As part of its mission, The New Century School embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) wholeheartedly. However, DEI must be continuously reaffirmed and new ways found to continue making TNCS a welcoming environment for all students. So last school year, the TNCS Parent Council’s Anti-Racism and Social Justice Committee in partnership with the TNCS administration decided to take the temperature of the TNCS community regarding race-related issues at TNCS.
An anonymous survey went out to families on April 8th with the message that, “Findings from this survey will help TNCS administration and the Parent Council assess where we are on the journey and identify the path forward toward ensuring a diverse, inclusive, and equitable TNCS community.”
On June 10th, Head of the TNCS Parent Council Tilly Gurman shared preliminary results with the TNCS community via email focusing mostly on participant demographics:
A total of 70 parents submitted surveys, and we are currently in the process of analyzing the data. Thank you to everyone who participated. Below is a quick snapshot of participants:
• 70% have 1 child at TNCS and 27% have 2 children at TNCS
• Average number of years at TNCS = 3.7
• Approximately 46% from people of color households and 54% from white households
• Relatively even distribution of number of children (n) in pre-primary (n=19), primary (n=20), and K-2 (n=20), with smaller representation among upper elementary (n=14) and middle school (n=9)
During the summer months, Ms. Gurman, Jay Golon (Chair of the Anti-Racism and Social Justice Committee), Roberta Faux (TNCS Co-Executive Director/Co-Founder), Shara Khon Duncan (former TNCS Head-of-School), and Tad Jacks (current TNCS Head-of-School) met “to go over the findings and to begin discussions about practical implications.” By early August, the Committee had synthesized survey findings and were ready to go public.
Although Immersed cannot publish their findings in their entirety, this effort deserves acknowledgment as the first of its kind at TNCS and a giant step in the direction of helping TNCS maintain an actively diverse, equitable, and inclusive atmosphere. We’ll offer some highlights here, and a link to the full results was shared with the TNCS community (if you did not receive it, contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
The primary upshot is that most parents (64%) talk to their children about race and racial identity, believe that participating in broader discussion about race and racism is important (94%), and feel that TNCS is a welcoming environment for every student (96%).
Are you interested in doing some of this amazing and important work? Visit the TNCS Parent Council page on Blackbaud to join the Anti-racism and Social Justice Committee or any of the other wonderful PC groups. In the meantime, the TNCS Parent Council will continue working with the TNCS administration to determine how to implement and apply what they learned from the survey to actionable and meaningful initiatives around campus and throughout the curriculum.
For the 2021–2022 school year, the Pollyanna curriculum that cultivates racial literacy will be taught weekly.
On July 1, 2021, Tad Jacks joined The New Century School as Interim Head of School. Before he had even started, though, he expressed how much he was looking forward to being part of such a multicultural environment. TNCS Executive Directors and Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner told parents that, “[Mr. Jacks] comes to us with a wealth of experience, pedagogical expertise, and leadership skills.”
Let’s explore that wealth!
An Abundant Career
Mr. Jacks’ road to TNCS stretches far—overseas, in fact. He was born and grew up in the King of Prussia area of Pennsylvania, but he began his career in education at the American School in London as a student teacher and baseball coach. Although his love lay with working with kids, his first job out of college was as a college admissions officer before re-entering the independent school realm. Re-entering? Mr. Jacks attended Friends’ Central School, a Quaker co-ed day school, in Pennsylvania as a student, so it was a good fit for him to join Friends School of Baltimore. At Friends, he wore a variety of hats, from admissions to development (for example, he started up a a center for Russian language and culture) to teaching (for example, a high school class called “US society 1900 to 1960”) and even coaching golf.
