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A Year with Unprecedented Opportunities

Phil Peck
Without question, this is a year like none other. We are dealing with the onslaught of three pandemics: the COVID health pandemic, the social justice crisis, and the potential financial threat created by COVID.  As I reflect on all we have experienced this year, I am constantly drawn to the insights gained from the Chinese word for crisis. Etymologists and Sinologists debate whether in fact the two Chinese characters representing the word ‘crisis’ mean danger/misfortune and opportunity. What we do know is that the two characters reflect danger and an opportunity for change. 
As we have been dealing with the challenges of this year, I am constantly drawing on this paradox that while dealing with really difficult situations we also have a time that allows us unprecedented opportunities to change, learn, and grow. I am also struck that each time we face a new challenge/danger we have a choice. To embrace the challenge and change, learn, and grow -- or retreat. 
 
I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate how we, as a community, have approached the constant barrage of challenges and crises this spring and summer.  I know I am not alone in the number of times I have found myself saying, “really, you’ve got to be kidding me, this too?” All of us have found ourselves saying this on a regular basis since March.  
 
I think what makes this year especially challenging is that all of these issues we face are constantly changing.  Usually, you can plan and predict for challenges we might face in a normal year, but the norm for this year is that nothing is certain. 
 
Well almost nothing is certain.  What is certain are the remarkable colleagues I see on this Zoom call.  From the very beginning, all of you have risen to the occasion and adjusted, improvised, and met the particular challenge and opportunity to grow and be better. I often say that Holderness is not about buildings. Holderness is about our people, and never has that been more evident. 
 
  • Look at the way our admission team and the greater community came together to give us the most successful enrollment yield in the history of Holderness.  
  • Or how our teaching colleagues worked tirelessly to pull off a remarkably successful spring semester. Now, they’ve taken those lessons to put together what promises to be a meaningful year with new schedules, new activities, new use of technology, and new opportunities for growth.  
  • Or look at the way everyone came together to make our virtual graduation truly unique and special. 
  • Or the herculean effort made by colleagues, who, in a very personal way, moved out all our students’ belongings and turned Gallop into the largest imaginable storage container.  I received notes all summer from parents, including one yesterday, thanking you for the care and support you provided. 
  • Or the many operational colleagues who jumped into new roles this summer to get an unprecedented amount of work done.
  • Or the way the Equity and Inclusion Committee on Race came together, meeting almost 20 times, to respond with recommendations to make lasting changes to help Holderness be a truly anti-racist culture.
  • Or the seemingly endless Zoom community calls you coordinated or participated in, many occurring in the evening, with our parents, alumni of color, virtual alumni events, board meetings, students,  and senior leaders. That level of communication has been appreciated by all, and much of it will be replicated in the future.  
  • Or the financial operational challenges CFO Walt Schaeffler, COO Margot Riley, and Director of Advancement Mark Sturgeon and their teams have faced to open school and also move the school forward with the exciting new Davis Center, the Mittersill Performance Center, a new turf field, and future renovations of Hagerman.  
  • Or the countless meetings with the nine sub-committees to plan for the safe reopening of school, including how we are going to eat, be healthy, be financially responsible, and make sure we are doing it in a way that aligns with the mission of Holderness.  
 
As we look forward to this fall and coming challenges, the preparation is second to none - from camper trailers (the first one parked in our driveway, which you are welcome to check out) to new technology in the classroom, to the many safety protocols. That said, the landscape is still changing daily, and there will be curve balls. 
 
But there is one constant. I have never been more thankful for you, the people I work for and with. You, as an adult community, continue to be “all in.” The hours have been unprecedented, and I am also deeply appreciative of your care for this little school that we love and believe in. 
 
Let the adventure of the 2020-21 school year begin! 
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