Congratulations, Class of 2021!

in Summer 2021 by

As this group of soon-to-be Park graduates thinks about their transition to high school, they deserve credit for navigating a high school search process unlike any we have ever seen before. Whether they were exploring public, independent day or boarding schools, the process was fraught with unexpected changes, challenges, and pitfalls. Covid restrictions mandated distance learning both in the classroom and in the admissions process! As one parent said, “Having already been through this process once before with my older daughter, I was shocked by the challenges presented by all of the changes to the process. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to see schools in person, all interviews were conducted over Zoom, the SSAT testing posed complications.” The parent underscored that these adjustments were in the shadow of increased applications at all area independent schools. In fact, some schools reported that there was a 45% increase in applications! 

So, for our students, this fall was filled with Zoom admissions events and interviews as well as hybrid learning and the increased academic expectations characteristic of Park’s eighth grade. Many students submitted applications to schools without having ever stepped onto campuses. Our students deserve all the credit for their patience, resilience, and quality online research. One student mentioned that “researching schools online wasn’t the same as walking through a cafeteria or watching a sporting event” to get a sense of on-campus culture. Instead, this student and others relied on phone conversations with Park graduates as well as opportunities to attend Zoom open houses. 

One of the biggest challenges was taking the SSAT online. What we had hoped would be a smooth transition from a paper test in Park’s Dining Room to an at-home remote version became one of the most difficult aspects of the process. Students experienced delayed online registration, unresponsive proctors, and unexpected “platform crashes.” One of our eighth graders shared that both of the times she took the test online something went wrong whether it was the proctor or system failure. Ultimately, students had the option to take a paper test at Park, which created a pathway for success. Many schools dropped the requirement for the SSAT, but we were pleased that students had the chance to take the test at Park if they wanted to. We are so thrilled to share that the SSAT will go back to its prior tried and true paper version next year and that rising eighth graders can expect to take the test on campus and in person next fall. 

This year, we also carefully developed a year-long plan to examine equity and inclusion in secondary school counseling.  Since no school, Park included, is immune to systemic racism, our work in secondary school counseling is twofold: we looked at how potential next schools are taking action and demonstrating accountability to develop socially-just and racially-equitable communities, and we proactively examined our own office’s practices. Our targeted work included:

  • Developing a standard rubric for evaluating student practice interviews
  • Providing a list of potential questions for students and families to ask during an open house, tour, or interview that may help assess a school’s commitment to an antiracist education and developing an inclusive school culture.  
  • Formalizing opportunities for families to receive individualized financial aid application support
  • Identifying additional opportunities to enhance the program and reduce the cost of SSAT test preparation.
  • Reviewing and publish the standard format for all initial meetings for Grade 7 families
  • Measuring and reporting independent secondary school diversity, equity, and inclusion metrics
  • Completing outreach to recent Park graduates to gather data about student experience through both survey and in-person/Zoom meetings
  • Training current Park teachers about avoiding bias in recommendation writing
  • Developing and engaging area secondary school counselors in professional development discussions on antiracist best practices and policies in secondary school counseling

We consider our plan to be a living document and eagerly anticipate continuing this important work in the 2021-22 school year and beyond! 

As members of the Class of 2021 transition to high school, we are confident that they will be leaders on their next school campuses. Despite the pandemic, they are academically prepared to excel, and they are sure to be athletic, artistic, and social leaders at their next schools. We consistently hear from secondary school admission teams that our students are sought after applicants because of their character, leadership abilities, and academic readiness. These most recent Park graduates excel in all of these categories and we will miss this amazing group of students!

Martha Balson Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
Seth Barkan Proctor Academy
Elsa Barton Brooks School
Soledad Belyea Carolina Friends School
Bodhi Beroukhim Phillips Academy, Andover
Jack Brennan Deerfield Academy
Emanuel Callwood Boston College High School
Addison Creelman Middlesex School
Hannah Crozier Concord Academy
Annabel Curry Phillips Academy, Andover
Owen Eddy Beaver Country Day School
Dillon Evans Milton Academy
Owen Fantuzzi Boston University Academy
Henry Furman Commonwealth School
Kathryn Gavin Winsor School
Leighton Glass Middlesex School
Hannah Goodman Beaver Country Day School
Jacob Greene Beaver Country Day School
William He Noble and Greenough School
Georgia Isaac Milton Academy
Owen James Boston Arts Academy
Huck Jennings Brimmer & May School
Paul Jeon Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
Nisha Jha Cambridge School of Weston
Lauren Kim Noble and Greenough School
Sasha Klevens Noble and Greenough School
Anand Koulomzin Milton Academy
Hadley Laughlin Noble and Greenough School
Silas Lawrence Milton Academy
Ezra Lee Belmont Hill School
Tessa Lewis Noble and Greenough School
William Liao Commonwealth School
Scarlett Lowry Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School
Lucas Macklin-Dib        Brooks School
Nicole Marandett The Rivers School
Amelia McKeigue The Rivers School
Camron Miller Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
Cyrus Perkins The Carroll School
Avery Rea       Cambridge School of Weston
Bingye Ren Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
William Rutledge-Canales      Thayer Academy
Kate Saltzman Beaver Country Day School
Ellie Scherer Beaver Country Day School
Vikram Scherfke Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
Alex Schultz Boston University Academy
Kyrieh Simmons Brookline High School
Charles Vest Phillips Academy, Andover
Eden Wilkinson Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School

The Ghost Post Still Stands: Drama in 2021

in Summer 2021 by
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The Ghost Post is the name of Park’s “ghost light.” A ghost light sits at center on stages across the country when the space is not in use. Traditionally, it’s an exposed bulb with a wire cage mounted on a portable stand. It is illuminated when the stage is unoccupied. The practical use is safety, but there are myriad superstitions about the origin and purpose of these eerie lights. Some say the lamp is out to appease the ghosts. Some believe they spotlight ghosts playing and performing onstage, which prevents them from cursing the theater or sabotaging a production. At Park, we use the Ghost Post to mark when tech week begins–when it’s up, we know a play will come soon. 

