This spring, The New Century School community learned that our beloved Señora Duncan is stepping down. Although this news was sad to many of us, in some ways, her reasons for leaving TNCS and the legacy she leaves behind are more than adequate consolation. All in all, the story of Sra. Duncan and TNCS is one of success after success in overcoming obstacles, turning pitfalls into opportunities, and strengthening the TNCS community, and she closes the tale with a happy ending.
Sra. Duncan is a thoughtful, reflective individual, so she had already done some introspection on what her time at TNCS meant to her and to the school. She says that, initially, she could not point to anything that “wasn’t what anyone would have done because things needed doing.” But that quickly dissipated (how many of you readers are thinking, ‘she can’t be serious!’?), and she realized that she accomplished her original goals and then some. It must be acknowledged that she also shepherded TNCS through the many crises brought by the pandemic with grace, kindness, and steady leadership. She sees her legacy as trifold.
The first relates to her original goals, which hark back to Immersed‘s first conversation with her: Shara Khon Duncan Joins TNCS as Head of School!. “Infrastructure was my goal in the beginning and I think I really did accomplish all that behind-the-scenes work,” she said. “There’s still work to be done—there’s always work to be done—but I put a lot of systems in place to help things move more smoothly. We also made and documented internal and external policies to formalize processes that have made this program better.”
Read more about Sra. Duncan’s tenure at TNCS from Immersed‘s archives:
- Second-Annual TNCS Black History Month Celebration Lifts Parent and Student Voices!
- Seeing Clearly in 2020: A TNCS Community Forum to Promote Anti-Racism
- TNCS’s Inaugural Black History Month Celebration!
- Thoughts on the First Half of the Year from TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan
- TNCS Head of School Wraps up the 2018–2019 School Year!
The second part of her legacy lies in her commitment to social justice and keeping important social issues in the community’s awareness. She is always ready to both talk about tough issues and, more importantly, to work on them.
This one took her by surprise a bit, though, and arose in part from the world in turmoil over racial injustices and the conflict inherent therein.
Every time I had to sit down and write a letter about something horrible happening in our country, such as George Floyd’s death, it was so hard, but at the same time, it’s just such important work. I really didn’t expect social justice to be part of my legacy at a school that’s so wonderfully diverse, but at TNCS we’ve gotten so much further along than others in a lot of ways. And it rang home how much more work still needs to be done. But we have a community of people who are willing to do it, and that’s the thing that just amazes me and is so refreshing and wonderful about TNCS.
Sra. Duncan’s letters of wisdom, faith, and hope were solace, even beacons of light and hope, for many during turbulent times, and are certainly a mark of the true leader she is. “There were so many teachable moments in this past year,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine being radio silent on those issues. It’s just not in my nature.”
See her moving letters to the community here:
The third part of her legacy is one she is especially proud of: being a Head of School of color and a woman. “It’s just an amazing first in my life, and I am so proud that my daughters and TNCS students, not matter what color, got to see that this is possible. They see that positive role model.”
What’s Next for Sra. Duncan?
We mentioned a happy ending, but it’s really more bittersweet—happiness tinged with some sorrow. Sra. Duncan had not planned to leave TNCS after 3 years, but she says being a Head of School during a pandemic took a toll on her:
Being the head of a small school meant that I had on far more hats than I normally would have. The job was already tough enough before the pandemic, but the pandemic made it even tougher in that there just wasn’t enough of me to go around to make decisions and to keep people healthy and doing well. My focus was always the students and what was going to be best for them, and safety was really important, too.
Even though I’m usually pretty good at separating work and home, working from home made that much harder, and I had no downtime to process like I had when I drove back and forth to school. But even though it was a tough decision, in some ways I’m sad to leave.
She also laments leaving before seeing the pandemic all the way through, but recognizes that she steered us on a straight path through the worst of it, and, frankly, by far most of it. Finally, she wonders what it might have been like to stay at TNCS until retirement.
“It makes me sad that I won’t get to see everything that I wanted to get done, done. There’s so much more work that needs to be done, but at the same time, I did something to make it a better place (not that it was a bad place before), and that makes me feel happy that I’m leaving on a good note.”
See the tribute video below to see just how high of a note that is!
Of course, we’re all eager to know what her plans are for the future. In the days immediately after her time at TNCS ends (at the end of June), she plans to focus on her family. Big things are happening in her daughters’ lives, and she plans to be there for that. She also has set herself the goal of unpacking the moving boxes from her move to a new house in 2019. “It would be nice to get my literal house in order before I think about the figurative,” she joked.
As for next professional moves? “That’s the beauty of it” she said. “I’m leaving without going toward something else. It would be nice if I still had some kind of link to education, but I’m going to see what lands in my lap.” That kind of hopeful, positive outlook is just so Sra. Duncan. Whatever she chooses (or chooses her), we can be confident that the world will be the better for it.
TNCS is just such a magical place. When I first got here, I remember thinking, this is the reward. I finally get to be in an environment that’s such a wonderful mix of people. It was just so incredible to look out on the playground and see those beautiful children out there all playing together and to see the staff working together. I’ll never work in a place as diverse and as wonderful as this again, and that saddens me, but I’m glad to know that such a place exists.
We wish you joy in all of your future endeavors, and we look forward to seeing you on campus for those visits you promised! ¡Abrazos fuertes!