April 24, 2023
State of the School Address Looks Forward
On March 9, KO hosted its annual State of the School, sharing the past year’s events with the community and looking forward to the year ahead. The evening began with a reception in the Roberts Theatre lobby where parents mingled and connected before listening to the presentation by Board Chair Mary Martin, Head of School Tom Dillow, Director of Wellness Jackie Rubin, and Director of Theater Kyle Reynolds.
Dillow reviewed the new programming at the school that dovetails with the school’s strategic vision. This past year there have been community-building trips for Middle School students, the Form 3 trip to New Hampshire, and the upcoming trip to Tobati, Paraguay. The school has brought in experts in their field for our Lunch and Lead as part of our leadership programming. Dillow stressed the importance of all students feeling a sense of belonging. Teachers, he shared, have held a series of workshops on equity training and grading. Some students attended a retelling of 1776 with a BIPOC and LGBTQ cast and visited an early African American burial ground in New York; others attended a Never is Now program on anti-Semetism; the school had robust programming around Black History Month in assemblies.
Dillow also shared data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on youth risk behavior. Some compelling data was positive in that studies have shown a decline in teen sex, sexual partners, substance abuse, and online bullying. However, Dillow noted an alarming upward trend in teen mental health, with 57% of teens reporting feelings of sadness and depression, up from 36% in 2011. The rate of depression is higher among LQBTQ youths – 69%. Part of these figures should be viewed from the impact of the pandemic, but Dillow said much of the blame could be placed on smartphones and social media. He cited a Harvard Business Review article that noted several studies showing that even the mere presence of smartphones during test-taking of the study group reduces cognitive capacity.
Dillow shared that the school has guard rails in place to help the students navigate the stresses caused by college stress, pushing students too hard, political polarization, and international instability, and hired an additional full-time mental health professional in the Middle School. Director of Student Wellness Jackie Rubin shared with the audience that their children are in the best place possible at KO, for they are surrounded by adults who know and care for them. The school has built on its strengths of advising and small class sizes by organizing a Student Wellness Team to serve the students better. A school-wide 6-12 social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum focuses on self-awareness, self-management, relationships, and responsible decision-making.