This year, the Ghost Post is down in the Theater Shop, where I’ve made my desk for the year. It’s been a light at the end of this strange tunnel when the theater has been dark for months, the creative energy and joyful celebration only an echo. No Mornings Meetings, guest artists, events, and–most important, no live productions. And yet I’ve kept it near me–knowing that the Theater will be full again soon.

And indeed, despite the empty space, 2020-21 has been a year with theater at the center. This year, the Park Drama Department has grown larger, reinvented itself, and shone on. This year, three innovative productions were created by Upper Division students, and audiences all around the world were able to watch and celebrate these successful endeavors. This year, students in Grades 6-8 had their first chance to take drama during the school day. This year, everyone had a chance to experience live theater out of the traditional theater space.

Drama Productions: Reinventing “Live” Performance

The year began with some good and hard questions. How could we…

  • preserve the importance of ensemble, collaboration, learning, and building?
  • create a performance without a stage or the ability to be together?
  • offer magic and community for our audience through the sharing of that performance?

This year asked all theater creators and goers to stretch their conception of what it meant to share a play. In the words of Grade 8 student Dillon Evans:

During rehearsals, we smiled, laughed, and joked. We practiced chorus numbers muted, without knowing what our voices sounded like together. We performed dance moves in front of computer webcams, not the audience’s eyes. We went into breakout groups to record our dialogue and faced the walls of our rooms instead of our fellow actors. And eventually, after all that work, we made a Winter Musical. We couldn’t be prouder of ourselves and everyone involved, that we pulled this off.

Indeed, I couldn’t be more proud of the 50+ students who participated in the not-normal productions of the 2020-21 season! Here’s just a snapshot of what they accomplished:

FALL: Radio Plays (Grades 5-8)

  • Created a sound table and used the recording/mixing platform Soundtrap 
  • Devised and edited audio pieces including both voice and sound
  • Designed a website of their work, including art and hyperlinks

WINTER: A Killer Party (Grades 6-8)

  • “Staged” a two hour fully mounted murder musical production! 
  • Performed music, blocking, choreography
  • Recorded their parts on their own, complete with costumes, set, and lights.

SPRING: Film Festival (Grade 8)

  • Devised, wrote/storyboarded, acted, and edited “Silent Shorts” 
  • Collaboratively devised full cast movie
  • Hosted student-run talkback after the show

Drama Electives

As I tell my drama students, “Drama teaches you how to be human,” and this was certainly the case, no matter what our circumstances, during this year of COVID and adaptation. We practiced each of the following “being human” skills practiced in drama classes this year.


All grades practiced listening every day. Two phrases: “Acting is listening,” “Acting is reacting” showed up daily with my students as we worked in the classroom. In everything we did, the underlying goal was deep listening and responding to others and self. Listening is the building block for all the other skills–hence the constant practice!

Creative Problem Solving

Grade 6 used creative problem solving in their approach to determining the character, location, and relationship in their “open scene.” Every pair/trio of students had the same lines, but the choices they made made the performances strikingly different!

Grade 7 used creative problem solving during a project where they had to work with limited materials to communicate a set, costume, or prop design as part of a production team. Their goal was to impact their audience with a theme, emotion, or mood as part of the pretend production of a play they’d read.


Grade 6 practiced collaboration in their final scenes as they rehearsed lines, blocked where they would stand, analyzed characters, and considered costume and prop choices as a team. These final projects were a wonderful display of negotiation and compromise…and celebration!

Grade 8 practiced collaboration on their “One Moment Project,” in which they told different parts of a story based on a shared image. Identifying and claiming part of a story larger than oneself is at the core of playmaking, and the Grade 8 students practiced this through a series of in class work periods and presentations.


Grade 7 practiced expression in their “Art of Speaking” project. In this, each student chose a topic and wrote a 3-5 minute speech. Delivering it in front of the class, they practice speaking style and confidence about their thoughts. The speeches were as unique as the students, and everyone had a chance to shine!

Grade 8 practiced expression in their final project in which they wrote a monologue in their own voice–or in the voice of another. Inspired by the genre of “Verbatim Theater” they’d studied, they considered stories that needed to be told, and chose one to share in both writing and voice.


Grade 6 practiced empathy by creating a character, considering all kinds of details about that person, and then writing a monologue in that person’s voice. Stepping into another’s mind through words and actions offers students the chance to consider and honor another’s experience.

Grade 8 practiced empathy through their reading of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, by Anna Deveare Smith. Written in a series of monologues, this play showcases the multiple experiences of a historically charged moment. Reading and responding to this material offered students the chance to consider the many ways different people can be touched by the same event.

Risk Taking and Self Confidence Building

All grades practiced risk taking and built self confidence through ever-present improv games. Whether executing the simple (yet profound) three line scene, being one head on a multi-headed monster being interviewed (with only one word per “head”), or “ranting” about a topic until interrupted, students practiced the three rules of improv: 1) Always say “Yes, and…” 2) Make your partner look better than you, 3) Don’t judge yourself or others–there is no perfect. These are such essential life lessons, and they were the scaffold of all that we did together.

And so the Ghost Post shines on: a symbol that the arts–at Park and beyond–have survived and thrived in a pandemic. The plays, classes, and conversations have given students in the upper division a chance to let loose, find joy, and take on new artistic endeavors. Through showing up in the theater–even when it’s dark–we have celebrated process and connection–things that will endure throughout time and keep us alight.


Peterson, Christopher, and Christopher Peterson. “The History Of The Ghost Light — Onstage Blog.” Onstage Blog, 2019.
Ghost Light (Theatre).” En.Wikipedia.Org, 2019.

Spring Athletics Wrap-Up

in Summer 2021 by
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The silver lining shone brightly at Park this spring as athletes in Grades 4-8 took to the fields after school to participate in track-and-field and lacrosse.

