I hope all are taking some much needed rest over Winter Break, and I look forward to some time off next week to recharge for 2021. I think I speak for everyone when I say I will not miss 2020. However, in what I think is a successful effort to find a silver lining, I want to end the year by reflecting on some of the numerous challenges faced by North Cross and how I believe we have survived (and are surviving) them to become a stronger institution.
Of course, and with apologies to Susan Wenk, you are all aware that part of my job is to be the head cheerleader for North Cross. For ten years, I have extolled the virtue of our educational program, expressed pride in our faculty, and spoken highly about the achievements of our student body. I truly believe it when I say, “there has never been a better time to be at North Cross.”
But every once in a while, an institution is challenged by circumstances to prove that what we faithfully believe is true. Does our value set lead us through the challenges in a way that promotes institutional growth? Does the challenge temper our metal and make us stronger? When tested, are the things that we take as articles of faith proven true?
One of our primary tenets at North Cross, stated in the first line of our mission statement, is that we are a college preparatory school. We take this as an article of faith, and it was challenged this past year by the pandemic - first by the sudden shutdown of school last spring, and secondly by the many COVID-related restrictions placed upon us this fall. At no time did we waiver from our mission. We anticipated the Governor’s shutdown order, had already spent time in professional development preparing for distance learning, and transitioned to a new normal with only a single missed day of instruction. This fall, when many public and private schools were cancelling or limiting in-person instruction, we responded with unprecedented COVID mitigation efforts and a comprehensive testing program that allowed us to return to school in as safe a manner as humanly possible. Our operational focus was always maintaining the academic progress required of a school that bills itself, first and foremost, as a college preparatory school.
We have already seen the results of our commitment to the academic year, as we have seen five students admitted Early Decision to the University of Virginia, four students admitted early to Virginia Tech, and students admitted early to Johns Hopkins, NYU, and the Naval Academy. The fact that our students sat for the SAT at North Cross this fall when many students had to apply without testing and our student transcripts which demonstrated clear evidence that students attended school last spring were, without a doubt, difference makers in our early admissions.
More importantly, not only are our students not falling behind, rather they are significantly progressing relative to their peers attending part-time school. Especially in sequential disciplines such as mathematics and foreign language, but also in writing classes such as English and history, our students will find themselves a year or more ahead of their peers when they begin the college selection process.
We also trumpet the independent nature of our school. In our mission statement, we call ourselves an independent school, not just a private school. In normal times, this can be a distinction without a difference, but over the past ten months, we have been allowed to make decisions based upon what we felt were best practices for our school, and to do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. We decided early on to have school on-campus, to create a testing regimen to minimize the possibility of large-scale COVID spread, and we committed to athletic participation. We were not held to decisions based upon realities at schools across the Valley or across the Commonwealth. The decisions we made were based on what was best for our campus, our community, and North Cross School.
So as we turn the page on 2020, I think I am like most of you, a little bit tired of masks and restrictions, a little wishful about the coming vaccine, and sad that I will not get to spend the holidays with my family. But I also have great pride in the North Cross community response to the pandemic, a response rooted in a caring faculty, supportive parents, a thoughtful Board of Trustees, and a wonderfully mature student body. This is a time when we all should reflect on gifts we are given, even if they are well hidden.
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.