It has been three weeks since I last updated the community and, during that time, we have continued to monitor the spread of the coronavirus and the corresponding reactions of our state and local governments. We have also continued our conversations with other independent schools and school associations to determine best practices. As such, I feel confident stating North Cross School will open its campus to students on September 8th, unless barred by the state government. We plan to do this with a disciplined and accurate COVID-19 diagnostic testing regimen in place that will allow us to reopen as safely and as normally as possible.
On May 25th, George Floyd was killed by members of the Minneapolis Police Department, setting off what have been two weeks of peaceful protests and violent rioting. And through it all, I have not reached out to the North Cross community, nor have I reached out to our African American Affinity Group. For this, I am sorry.
The issue of race in America is 400 years old and has witnessed periods of great progress and periods of great retrenchment. Regardless, the issue of race in its many variations, often brings with it a vehemence and a vitriol that makes it the most difficult of discussions and difficult discussions are easy to avoid.
But difficulty of discussion is only one of myriad reasons why I have been unusually silent on this matter, the most prominent reason being that in my pastoral role, I cannot find the words to comfort or calm. You know me well enough over the years that right or wrong, I am rarely at a loss for words. But this one has me paralyzed.
As we conclude the current school year in a most unnatural fashion, I would like to thank you for all you have done to ensure the continued education of our children. Certainly the faculty and staff have outdone themselves and I hope my praise for their efforts helps you recognize their accomplishments have been truly extraordinary. I also recognize that families have borne the burden of furthering the education of our children. I know it has not been easy to keep our students focused on learning when so many others have prematurely ended the school year. It cannot be denied that the events of this spring show us that there is a culture of continued learning at North Cross that culture has carried us through a very difficult time.
We are beginning to get a number of questions about the reopening of school this fall, and while we cannot be certain of what September brings, we are actively preparing for several scenarios. I believe I can provide enough information at this point to provide assurance that we will open next fall in a manner that is consistent with recommended best practices.
It is hard to believe but we are three weeks away from the end of the school year. Normally at this point, the students would be smelling the barn; teachers would be thinking about end of the year events, AP exams, and awards; and we would all be thinking about summer vacation. Even though times are anything but normal, I do think there is cause for excitement at the end of the school year because our faculty and students have worked hard, made great strides, and definitely deserve some downtime. Remember that this summer lasts until Tuesday, September 8, so at least for one year, we are returning to the old Memorial Day to Labor Day schedule I grew up with. Of course, those were the days before we had air conditioning in our schools…
I was Zooming with a group of alumni the other evening and they were obviously concerned for North Cross and wondered how we were doing during the physical shut down of the school. I actually began to tear up (I cry at coffee commercials) when I began to tell them about how I have never been more proud of a faculty than I am with the efforts our teachers have put in to make our last trimester as productive as possible for our students. Despite the challenges we face, we remain committed to delivering high-quality education, preserving our student-teacher relationships, and maintaining our strong sense of community because these are distinguishing characteristics of North Cross. (Click here to see some of the amazing things our teachers and students are working on.) And thank you for your many emails, texts, and Facebook posts supporting our faculty efforts. They truly raise our spirits.
We have just completed a week of instruction during what will be remembered as one of the most difficult times in a generation. We are besieged by a 24-hour news cycle complete with mixed messages, have just received confirmation of the COVID-19 virus in the Roanoke Valley, and are faced with very real health and financial concerns. As a community, we feel an isolation and an inability to regain control of our lives. It seems that things happen around us and all we do is respond.
I have been here before, watching my house and my city being swallowed up by the flood waters of Katrina, a refugee four hours away from my home, buying clothes at Walmart because we only packed for a long weekend away and everything we owned was back in New Orleans. I didn’t know if I still had a job, or whether I was going to receive a paycheck, or whether New Orleans would ever be rebuilt. We were helpless and our lives were dependent upon the largesse of others.
Recently, we approached a “donor with capacity” to ask him for a gift to the capital campaign. This gentleman had been generous in the past but before he made this gift, he wanted us to send him a report describing the success we are having at North Cross School. He is a pretty data-driven kind of guy, so we gathered up the standard statistics that measure student achievement; SAT scores, AP success rates, number of AP scholars, admission numbers for certain selective universities, and the like. Fortunately for us, we stack up very nicely against public and independent schools and I like to think we will get a nice gift.
I have worked with families for many years and have come to realize that there are many ways to be a parent and most of them work well. I usually trot this aphorism out when trying to talk a parent off the ledge as they are criticizing themselves for a mistake they made or, in rare cases, when parents are comparing themselves unsuccessfully to other parents. Fortunately, for all of us parents, God has a sense of humor and he made children remarkably resilient.
I just finished having a lengthy conversation with our football coach, Stephen Alexander. Stephen came to North Cross ten years ago from professional football in Italy to coach football and teach physical education. He later moved into admissions and is now the Director of our Dormitory, working for Wilson International. Simply put, Stephen is the finest football coach I have been associated with and his staff, equally outstanding.
I drove onto campus this morning and was greeted by a picture of Steve Jobs in recognition of National Dyslexia Awareness Day. It seems that the man whose company asked consumers to “Think Different,” also happened to be dyslexic.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor is the ninth Head of School at North Cross and has served as such since 2011. He has more than 30 years of experience in education. He has served as headmaster at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana, Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana, and as Interim Headmaster at Wesley Academy in Houston, Texas. In each location, Dr. Proctor’s tenure was marked by creativity, innovation, and school growth.