Students stayed in their grade-level cohorts and were coached by teachers from those same groups. And, for a solid eight weeks, these students worked hard to learn new skills, hone already acquired techniques, incorporate competitive tactics, and improve their fitness. Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” These young athletes made that saying come to life as they worked hard every day, knowing that they wouldn’t have a chance to prove themselves against other teams.

Park’s coaches should clearly also be praised, as they kept the training sessions interesting and fun. One hot day in May, water balloons magically appeared and each team had a blast playing games and completing challenges that ultimately just got them wet! As the spring concluded and restrictions on social distancing lightened up, kids were able to take part in a couple of days of real track meets and some terrific, full-field lacrosse games.

 A number of athletes this spring, after their first experience in these sports, have chosen to build on what they have learned over the summer and into next year as well. So, although it was not a season of competition against other schools, the spring athletics program at Park was a huge success! 

Finding Affinity at Park: Families Engage

in Spring 2021 by
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This year, Park launched an affinity group program with the hope of engaging families across the Park community in thoughtful conversation and connection. Created in partnership with the Parents’ Association, the program seeks to bring together community members who share common backgrounds and lived experiences. Affinity and alliance groups have been a part of the Park student experience for several  years, and members of the parent/guardian community have hoped to create them for parents as well.

While we don’t label them as such, it’s important to recognize that many affinity groups already exist at Park. Each athletics team, advisory group, and grade level represents an affinity group with which its members identify. Various spaces, such as the faculty room or gendered bathrooms, similarly exist already as “affinity” spaces. Even Park itself – the larger community our families join when deciding to send their children to Park – is an affinity group. As a community, we accept and even celebrate these types of affinities.

Criticism of affinity groups often centers on the perception that they are exclusionary. Reframing this mindset is essential as we move forward with this initiative. Our view of affinity groups as being an intentional and appropriate grouping that provides support to members of the community that often feel “othered” is crucial. The feelings of isolation that come with marginalized identities are lifted when safe spaces are created to show members of our community that they are not alone.  Affinity Groups provide an essential opportunity for people within the community to come together to talk about common experiences, raise questions and develop solutions, support each other, and together find ways to negotiate the larger community space we all share. The shared connections and understanding these groups facilitate and the opportunity they create to amplify voices of people outside the centered group can serve to deepen the understanding of the community’s diverse identities and needs, and thereby create a greater sense of community for all. 

During the summer of 2020, the co-chairs of the PA DEI committee, along with PA leaders Eliza Hoover and Doreen Ho, created a survey for all Park families, seeking to assess their interest in affinity groups. Nearly 60 families responded, indicating interest in joining or helping lead various groups, and the PA created a new committee to oversee the creation, launch, and coordination of affinity groups. The committee sought to create systems and structures to support the groups so that they would function with consistency, that they would be sustainable, and that they would have a clear sense of mission and inclusion. 

Among the PA’s goals was to ensure that affinity groups would become an integral part of the Park community. This is a priority that aligns consistently with the overall goals of Park’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Implementation Plan, which recognizes that “equity and inclusion” is the ongoing, foundational work of building community, and that affinity groups are an integral aspect of that foundation. Jessica Parsons and Divya Kumar stepped up to chair the new committee and began working to identify facilitators and tie the whole effort together. 

By December, group facilitators were working with Park DEI liaison (and parent) Elyse Seltzer in affinity group leadership training. Divya notes that the training was tremendously helpful, “laying the groundwork for myriad aspects of affinity group work, including creating group guidelines, managing difficult conversations, and learning how to use different tech tools for virtual meetings.” In January, eight new affinity groups launched, extending invitations to all Park parents/guardians who wished to join.  

The initial eight groups – chosen based on expressed community interest as well as where there was a parent able to serve as facilitator – include:

  • Adoptive Families

  • Asian/Asian-American/Pacific Islander Parents/Guardians

  • Black Parents/Guardians

  • Families Receiving Financial Aid

  • Families Supporting Children with Learning Differences

  • Latinx Parents/Guardians

  • LGBTQIA Parents/Guardians

  • Multiracial Families

Asked to provide one word about how they felt about their experiences leading affinity groups so far, Park facilitators said: “energized,” “relieved,” “positive,” “jittery,” “connection,” “exhale,” “excited,” “optimistic,” “nostalgic,” “supported,” and “finally.” As a group, they shared a common sense of relief in being able to communicate openly and deeply about the shared experience of participants in each group. One participant noted that the groups provide a valuable opportunity for unfiltered conversation, with less of a need for the sort of diplomatic language that often makes it harder to get to the real core of a matter.

CydCharise Jeyes (parent of a first and fifth grader) believes so strongly in the value of gathering in affinity that she stepped up to co-facilitate not one or even two but four affinity groups. She observes, “The primary benefit of affinity groups is that they make people comfortable. It’s so valuable to have a forum where the people present share a similar experience to whatever is on your mind. Because the Park parent/guardian group is so unique and diverse, we can really be a resource for each other.” Even as each of the groups focuses on distinct and different topics, there is a welcome sense of relief in finding a space in which to talk about the concerns that impact their families, and to connect with others with similar experiences. Participants agree that “Everyone really seems to be needing the space.”

Given that the initiative launched with just those groups for which there were parent volunteers ready to facilitate, Park’s affinity groups do not represent all the possible affinities the community shares, so there is much room for growth. The committee hopes that more parents and guardians, upon seeing these efforts underway, will identify other affinity topics they would like to help lead, so that space for those efforts can be made as well.

While we hope more families will engage in these conversations as time goes on, the relative size of a group does not  impact the quality of the experience. A participant observes, “You can get a sense of community with five people on the screen or with 40. However many people join, the conversation is still being had.” But if more people join, that many more people will benefit from the sense of peace that comes from being in this constructive, supportive space together.

