Welcome back from Dr. Thomas Lopez

Dear Gordon Community,

To say this has been an intense summer would be quite the understatement. It would make sense to attribute this to the task of planning for reopening, but this summer, this year, in fact, has been about so much more. In my quarter century working in and leading schools, I don’t know that I can recall a time where the stakes felt as high as they do today. How can families make wise decisions in the midst of a frightening pandemic? How will our children experience the 2020 election? How will this country confront its past and answer the calls for racial justice?

The questions are relentless. They pop up in Zoom calls with the Department of Health, in meetings with Gordon parents, in text exchanges with colleagues and mentors, in check-ins with Gordon’s leadership.

The key to answering all of these questions seems to circle back to one theme: the tension between individual and collective needs in a community.

This country places a high value on individual freedoms, expression, opinions, identities and more, and independent schools take this to an entirely different level. This is not a bad thing at all. Schools should be places where all students learn to find their voices, and where they can expect that they are respected and celebrated in the fullness of who they are. However, I worry that we are in a moment where many folks are seeing themselves as the whole, rather than a piece of the whole.

In the context of the pandemic and the fight for racial justice, our lives literally depend on us understanding the powerful relationship between the individual and the collective, between “me and we.” This is why we say “all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.” Transcending our present circumstances will require us to embody the spirit of the South African concept of ubuntu: “I am because you are.”

My goal this year is to continue to foster a culture where we recognize, as former President Barack Obama said in 2018, “that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”

I name this goal as a reminder of how important it is, in times of crisis, to lean into our strengths and trust that the values and behaviors that have brought us this far will carry us through this unprecedented moment as well.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has famously shared, “the Presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.” (I am writing this letter during the Democratic National Convention, so forgive me if I have Obamas on the brain right now.) I think her words hold an important lesson for the Gordon community. While we will have to learn new practices, new protocols, and new ways of being together, this upcoming school year will not change who we are at our core; it will only amplify it. In those moments when I allow myself to give into despair, this knowledge—the knowledge of who Gordon is at its core—brings me deep comfort and abundant hope.

Before you and your children dive into all of the details this mailing contains about the upcoming year, I urge you to take a deep breath and remind yourself why you chose Gordon for your family. Seriously. Before you put my letter down and turn to the class lists or the sign-up schedule for after school, close your eyes, take a deep breath and remember why you said yes to Gordon School.

We all have different stories for how we found our way here. I’m willing to bet there are some similar themes: care, community, challenge, connection, belonging, joy, and trust are a few that come to mind for me. When things get tough this year, as they inevitably will, our ability to bring ourselves back to our center, our core, will make all the difference in Gordon coming out of the other end of this crisis stronger than ever.

As you are well aware, we are waiting to hear from our Governor next week about whether we will be able to open our doors for in-person learning. I sincerely hope that we will receive good news. I am so proud of our Leadership and Building and Grounds teams as well as Nurse Sandy, Jenny Alario, and Geoff Griffin for essentially giving up their summer vacations to ensure a safe and joyful reopening. I’m thankful for our incredible faculty and staff who have also been hard at work throughout these summer months preparing for your arrival. And I am deeply grateful for the support and encouragement we have received from our Board of Trustees and from all of our families.

I cannot wait for us to be together again.

Take good care,