Opening Day 2017-18

599b2c10c7d2d.image.jpg

August 23, 2017

As we open our 72nd year, we celebrate our community and renew our commitment to ἀρετή, excellence.

Eighteen months ago, we launched a school-wide initiative to define what we mean by excellence at TJ. It was an enormous question, but one we wanted to try to answer in the context of the work we do here. The result is that we now have three documents that explicitly state the principles and aspirations that support our mission and guide us every day. The Statement of Faculty Excellence was the first to be completed, and it provided the template for the two that followed: the Statement of Staff Excellence and the Statement of Student Excellence. The process of creating all three statements was broadly inclusive and involved a great deal of introspection and discussion. In all three cases, we sought to articulate tenets that would be both aspirational and achievable. Very soon, our statements will be posted here and throughout the school as a constant, visual reminder of what we hope and seek to be as a community of teachers and learners.

What we love about the opening of school is how it brings a fresh start-- we’re all beginning anew, with joy and hope. This week we moved into dorms, saw a total solar eclipse, ate barbecue, cheered each other during crazy games, got organized, and started classes. But, right now, in the midst of all that is positive, we continue to be troubled by the tragedy and appalling ugliness of what took place recently in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is impossible to overstate the sadness and outrage that we feel as we recall what we witnessed. What happened in Charlottesville touches and involves all of us, and we must be clear: No matter what form it takes, the hatred promulgated by racist, bigoted, anti-semitic, and white supremacist groups and individuals is intolerable. It will certainly never be tolerated here. However, we will always have an active dialogue about these events and others like them, because that is what we do at TJ-- it is part of our excellence. We do not skirt difficult issues. We firmly believe that through calm, thoughtful, honest, and informed discussion we will come to understanding and be able to stand up for what is right.

TJ is a small school with tremendous diversity. That is our most cherished attribute, and we do not take it for granted. We know that fostering a welcoming, inclusive, safe, and just community requires much more than the words of a mission statement. But how do we go about it? The events in Charlottesville reaffirm that it takes constant mindfulness, real openness, and great effort, on the part of everyone, to be the kind of community we want and need to be, for the sake of all our wonderful students.   

Last year, we formed a task force of faculty, staff, and parents to begin to frame this work more purposefully. As we open the new year, we are pleased to announce that the group has evolved to a standing Committee on Diversity, led by our Director of Diversity and Student Affairs, Marie De Jesus. But that is only the beginning. In the coming weeks and months, we will do much more, in multiple areas and at different levels, to foster diversity, inclusion, and social justice in our own community and beyond. We ask for your support and participation in the effort—we are all in this together! 

Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com