While parents and guardians at Park have always found ways to connect with others who share their experiences, there is a difference between ad hoc gatherings and the statement the school makes by enabling them. Reflecting on the group dynamic, participants noted that even in groups that brought longtime friends and peers together, the structure of affinity group conversations around a given topic or experience allowed for deeper, more substantive discussions because they created a dedicated time and space devoted to these issues, as opposed to more casual previous interactions.

The group facilitators communicate between meetings and share agendas, resources, and guidelines. After the first round of meetings, all the facilitators came together to share successes, surprises, and things they would like to do differently – a powerful enactment of the way in which the experience of individual groups supports and empowers the collective efforts of them all. A group leader observes, “Overwhelmingly, folks felt like their groups went well, and everyone seemed so excited and positive and energized and relieved. So many good feelings!”

In addition to these affinity groups, the initiative has also led to the creation of a working group for White Parents/Guardians Working Toward Anti-Racism – Education, Reflection, and Action. The working group looks forward to ensuring transparency regarding the topics discussed, the materials used, and to sharing the presentations used in its discussions, with the hopes that all can know, see, and engage with what is being discussed.

The realities of COVID-19 have, perhaps unexpectedly, helped this effort get off the ground. From a practical standpoint, the need for all meetings to occur virtually has eliminated one significant barrier to participation: families no longer need to find a way to be on campus for an in-person meeting, thus opening the (virtual) door to those with childcare or professional obligations that make in person attendance difficult. In addition, the loss of the usual points of connection families are accustomed to finding day to day at Park has made these opportunities for connection all the more welcome. Further, the context creates a greater opportunity to expand connections to include participants drawing from outside preexisting social groups.

Still, the facilitators note, participation has not yet grown to the level all hope for. Understanding that it sometimes takes time for important programs like this to become fully incorporated into the community’s consciousness, everyone hopes that ongoing communication and transparency will encourage more people to get involved. The leaders note, “We want to ensure that all who wish to join a group feel welcome, have a clear sense of when groups will meet and receive appropriate reminders.” Equally important is the hope that friends will reach out to friends to encourage the involvement of those who may be less naturally inclined to find their way into these conversations, knowing that greater engagement in this work will only make Park a stronger community.

We look forward to all the community building to come from these solid and exciting beginnings, and are grateful to all whose commitment and investment of self have brought the program this far.

Outdoors at Park

in Spring 2021 by
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Park’s Director of Athletics Bob Little recalls coaching a soccer clinic with former Park teacher and coach Dean Conway, back in the summer of 1999. In the middle of practice one morning, Dean suddenly brought play to a halt.

“Hey, everyone!” he said, “Look up there! That is a red-tailed hawk. Now watch what happens, because in a moment, crows will come out and cooperate to drive it away. It’s invading their territory.” The players dropped down into a circle and leaned back on their elbows to stare skyward as the aviary contest unfolded.

Two crows chasing a hawk

Coaches and athletes — teachers and students — out under the open sky, spontaneously observing animal behavior and connecting it to the strategy of a soccer game. A perfect illustration of the way outdoor experiences support the “whole child” philosophy that is at the core of Park’s educational mission.

Tirelessly maintained by the Facilities Department, Park’s remarkable campus provides for creative, open-ended play, competitive sport, scientific exploration, artistic inspiration, and community gathering. With its six athletic fields, old-growth woods, gardens, plantings, playgrounds, and rocky outcrops, this gorgeous parcel of South Brookline has been a defining part of the Park experience for at least two generations. During the pandemic, moving many activities outside has increased safety for all and prompted new thinking as to how Park can continue to use its outdoor resources when we return to normal.

While wooded areas of the campus may more-or-less tend to themselves (besides the need to clear an occasional fallen bough or tree, and occasional health assessments by arborists Bartlett Tree Experts), Park’s fields, playgrounds, roads, paths, steps, and courtyards most definitely do not.

In a normal year, the Facilities Team keeps Park’s 6 fields lined and ready for competition!

Park’s Facilities Team provides this continual, comprehensive outdoor maintenance. Required throughout the school year are regular tasks such as mowing, field line painting, and irrigation; raking and leaf removal; path and road salting and snow removal; fertilization, planting, and mulching.

Ever wondered how the team clears overnight snow in time for morning drop-off?

Director of Facilities Jennifer Mullin notes a wide range of additional outdoor work. Preparation for annual special events such as Springfest and Graduation (one of Jennifer’s favorite projects) must be planned and completed on schedule, without fail. Major projects, such as the 2017-18 renovation of the Discovery Playground, or the upcoming replacement of the main building’s roof planned for this summer, require substantial coordination and support from the facilities staff. And even as students and much of the faculty depart for well-earned vacations, the Facilities Team stays at it, tackling maintenance projects more easily accomplished with the campus in a less active mode. Throughout the summer camp season, regular maintenance work continues.

Of course, in a region like New England, flexibility and responsive action is essential at times. Ever wondered how the team clears overnight snow in time for morning drop-off? “We’ll start plowing at, say, 8 p.m.,” says Jennifer, “…and then the guys will keep going into the night, and then we’ll come in, go to sleep for a bit, and then get up at 5 a.m. and continue on plowing until everything’s cleared.” You heard that right! Dedicated Facilities Team members sleep overnight on air mattresses in order to stay on top of the snowfall.

As the pandemic unfolded, the Facilities Department remained just as flexible and committed, taking on Park’s functional response outdoors as well as the gargantuan task of preparing indoor spaces to meet new protocols. Moreover, Jennifer, Facilities Manager Joel DeJesus, and the rest of their dedicated team needed to remain “in-person” consistently – given that of course, very few of their responsibilities can be accomplished “virtually.” Changes like the installation of multiple outdoor classroom tents, new signage on exterior doors, and management of new entrance/exit and pedestrian circulation patterns were pivotal in the return to in-person learning.

