March 18, 2020
Dear PAIS Heads,
I am grateful for this opportunity to share our second "Reflection on Leadership" by three more of our great school heads. This is a remarkable time that challenges the ingenuity, strength and character of every school head. It is my hope that these reflections might in some small measure inspire us.
As I shared with my team, the true character of our school is tested during times of crisis. Our unique mission of serving the less fortunate in a residential model has certainly presented challenges. Our residential staff is providing care 24/7; our faculty members are doing what they can to engage our students through online learning experiences; and our administrators are ensuring alignment to our school's values as we make decisions in rapidly changing circumstances. This crisis also reveals the strengths and areas for improvement that all organizations had prior to COVID-19, and will give us the opportunity to emerge as a strengthened community when we enter the recovery phase. Observing the positive spirit of our students and staff during this extraordinary time is something that will stay with me long after my service to the home and school that I love.
Peter Gurt, President, Milton Hershey School
As we are all concerned for those who have been or will be personally affected by illness, financial hardship, or harsh consequences brought on by this global pandemic, our school communities are strong and very good at caring sincerely about those beyond our immediate community. The courage required for each one of us and our teachers - to continue to teach through the unknown, to perfect the art of virtual and distance hugs for colleagues and students, to reimagine what is possible remotely, and to continue to wonder amist worry - are what we are surely called to do for our communities right now. Ultimately, we believe in the strength of our country and the talent, goodness, and resolve of human beings. In the meantime, "as fear grips our country, let us choose love. During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us find other ways to commit to love."
Bessie Speers, Head of School, Tower Hill School
I consider my role, at this time, supporting our teachers doing their very new work of distance learning. If they feel empowered and they have a bit of confidence, the way they did teaching in the classroom last week, this will be ok. I have felt that my role has been primarily as a communicator about where we are, what we know, what we are doing and what is next. Anxiety is high and we need a calming presence to help people settle into this reality.
Matthew Evans, Head of School, St. Peter's School
Gary J. Niels
Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS)
37 E. Germantown Pike Suite 302
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania 19462