June 3, 2020
Dear Hill School Community,
The last few months, and most certainly the last few days, have been a very difficult and emotionally charged time in our nation and here at The Hill. For months we have been separated from each other and from our community, struggling to sustain the close-knit, family atmosphere that normally connects us. Then, within a matter of days, both our nation and our school community has galvanized around the senseless murders of black Americans and the historical and ongoing disparate treatment of people of color. Countless individuals have emerged from their isolation, in person and online, to share their anger and frustration. The increasing anxiety in our nation and recurring divisive political dialogue about all things, including race and the global pandemic, has further exacerbated the intensity of these protests.
This is a pivotal, yet complex time for our school. We are devoting most of our intellectual capacity and resources to plan for campus to reopen next year under very difficult circumstances, while balancing our responsibility to keep educating and supporting our community with respect to the values and actions that comprise a decent, just, and equitable society. We must also find grace, love, and kindness for each other as we navigate this time together. We must treat each other with dignity and understanding. And we must do all of this while still being apart and out of session.
Black lives matter, at The Hill and beyond, and so do our words and messages.
It’s not just about saying and posting these words, however. Rather, it’s about focusing on our central mission as an educational institution through meaningful actions. I am disheartened to see the comments from current students and alumni of color who felt unsafe on our campus, subject to racism and mistreatment by classmates and adults alike, and that their concerns may have been silenced, dismissed, or discounted. In recent years we believe we have furthered strong equity and inclusion programs; we have dramatically increased the diversity of our student body, faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees; and we have made a concerted effort to improve our hometown and address the economic, social, and racial inequities that pervade our local community. Nevertheless, it is clear that we can do more and we must do better.
Several years ago, we started a new tradition at Hill of having the Sixth Form choose a motto that reflects their goals for their final year on campus. These mottos speak of love and kindness, leadership, and the importance of action over words. Just last week, in fact, the Class of 2021 selected their motto: Factum omnia, nihil gloria. (The deed is everything, the glory is naught.)
To that end, I am partnering with the newly elected co-presidents of the SGA, Andrew Chirieleison and Sasjha Mayfield, the Diversity and Inclusion Council, and the key members of our senior leadership team to improve the racial climate and support for our students of color in a sustainable, permanent way. We hope these tangible measures will in turn provide our students the skills, competencies, understandings, and confidence they will need to correct the grave and real injustices that exist in the world. That is what great schools do -- they prepare students for a life of meaning and purpose, and to orchestrate positive change in their communities.
We invite you to be a part of the solution. On Wednesday, June 10, we will have an online forum at 7 p.m. EDT for current students. On Thursday, June 11, we will host an online forum at 7 p.m. for current parents. On Wednesday, June 17, we will host an online forum at 8 p.m. EDT for alumni. We hope you will attend, share your concerns and ideas, and listen respectfully to the concerns and ideas of others. We will provide similar opportunities for community dialogue throughout the summer and into the upcoming school year.
Thank you for caring so much about The Hill School and all of its family members. We see you. We hear you. We stand with you.
Zachary G. Lehman P’16 ’18