Critical safety considerations aside, without Park’s outdoor classrooms and fresh air to clear minds both young and old, this ‘annus horribilis‘ would have been even tougher to bear. First Grade teacher Jerilyn Willig has spent many an hour this year with her students in the tent located across from the Lower Division Carpool Pickup area. She appreciates the “connection and community” this has fostered among the kids, observing, “For the portion of each day they are out there, they have zero ready-made toys, manufactured games, prefabbed play structures, etc. What they do have is unlimited access to nature, to conversation, to their own and each other’s curious minds, big hearts, gorgeous spirits, and collective powers of thinking, supporting, creating, problem-solving, learning, and enjoying.” 

Take a walk through a wooded spot on campus, in pandemic times or not, and you’ll almost certainly find a lean-to made of sticks, an arrangement of balanced rocks, or other signs of these young imaginations at work. Take a walk a day or two later, and entirely new creations will have emerged. But perhaps needless to say, the kinetic energy that goes into building a tree-limb shelter isn’t always entirely exhausted during recess. Especially for younger students, this can pose a challenge to attention spans in a regular indoor classroom – without doubt even more so outdoors, under a tent. Enter the Athletics and Physical Education Departments, responsible for activating students’ muscles as well as minds.

Twenty-two years on from that July morning when he watched a hawk getting hassled by crows (the technical term for this behavior is “mobbing”), Bob Little “has been grateful for every day on our campus…an embarrassment of riches in terms of outdoor space.” That has remained true this school year, despite its massive challenges.

Archery deep in Park’s wooded campus
This year, PE classes included new activities such as golf!

As Park navigated re-opening this past fall, Bob, partnering with Physical Education Department Head Michelle Young and an expanded roster of stalwart, energetic P.E. teachers, committed to lead outdoor, in-person classes whenever possible – in all but the nastiest weather conditions. Not only was this guided by common sense, it was prescribed by Massachusetts public health authorities. Creative thinking led to a range of new activities to supplement the usual P.E. repertoire. Students played badminton, golf, and archery on the fields, practiced basketball skills practice (no passing from player to player allowed), and street hockey on parking lots and the tennis court. When snow fell, there was sledding on Larz Anderson (what matters is the exercise of climbing up the 217’ hill multiple times, not so much the sliding down). The success of these new activities, and the overall increase in time outside during this school year have also awakened Park’s P.E. team to new possibilities for the post-pandemic future.

Competitive athletics, meanwhile, express the skills and fitness honed in P.E. classes within a cooperative team context. In a typical year out on Park’s six playing fields (a truly remarkable number for any PreK-8 school), soccer, field hockey, flag football, lacrosse, softball, and track & field teammates train and compete. Cross country runners circumnavigate the campus perimeter on the Park “Loop,” venture to nearby Brookline Reservoir and Jamaica Pond, and cross Goddard Avenue to host an annual meet at Larz Anderson Park. The ice hockey team, too, benefits from Park’s neighboring resources, practicing on Larz Anderson’s outdoor rink at the break of dawn. In the late spring, “Total Day” brings students in Grades 5–8 outside to compete in field events.

This school year, team sports have continued, in altered form. “We’re just trying to keep the kids’ competitive juices flowing the best we can!” says Bob. In the fall, some “virtual” competition against other schools was possible for the cross country team; runners’ times were recorded as they completed matching distances at their respective schools. A similar approach should be possible for track & field this spring. But most sports are currently intramural, with practices grouped by grade as opposed to skill level. Bob notes the added challenge of recruiting teachers in a given grade to step in as coaches for that grade – necessary so as to maintain pandemic “clustering” protocols. All hands on deck.

In good times and bad, the Park community plays, learns, works, and gathers outside on our extraordinary 34-acre campus. How incredibly fortunate we all are!

Park Welcomes Grandparents & Special Friends – Virtually!

in Spring 2021 by
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    A "virtual classroom space" for Grade 6 grandparents & special friends
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    This Kindergarten class read a book about inventors together.
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    This Grade 4 class created colorful signs to welcome their grandparents & special friends to their virtual classroom.
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Each year, the Park community looks forward to welcoming approximately 400 grandparents and special friends to campus on the morning before Thanksgiving. In order to ensure the health and safety of the community this year, COVID-19 has necessitated many changes and, when it was clear this fall that our traditional Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day (GPSFD) would not be possible, we had to get creative to share the Park experience with our broader community.

Before the school year was even underway, we took the opportunity to connect with several peer schools to learn how they had adapted their GPSFD to a virtual format, as many had done so last spring when learning remotely. When school began in the fall, members of Park’s Administration including Assistant Head for Academics & Programs Eric Chapman, Lower Division Head Kimberly Formisano, and Upper Division Head Ken Rogers, along with Director of Alumni Relations Jamie Byron, began this work in earnest, thinking about how a special experience could be made possible for guests in this unique year. At this time, we were beginning to learn that there would be challenges associated with guests “Zoom-ing” into classes while students were on campus – grandparents likely wouldn’t be able to see their loved ones if the entire class would appear on one screen, and the masks that students wear in order to remain safe on campus were likely to create complications for virtual visitors trying to hear what was going on in class. For these reasons, we set our sights on having Virtual GPSFD on a Wednesday, when students would be learning remotely.

Like so many aspects of Park’s operation this year, creating our first Virtual Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day was a true community-wide effort, and would not have been possible without incredible partnership from all corners of the school. Park teachers shared generously of their time and talent to create a special experience for guests. In the Lower Division (PreK – 4), classroom teachers prepared to invite guests to their live, virtual morning meetings. In the Upper Division (Grades 5 – 8), where the complexity of the schedule was a barrier to live classes, faculty shared incredible examples of student work, projects, photos, and videos to be shared with special guests.

