Hello, Parker families!
My name is Susan Lester, and I have the honor of serving as the Chair of the Francis Parker School’s Board of Trustees.
In these extraordinary times, we at Parker are fortunate to have the benefit of extraordinary and nimble leadership. Our Head of School Kevin Yaley and his team of administrators and faculty have worked tirelessly in a difficult and fast-changing environment. The Parker Board of Trustees oversees the work of the head of school, and has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the School.
The board is a group of 25 members of our community (you can see information regarding the trustees here) who, in addition to this oversight, serve as guardians of the School’s mission, vision and values. Maintaining that connection to our purpose has been critical as we all have been deliberating how best to address the myriad challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As delineated in a spring letter to the community, the administration, faculty, staff, and board have focused on four guiding principles when making decisions during the last eight months:
- Ensure the health and safety of all Parker students, faculty and staff, and parents;
- Preserve the excellence and integrity of a Parker education;
- Maintain the well-being and connectedness of the Parker community; and
- Sustain the near- and long-term financial stability of Parker.
With these principles in mind, the School invested in people, infrastructure, and supplies to get our students back on campus as quickly and safely as possible, and still preserve the option to have seamless online education for those times it is necessary or desirable. There have been bumps in the road, and these will no doubt continue to occur as we all learn how to cope with the limitations presented by the pandemic and changing guidelines from the health authorities. By communicating transparently, listening to feedback from students, parents, and faculty, and making improvements when possible, we will ensure that our students continue to receive the best we can collectively provide.
The need to be supportive of others in our community has never been clearer. Mindful of this, Parker has extended its efforts to provide student emotional support—ramping up training for faculty and staff to increase sensitivity to students who may be experiencing anxiety or stress, and to be mindful of their own needs, as well. Some families are experiencing financial strain, and Parker has allocated additional resources to assist current Parker families who may be in need. Thank you to those who are able to support efforts like these through your philanthropy and volunteerism.
Returning Parker families may remember the vote that was taken this summer to amend the Parker bylaws to evolve the board from a membership-based model to a self-perpetuating model as a means of aligning with best practices of independent schools. Thank you for the time and attention you gave to this matter. The proposal passed, having received approximately 75% of the votes cast. Under the self-perpetuating model, Parker trustees will be elected by the Board. The nomination criteria and process for evaluating and selecting trustees remain unchanged. Candidates for the Board of Trustees are reviewed and recommended by the Board Governance Committee, which strives to ensure that the composition of the board reflects the strategic expertise and perspectives needed to achieve the mission and strategic objectives of the school. Trustees are nominated based not only on their education and professional or volunteer experience, but also to represent the broad diversity of the Parker community in terms of personal identities, backgrounds, and perspectives.
The Board Governance Committee will solicit names for potential trustee candidates later this year. If you are interested in serving, or know someone who would be a great candidate, please let Board Governance know.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to my predecessor, Robert Gleason, who so calmly, ably, and passionately led the Board during the last two years: from the triumphs of the opening of the Student Life Center and unprecedented success in building a culture of Philanthropy at Parker to the challenges of confronting COVID-19, Robert’s talents have been a true gift to Parker. Thank you!