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All boarding, grades 9-12 in Alexandria, Virginia

Episcopal Represents and Presents at National Conferences

The final week of November saw many members of the EHS community attending and presenting at conferences around the country.
Several faculty and staff members attended or presented at The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) annual conference in Washington, D.C., during the last week of November.

Three faculty members shared Episcopal’s ongoing redesign of the externship program, a four-week experience for graduating seniors that takes place in May, with the aim of helping them reflect on their time at EHS and spring forward into college and life beyond the high school. Senior Class Dean Eleanor Moore, Associate Dean of Students Ben Courchesne, and Director of Experiential Education and the Washington Program Jeremy Goldstein highlighted the opportunities for collaboration between multiple stakeholders during this process. The team shared how students can engage in a unique “life-prep” curriculum with elements of wellness, real-world experience, class bonding, and critical lessons on decision-making. The session framed the challenges facing schools in senior class programming, in addition to exploring Episcopal’s approach to keeping seniors engaged with the community while thoughtfully looking back on their school experience and preparing for the world beyond the campus.

Office of Community and Equity Program Coordinator Molly Pugh presented on "Proven Models for Inclusion Programming." She featured the programming Episcopal has done, with particular emphasis on the MLK Jr. Day Symposium. She worked with faculty at Blair and Loomis Chaffee schools to put together a program that explained each school’s differing models of running a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day program. They worked hard to also explain the year-round programming that each school has in place to support all efforts to build inclusive and equitable communities. Pugh noted that “participants in our workshop were eager to hear and discuss both our MLK-specific programming and our work around such things as professional development, affinity groups, and school climate surveys.”

Boota deButts ’73 gave two presentations in as many days. The first day, he was part of a four-person panel of CFOs and heads of school titled “Current Financial Trends & Boarding Schools.” The four-hour session was an open discussion, covering any topic the audience (which was mainly heads of school and admissions officers) wanted. The panel answered many enlightening questions, from financial pressures facing boarding schools to risk management to auxiliary income sources to facilities and deferred maintenance, and more.

The following day, deButts presented with Daniela Voith of Voith & Mactavish, the architect for the renovation of Stewart Student Center, and Drew Casertano, Head of Millbrook School. The session was called Game Changer! Student Centers and Shared Community Values. Mr. deButts and Mr. Casertano shared their experiences with the adaptive reuse of iconic buildings on their respective campuses into student centers. They talked about all stages of the projects, from strategic plan through program design, about how the buildings were being used, what went well and what didn't, and unexpected uses of the spaces.

Director of Advancement Christina Holt presented with CCS Fundraising consultants on the use of data in advancement work. Together, they considered widely available data sources and presented the results of a benchmarking survey of key data points at a selection of boarding schools. Through an overview of trends, a panel discussion, and Q&A, the session sought to provide a better understanding of how to use data to be more strategic, efficient, and effective.

Holt said, “As hard as it is to carve out time to prepare for and attend conferences like TABS, I find it always pays off. Exchanging stories and sharing experiences gives us an opportunity to learn from and collaborate with fellow educators from other schools. Inevitably, we all take something home that helps us serve our school communities better. I see presenting at conferences as something we should all do on occasion, not only to push ourselves to grow but also to contribute to our field.”

Katie Ryan Kantz, Director of Activities and Summer Programs, led a session called “Using Technology for Inclusion Strategies”, which highlighted her work in using technology to promote student activity involvement to create a healthy culture of inclusion. “Technology allows us to be more flexible with students’ timing of signing up and getting information out for parents and students to know what is being offered,” she said. Kantz discussed implementing social media to promote student activities, using digital sign-up tools and the power of making attendance lists viewable, visual marketing that is attractive for students, and use of the website for parents and students.

While a dozen members of the EHS community remained local, six students and six faculty members attended the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in Nashville, Tenn. The students engaged in diversity work and conversations from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day with trained professionals and guest speakers.

Karen Zhang ’20 said, “I was able to connect with so many people and advocate for what I believe in, and learn how to become a better ally and person.”

Leslie Reyes ’21 echoed those sentiments. “I think it was a really empowering experience,” she said. “I realized that there are so many people that have similar experiences to those that I have had. So many people could relate and I created bonds that I will never forget.”

The students returned to school energized to do more work with the rest of the community. They will host a workshop with previous SDLC attendees from Episcopal during the Third Annual MLK Jr. Day Symposium on January 21, 2019.

Faculty were also constantly engaged in workshops and affinity spaces. Millie McKeachie Smith said that she learned more about the roots of American music, about the intersection of pop culture and equity work, and about new language around identity and personal experience. She also felt, “humbled, challenged, and excited” to continue doing the work at Episcopal. Likewise, Evan Solis felt that he “was able to learn more and continue thinking about not only the personal work, but the difficult and necessary work our communities and schools need to do.”

Part of Episcopal’s strategic plan is an increased presence at national and international conferences and workshops to expand knowledge of and appreciation for Episcopal’s level of academic excellence. An overview of the plan is available online, as is a more comprehensive version (PDF).
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