The virtual classroom for Kindergarten

Virtual GPSFD would not have been possible without the partnership of the incredible Remote Learning Team – Maria Griffiths (Kindergarten), Daniel Howard (Grade 1), Giovanni Bradley-Campbell (Grade 2), Courtney Grey (Grade 3), Julie Clarke (Grade 4), Sophie Moss (Grade 5), and Pamela Penna (Director of Instructional Practice). This dedicated team of educators works tirelessly each week to ensure that students who are learning remotely are engaged and connected, and part of their work involves Virtual Classrooms, which are fun, virtual spaces for students to explore while they are learning away from Park. On Virtual GPSFD, the Remote Learning Team gave guests the opportunity to explore these classrooms, and shared a peek at what this unique year is like for today’s students.

In the weeks leading up to Virtual GPSFD, the Communications Team worked tirelessly to try to ensure that guests would have a seamless experience. Director of Communications Kate LaPine designed a beautiful webpage, with the goal that guests would have all of the information that they would need in one place, rather than having to manage different links for various events throughout the morning. In addition to the links to live classroom visits and events, guests would also be able to access a Virtual Classroom for each grade level on this page, that they were welcome to explore at any point on Virtual GPSFD.

565 guests from
35 states and
9 countries!

With the stage set for February 10th, we turned the corner to Virtual Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day with eager anticipation. Excitement grew for everyone involved as the RSVPs continued to come in from all over the country, and the world – with 565 registered guests joining us from 35 states and nine countries! Early on the morning of the event, Park’s Development Team arrived on campus to provide support for the day’s virtual visitors. The Team was available to answer questions via phone, email, and Zoom, and had a wonderful time connecting with grandparents and special friends as they virtually made their way to live classes, a “State of the School” presentation by Head of School Scott Young, and Virtual Coffees with Division Heads Kimberly Formisano and Ken Rogers. Technological questions were also expertly navigated by Director of Technology Carole Carter and the Technology Team.

Though we were disappointed not to be able to welcome Park’s guests in person this year, we are grateful for the inclusivity and accessibility made possible by this year’s virtual event. In a time when travel is not possible, Virtual GPSFD created opportunities of connection for families, and a chance for grandparents and special friends to participate in the great work being done by students and teachers this year. In future years, when we can safely celebrate on campus again, we look forward to working to ensure that our special guests who live outside of the Boston area have the opportunity to participate as well. Thank you to all of the faculty, staff, students, parents, grandparents, and special friends who made this special morning possible!

Park in The Community: Pine Street Inn Welcome Home Baskets

in Spring 2021 by
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Park’s annual Chop-a-thon is the latest of many traditions to be reimagined in the wake of COVID-19. During the first week of March, instead of providing hundreds of pounds of chopped vegetables to Pine Street Inn, Park families and members of the faculty & staff gathered an amazing assortment of home goods to assemble over 30 ‘Welcome Home Baskets’ for Pine Street.

All together, we collected important items such as sheets and towels, mops and cleaning supplies, shower curtains, kitchen essentials, and lamps to ensure an easier transition as guests and tenants move into their own spaces and take a transformative next step in their lives. The baskets of supplies, along with over $1,300 in gift cards to grocery stores and Target, will be given to people transitioning from Pine Street Inn’s shelters into permanent housing.

Pine Street Inn, headquartered on Harrison Avenue in Boston’s South End neighborhood, began in 1969 with the mission of providing “a hot and a cot.” The organization now has four shelters with a total of 670 beds and serves over 2,800 meals a day to individuals experiencing homelessness. It has expanded to include job skills training and transitional programs geared towards helping people find permanent housing. About 160 people participate in Pine Street Inn’s workforce development programs each year.[i] Pine Street Inn is the only organization in Boston that provides nightly street outreach. Their vans traverse the city between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. providing clothing, food, and blankets while building trust with individuals who have chosen not to come into the shelter.

Pine Street Inn by the Numbers

35 housing locations and 4 shelters
850 units of permanent supportive housing
97% retention rate after one year in Pine Street housing
1,164 individuals moved into a variety of housing options
33,000+ volunteer hours annually

Pine Street Inn has emphasized a culture of respect since its founding. Co-founder Paul Sullivan began the tradition of referring to anyone seeking shelter as a guest of the inn. This language was, and remains, important in de-stigmatizing homelessness. In 2019, Lyndia Downie, Pine Street’s Executive Director told the Boston Herald that the stigma of homelessness is still a driving factor preventing change.[ii]        

Many people end up at shelters like Pine Street Inn because they’ve lost a job and were just a paycheck away from making rent. A personal health crisis can also lead to homelessness – sometimes an individual had health insurance through an employer, but may be unable to work while recovering from a serious illness or injury. The resulting unemployment then deprives them of healthcare when they need it most. Unemployment related to COVID-19 has exacerbated the issue in an area that already lacked enough affordable housing.

The United Way reminds us that language matters when we speak with children about homelessness. “Being homeless is a situation, not a label. Even the semantics of ‘people who are homeless’ vs. ‘homeless people’ make a difference.”[iii] The same advice applies if a child asks about the frequently associated issue of substance use; the National Institute of Health has a helpful sheet of recommended terms to use when speaking about addiction. 

Not only does the PA’s outreach directly benefit residents of Pine Street Inn, but it offers an opportunity to engage Park students in this vital conversation, challenging stigmas associated with homelessness. It’s a chance to encourage children to think about all the prerequisites an individual needs in order to be able to afford housing or healthcare or obtain employment. Job applications usually ask for an address, and a security deposit and first and last month’s rent are often necessary to move into an apartment. From affordable housing and job availability to childcare and our mental health care system, there are many fundamental long term factors to be addressed as we seek sustainable solutions to homelessness. The more we educate our children about these complex underlying causes and cycles, the better they will be prepared to work toward a future that addresses them.

Our family enjoyed the new Park Community Service event and while it didn’t offer the same camaraderie – and knife danger! – as the Chop-a-thon, it did offer a different perspective on Pine Street Inn’s work and, in many ways, allowed our children a different perspective on what it means to be homeless. With a list of needed essentials that included everything from a shower liner to a can opener, kids could think about everything that goes into having a home and what it means not to have one. For our youngest daughter it was a nice companion to Park’s needs vs wants curriculum. We welcomed the opportunity to support Pine Street Inn, to have conversation as a family about homelessness, and we are grateful to the Parents’ Association.
– Liz Morningstar (P ’28 and ’25)


Thank You!

