As we acknowledged in August, many of our suggestions did not fall under your direct jurisdiction, especially since you decided to step back from the action your first year (which we agree was the best move for a brand-new president). Still, that doesn’t mean you’re getting off easy; it only makes sense to follow up. We’re going progressive and eschewing the usual end-of-year report card, but here, in no particular order, is an evaluation of what you’ve done so far:
1. Bring back semiformal and sell gum and mints in the cafeteria: Although the prefects spearheaded these two initiatives, the buck stops at the top. As president, you must have some sort of veto power, and we’re thankful you didn’t veto Homecoming Formal or Tic Tacs, the two great early successes of the school year. (We’re not sure why we got Life Savers instead of gum, but we’ll take it.)
2. Set midterms before winter break: This debate has yet to be settled once and for all, but by experimenting with midterms before break next year, a first step — and one with which most students agree — has been taken. But while we applaud the school’s willingness to experiment educationally, we’re wary of the other changes.
While downgrading the midterms to shorter, midyear assessments might seem like a good way to minimize stress, this pilot program might actually increase stress by making finals the only big tests of the year, and therefore more important. Students (especially this year’s ninth graders, who for the first time this year took in-class assessments instead of midterms and finals) will also be less prepared for these finals. While these changes won’t affect us, we’re sure next year’s editorial board will have an opinion come December, so keep an ear to the ground.
3. Make ninth grade feel more like high school: Next year’s experimental midyear assessments are indeed quite like this year’s ninth grade midyear assessments, which does in one way integrate ninth grade and the Upper School like we requested in August.
But we asked for ninth grade to feel more like high school, not for the rest of high school to feel more like ninth grade. This is a fine line, but an important one. Even this year’s workload study acknowledged that there is a definite gap between the Middle School and the Upper School, especially regarding the ninth to 10th grade transition. Now that the workload study committee has recognized this gap, something concrete must be planned to combat it. With a year as a ninth grade English teacher under your belt, we’re sure your experience in the field will make you pivotal in resolving this issue — and in the correct linguistic manner.
4. Prioritize quality, not speed, for the mission: Community’s been a big buzzword this year thanks to Civitalks and your decision to rewrite the mission statement. While Civitalks wasn’t the most successful of ventures, we’re impressed by your eagerness to delve into the core of what the school is and how it presents itself to the outside world. It would have been nice if you’d met your end-of-year target for the new mission statement’s debut, but the beginning of next year is just as good, especially if that means you’ve spent time editing and revising your credo. As you brainstorm, try to free yourself from the basic premise the administration seems to have assumed this year, that the school’s community is lacking in some way.
5. Forge a relationship with the student body: Remember what we said a few hundred words ago about often glimpsing you on the quad ready to chat? That was a compliment, and far more student-president interaction than we ever imagined. When we semi-jokingly suggested a lunch date back in August, we never expected you would take us up on it and sit down for a bite with students on the quad.
Don’t think the effort you’ve put in trying to learn all our names so that you can greet us in passing on the Seaver stairs has gone unnoticed. When we shake your hand at commencement next week, we won’t be shaking the hand of Tom Hudnut’s recent successor; we’ll be shaking the hand of Mr. Commons. All we ask is that you keep it up in the years to come.
Thanks for being such a fervent supporter of the Chronicle these past few months. We’ve had a great time getting to know you, and we’re proud to be your first graduating class.
See you June 6,
The Chronicle Editorial Board