August 19, 2020

Embrace the Moment

Jaime A. Dominguez / Head of School

In typical years, it would have been several months since you last heard from me. Some sense of intrigue or at least curiosity would have accompanied this first communication from Oakwood marking the end of summer. But this is no ordinary year as we’ve had several opportunities to communicate since June about various topics—from what to expect in our remote and hybrid models of instruction to how we are addressing the inherent and systemic racism embedded within our society and institution. Nonetheless, it is important to mark this moment and officially welcome you to the start of the 2020–21 school year. The admin team and our faculty and staff have been busy preparing these past three months and are determined to provide the very best educational experience for students and families this fall.

Embrace the Moment

Last year’s theme, Better Together, could easily have been adopted as our rallying cry this coming year. It will certainly persist as an unofficial motto, as Better Together captures our shared belief that we are poised to overcome and ultimately thrive when we take care of one another. We have consistently demonstrated this over the last several months as our community rallied to support individuals and families who were impacted by the forces that have wreaked havoc in our lives. I want to thank you for the generosity and support that many of you have demonstrated.

While I’m certain that we would have all preferred to avoid the trauma that has been inflicted on our society and on individuals in our community, as the impact has been profound, I can’t help but believe that there must be something positive to be gained from this experience. We will all look back on this time and ask ourselves the questions, “how did I or we respond and what did we learn?” While this has brought difficult, even catastrophic changes to our ways of life, we are also being provided with a unique opportunity. As head of school, I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure that we don’t look back with regret that Oakwood School didn’t take advantage of this moment in time to grow and change, as individuals and as a school.

This year’s theme, Embrace the Moment, is an optimistic call to action to use this moment in time as an opportunity to learn and grow. Specifically, it relates to the work we have before us, to accept and ultimately address mistakes we have made in how we allow systemic racism to impact the lives of our BIPOC students and families. As I mentioned in my letter earlier this month, we all have a responsibility to take action, there is no opting out, and we must embrace the moment to be better.

Another idea embodied by Embrace the Moment is being fully in the present and not dwelling on what has taken place or what our future will look like. Those of us who have adopted the tenets of mindfulness will recognize the push to remain focused on the moment at hand. This has the benefit of minimizing distraction and judgement, which not only helps improve our sense of wellbeing, it also has the potential to benefit our health and personal relationships. Embrace the Moment can be our mantra to help us stay focused on what is most important in our lives, while being a call to action in these unique times to make a change for good.

Priorities in the 2020–21 School Year

As revealed at our State of the School address this past February, we have adopted a Strategic Plan that will help guide improvements for nearly all aspects of Oakwood’s future. This includes everything from curriculum to facilities improvements to our focus on DEI and antiracist work. To embrace the moment is to keep pushing forward on these strategic plans and initiatives. At the Back to School nights we are holding a few weeks into the school year, we will update the community on the plan and identify more institutional priorities to focus on this year. Until then, I want to highlight a couple of announcements that may have been overlooked in the communications we have sent out this summer:

  • The Gorilla mascot was officially retired at the end of the 2019–20 school year. We will take this school year to engage the entire community in envisioning our next mascot—a process that will tap into the creativity and school pride that Oakwood students, faculty, and families are known for.
  • The upcoming November elections will be an opportunity to flex our civic-engagement muscles. I can’t think of a better way for our community to engage in the democratic process of making substantive change than by focusing on the responsibility we all have to get involved and vote. As such, November 3 will be a school-wide day of service for all members of the community. Regular classes will be suspended so that students, faculty, and staff are able to vote and take part in actions that help improve the communities we are all part of. This can include volunteering at a polling station or engaging in other kinds of service. We encourage our families to join in this work.
  • As a means of becoming more efficient and effective in delivering a program that is aligned from Kindergarten to Grade 12, I have made some changes to our administrative structure. Erin Nowak has been appointed Middle School Principal. She will work closely with William Perkins Tift and Denise Ross to develop a more distinct and developmentally appropriate program for our students during the middle school years. Margie Llinas has been named our new Director of Institutional Technology. In this role she will oversee all aspects of technology services, from hardware and software to the implementation and support of educational technology in the classroom. We have also recognized that improving how we communicate with all constituents is a top priority, and I hope you have begun to see evidence of this focus. To help Oakwood take the next step in this goal, I have named Bret Nicely as Director of Marketing and Communications. I am excited to welcome all three of these individuals to my Senior Admin team, and I look forward to reaping the benefits of their leadership in this new structure.

We are also fortunate to be welcoming a number of new teachers and staff to the team this year on both campuses. Look for a standalone message introducing these newest members of our teaching and learning team next week.

Despite the challenges that we will undoubtedly face, I am confident that we have the personnel, resources, mindset, and commitment to make the very most of our current situation and emerge stronger than ever. This year will be one of learning and growth for us all. I hope you join me in supporting all the work we have before us.


Jaime A. Dominguez
Head of School