Thank you to all the volunteers and donors who have helped Park provide Welcome Home Baskets. These essential items will help people turn their new housing into a home. This video from Pine Street Inn about the Welcome Home Baskets is a great one to watch with your children! 

Special thanks to Susan Boney, Lars Liebisch, and Maria Fernandez for organizing the drive, grade captains: Astrid and Tommy Burns, Eliza Quincy, Maribel Zatarain-Ortega, Leigh Kempinski, Edward Lee, Megan Zug, Sarah Rosenberg Scott, Rebecca Forkner, Ann LeBrun Rothman, Ami Cippola, Jessica Scherer and Jenn Krebs, as well as Mina Roustaei and the Facilities Team for their help with collection logistics!

Black Lives Matter Every Day in Park’s Library

in Spring 2021 by
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Each year, the Park Library dedicates significant energy toward building a collection for our community that celebrates diversity and highlights our anti-racist practice. 

In 2020-21, a major effort is our Black Lives Matter Every Day initiative. Since the first day of school, and for every day of the official school year, we are building our collection with 166 books that center Black authors and artists and their narrative subjects. We haven’t missed a day yet! 

We have created an interactive site that features many of the books that we added to the collection, with links to our online library catalog. We are encouraging every family to read at least one (hopefully more) of these books and share your reaction with the community. Please explore this resource and contact us if you would like to check out any of the titles for your family.

Check This Out!

in Spring 2021 by

Share your enthusiasm with fellow members of the Park community! We welcome recommendations related to childhood development and education, as well as more general community engagement, art, and culture. As always, please submit anytime to:

Spring cleaning?

You might want to look into these gift economy platforms – enabling unwanted items to go straight to an end-user rather than to a generic donation bin where they might not be needed, or worse, into a landfill. “Buy Nothing” groups also encourage people to reduce their environmental imprint by asking for items they need from the group instead of purchasing new. Why shouldn’t someone’s unwanted but perfectly good stepstool end up in your kitchen instead of rusting away in their garage while you buy a new one?

The Buy Nothing Project                                                                                 The Freecycle Project                            

Time for a change?

How to Break Up With Your Phone                                                                         Oh She Glows For Dinner

How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30 Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price
This book includes quick tricks (like making scrolling through social media less appealing by placing your phone in black and white mode), but Price also dives into the neuroscience behind our interactions with technology. She guides the reader to redefine their relationship with their phone, allowing the device to function as a tool, not a distraction. Still, Price isn’t anti-smartphone, and her step-by-step guide is as non-judgmental as it is helpful.


Oh She Glows For Dinner by Angela Liddon
A perfect cookbook to check out of the library in preparation for Earth Day, coming up on April 22! These plant-based, earth-friendly meals are designed to be kid-friendly, but busy-parent-friendly too; an entire “make-ahead” section pairs together recipes that are easy to cook all at once, and explains how to prep, freeze, and reheat or finish cooking later.

Seeking a National Introspection

in Uncategorized by
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    Photo by ElevenPhotographs on Unsplash
This essay is adapted from Mr. Chapman’s January 7, 2021 message to Park School colleagues.

Images of Wednesday’s events in Washington D.C. are inescapable in our collective minds. For me, as I reflect on that night, I realize that once my professional obligations were met, and I was able to check in with friends and family, I could no longer avoid the reality of what happened, or what it meant to me personally, not just professionally. As I was left alone with my own thoughts, worries and fears about what we saw last night, I was left with the questions that have plagued many of us in this nation as of late. How do I protect my family from the hate and anger they are seeing on TV? How DO I discuss this with my child? How do I express the myriad of emotions that accompany what we saw yesterday?

Chief among those emotions is sadness. Sadness compounded because a part of me was actually not surprised by what I saw. There is a genetic memory that was triggered yesterday as I saw images of nooses and Confederate flags on the steps of our Capitol. Images of people breaking into the building and Senate chambers. The violence we observed in the heart of our democracy was on a scale that many of us have not seen in our lifetime.

When I see how the reaction to this protest differs from the reaction to the protests this summer, I cannot help but ask more questions about what we are teaching our children. They watch what we do, not what we say, especially about justice. I hope to see us do better as a nation, if not for us then, for them.

I often look for resources to help process my thoughts in uncertain times and I applaud the members of our community who have already shared resources with the larger community with our students in mind. I will add a suggestion for the adults in our community, a recent text that I find myself reaching back to in the last 24 hours.

Isabel Wilkerson’s book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, is a text that I recommend as a way to understand how we as a nation have arrived at this tempestuous point in history. I have been a fan of Wilkerson’s work since her history of the Great Migration, The Warmth of Other Suns. However, this recent text has given me words to articulate the questions in my brain and even some answers for my heart, a road map for introspection that is needed for how we move forward using both our heads and our hearts.

We are responsible for our own ignorance or, with time and openhearted enlightenment, our own wisdom.”
Isabel Wilkerson,
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

“Choose not to look, however, at your own peril. The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away. Whatever is lurking will fester whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction. Whatever you are wishing away will gnaw at you until you gather the courage to face what you would rather not see.” ― Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Isabel Wilkerson’s words speak to me about the need to understand the shared narratives that make up the mosaic of our nation today. To move forward, we will need to rebuke the violence, hate, and destruction we saw this week. 

I call on us all to look to do some national introspection to what led us to these events and to see how those images may affect each of us in our community in different ways. For our students’ sake, we must learn to hear, connect and seek to understand all of the voices that make up our community, school, and country.

