The Parents’ Association held their opening meeting last Friday, September 18, which brought together over 225 attendees. Parents, faculty and staff were greeted by a slideshow of heart-warming images featuring K-12 students both at 100 East End Avenue and on Zoom.
Farida Kahn, Chapin’s 2020-2021 PA Chair, began the webinar by introducing herself and highlighting the change this year to our beloved Book Fair. This year, she explained, it will be a Virtual Book Fair taking place over three weeks in November. She noted that authors will “visit” with students and parents virtually throughout the month and said to stay tuned for more details in the Weekly!
The hour-long webinar also featured Head of School Suzanne Fogarty. In her introduction, Farida, an alumna of Lincoln School where Ms. Fogarty spent six years as Head of School, said she’d been fortunate to have known Suzanne for a while and described her as “smart, energetic, funny and very approachable.”
As Ms. Fogarty entered the spotlight, she expressed her thanks to the senior administrative team and the entire professional community for pivoting in unimaginable ways and working so hard to ensure a successful school year. “We’ve really stretched our muscles of resilience in powerful ways.”
Ms. Fogarty then introduced Allison Bishop, Chapin’s new Head of Upper School, who warmly greeted everyone saying, “Thank you for giving us the treasure of your children.” Chapin’s new Director of Security, Parnell Peterson, was also introduced and gave a kind wave hello.
“It’s all about building connections. We all wear masks and smile with our eyes,” Ms. Fogarty said, touching on her lovely encounters with students, parents and faculty during materials pick-ups at Asphalt Green and the Gordon Room.
The virtual baton was soon passed to Cathy Parker, the school nurse, who detailed new procedures for returning to the building, including the required use of the AUXS health app. Rona Shalev, Head of Counseling Services, then spoke of the importance of the student’s social-emotional health, underscoring that she and the other divisional counselors are always available.
Director of Community Life and Diversity Erica Corbin used her time to share a look into Chapin’s ongoing antiracism work. She described that with the Black Lives Matter movement and the powerful ‘Black@’ Instagram accounts that began in May, “Some very hard truths came to light about our students’ current experiences with racism and other types of oppression and bias within our community.”
After a summer of “owning what our alums and students brought to us, addressing those issues from a K-12 framework, we are in a space to begin this school year as a changed and changing place,” she continued. As she spoke, she referenced a photo of a cracked bowl that filled the screen. The crack, however, was filled with a vibrant shimmering gold. The image portrayed Kintsugi, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together. Sometimes referred to as the art of repair, the point is to emphasize and embrace flaws and mistakes, rather than cover them up, to create a stronger, more beautiful piece of art. A vivid analogy for the audience.
Ms. Corbin also discussed the divisional handbook updates, Diversity Equity and Inclusion events for parents, and added, “Students will be given new spaces and methods to speak to their experiences.” To conclude, she shared, “We owe it to each other to do right and do better. I am grateful for our community to move ahead bravely and rightly.”
When Liza Oldham followed, she discussed what Library will look like this year. Sadly, she said, “A lot of school libraries have decided to close this year. At Chapin, the Library is the heart of the school and is one of the few K-12 spaces with all subjects represented. All students can find themselves in the library. It’s vital that we maintain that.”
Finally, Amber Bryant gave an overview of the internship program in the Upper School that she oversees and how it will continue to thrive this year, albeit virtually, as it will still offer illuminating experiences and skill building.
“Please reach out if you want to get involved,” Farida concluded. “There’s something for everyone in the PA!”