Superintendent's Letter - June 8, 2020
Dear Dock Students and Families,
This has been a most unusual and challenging school year at Dock, as in schools around the world. None of us wanted our year to end as it did. This year of online learning during an emergency pandemic situation stretched our teachers, parents and students.
2019-20 School Year
We completed the 2019-20 school year last week. Congratulations! As I reflect on the year, I am so proud of our school community! I have gained a deeper appreciation for the Dock community that stepped up in extraordinary ways over these past months. Our community faced this unexpected challenge, made adjustments, looked for new opportunities, and found ways to learn and grow through difficult months.
- Teachers engaged in continuous professional development so they could connect with students and encourage learning in an online manner. This transition happened quickly with only brief notice.
- Parents became much more involved in the eduction of their children, feeling the strain of continuing their own work while helping children navigate new challenges with online learning.
- Students faced an unprecedented challenge, continued their education, and learned essential life skills that will help prepare them for life. Students did, however, experience online learning in different ways. Some found it easy to navigate while others struggled with this format.
Over the past months, everyone stepped up to support our students.
- The Board of Trustees were supportive and encouraging of our school community.
- Our staff combined several fund-raising events to ensure that families facing financial challenges during the pandemic could continue to keep their children at Dock next year.
- Our donors demonstrated their generosity in supporting Dock and our families.
- Parents provided survey feedback that has been helpful in navigating these months.
In future years, we will understand this time period better and see more fully how it will impact our students as they become adults. I want to express my thanks to each of you for the grace you extended to each other during these months. You have shown patience, flexibility, and perseverance. You have looked for the opportunities in this most challenging time period. As we conclude our year, I want to thank each of you for being such an integral and supportive part of the Dock school family!
Dock Values and Next Year
Our school community has been impacted and deeply saddened by these recent days of tragedy in Minneapolis and around our country. We try to make sense of incidents in which young men and women of color have been victims of injustice. We have seen moments of peace and reconciliation, as well as moments of violence. This is not a new journey for us but one that seems ever present. Last Saturday, our 65th commencement address speaker, Glen Guyton, challenged our seniors that “today is the day you celebrate a bright future and the awareness that the gifts you possess MUST make a difference in this world.” As an educational community, we have an opportunity and responsibility to impact our community toward a more positive future through our students. How can Dock go beyond merely reacting to publicized incidents and influence long-term positive change?
Dock continues to hold to several values with our sister Mennonite schools. We want students to know they are loved and valued by God. We value peace-building and a life of nonviolence. We value cultural, racial, and socio-economic diversity and strive to provide a welcoming community where we value and learn from differences and care for each other. We want to create a community where students practice global awareness, cultural sensitivity, anti-racism, and compassionate living. We believe Dock Mennonite Academy can play a key role in building an environment where these values permeate our culture as we inspire students to help create positive and respectful communities.
Last fall, we contracted with Dr. Amanda Kemp (learn more about Dr. Kemp here) to be with our faculty and staff during in-service days next year to better prepare ourselves to assist students in moving toward these values. We recognize that change needs to begin with “me.” Dr. Kemp is an author and speaker who consults with colleges and schools throughout the US. She will be working with our faculty next year to raise our awareness of implicit bias, racial inequality, and dynamics in the classroom and beyond. The past weeks have indicated that our timing is appropriate for Dock to move into this important work more intentionally next year. We are hopeful as we look forward to better preparing our students to be positive change agents in our communities.
2020-21 School Year
As in other years, we have been preparing for the next school year for many months, long before the pandemic. We plan to keep you informed and updated through the summer as fall approaches. We will make decisions as quickly as possible yet keep our options open to allow the best opportunity for beginning the school year together.
We look forward to being together with our students this fall! We continue to make plans to open in person this August (see the 2020-21 planning calendar on our website). Our teachers are preparing for a great year and a return to a more “normal” experience. We have learned a lot these past months, however, and want to maintain new and more effective ways to educate while returning to the importance of personal connections and a school schedule.
The physical and emotional safety of our students is paramount in our planning. We will continue to monitor and listen to directives and suggestions from our state and local health authorities. Our governor has begun outlining how our schools may open this fall. We expect he will issue several updates during the summer. We will make any adjustments needed to ensure your child can return to Dock and feel safe in being on campus again. We are discussing the resources needed to ensure adequate physical cleaning as well as caring for the emotional needs of our students.
As a small and nimble school, Dock has demonstrated during this pandemic the ability to adjust and prepare for the unexpected. We were able to continue educating without missing days in March. We are now preparing for any challenges that come our way in the fall. We continue to invite your input. We will keep you informed throughout the summer.
I trust your family will have a summer of rest and renewal after a taxing spring. Continue to read and learn but take time to disconnect from the virtual world for periods of time. We will be excited to welcome you back in August!
Dr. Conrad Swartzentruber