A Letter to Parents

Mark Turner

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We made it past Remembrance Day!

Occasionally, I refer to the daily scribbles that I routinely made in the summer. Judging by the mood in June/July, we would have been delighted to get to Remembrance Day without significant interruption.

Not only did we make it, but the necessity to deliver two virtual Remembrance Day Services unleashed a wave of creativity across all three schools that has generated a veritable tsunami of appreciation. It seems that this opportunity to pause and give significance to a moment of thanks for human sacrifice, embracing tradition and reconnecting with our roots, is hugely appreciated.

We have now set our sights on the holidays and we will do all that we can, despite rising levels of anxiety in some quarters, to complete this term on Thursday, December 10. We are following events closely. Please be sure to stay aware of our COVID-19 protocols, which are updated regularly. Our aim is to continue with rigorous learning for as long as possible. At the same time, I know that SMUS’s creative instincts will also turn to generating as much fun as possible in the week leading up to the December break.

Looking forward to 2021, I remain committed to the view that students need to be in school studying.

In this pandemic, the current youth generation has been impacted as much or more than any other group – three months of in-person schooling lost, competitive sport significantly reduced, social constriction and fewer opportunities for fun… not to mention the prospect of repaying monumental national debt indefinitely into the future. I shall continue to campaign to keep the playing field as level as possible.

I find as I look forward to 2021, embers of optimism are fanned into something approaching enthusiasm. Our Campus Master Plan and Advancement Plan are going through their final iterations before being presented to the Board of Governors in December. From a financial perspective, with slowly increasing boarding numbers, the school has weathered the storm so far better than I had dared to hope.

We can also look forward to the growing conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In this regard, there is a great deal to report. Our Working Group has been urgently active and has reached out to a renowned expert in this area, Dr. Moussa Magassa, Human Rights Education Advisor at the University of Victoria, who has already led and guided our Senior Leadership Team through some constructive training. A recent chapel service led by students on Allyship reinforced the point that we must redouble our efforts to reach out to anyone who is marginalized for whatever reason. There has also been real progress with our commitment to building relationships with our local Indigenous communities. On a personal note, I am very disappointed that my planned trip to meet with elders and the school community at Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School in Nanaimo has been curtailed, as a result of the recent rise in exposures to COVID-19 in that area.

So what next? I am delighted to report that Dr. Moussa Magassa has agreed to help us in the role of ‘Guide’ as we journey forward. We anticipate that he will lead our community in a rich conversation that draws us closer to our core values. I know this input will prove to be of great assistance. We have also started to commission an audit of work that is already undertaken in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), with the intention of establishing a benchmark from which we can review the pace and scope of future progress. This will be a key step prior to our Working Group publishing an interim statement about how we intend to consult, discuss and constructively change in a deliberate and meaningful way, over the course of the immediate years ahead.

As I have written about in past community letters, DEI change requires a process that takes concerted effort, empathy, patience and time. SMUS is committed to continuous improvement and welcomes productive feedback that allows for exchanges of ideas and an understanding of perspectives. With that said, we look forward to sharing this journey of community growth with you.

Finally, although we find ourselves tightening up our COVID-19 processes, it was wonderful to hear Dr. Bonnie Henry state that we should “celebrate and support” faculty and staff. I know her comments have been well received in our community. We have also been given clear instructions for the next few weeks. Keep calm and carry on!

With best wishes,
Mark Turner

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