Every day every one of us walks the hallways of the Main Building, and at least twice a week we spend time in this space, Belmont Chapel. If you are anything like me, you have at least a passing familiarity with what is displayed on the walls of these spaces, however you do not engage regularly in a close study of what you see there. The walls really do tell a story, a story about St. Mark's and a story about leadership and service.
Inside the front entrance of Belmont Chapel, one can find a recently added holder for pew cards. These cards identify values we hold dear at St. Mark's that we trace directly to our identity as an Episcopal school:
- We value time for spiritual reflection and the intentional teaching of wisdom, compassion, and humility
- We value human reason used critically in the pursuit of knowledge
- We value life in common, believing it is strengthened by honest and respectful dialogue across lines of disagreement and difference.
I am deeply concerned about the dangers that drug and alcohol use pose for St. Mark's students. Any report of a drug, or alcohol-related adolescent tragedy, especially involving someone known to a member of the St. Mark's community, chills me to the bone. I am also keenly aware that the possibility of a drug or alcohol related tragedy in our school community is very real, as are short or long-term negative health consequences resulting from use.
I imagine everyone here tonight has decorated a space—a bedroom, a dorm room, an office—so that it reflects you. Those of you boarders moving into rooms in your houses here are going through that exercise now. Those of us who have offices and classrooms here at School go through that exercise often annually, continuing to add or subtract to what we and others will see. The choices we make about what to display are highly personal, and if the space we are decorating is frequently visited—like an office or a dorm room—the choices we make are often also influenced by messages we want to send to others about what is important to us—the parts of our identity, our passions, and our loves that we want others to see.
Our 2011 Strategic Plan, St. Mark's School: 2020, envisioned a Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning that would bring ever greater intellectual vibrancy to our School by inspiring professional growth in our faculty and by engaging St. Mark's in the broader educational dialogue about teaching and learning. I am pleased to report that Center Director Colleen Worrell, currently completing her third year in the role, has undertaken a number of initiatives to make that vision a reality.