University School of Jackson

Headnotes: The Heart of Decision-Making

 

July 13, 2020

 

The mission. We all should know it…

 

“We instill a passion for academic, artistic, and athletic excellence, while committing to personal integrity, mutual respect, and lifelong learning.”

 

At the heart of this mission lies one objective: growing people. This frames everything we do. The Head of School must grow. Our Board of Trustees, administrative team and faculty are all dedicated to improvement, and we are all committed to growing our students. We are works in progress, and in order to better serve, we need to learn.

 

Therefore, every decision we make is centered around growing our people. Learning, whether it be solving algebraic equations, playing the trumpet, or fielding a ground ball, is what we do. Woven throughout learning we find the theme of the second half of the mission statement: character. Without integrity and respect for others, it really matters not how adept you are in the other areas.

 

So this idea of growing students pervades every aspect of our operation. Who we hire, how we allocate dollars, set our schedule, lead our classrooms, and manage our athletic teams all center around learning. This is why we exist and who we are as a school. Let me say it again: we exist to grow people.

 

In our current environment, I understand we face many challenges and anxieties that are very real. People are concerned about a virus one cannot see, are worried about safety for our families, economic issues, and we are experiencing a political climate and media that play on our differences and fears. These uncertainties lead to many of the questions I hear concerning the details of how we at USJ will begin the school year. I get it. As we finalize our plan which will be communicated next week, we must respond to a bigger question…

 

It isn’t just how will we start the year, but how will we sustain it? 

 

We must be prepared to move forward to grow our students. The times and situation are very fluid, but our objective does not change. We must do this for them. So we research. We collaborate. We ask difficult questions. We listen. Then, we make decisions that will meet their needs. Needs that are academic, developmental, and social. And we must do so with our minds not just on growth, but safety.

 

Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning as well as Simon Sinek’s It Starts With Why both address this very theme in their respective works. Essentially, much anxiety in life derives from the inability to find meaning, and once we understand the reason for what we are doing, our decision-making becomes focused and our motivation heightened. Our mission should guide me as Head of School in relations with the Board, our staff and our families. The question must always be, “What do we need to do to best grow our people?”

 

I understand that this is not easy. I do not believe we exist to do the easy thing, to make people happy, or do what I want. We stay on mission. This must be the address of where decision-making lives. 

 

Thank you for the privilege of partnering with you in growing your child.

 

Don Roe

Head of School

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