After 23 years at Friends and all of those many hats, he was approached by The Odyssey School to become their Head of School. Although Odyssey’s mission is to provide an education environment conducive to learning difference like dyslexia, they wanted Mr. Jacks for his extensive experience with governance, strategic plans, accreditation, admissions, and development. Within a few years, though, his athletic daughter was about to go to college. He needed the flexibility to attend her matches and provide all the support college students need. As she was attending school in New England, he decided to take a position as Assistant Head of School at the Wooster School, in Danbury, Connecticut, alongside the Headmaster who just happened to be a dear friend of Mr. Jacks’ as well as his former teacher. He actually commuted to Connecticut from Baltimore for 5 years! And called it fun!
Back in Baltimore, he embarked temporarily on a project to lead and support the Middle Grades Partnership with the Baltimore Community Foundation. Before the next school year began, Mr. Jacks was contacted about heading The Craig School in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. That 7-year stint came to a close just last year when the commuting finally did get to him (he was only home in Baltimore on weekends and holidays). “I decided that I’ve done this commuting enough, and I’m going to come home,” he explained. “So for the last year, I’ve been doing really interesting projects for people, mostly in education.”
TNCS and Tad Jacks: A Natural Fit
All in all, his career in education spans 42 years, a career he is grateful for. The depth and breadth of such an illustrious career might have tired out a less high-energy person than Mr. Jacks, but it’s clear he’s got plenty of ideas still to develop. And that brings us to TNCS. He says he had heard about TNCS both from friends of his daughter and from his natural habit of staying abreast of the independent schools in the area.
He has also worked side by side on diversity programs with our former Head of School Shara Khon Duncan. “I’ve known Tad since the 90s,” she said, “and TNCS is in good hands. He has a heart for diversity, and he digs right in and does the work.”
(Mr. Jacks says he is also eager to gain a little Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, not that multilingualism is his forte per se.)
Not surprisingly, given his background in development, he has begun to shape a vision of what his time at TNCS could mean.
I want a concept—a spirit—that as a school in Baltimore City we must continue making a difference for this city. And maybe it’ll come out in different forms along the way. There are so many problems that come to school even before a teacher can get to work with education. So I’ve always asked how I can make a difference in the city. I have way too much energy to not be in school right now. I just feel like it’s not just where I want to be, it’s also where I need to be.
Of course this kind of empathic orientation aligns beautifully with TNCS’s commitment to service learning, and Mr. Jacks says that’s another aspect of TNCS that attracted him. “It would be nice to put a solid foundation in place so that every year students in the different divisions know what big projects they’ll be working on,” he said.
That’s not to say that Mr. Jacks plans to make drastic changes—instead, he’s here to help. In an email to staff, he wrote:
My hope is that I will learn more during each meeting and want to hear from you about your roles, your interests, and how best I can help you. My pledge to all of you is that I will do my best to help each of you in your work and to support you on your objectives and goals. During the coming year, I plan to immerse myself in the life of the school, capitalizing on opportunities to build school spirit and support progress in key areas. I will be listening for ideas that foster relevant, engaging, and inspired learning.
And he’s eager to advance TNCS’s Core Values of Compassion, Courage, Respect, and Service. “In my first few days here, I have found that many individuals are compassionate about working with young children, have the courage to help a parent understand that their child may need more attention, have a respect for each other, and are in service to our community,” said Mr. Jacks.
Said Ms. Faux and Ms. Lawner: “It was clear from our interactions and from his amazing references that Tad’s philosophy of education, commitment to children, and auxiliary skill set would make him a fantastic fit for TNCS. We are confident and enthusiastic that this next step will move TNCS to an even stronger future as a leader in progressive, diverse, and joyful education.”
Although it may seem like he’d have time for nothing else, given his involvement in so many facets fo education, Mr. Jacks also has a personal life complete with hobbies and predilections, like contemporary music and visual arts. And yet, somehow, the conversation always swivels back to education in the best way. Mr. Jacks still remembers being in high school—elementary school, even. “I’m in education because of things that happened in the 4th grade; 4th grade and 11th grade were two watershed years, and I don’t think that’s any different for students now.”
How fortunate that TNCS’s current student body will have at least one of their watershed years under such capable and compassionate leadership. Welcome to TNCS, Tad Jacks!