Kelly reflects on past year in “State of the School” address

Kelly+reflects+on+past+year+in+State+of+the+School+address

Ayesha Sen and Sean Lee

The Parents’ Association (PA) hosted the annual All School Family Meeting over Zoom to update parents on accomplishments across the school’s four divisions and the PA’s plans for the future.

The event this Wednesday, referred to as Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly’s “State of the Union Address,” replaced the on-campus dinner gathering from previous years. Over 650 people attended the event — over double the attendance of previous years’ Family Meetings.

President of the PA Andrea Madaio P’23 Madaio worked with Kelly to organize the event, along with Kelly’s executive assistant Anne Joao, First Vice President (VP) of the PA Sally Zhang, Second VP of the PA Sonal Pande, Benefit Co-Chair Anne Hyun, HMPA Executive Secretary Sucheta Ponda, and PA volunteer Zilan Shen, she said. 

Kelly delivered his speech on the state of the school, reflecting on the hardships that the past year brought onto the school community and the strides that the school has taken to tackle various issues such as diversity and inclusion, quality of education, and COVID-19 concerns. 

He addressed the importance of recognizing the need for diversity and inclusion not just in the school’s community, but on a broader scale. “At a time when there is a clarion call to discuss race at the highest levels of government, we are front and center as we should be,” Kelly said. 

 

Kelly also spoke about the school’s efforts to improve dialogue surrounding race at the school. He discussed the changes in curriculum in the Upper Division (UD) based on the school’s liberal arts education and the demands of Black Students Demand Change, a student organization dedicated to fighting racial inequalities and a lack of diversity in predominantly white educational institutions. He also mentioned Associate Director, Office for Identity, Culture and Institutional Equity (ICIE) Ronald Taylor’s and the ICIE’s ongoing efforts to improve racial justice efforts.

Regarding COVID-19, Kelly spoke about the school’s several adaptations to accommodate in-person education during the time of a pandemic, extending his thanks to administrators, teachers, support staff, maintenance and public safety officers, FLIK workers, and divisional nurses. 

Board of Trustees Chair Laurence Grafstein P’11 P’12 P’15 also spoke about the school’s priorities of on-campus safety and dedication to creating the best online learning experience possible, in addition to the school’s diversity and related inclusion and equality initiatives, including the newly formed Board Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) subcommittee. 

The event also focused on the efforts of the PA to keep the community close together. Madaio extended her thanks to members of the community and displayed the HMPA’s initiatives and accomplishments, which included projects for faculty and staff appreciation, the New Family Welcome Committee, the HM Has a Heart initiative, and the 2020-2021 holiday gift fund.

“Given the fact that we are largely a commuter school, connecting and understanding your child’s environment is especially important when you’re in the Middle and UD and the kids don’t really want to hear from you,” Madaio said.

Madaio said that joining the PA would be an opportunity for parents to connect with both their children and parents, highlighting the importance of communication during a time of social distancing. “Whether you work full time or want to dive in with two feet, the HMPA has something to offer.”

Grafstein thanked the HMPA for contributing to the resilience of the school during these unprecedented times. “You know we’re all practicing social distancing, but the truth of the matter is that because of the HMPA we are not socially distant,” he said. “We may be physically distant, but [the PA] is the glue that brings us together.”

Following Madaio’s speech, Zhang spoke about the lack of photos capturing moments of parents on campus due to social distancing and spending more time online. She also discussed the priceless nature of meeting fellow parents and forging friendships that joining the PA would offer. 

The PA then promoted the All School Benefit, the HMPA’s largest fundraising event, which will occur on March 12. This year’s benefit, unlike previous years, will be hosted online via an augmented livestream platform to keep participants engaged. 

Hyun, Pande’s Co-Chair, reiterated the importance of supporting the benefit. “Last year, we were able to raise an unprecedented $1 million to support the school, and this year we’re really hoping for 100% participation,” Hyun said. “While we know it’s been a very challenging year for many, we do hope that you’ll consider supporting the school’s efforts.”

Finally, at the end of the event, attendees asked questions regarding travelling guidelines, end of year festivities, finance and economic courses in the UD, vaccinations, and sports.

A main concern in planning the event this year was accomplishing as much as past dinners did, Madaio said. “In years past, we have found it very successful that the school would host a dinner so parents were able to come together as a community, meet other parents, and listen to what Dr. Kelly and Mr. Grafstein had to say.” The main question of planning the online event was how to reach most parents and remain engaging, she said.

PA Lower Division (LD) Vice Chair Narda Chin P’31 found comfort in Kelly’s state of the school address, both as a member of the PA and the LD community. “Dr. Kelly’s continued commitment, his thoughtfulness and his leadership during this unprecedented time has really helped everybody remain calm. As a community we trust him with whatever direction he believes we should go in,” she said.

“It makes our big community, with its four campuses and many, many people feel small and intimate in the moment. I think of it as the one community building event that links us all together,” Secretary of the Middle Division PA Stephanie Lofgren P’19 ‘22 ‘25 said. “All things student, staff, and faculty, across all divisions and departments get their moments to shine.”