Looking Back and Looking Forward: Passages
In February I met with the four young women who will be on the alum panel on April 1; and I could not help but see the tremendous transition since the last time I saw them 12 years ago! The passing of time, the journeys each has taken are pure inspiration to me. We entered Julia Morgan the same year and I guess, we have all come a long way.
One of the most remarkable experiences of working at JMSG is to witness an incredible transformation of each and every student. If you remember back to the admission process, you might remember me saying how your child would experience the fastest rate of growth since birth through 5 while at JMSG. I know our 8th grade families have seen this come to fruition and those of you with daughters in 6th and 7th grades are seeing phenomenal change. This is middle school. This is adolescence: the passage from childhood to be on the brink of young adulthood.
We watch each year how new 6th graders have their own passage to the JMSG community and middle school and how our 8th graders are readying to graduate taking their next leap into their own young adulthood and into high school.
Each year, those of us who work in schools count on a rhythm of months, marked by events, by traditions, and a natural school cadence. There is a distinct beginning and end to each cycle, each school year – yes, a passage of time marked as students move through their own passages.
Sometimes we welcome new colleagues and bid farewell to others at the end of those cycles. This year is one of them. I always refer to these announcements as bittersweet. While we are sad to see our colleagues leave, we rejoice with them as they go onto their next adventures.
This year being my last at JMSG definitely marks a huge passage for me. Though I don’t know what adventures await, I do know Julia Morgan is in good hands.
I made one of those aforementioned bittersweet announcements earlier that Jess will be the new head of the middle school at Crystal Springs, beginning July, 2022. We are simply thrilled and bursting our buttons with pride. She has decided that this will be her last year at JMSG, understandably so. Beginning in August, she will spend her months before she begins at Crystal to travel, to ponder, to explore. She leaves JMSG a better place for having been here - 14 years: a teacher, an advisor, program coordinator, associate head of school, thought partner, faculty mentor, a friend, a grand organizer of all things, and of course, when Covid hit, she never looked back. She has been front and center, as you know. Thank goodness we have a few months to celebrate her!
How blessed we have been and how blessed we will be, though! Stepping into a role similar to Jess’ will be Scott. Scott will be Interim Dean of Faculty next school year, working side-by-side with Michele Spitulnik, JMSG’s new head, supporting her and the transition, as he supports the faculty. Scott has not only taught for over twenty years, he has also served as the Head of the Upper School at The Waverly School, English Department Chair at Menlo School, and Dean of Multicultural Programs at University High School. How perfect to have an in-house former administrator! His wisdom and perspective will hold all in good stead.
And again, how lucky we are that Shana Barrett joined JMSG this year to teach part time due to our hybrid program needs! You may have already read about her background, but Shana comes to JMSG, having taught for several years, with two of the schools where she taught being all-girls. She seamlessly adjusted to JMSG. Shana, who has taught social studies, English, World History, International Women’s History, and more, including yoga, will be stepping into “Scott’s position” for the year as the 7th grade language arts/8th grade English teacher and 7th grade advisor.
We will say our bittersweet good-byes to four more of our colleagues as well: Laurie, Emi, Katie, and Cailey.
Katie is one of the founding faculty/leadership team members of JMSG – in fact, the second person hired after the founding head of school, Ann Clarke. Katie established the tech and STEAM programs, from the early days of computer carts to the 1:1 iPad program to the tinker stations in the halls (for those of you who remember these in the halls pre-Covid!), and on and on. She created a tech-mentor program with women in Silicon Valley, established a robotics club, always keeping at heart the importance of introducing more girls into a field still predominantly male. She has worked tirelessly behind the scenes, troubleshooting, training faculty and staff through the years, has taught, and been an advisor. She is also one of the funniest people I know. Katie has accepted a whole new adventure for herself! She will be part of the Design Technology faculty team at the Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, working in and running a Makerspace to develop the STEAM elective program, as well as teach robotics classes. We are just finalizing our search, so I will let you know shortly who our next Educational Director of Tech is.
Both Laurie and Emi’s positions have been folded into other’s or will be taken on by Anna Kennedy, who will be in the recently-created position of Executive Assistant to the Head of School, beginning 4/5. Anna comes to JMSG with a blend of educational, organizational and management experience. She is currently the Specialty Program Manager at the California Academy of Sciences, and was previously a beloved assistant teacher at Montessori de Terra Linda. With a MS in Environmental Education, and BS in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, she has also taught environmental education and served as a STEM camp director. On top of all this, she has also done grant research and development, and earned a certificate in Nonprofit Management.
Laurie, who is the parent of two JMSG alumnae (and yes, we loved her as a parent first!), has held a variety roles at JMSG over the last 8 years. She was office manager, and this year, stepped in as advisor; she has worked in development, worked with families regarding flex tuition, and has been our registrar. Her talents have known no bounds. She is ever gracious, joyful, and kind-hearted. She does not yet know what adventure will find her, but she and I plan on staying connected post-JMSG as she discovers what’s next. Lucky me!
Emi, who has worked at JMSG for 5 years, was the first JMSG alum who worked at JMSG fulltime. She was the Assistant Admission Director, working with both Marcia and with Liz. She was invaluable last summer and fall as my co-Covid Liaison as she and I worked to prepare the school’s infrastructure to be on campus. Emi has applied to graduate programs and will always be a huge part of the JMSG community! She will be deeply missed by all!
Cailey only joined us this year after having taught and worked mostly with high school students before coming to JMSG. She is returning to the high school classroom at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco for next year; and we congratulate her! We are just beginning our search now, and will keep you informed as we move through this process.
I couldn’t end this long letter without mentioning Gail Sheehy again. Gail graced us by speaking at the United State of Girls’ Summit we held at JMSG in 2016, as GGLS focused on equal pay for equal work and the passage of the ERA. A fierce feminist, Gail’s book Passages, which looked at the various stages of life and renewing our purpose at each stage, was named by a Library of Congress survey as one of the ten most influential books of the 20th century. Passages remained on The New York Times Bestseller List for more than three years and has been reprinted in 28 languages. Gail was a journalist as well (be sure to check out her biography and the notables she interviewed over the course of her career). Unfortunately, Gail passed away late last year, but as I noted in my last newsletter, what an extraordinary path I have had to have crossed it with her!
And finally, my own personal passages while here - just as you are not solely a parent, weaving in all of what makes you “you”, whether through your work or art or friendships or extended family; unsurprisingly, all of us who work at JMSG experience our own passages as well. Though these may be dimensions of us we rarely share, they are undoubtedly part of who we are. While at JMSG I rejoiced with the birth of two of my three grandchildren, my father was recognized by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as one of the people on the front lines in the late 1950’s in the fight for LBGTQ+ civil rights in San Francisco, my daughter resumed her career as an author, and my son is turning 50. Wonderful hallmarks to celebrate! I also experienced the loss of my best friend and husband, my partner of 50 years, not quite three years ago.
As I look to my next chapter without my best friend and partner alongside, as he and I had planned; and as I renew my own purpose, I will undoubtedly carry all of the professional and personal passages I’ve experienced with me, along with those of the JMSG community, weaving them all into whom I am now and into what lies ahead.