From the Head of School...

February 2018
Just to keep things interesting—I am writing during a return flight from San Francisco, having spent four days on the west coast for Canterbury events. What follows is more of a traveler’s journal than an insightful reflection, but here we go: some thoughts from beyond the hilltop…

Day 1: Travel from Connecticut to Washington

I could not have been more than two miles beyond campus before I began to send a flurry of emails/texts/shared Google docs to my administrative team. Panic? No. Acknowledging that the spectrum of details and events faculty manage each and every day is wide indeed? Yes. (And really, the flurry was more for my peace of mind than for my colleagues’ benefit!)

After a two-hour delay and a six-hour flight, I arrived in Seattle (8 pm PST/11 pm EST), both excited and starving. I was fortunate to be shepherded from the airport to the hotel in Bellevue by a kind-hearted gentleman who gave me the full tourist’s outline of the cities (including the Seahawks training facility, which was hidden in darkness) and his perspective on the changes he has seen in the area since moving to the Pacific Northwest from Senegal in the mid-1980s. A wonderful welcome. And yes, I ate a burger & fries at 10 pm PST/1 am EST.

Day 2: Bellevue, WA

There really is nothing quite like waking up to a mountain view. Stunning. Beautiful. Breathtaking.

Canterbury Board Chair, Bob Steers ’71, and I had the privilege of spending part of the afternoon with Mark Pigott (yes, Pigott Arena), member of the Canterbury class of 1972, who toured us through the PACCAR headquarters, including their new innovation floor (think: bright, open spaces...walls to write on...a conference room with a garage door “wall”) and myriad work areas with gorgeous views. We “talked Canterbury,” including stories from the 1970s on through plans & aspirations ahead, and Mark’s passion for schools/education was noteworthy. There is no question that every time I have the opportunity to meet with members of the extended Canterbury family, I am grateful for their time and perspective.

On to San Francisco…

Day 3: San Francisco Part I

Fortunately, each day off campus still began with a full review of the prior evening’s dormitory reports. From faculty members providing insight to the Olympic sport of Curling, to athletic recaps and homework triage lists, I was grateful to find ways to stay connected despite the distance. Barely 48 hours away, it felt like a week already!

Lunch with a current parent provided an opportunity to once again seek feedback regarding our School, our goals, our mission, our impact. A long but lovely walk through San Francisco followed; spring-like temperatures and views of the bridges and bay were paired with reminders of deep urban poverty and the extremes we all must process & explain as parents and educators. Highs and lows. Reality checks. And moments to pause and remember how we weave these conversations throughout our work with Canterbury students. Compassion. Respect. Service & Spirituality. Problem-solving. Preparing for what lies ahead as moral leaders in a secular world.

That evening, a highlight of the trip was an alumni reception hosted by Peter ’63 and Barbara Folger in their home in Presidio Heights. I had not met the majority of the attendees until this trip, and so my standard “what brought you to Canterbury” question was in high gear! Bob and I had an opportunity to provide an update on the “state-of-the-school” as well as to answer questions, map out next steps, and brainstorm avenues by which our alumni base can be even more involved. Our critical mass of west coast alumni is engaged and growing. Go Saints!

Day 4: San Francisco Part II

The day began with a reminder that it is both a very big—and a very small—world: as I stepped off the treadmill, a hotel guest asked if I was a Canterbury alum (yes, I wear Canterbury gear as often as possible when travelling). He was a proud graduate of The Gunnery on the cusp of his 20th reunion. I kindly did not mention that we are up in the Canterbury-Gunnery Cup by 4 points.

At 8:30 a.m., I learned of one very important difference between boarding and day schools: carpool line. The taxi that delivered me to Katherine Delmar Burke School (Burke’s) created a serious traffic jam. Yikes! Things got better from there, however, as I enjoyed a warm welcome, tour, and conversation regarding the interest in boarding schools among San Francisco families. An intimate, cheerful campus nestled in the Sea Cliff area of the city, Burke’s had a spirited vibe. Hopefully I crossed paths with some future Saints!

Onward to the Hamlin School, also a K-8 independent school for girls buzzing with energy and empowerment. Of note is that The Hamlin Creed (Compassion, Courage, Honesty, Respect, Responsibility) has significant overlap with Canterbury’s Five Values. Kismet.

As I walked back to the hotel through various neighborhoods, architectural styles, and the wafting scents of assorted restaurants, news of the school shooting in Florida began to flood my phone. Terrible. Terrifying. How do we help our children be vigilant yet fierce? Feel safe yet on-guard? Process news that has become too familiar but should not be? Big world, small world.

Thankfully, the final leg of the trip brought us to a wonderful conversation with a mid-1960s alumnus. Topics of discussion included: what does innovation look like in 2018? Ask the students! From where do the very best ideas germinate and grow? At the points of intersection between academic disciplines once siloed but now integrated. How do we best serve present and future Canterbury Saints? By ensuring that they—and our focus on values, service, and spirituality—remain at the center of our work, mission, and strategy. It was a lively and affirming discussion, one I look forward to continuing.

Now, on the return flight home, I am once again reading dorm reports as I reconnect with our hilltop. Back in time for school meeting tomorrow.

Rachel Stone

Rachel E. Stone
Head of School