We are ready for a vacation. How do I know? This morning I started up the coffee maker without placing the coffee pot on the warmer and proceeded to flood the mail desk in the work room. So, it is with complete understanding that today’s Crossties remarks may not get the same initial readership as in the past. However, when you have time, please take a moment to read on because I am speaking to the true nature of what we do here at North Cross School. Plus, I’ve heard my messages make great ‘beach reads.’
Private education is a competitive business. In the Roanoke Valley, we compete against a free public school system and a number of smaller, religiously affiliated private schools that charge a fraction of our tuition. Every day, we wake up and come to work and seek to justify our existence. To put it simply, we are committed to a culture of continual improvement and compete to provide the very best education possible. That being said, we are not without flaws; we are subject to outside forces that place restrictions on what we can do. However, we always strive to be the best we can be.
So, when I hear a prospective parent decide to send their child to another school with the comment, “My child will do just fine in public school,” or, “I want my child to be able to live in the real world,” it’s disappointing. We work so hard to make a difference in our students’ lives and we feel like it ought to be apparent to all who look at us. The truth, however, is that many of the differences are not that apparent to visitors, nor are they easily illustrated with the many statistics we use in our admissions office. In fact, we use statistics like test scores and number of AP Scholars because we perceive these as an objective comparison that illustrates our value when our real value lies in the immeasurable growth of our students, growth you will not see in other school environments.
Consider this list of recent DeHart Projects and realize that, at the bare minimum, this list represents a student writing a 10- to 15-page paper and presenting their topic to an audience of 200 people. Don’t forget the 180 upper school student audience members who began their day hearing a presentation, walking away with new found knowledge—and, all before “school” begins.
Now add to that the speakers we have invited on campus just this year.
This is a list of speakers more in keeping with a speaker series at a small college, speakers who met with our students in small groups, speakers who inspired our kids to consider alternate viewpoints, and speakers who taught our students that intellectual conversation often happens outside the classroom. You have to see the group of 10-15 students approaching the stage after each speaker to ask additional questions. Or, sit in on the lunch conversation as students eat with a speaker before their presentation. These interactions are what a North Cross education is all about. Ask students at other schools what speakers they have heard this year. Ask them what student presentations they have attended. My guess is that they will reply few or none.
Yesterday, I watched our first grade present, “Welcome to Roanoke, Flat Stanley.” Our six-year-olds were on stage speaking and performing to a live audience. Three days ago, I watched our fifth graders presenting their coding projects to other students (some of them Upper Schoolers) and parents at our coding fair. Recently, two of our alumni returned to campus to speak about their inter-racial friendship and their experiences since they began kindergarten at North Cross 19 years ago. In early January, I spoke individually with a student about his interpretations of the role of religion and morality. In January, we hosted Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, a national expert on bullying, who spoke with our students and faculty about how to identify bullying and what to do in response. In April, we will host Liza Mundy ’78 as she and parent Heath Lee (a women’s history biographer) will take the stage in Fishburn to discuss Ms. Mundy’s new book, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II. And it just goes on and on.
We have worked hard, and with the help of a curious senior class, we have successfully created an intellectual community more in keeping with that of a university. We promote and value the expression of opinion, we operate in an atmosphere of respect, and our students emerge from their time at North Cross exceptionally well prepared to fully participate in college. It is one thing to attend college, it is even better to embrace college.
Enjoy your spring break and I hope you think a little bit about what makes North Cross truly different. More happens here than over there.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor, the ninth head of school at North Cross since 2011, has more than 26 years of experience in education, 15 of which have been at the head of school level. 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.