may be, continue to share possibilities for an emerging roster of synchronous options for June—and beyond. Our plan is to fast-track that initiative for release within the next two weeks. If we’re authorized to responsibly resume on campus to some degree before August, we’ll factor that in and recalibrate where we can, but we won’t rush and we won’t get distracted from broader planning efforts.
 
We’ll watch every budgetary nickel and look out for our community. This economic headwind brings challenges of all kinds to USN families, and in ways that certainly extend beyond our knowledge. Understanding that our resources are finite, we count on a school culture that helps where we can. We’ll take stock of exactly where finances stand after our June 30 fiscal year-end, apply the principles that have guided our stewardship as the school prepared to weather unexpected shocks like what we’re facing, and keep answering the phone when families are in need. All we can do is all we can do.
 
Maybe it’s a function of two decades in this role for me, but whatever the case, I’m feeling the responsibility of our history—as a school that found a way forward through generational challenges, buoyed by an uncommon spirit. And simultaneously, I’m imagining how this current story will be told by our successors, how they might learn from the example that we have the chance and the responsibility to set. From either perspective, looking back or looking forward, there’s an audible call (can you hear it?) to get to work and to stay grateful.
 
May our R0 descend well below 1.
 
Congratulations, really, on a year like no other,
 
*And let me close by noting with sadness the passing of one of USN’s founding leaders, Betty Werthan, though at each and every instance over the years she insisted on giving the credit for that role to others. Betty and her dear husband Bernard hosted the very first meeting in response to Peabody’s announcement in August 1974 that the Demonstration School would be shuttered at the end of that academic year. Had they not convened what became known as the Transition Committee, we’d probably have no school to cherish and look out for today. My aim in our conversations when she and Bernard returned to campus (or when we met around town in connection with all the good they continued to do) remained to do something worthy of those original, seminal efforts. Mostly, I wanted them to be proud of us—always a helpful yardstick. She was like my smart, caring, and straight-talking auntie, lovable in a way all her own. And my heart is with her beloved family.
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    • Director Vince Durnan

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