DEI at Park: The Work of Community

in Fall/Winter 2020 by
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The launch of Park’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Implementation Plan represents months of collaboration between administration, faculty, staff, and parents centered on ensuring that, as a community of diverse races, religions, cultures, and backgrounds united by a shared mission, we strive to meet our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism. 

The Plan itself outlines objectives across every area of school life, from academic program and curriculum, social-emotional learning and hiring, to institutional leadership, professional development, and community stewardship. Considered as a whole, the Plan defines a clear process of action stems and accountability for those who are responsible for its progress.

The DEI Implementation Plan itself is not in and of itself the answer. It is a road map, providing essential guidance for the way forward.

One of our first steps was to form a DEI Implementation Plan Steering Committee, composed of parents, trustees, faculty, and staff, who will work together to monitor, guide, and report on the Plan’s progress. This is the first collaborative working group of this kind, bringing together many voices and constituents united in our goal to advance this important work. Below are a few of the areas we are hard at work on:

  • Early initiatives include the launch this fall of a Parent SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) group, in which members of the community are joining in conversation about the many layers of belonging, inclusion, and mutual understanding. This effort  with parents joins the longstanding faculty/staff SEED initiative which is also continuing this year. The groups’ efforts begin, simply, by getting to know each other, where each person comes from, what’s inherent to the names they are known by, and the stories beyond them. As one participant noted, “Once you know someone’s story, you can’t hate them.” The work begins, then, with seeing and hearing each other — and having learned to reframe the way we see others, we take that perspective to the world beyond. Tina Fox, Lower Division Assistant Head and a Park parent, serves as one of the co-leaders of the Parent SEED effort and observes, “It has been an honor and privilege to work alongside members of our parent community as we engage in conversations and learnings that hit at the heart and the core of who we see ourselves to be. Through these courageous conversations there becomes a shared understanding and empathy for one another. By acknowledging the systems of privilege, power, and oppression that exist as well as amplifying and validating underrepresented experiences, I see this work as another step towards systematic change both as individuals and as a community.”
  • Also this fall, Park has laid the groundwork for a network of affinity groups — inviting Upper Division students, as well as parents, faculty, and staff, to come together in groups who can begin to explore what their identities mean to them in a space where all members can speak from the “I” perspective. Invitations to join the groups launched in November, and since then, facilitators have been identified and trained. We will begin the new year with our first sessions for over ten different affinity spaces. In this time of COVID, all of these spaces will be available on Zoom — we sincerely hope that in-person gatherings will be possible in the 2021-22 academic year.
  • Meanwhile, Park is completing data collection to accurately capture the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity represented by the student body, which will, going forward, support our efforts to better understand how our programs and teaching support the academic and social emotional growth of all our students. How might this data help Park teachers create safe and inclusive spaces in which students can grow and develop to their greatest potential? How might it support our efforts to build confidence, capacity, and sense of belonging for all our students? This data and questions like these will guide our work to ensure that every child has full access to the academic excellence central to Park’s mission.
  • Park’s Secondary School Counseling office has delved closely into the department’s practices and process, placing DEI priorities at the center of their work. Co-Director Matt Kessler reports, “We surveyed all the schools to which Park students most often apply regarding each school’s own commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We realized that if Park considers DEI core to its own educational mission, perspective on how a given secondary school prioritizes DEI must be part of the guidance we provide to students and families.” Co-Director Lisa DiAdamo notes that most of the schools surveyed indicated that Park was the rare school even asking these questions, and appreciated the degree to which Park sought to help families understand the overall commitment to DEI that various secondary schools were making. Matt and Lisa have also worked with faculty on “Anti-Bias Recommendation Training” in order to raise awareness and to bring the pitfalls of racial and gender bias, to which we are all susceptible, to our collective consciousness. They hosted office hours for faculty, and shared useful anti-bias resources and provided additional information about how the teachers can best support all of our students.
  • As part of this work, the Secondary School Counseling team also partnered with Olivia Morehead-Slaughter (psychologist), Julie Mumford (school counselor), Ken Rogers (Upper Division Head) and me to host a workshop to help Upper Division students and their families think through questions of racial identity development, and to help families think through their own racial identity and its impact — on their families, on others, and on their secondary school choices. It’s an ongoing conversation but we believe that helping students negotiate these priorities will support them well in their steps forward.
  • Another essential priority of the DEI Implementation plan centers around hiring. Typically, the major independent school hiring process begins in February. While retaining the strong teachers who already know Park well is always a priority, we also seek to diversify our pool of talent so that our faculty better represents the world in which we live. The Administrative team is working closely to define the policies that will guide the hiring process going forward.
  • Assistant Head of School for Academics & Program Eric Chapman observes, “We believe the strength of our educational program depends on creating a space where children learn in an environment that truly represents all the diversity of our larger community — differences in background, differences in perspective. Park’s student body is very diverse, compared to peer schools, and we aspire to do as well with our faculty.” 
  • Teachers are, by definition, wired to be student-centered thinkers. They do what they do because they care so very much about the students under their care. Yet teachers, like everyone else, are shaped by the world they know, and continue to be learners even as they are educators. At Park, every new employee now partakes in VISIONS, a DEI training program that guides participants toward deeper connection with their own selves as empathy-driven partners in an educational community, learning to listen, see and value difference, and understand our common humanity. VISIONS training continues at regular intervals for all employees through the course of the academic year, helping to continue building the tool box we need to be effective educators and constructive members of our diverse community.

The DEIIP itself is a bundle of aspiration, hope, heart, and struggle. The Plan itself is not in and of itself the answer. It is a road map, providing essential guidance for the way forward. We recognize, as Dr. Ibram X. Kendi writes, anti-racism is a journey that “requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” We recognize, too, that Park has not been experienced as a truly inclusive and anti-racist place by all members of the community. Therefore, we dedicate ourselves as a school to openly confront discord and examine the individual and collective assumptions and biases that arise in the classroom, the School, and our community. The work is never done. And the Plan, our road map, can and must keep evolving. We look forward to the ongoing conversation.

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