Every year St. Stephens and St. Agnes School welcomes new faculty and students alike to the community. Our administration is a core part of how we maintain the strength of our mission statement and how we execute our strategic plan. Many new administrators have come to our school in the past decade, eager to uphold long standing traditions but also bring new ideas to the table.
Most Upper School administrators may have only joined SSSAS in the past decade, but there are many faculty members who have been here for longer than a decade. I spoke to a few veteran faculty members, asking them all the same question. How is the school different - for better or for worse - than it was 10 years ago?
Father Cavanaugh said that our awareness for students’ mental health has increased significantly. He also noted how there are now so many more services for people who do need mental health help, which is super important.
Mr. Doyle took a different approach, explaining how the school is much better off when it comes to diversity. He said that this is true in many aspects, including race, religion, and orientation.
Ms. Ames thinks that one thing that has changed about our school in the last few years is how we have embraced change. She explained that for the longest time we stuck with tradition and this decade we have accepted change in a more positive way.
Mr. Garikes and Mr. Mallet have been the directors of the Upper School this decade, with Mr. Garikes from 2005- 2016 and Mr. Mallet from 2016 on. I wanted to compare and contrast their thoughts on how administrative changes to the school have impacted our community.
What are the biggest differences you’ve seen in the school since the new administrators started here?
Both agreed that the biggest change since the new administration has started is the new schedule. Mr. Mallet stated; “I mean the biggest change by far is the new daily schedule. We had the same daily schedule since the two schools merged in 1991.” He also noted that the strategic plan that was launched in 2016 is what the current administrators are trying to fulfill- “The changes that are implemented are not because people just want to do it.” Everything is done in order to further the growth of our community. Mr. Garikes agreed with Mr. Mallet and explained that the schedule change was a long time coming. He said, “We tried to have some initiatives to get the schedule changed in the 11 years I was director, but, Mr. Mallet and his team did a great job of making that happen.”
How do you think we have grown as a school and community over the past decade?
Mr. Mallet talked about all of the positive changes that the schedule has such as everyone having a free period, extended lunch, and more time to complete homework. He noted, “I feel like students are grateful for the fact that they have one unscheduled period.” Mr. Garikes took a different approach, emphasizing the importance of diversity, and how we’ve grown so much as a student body. Looking back on the last decade he said, “Well the last decade and, I go back even further, the diversity of the student body is much greater than when I started and I mean that in all different levels of diversity whether its race, religion, orientation. I see that the school is a more diverse community and I think that’s a great strength of our school.”
What do you think are currently the biggest strengths and weaknesses of our community?
Both Mr. Mallet and Mr. Garikes were concerned about the overall health of students and the ways that we can help student health. Mr. Garikes said, “I focus on the students, that your demands and your time and demands that you put on your time with your devices, I think, has added to the level of anxiety and frustration of students. You’re not only expected to do things, but, to know what everybody else is doing and react to it and that’s a huge change from where students were when I started.” Mr. Mallet discussed how our health and wellness education could be improved and more unified. “I think that we could look towards building a more comprehensive health and wellness system where we do have health and wellness classes, we do have Brenda the Drug Lady, we have Ms. Harrison to come in and talk about depression, we have the college transition, but we have so many elements of a health and wellness program that aren’t unified in a way that shows a 9-12 progression.” On the flip side, Mr. Garikes believes that one of the greatest strengths of our community is our Episcopal Identity and how “this is a place you can celebrate faith, whatever your faith is.” He also noted, “I also find it to be liberating to teach government, to teach history, to teach literature and be able to really talk about those issues. I think it really adds a dimension that makes us different than other good independent schools that don’t have a religious aspect like that.” Mr. Mallet thinks that one of the strengths of our community is that “there is an adult here for every kid. I think that our adults are here to love and support and guide the kids at our school.” He talked about the different departments in our school that help students including “a wonderful counseling office [and] pastoral care with Father Cavanaugh and Reverend Farrington.” There are so many different people that can help to guide each and every student.
What are you looking forward to in 2020?
Mr. Garikes said “I think I’m looking forward to there’s some plans on the horizon to do some major renovations in the Upper School which I think needs to be done.” He also mentioned how something that our school could use is a student union. He noted, “ I think it would be a great addition and advancement for the school. It’s a high priority and I look forward to those changes. I think it’s gonna be very exciting.” Mr. Mallet is looking forward to “what’s core to the St. Stephens and St. Agnes mission in the face of a complicated political environment and social and emotional environment for kids.” He hopes that in the midst of a divided country, students can come to our school and feel welcome.
Overall, I think both made great points about what our community is and what we stand for. The new administrators are moving our school in a positive direction that will help us grow together and make SSSAS the best it can be.