Good evening and welcome to our 118th St. Clement’s School Closing. We are thrilled to gather as a community to celebrate our outstanding girls and their accomplishments.
It is unfathomable to me that we are here already; that this group of bright, inquisitive, energetic and thoughtful girls have spent a full year engaging in their learning, their co-curricular lives, and in our community.
What is even harder to believe is that our Clementines from the Class of 2019 are being celebrated as graduates this evening. It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming them in September to their year ahead.
Every year at our opening assembly, I share a picture book with our community. Each book has a message that I hope provides a focus for the year, and resonates with students and staff alike.
This year’s book was entitled The Perfect Square by Michael Hall, and it tells the story of a red square who was perfectly happy with its four matching corners and four matching sides. As the story unfolds a number of things happen to the square: it is cut into pieces and poked full of holes, it is torn into scraps and shredded into strips, and it is crumpled, ripped and wrinkled.
However, in every situation the square reconfigures itself to make its less-than-ideal situation better. At the end of the book, when the changes have stopped, the square finds that its four equal sides are confining and its four matching corners are cramped and rigid. It is then that the square makes itself into a window to reflect on its changes.
As we gather together this evening to celebrate our girls and their accomplishments, I think about the message The Perfect Square provides us. Our girls- and indeed all of us- have an opportunity to reflect on all that we have learned and how we have grown, how we have worked hard to adapt and adjust to changes, and the benefits that change has provided.
If we think of St. Clement’s School as a ‘perfect square’, there are many things that we have transformed to shift matching corners and sides. These transformations are not change for change’s sake but rather to ensure our commitment to academic excellence, our small, close-knit Grades 1-12 environment, our mission to develop outstanding women who are intellectually curious, courageous and compassionate and, finally, to ensuring that we are adapting to prepare our girls for the very different landscape that lies ahead of them. Our girls- through access to a breadth of courses and experiences across disciplines- must leave us with the capacity to think critically, work collaboratively, be flexible, and possess strong skills in a variety of literacies.
This past year saw a significant change with the overhaul of our school timetable for Grades 1-12 and while- with thanks from students, staff and parents alike- we have some tweaks to implement for next year, upon reflection, this change has made a significant and positive impact on our daily experience at the School. It has afforded opportunities for new programs, new approaches to learning, and additional time for any number of things including learning for students and staff, travel between classes and yes- even sleep.
Another exciting change has been the ongoing work on our campus master plan. As a result of our community’s financial support, we have- over the last many years- been able to remove our beloved carpet from the east gym and upgrade it, renovate and refurnish our Grade 7 classrooms to allow for more flexibility, and reconfigure our library and IT hub to ensure every home form room provides natural light for our girls and faculty. This year our community has continued their commitment and great support. With thanks to a fabulous gala evening run by exceptional volunteers, you raised over $80,000 to enable us to renovate and recreate a learning and play space on our roof to be opened in September 2020. Through the success of our annual fund this year, you have enabled us to reconfigure and refurnish a learning space in each of our Junior, Middle and Senior Schools.
Whenever I walk around the school, I marvel at how our girls and teachers use their ‘perfect square’ to learn. Inevitably there are girls learning in groups in the hallway, girls studying in quiet, hidden nooks throughout the school, and faculty and students working together everywhere.
Classrooms reflect a variety of learning: learning conversations around boardroom like tables, whiteboards around the perimeter of the room where students are up working through problems, girls at all levels working on hands-on activities: whether in integrated studies, computer science, science, art or music.
There is nothing I love more than to see our girls and faculty working together…except imagining how continuing to enhance our perfect square might enable us to leverage this learning even more.
Our girls, alumnae, and staff have, over the years, reflected upon the benefits of particular spaces and the needs for others- all with an eye to ensuring the excellence of our program, teaching and learning.
I am increasingly excited as we plan for our girls’ future, and consider what it would look like to adjust our sides and our corners so that our girls have enhanced and, indeed, desperately needed spaces in which to stretch, learn and grow.
- an additional visual arts space flooded with natural light that fosters creativity and iteration rather than a space in a re-purposed storage room,
- a library that becomes an even larger hub for learning with additional seminar rooms for quiet study. A space that fosters collaboration and reflection
- a cafeteria for lunches that also provides the possibility for hosting professional development and community events
- more classrooms furnished in flexible ways enabling various approaches to teaching and learning
- a large robotics and design space that enables our remarkable robotics, programming and consumer design programs to grow and that ensures our girls’ tech savviness and competitiveness;
- breakout spaces that enhance and enrich our girls’ learning experiences and in which students and staff alike can meet, work and connect;
At St. Clement’s our focus remains solely on our girls and their learning. Any visions for the future are grounded in this important focus.
To end, I think, particularly of our Graduates this evening. This group of 54 outstanding women have demonstrated intellectual curiosity, courage and compassion and are, without a doubt, ready to launch. Like our story The Perfect Square I venture to guess that many in the class might have felt like they were, at some time or another, crumpled, ripped or wrinkled. This can be difficult, however we also know that this is what allows for new learning, growth, perspectives and windows to open. It is also what prepares them for their next phase in life. In speaking with all of Grade 12s over this last term, I am confident that they will continue to shine, to learn and to grow.
Girls, on behalf of the staff and students at SCS, I want to thank you: for your presence, your leadership, your fun, and your contributions to our school. While your physical presence will not be felt next year, you are always welcome- as often as you want- for, as alumnae, you continue to be important members of our community.
We are enormously proud of you and we will miss you but you have made SCS a better place by being with us.
To our families, thank you for partnering with us to guide the girls of all ages. The connection is paramount.
And to our staff, my thanks to all of you for your hard work, enormous effort, and- most importantly- your care for our girls.