Leadership and Strategic Plan

Conversations after Parkland

Dear parents,
I expect that many of us enjoyed watching some of the winter Olympics over the past few weeks. It was hard not to be inspired by the beauty, elegance, perseverance, grit and determination of these athletes. The Olympics, dating back of course to ancient Greece, were established to celebrate the height of human excellence, including modeling peace and understanding across cultures and countries from around the world. 
Whether you enjoyed the exquisite choreography of the ice dancers, the courage and tenacity of the downhill skiers or the intensity of the curlers,* these Olympic athletes provided a paradoxical antidote to the sadness, fear and mourning we are all grappling with as a result of the death of school children and teachers in the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida. 
Having led a school that was close enough in proximity to Sandy Hook in Connecticut to have had an impact on several of my former students and their families, I am heartened by the important dialogue and debate that is taking place in our country; this dialogue includes student voices, which should always be seen as a sign of hope. Our Upper School student government wanted to discuss meaningful ways to honor those students whose lives were lost in this recent tragedy. They are interested in sharing their thoughts and ideas about preventing such tragedies in the future. Not everyone agrees on the solutions, but we are fortunate to have smart and caring students who benefit from a warm and intellectual school community in which to learn and share with each other respectfully. 
At Tower Hill, our students are able to have age-appropriate conversations about things that are on their minds, as studies show that students cannot learn at the highest levels if they are distracted by topics they may be struggling with in the world around them. Our knowledgeable and skilled teachers are close alongside our students to facilitate any such discussions to ensure that students learn how to share and listen to different points of view respectfully. To witness this student-led dialogue as an Upper School advisor myself is indeed a privilege. When I asked one student what he thought I should write about this topic to Tower Hill parents, he replied, "Mrs. Speers, you should just tell them that the students are working it out." This surely is a sign of hope, as our students will indeed be called to "work it out." It is their intellect, integrity and creativity that will solve many of the issues our communities and the world face. 
I am proud of Tower Hill middle schoolers for their plans to send a handmade banner with their messages of sympathy, love and hope that will be displayed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We have all shared moments of silence here at Tower Hill in age-appropriate fashion. School heads around the country are working with faculty, students and safety teams to ensure that all of our children are able to come to school and learn, feeling completely safe. 
As parents and teachers, it is natural for our minds to move immediately to safety and security, and just how to prevent these senseless tragedies that have affected too many of our schools. I can assure you that we continue to be vigilant and are working tirelessly to ensure the safety of all our students, faculty and staff at Tower Hill. There will be no shortcuts, and we are fortunate to have an active Safety Committee that has been and will continue to work diligently. To this end, I share this message from NAIS, which you may find helpful. 
Enjoy the first weekend of March!
* P.S. Witness my Olympic curling moment in a Lower School science classroom as students studied the effects of friction!