Head of School Blog

On Academics, Leadership, and Service

Jill Singleton
Adapted from remarks given at Episcopal School Sunday Celebration Remarks, October 6, 2013.

For the 10 years I’ve been Head of All Saints Episcopal Day School, we’ve wrestled with the need to come up with a proper tagline – a pithy, memorable, “just right” slogan that captures the very essence of our unique and complex community. The marketing committee of our Board of Trustees sets this as a goal just about every year, and the topic is always a prominent theme during our strategic planning sessions. And although we’ve been blessed with many successes at the Day School, I’d be the first to admit that we have never quite gotten this one right. Whatever we’ve come up with has sounded either too serious or too stiff (i.e., rigorous, competitive, excellence, achievement, etc.) – or too soft (i.e., service, compassion, ethics, and experiential learning). I think the phenomenon has something to do with the limitations of our human brains. It seems we have some inborn penchant for polarization, this need to choose sides or to stake claims – and rather than being content with the road we’ve chosen, we fall into judging or invalidating the road not taken. We see all too easily only the black or white, and can miss the nuances found in the various shades of gray.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on our “temporary tagline,” the one we’ve been using as a stopgap until we figure out a lasting one – Academics-Leadership-Service. The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to believe it does a pretty good job of capturing the true essence of our school community. At the heart of our work at All Saints, we nurture the development of service-minded leaders – individuals who lead with their hearts as well as their minds.

At All Saints we help children discern their personal and unique gifts so that they can develop true passions and go forth with sound mindsets. We encourage children to develop their natural empathy into the art of working in community so that they can problem-solve in ways that ignite the support and passions of others. We develop a strong sense of justice and compassion in children so that when they lead, they naturally create communities that are fair, just and where everyone has a seat at the table.

In our Community Time gathering last week, we read an excerpt from a commencement speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King at Oberlin College in 1965 that speaks to the values and belief system that guides our work at All Saints. “All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.”

As service-oriented leaders, our students make choices that are consistent with an understanding of and an appreciation for the sentiment expressed by Dr. King.

As service-oriented leaders, our students:

• listen rather than dictate
• empathize rather than judge
• heal rather than destroy
• persuade rather than coerce
• dream rather than define
• embrace we over me
• serve with love and humility

The leaders who embrace these qualities are the ones who will really transform the world. I have every confidence that our graduates will go on to assume leadership roles, and that they will lead with integrity and purpose, utilizing the depths and complexities of their hearts as well as their minds. Knowing we are making a difference through the education of our children is a source of tremendous hope and pride for me, and I extend the warmest appreciation to our parents for their ongoing trusting partnership.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: jsingleton@allsaintshoboken.com