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.
However, the report read hollow to me because it did not tell the real story of North Cross School. The reality is that we take smart, average students and produce Governor School style results. Our student population reflects the Valley in that slightly more than a third of our students receive need-based tuition assistance and our classrooms are the most diverse in the County. We have long since stopped planning for our future by looking at what other local schools are doing. We know that the only way to become better is to look to aspirational schools found in the Virginia independent school world and around the globe.
A data-driven report does not tell the tale of Colin Chandel, a quiet ninth grader emerging from his scholarly pursuits to make his theatre debut as Mr. Green of Clue fame. Or, of Brian Bao and Michael Habib, seniors with no prior experience on the boards, stepping out as Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum.
No numbers can demonstrate how excited I was to watch our varsity basketball team defeat a much larger and very talented team from Virginia Episcopal School. Watching Nelson Etuk go 14 and 11, and toss in four blocks was joyful. It was the first time in my nine years we have beaten VES. Watching us play smart, patient, team basketball reminds me that athletics will always play a crucial role in the development of North Cross students. The data-driven report does not reveal the fact that our students are asked to participate athletically so that they learn the values of teamwork and hard work.
Just today, we had an award-winning, Harvard professor on campus speaking to our students about her research on gender and religious identity, stand your ground laws, and equally important for our students, her development while a student at North Cross. Dr. Caroline Light, North Cross Class of 1987, was named this year’s Distinguished Alumna and her presentations brought out the great North Cross teachers of yore, Gates Dehart, Doc Maycock, Richard Cook, Peter Wonson, and Margaret Grayson. Statistics won’t show how North Cross students are regularly exposed to presentations that would never see the light at large public institutions. Nor do they speak to the benefit that our students receive by belonging to an intellectual community that includes Harvard Teachers of the Year, MacArthur Genius Grant winners, and Canons in the Episcopal Church.
I am like everyone else. Some days, it is easier to get up in the morning and go to work. On others, rolling over and going back to sleep seems like a very attractive option. My depths of winter, rainy day words of wisdom for you: don’t roll over and go back to sleep, because there has never been a better time to be at North Cross.
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.