For the past three years, Proctor's winter Board of Trustee meetings has coincided with the ribbon cutting of a major facility upgrade (2018 - Farrell Field House Phases 1-2, 2019 - Farrell Field House Phase 3, 2020 - Proctor Outdoor Center) and the Proctor Ski Area Celebration. On these weekends, the theme of stewardship resonates throughout each conversation, each event, each celebration of who Proctor is and who it could become.
This week I’ve been thinking about classrooms, both intentional and unintentional, and about how the process plays out. Yes the Congressional impeachment process, but more about how it contrasts to the way we come to consensus and decisions at Proctor, the way we wrestle with changes and our differences. And I have to admit, I like the local model where we work with smaller groups, work towards consensus even when the work is messy, sometimes heated, and sometimes divisive. We disagree with each other, sometimes fiercely, but we try to do so with respect. We collaborate. We remind ourselves that we are colleagues, partners in this school endeavor, knowing that sometimes our differences create the friction necessary for the community to evolve into a better school.
On some level we see it all. We see teachers tack back and forth from Maxwell to Shirley to Fowler Learning Center, see the maintenance trucks and mowers move across campus, see and hear the coaches on the fields in the afternoon, the kitchen crew roll out meals. It’s pretty simple. The workings of community sit right in front of us and are easy enough to discern. But then there are the other layers.
We have a choice as an independent school:
- Create a facade that we are a perfect school community in order to attract prospective families and hope they don’t see our flaws too soon. OR
- Present openly the challenges that accompany educating 370 adolescents in a boarding school setting within an incredibly competitive boarding school market.
Certain events throughout the year remind us of those stewards of community responsible for sustaining the Proctor of today in a way that is consistent with the Proctor of yesterday. On one of the busiest weekends of the winter, our Board of Trustees met to discuss the 2019-2020 budget, tuition rates, and the greater landscape of independent school market place, celebrated the opening of Phase 3 of the Farrell Field House renovation, hosted six home games, and capped the night with the 12th Annual Proctor Ski Area Celebration.
This past weekend was the fourth and final meeting of Proctor’s Board of Trustees for the fiscal year. In addition to approving the budget, discussing upcoming Campaign for Proctor initiatives, understanding the ever-changing dynamics of the boarding school admissions market, ensuring they are meeting their fiduciary responsibility with regard to financial decisions the school makes, the Board has a responsibility to ensure Head of School Mike Henriques and Proctor’s faculty and staff are best serving each of our students. It’s a remarkable leadership responsibility, and despite the frequent laughter from the Proctor Room over the weekend, is not a responsibility this group takes lightly.
Four times a year Proctor’s Board of Trustees arrive on campus for two days of meetings, conversations, and planning. They are parents, alumni, and friends of the school and their relationship can stretch back decades or just a year or two. They come to Andover to share their talents and their love for the school, bringing invaluable perspective from different worlds. Renovations or running an endowment? What it takes to be a successful entrepreneur or artist? They’ve got that. They are not on campus four times a year to be prescriptive but to help, and their wisdom and work contributes mightily to the success of Proctor.
Dave Pilla was talking about this in a report to the board of trustees last weekend when he and two of his students, Eliza Orne and Kevin Barry, talked about the stewardship of Proctor’s lands. The concept of thinking seven generations into the future (about 140 years) is attributed the Iroquois laws. It’s about the ripple of today’s decisions, about caring for more than a moment. If we cut this stand of white pine, what’s the impact? If we plant chestnut trees at Elbow, how does the next generation benefit? Or the generation after that? This concept may not have the currency it should in today’s ‘now’ world, but I had the chance this week to spend Wednesday with three individuals, who over a significant portion of the school’s history, helped set the course of Proctor, shaped its arc, and ensured that actions of the past would ripple into the future in positive ways. These are seven-generation thinkers.