Families Welcomed to First Virtual Parents Weekend

Although things looked a little different, the tradition of Parents Weekend was able to continue this fall, in the format of what is hoped to be the first and only virtual Parents Weekend in the school’s history. Head of School Peter Becker delivered the State of the School Address via Zoom on Friday, October 23, to parents, alumni, parents of alumni, and friends of the school.

In his remarks, Becker discussed the end of the 2020 fiscal year, and specifically the record-setting support received for the annual fund through the month of June, which, he noted, was really extraordinary. “To say that the spring and summer of 2020 brought some unexpected twists and turns would be a profound understatement,” Becker said. “We all remember what this past June was like, staring COVID in the face. Everyone rallied in the face of the challenge, including our alumni, our Trustees, our past parents and current parents and friends of the school, so we were just profoundly grateful. It really was a display of support from all of you, whether as a donor or as a volunteer.”

Another bright spot, Becker reflected, was how the school’s enrollment strategy was able to change in light of the pandemic, resulting in amazing results. Through the creativity and leadership of Alex Ince, Director of Enrollment, and her team in the Admissions Office, the school opened full, with 300 students. And through the thoughtful work of the reopening team, led by Associate Head of School Seth Low,  the school was able to fully reopen in person in the fall.

The primary focus of his address was the relaunch of the school and the transition from The Gunnery to The Frederick Gunn School, which Becker spoke about in the context of the school’s strategic and campus master plans. “The big story of the last six months, in many ways the last year or number of years, is of course the announcement of the change to our school’s name. As I mentioned in the July 25th announcement, that decision is about so much more than our name. It represents our public, very bold recommitment to the ideals that Frederick Gunn lived and taught 170 years ago, because they remain central, relevant, and inspiring today. We stated then that in the spirit of Mr. Gunn, over the next several years, our school and our students will become a recognizable force for good in the world – active citizens – active in changing the world really in the same entrepreneurial way that Frederick Gunn did so many years ago. And so the story is really what’s next.”

View the full State of the School Address here.

Parents were invited to attend sessions throughout the day highlighting the school’s academic and residential programs. Emily Gum, Assistant Head of School for Teaching & Learning, and Kristin Hoins, Director of the Center for Academic Excellence, provided an Academic Update that included an introduction to Winterim, which is new this year. Over a three-week period in December, students will engage in a faculty-driven academic curriculum that prioritizes intensive student learning focusing on one big idea. Course offerings range from Social Justice in Documentary Film to Scientific Thinking in Real Life to Songwriting, Superheroes for the Moment, Cryptography, and a course dedicated to the building, launching and recovery of model rockets.

In another session, Bart McMann, Director of the Center for Citizenship and Just Democracy, outlined the goals and structure for the new center and citizenship curriculum. A Residential Life Update was presented by Low and Ashley LeBlanc, Dean of Students, who spoke about the school’s philosophy and current programming. 

On Friday evening, parents were invited to cook from the comfort of their own kitchens alongside Frederick Gunn School alumni Jessica L’Heureux ’10 and Willy Charleton ’10, who hosted a live cooking class from Boston. In addition to demonstrating how to make Chickpea Burgers, L’Heureux and Charleton discussed how their experiences at The Frederick Gunn School contributed to their success as students and in life.