August 18, 2021

Forward Together

Jaime A. Dominguez / Head of School

Dear Oakwood Community,

I hope that over the past several weeks you have had an opportunity to spend quality time with your family while also carving out space for your own rest and reflection. Personally, I was so grateful to have had some downtime to do those things that help inspire and rejuvenate. My family and I were able to travel back east to visit family and friends while also getting some early college visits under our belt with my rising Junior, Mia (8 colleges in 3 days… I’m happy to share our secret for efficient college touring). Besides taking time to exercise and be outside, my favorite activity that I’ve been able to rekindle is my love for reading.

I had a chance to read several books from all different genres, most notably some classic novels including The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I mention this because most of my readerly life, at least during the school year, is so focused on non-fiction and technical writing that I need summertime opportunities to integrate the art of fiction into my learning. I find that creative writing brings awareness, meaning, and understanding to critical aspects of our lives that are both unique and universal.

With that said, I want to highlight another book I have started to read that has provided much food for thought that would resonate for all parents and guardians. Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford, just came out with her new book, Your Turn: How to Be an Adult. While the messages in the book are certainly geared towards helping young people identify the milestones and strategies that lead to successful “adulting”, I found the principles highlighted throughout the book to be relevant reminders to those of us who have been adults for several decades. This is a great read for everyone. On that note, we are in the process of coordinating with Ms. Lythcott-Haims to present to our community in the spring of this school year. I hope that this early introduction provides folks with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with her work.

For the last few years, we have identified a theme for the school year to inspire and help guide our collective experience. As we collected input from students, faculty, staff, and parents/guardians a couple of ideas began to emerge: to honor the fact that this fall will mark the first time we are all physically back on campus full-time, to incorporate lessons learned from the past 18 months but focus on moving forward, and to highlight the importance of doing this work together—no one should feel left behind or marginalized. Incorporating all of these ideas, we came up with Forward Together.

This year’s theme captures our intention to forge a new kind of togetherness. It highlights that we have common goals and a collective vision. Ultimately, what drives us Forward Together is the shared work we do towards empowering students to be proactive and positive members of society.

Our Safe Return to Campus
Inspired and excited as we are to be together again, there is still much uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic. Many may be feeling a sense of anxiety and disappointment that greater Los Angeles is not in a better place as our children return to school. However, as you all helped demonstrate over these past 18 months, Oakwood will continue to fulfill our mission by deeply engaging in teaching and learning, forging real connections, and above all, keeping everyone safe.

You’ve heard from us over the past few weeks about safety measures in place at Oakwood, including requiring vaccines for all faculty and staff, expecting all students who are eligible to be vaccinated, wearing masks, and regular testing for students who are not yet able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Every administrator, teacher, and staff member is dedicated to ensuring the health and well-being of our students. Knowing Oakwood families are also doing all they can to stay safe as well inspires tremendous confidence that the start of school will be joyful for us all.

As a reminder to parents/guardians: if you haven’t yet submitted your student medical forms for the upcoming school year,  please do so now on Oakwood Connected.

Returning to school each fall is always a mix of both familiar and new experiences. Here’s a quick update on several things that students can look forward to this fall:

The Oakwood Kitchen is nearly ready to serve! After many years of planning and support from countless partners; we anticipate students, teachers, and staff at both campuses will enjoy fresh and healthy meals on the first day of school. More than just the construction and renovation of new spaces at both campuses (and they really are beautiful), this new food program supports the well-being of our entire K-12 community, nurturing both bodies and minds to establish healthy foundations for learning. To get started with meal plans and ordering, visit the Oakwood Kitchen page on Oakwood Connected.

Our work to better align the K-12 experience is also embodied by many new educational opportunities. The elementary campus has shifted to an 8-day cycle schedule that creates more space for instructional enrichment. Students will begin to learn Spanish in grades K-4 and elementary campus math instruction continues to evolve and improve with the help of our newly hired math specialist. 5th and 6th-grade students will be taught via a departmental model that better prepares them for the transition to middle school. We’re extremely proud to share that our K-6 Director of Educational Services has earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology—congrats Dr. Gaye Pettibone! We have also hired a new full-time counselor who will work closely with Gaye and Kevin Golden to provide socio-emotional support for both students and parents/guardians.

At the secondary campus, the Advanced Studies program begins its second year of implementation. Recognized as UC Honors-approved classes, these offer Juniors and Seniors the opportunity to engage in academic disciplines at significant levels of rigor, self-reflection, and depth. This student-centered approach is also being bolstered by fresh approaches to academic support for secondary school students. We will be increasing the capacity, reach, and access of our Study Center to provide more ongoing and drop-in opportunities to support student academic work by staffing the space with regular Oakwood teachers alongside our Learning Specialist, Mary O’Malley. We are also excited to announce the expansion of our College Counseling team. With the addition of a new Associate Director, this office is offering a wider array of programs and increased access to counseling for secondary students.

Everything we do depends on every member of our community feeling like they truly belong. Our office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, in partnership with parent/guardian, student, and alumni leaders, has worked for decades to foster this sense of belonging at Oakwood. Toyin Augustus, our new Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging will carry us forward in this work. The DEIB theme for the year, Building Coalitions for Racial and Social Justice: Past, Present, and Future, perfectly integrates with our schoolwide theme of Forward Together. We look forward to another year of programs, collaborations, and learning.

In the same way that belonging is a point of school-wide emphasis, environmental sustainability is a lens through which we are examining all practices at Oakwood. Thanks to the efforts of our student body, working in collaboration with administrators, the creation of a sustainability action plan is underway. We are also extremely pleased to announce the establishment of the Diamond Family Sustainability Fund. This new endowment will enable educational and operational initiatives aimed at reducing negative impacts on our environment. We are deeply grateful to Arpita and Brian Diamond for their generosity and vision in supporting this vital project.

I want to extend a special welcome to all the families who are new to Oakwood School this year, and to the new faculty and staff who are joining us. You are integral parts of the new togetherness we seek to create this year. There will be more news to share as the school year begins, including the debut of our new mascot, GO OWLS!, and much more.

Enjoy these last weeks of summer break. As we open the 70th school year in Oakwood’s history, I look forward to growing, learning, creating, and soaring FORWARD TOGETHER.

Jaime A. Dominguez
Head of School