President Gulley sent the following message to all families Thursday morning, covering all the new initiatives we've put in place for the 2017-18 school year.Dear Woodward Families,
As we begin the 2017-2018 school year, my 22nd year leading a school and my ninth at Woodward, I am reflecting on a summer that was more troubling in national affairs than any we have experienced. What has kept me going, indeed kept me from despairing, is my conviction that Woodward Academy is better situated than any other school, private or public, for preparing students who will become caring, compassionate, and committed citizens.
This preparation cannot happen in a place of homogeneity, but requires an environment that is truly integrated and diverse. I am proud that Woodward offers a learning environment that is a microcosm of the world. Our students come from many religious, racial, and ethnic groups, and from varied socioeconomic backgrounds and learning styles, forming an engaged community that feels like a family.
We have introduced some new initiatives this year that promise to enhance our commitment to diversity and inclusion. All teachers from prekindergarten through eighth grade are delivering a new social-emotional learning program called Responsive Classroom, which is founded on the idea that academic success is inextricably tied to the development of character qualities like kindness, compassion, and empathy.
Additionally, we have launched a new Advisory Program for Middle and Upper School, in which every student has been matched with a faculty advisor to provide individual guidance, attention, and support, throughout their Woodward journey. In the Upper School, this program is possible in part because of a significant change to the daily schedule this year, lending to a less frenetic pace of activities while allowing a deeper dive into academic subject matter as well as increased opportunities for reflection and collaboration.
Woodward is not perfect. We are continually looking inward and identifying ways to improve, and this includes our facilities. We are currently in the initial stages of planning a 1,000-seat Performing Arts Center including a music education building with classrooms, rehearsal rooms, and practice space. With this new space, we will be able to strengthen our commitment to the arts as well as promote a sense of community by allowing larger groups of students, faculty, and families to gather in one location for arts performances, assemblies, and special programs throughout the year. Although we do not anticipate completion for a number of years (after funds have been raised), in the coming months we will provide you with more information about our plans.
Our Woodward family remains strong because of input from all its members. During last year's town hall meeting, parents asked for more ongoing engagement throughout the year. We have created "I Wonder," a form accessible through the Parent Portal, to give you the opportunity to share thoughts, reflections, and questions. Input can be anonymous, or you can include your email address if you would like a reply. ("I Wonder" is intended for questions/comments about the Academy as a whole. Please continue to consult your child's teacher if you have a question or comment about your child's specific class.) As an Academy, we will use your comments and feedback to help build upon our existing strengths, while also allowing us to hone in on specific areas where we can further improve as an institution.
Thank you for being part of this Woodward family. I wish you the best for the year ahead and invite you to begin the school year with a reminder of the spirit of inclusion and community that makes this school so special.
F. Stuart Gulley, Ph.D.