Dear Parker Families,
As I reflect on this past school year––a year unlike any other––I am pleased to note that all things considered, our School is in a position of strength and our future holds much promise. And I say this with full confidence even during a time when our world has been turned upside-down.
Nine months ago, none of us could have imagined what lay ahead for Parker and our world. As I sit here and reflect, one thing is for certain: the Parker community has come together like never before. Undoubtedly, the road ahead will not be easy as we continue to face challenges and obstacles we could have never imagined. As your Head of School, I am filled with hope and optimism even in the face of the realities we must now respond to and ultimately change.
The following are a few thoughts and observations from this past year for your consideration.
Response to COVID-19
On March 12, 2020, in response to the growing global pandemic, Parker made the decision to indefinitely close both campuses and move our entire educational program online. As we moved into this new and unprecedented period of education, the Parker spirit of “no limit to better” was challenged as it had never been before. With the launch of Parker Online, we were driven by our unyielding commitment to our students and families to not only maintain the continuity of our students’ learning, but also to ensure the students’ were able to continue experiencing the much-needed human connection with their teachers, classmates, and friends.
Granted, out of the gate there were a few bumps with Parker Online as we were literally learning as we went, but thanks to the remarkable work of our faculty and staff, the patience, support, and grace extended by our families, and the resilience, grit, and courage of our students, I believe in the end it was a success.
Our “new normal” forced us to reimagine education––and the daily experience of our students––in ways we could have never contemplated. In the end, we discovered how to not only preserve the education of our students but also find ways to ensure the student experience was as meaningful and authentic as possible. Whether it be the birth of virtual strings concerts, webinars from the basement, the advent of FPS TV, placing signs at the homes of graduating seniors, drive-thru Promotion parades, or the Class of 2020 celebrating Commencement in the parking lot of Petco Park, thanks to an incredible cadre of volunteers and a can-do Parker spirit, we did it.
None of us could have imagined that celebrating the 2020 Commencement in our cars, parked in a lot adjacent to Petco on the morning of June 6 could have been so intimate, so moving, and so gratifying for all. It may have been one of the greatest examples of the Parker community coming together when everything seemed to want to keep us apart. Personally, it was as connected as I had felt in some time.
Lancers for Equity
Even amid a pandemic, nothing could have prepared us for the tragic and insidious events of these past few months, highlighting the social inequities, racial injustices, and systemic racism filling our minds and our hearts with sadness, frustration, and loss.
Amidst the anger, the mourning, and the sense of hopelessness, we must rise together in empathy, civility, and decency and stand up against discrimination, racism, and hate. Together we must continue to work actively and concretely with our friends and families as well as our neighbors across the street and across the country to uphold the values and virtues of our national community, knowing we cannot do it alone.
Never before has our community and our world-at-large needed to come together as one truly inclusive community. We have much work to do, but nothing has ever been as critical or as needed than what lies before us––to bring an end to systemic racism and racial injustice. The President of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), Donna Orem, has called on our schools to “take the lead in addressing both historical and present-day injustice. We value and develop individual potential and build and nurture communities. Listening, learning, and growing are central to what we do. This work will make all our schools safer, stronger, and active participants in the creation of a more just world.” At Parker, we take this call as seriously as anything.
Parker is committed to the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the long haul, and we recognize the need to bring in voices, thoughts, questions, and the ideas of our alumni community. Our goal is to hear the authentic experiences and perspectives of our alumni, directly from our alumni, understanding that this is a critical piece of the important work ahead of us. On July 26, we will share with the entire community our Lancers for Equity and Justice Action Plan.
Since June 2018, the Parker faculty and staff have been working diligently to complete our self-study through which we have been able to review and clarify our purpose and goals for students and begin to develop plans to accomplish these goals to improve all areas of our school and our educational program.
Parker submitted the final self-study document to CAIS on Dec. 1, 2019. In early February, a committee of CAIS independent school leaders spent four days on campus intending to identify areas of strength and areas needing improvement, as well as assessing how well Parker lives up to our stated mission and how effectively we meet or exceed the 16 accreditation standards.
After the visit, the committee submitted a full report to the CAIS Board of Directors, which reviews the recommendation and makes the ultimate determination about our accreditation status. For the past six accreditation cycles, Parker has received the maximum status. And while we will not learn of our status until December 2020, based on the reading of the report – which took place on the final day of the visit and was given in front of all Parker faculty and staff – I can say with an equal dose of humility and pride that Parker received the highest of accolades along with the appropriate recommendations that will ultimately catapult our school to even greater heights.
And it was during that final reading when Parker received the highest compliment of all. In concluding the report, the visiting Chair shared the following, “All of us on the visiting committee agree: If we could, we would all love to send our kids to Parker.” I do not know if we could have been paid a higher compliment, and at that moment, I was filled with gratitude for each and every person who works at Parker. For they – individually and collectively – are the reason why Parker truly is a remarkable school.
A Final Thought
As is the Parker tradition, each year, we select a theme to set the tone and the priority for the coming school year. Thinking about what we might select for this year’s theme, I came across the following piece that Parker teacher and alumnus Rob Hansen ’87 included in the 2018 Middle School Yearbook: Connected. There is nothing that matters more than the relationships we share with one another. And it is the investment in those relationships––truly connecting with one another––that will bring riches to us all.
For the coming year, our theme will move from “Connected” to “Together”––something we always are, no matter what may keep us apart.
I hope that you have found and will continue to discover new ways to stay connected to your families, your friends, your neighbors, and all members of your community. As always––and now as much as ever––be well and stay safe. I look forward to seeing everyone back on our campuses in the fall together, albeit six feet apart.
All the best,
Kevin Yaley, Head of School