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Dear Hilltopper Community,


Schools are busy places; this is particularly true of Marshall. In the midst of all the projects, practices, performances, and progress, it is important to occasionally remind ourselves of why we came together as an educational community in the first place. This year, I invite you to join me in these emails once a month to examine some of the fundamentals that make Marshall, Marshall. I hope we can start that discussion here and continue it as a community in person. We are special—and strong—because of the values and the people who make up our community.


I hope your year is off to a wonderful start. I look forward to our journey together this year.


Kind regards,

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The Reset Button: Our Statement of Community

In the early 1970's the Diocese of Duluth realized that they would no longer be able to subsidize Duluth Cathedral High School. Facing the strong possibility of school closure, a group of civic leaders came together to create a vision for a private school. The typewritten plan for that school sits on my desk, and I frequently turn to it for inspiration. It is an heroic document for many reasons. For one, those civic leaders knew "the odds [were] great against this pioneer project" and yet they "accepted the challenge because of … the rewards to the community and the nation." Many years later, Duluth again needs a school that dares to take the lead.

 

The Founding Board articulated a Financial Plan, a Formation Plan, and a Curricular Plan with eleven "proposals" or guidelines. I write to you today to reiterate Marshall School's commitment to those founding proposals, and draw your attention in particular to #8, which pledged the school would: "Open wide its doors to all persons—regardless of race, religion or economic status—who seek excellence in education."

 

While the language in that statement may seem dated, the sentiment still inspires. Our world is tumultuous and our children feel great angst. They need to know that even in times of turmoil, school can be a safe zone. They need to know there are institutions willing to take a clear
stance and demand civil interactions between its members. With this in mind, a group of faculty members worked last year to draft a new Statement of Community for Marshall, a pledge which we will display alongside our Mission Statement:

 

The Marshall School community shares responsibility for the safety, inclusion, and well-
being of all members. We nurture and protect an environment that is affirming and
empowering of individual voices, life experiences, and perspectives. We commit to
learning and growing through our daily actions and interactions. We seek always to
value, respect, and uplift those around us.

 

It seems to me that our nation has begun to scrutinize daily actions in schools in a way that does not serve our students. By design, schools are places where hundreds of adults and children from varied backgrounds interact with each other multiple times a day. Many of the interactions are wonderful; some are not. It has always been such.

 

Lately, too much of our nation's adult energy has been spent collecting and cataloguing less-than-perfect moments and stringing those moments together to create narratives that suggest schools lack balance, or push either a liberal or a conservative agenda. This is understandable. In our 24 hour news cycle, politics is front and center all day long. But placing a political lens over daily interactions at school often distracts us from the work of educating our students; further, these narratives cause our students anxiety. Influenced by the polarizing stances often seen on TV, our students wonder whether they can express ideas without judgment, or conclude that they must deride others to prove a point.

 

My hope is that this well-crafted statement will be our reset button. It is aspirational, and it is impartial. It simply asks us to be better while reminding us that community is a "shared responsibility." As the school year begins, our students feel alacrity—they have new pencils and new notebooks, new backpacks and new cleats. We want them to feel great about our new promise as well, our promise to uplift each other. If we can discard old notebooks and cleats, we can let go of some divisiveness as well. Let us pledge to share the responsibility for maintaining a nurturing community.

 

Our Founders felt we should be bold and aspire to be "a beacon on the hill." Fifty years later, our Statement of Community asks the same. Let's agree to share the responsibility of maintaining a nurturing community, and "accept this challenge because of…the rewards to the community and the nation."

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(c) 2018 Marshall School 

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