by Viraj Shankar
OES is known as one of the most prestigious private schools in Oregon, and recognized for its major achievements in everything from Science to Soccer. However, OES still has its challenges, and Asha Appel, the new upper school, has some ideas on how to tackle these potential obstacles that need to be faced. I sat down with her to discuss the changes that might be coming in the future.
Asha stated that the main goals of the restructuring process that is currently underway are student centeredness, creating a tight ‘net’, which allows each student to be supported in the ways that are best for them, and supporting the faculty and staff. She said that it was important to provide opportunities for adults to become, for example, better ‘critical thinkers’ or ‘guidance counselors’. Asha hopes that this restructuring process will be completed by next fall, and she said that she is ‘hoping to have a new structure with brand new positions.’ Many people were interviewed for these new positions, and finding the right people for them required interview and search committees, and a thorough due process.
When I asked Asha about what she was most looking forward to once this restructuring of faculty and staff is complete, she responded, “There are so many things that I am looking forward to, and I am really thankful for the people that have thrown their names in to be teacher leaders and agents of change that will help this school grow. [The] biggest thing that I am looking forward to is a vision that can be shared by the entire school. As an English teacher, one thing that I would often say to kids is an idea from Virginia Woolf. She explained a concept of which you are always “glowing on the verge,” meaning when you are on the verge of something amazing, you are glowing, therefore you always want to be on the verge, and you never want to be done.”
Later on, I inquired what obstacles Asha and other people involved in this rethinking of the school’s structure faced. Asha told me that obstacles are part of any process when it comes to restructuring, and, if innovation was smooth sailing, it wouldn’t be innovation. She added that “…it’s very trite to say that change is hard, it’s not that change is hard, it’s just that, change is change, and we sometimes back away from that idea, that possibility. Inertia comes because it’s a lot easier to keep things the way the are, but here we don’t expect students to settle for who they are, we push to keep everyone moving forward with clear goals and intentions to carry with them.”
Obviously, change is inevitable, and the coming changes will have at least a little impact on everyone. Asha elaborated on this, saying, “Because of those three goals that we have set, student centeredness, a tight net for kids, and support for faculty and staff, are in some way aspirational, changes will be in class, and student life will be felt more than experienced. Right now concrete goals that will have an impact on the students revolve around making more time for advisory, making that the basis of that tight net of support for students, we will see feel and experience that in the near future.”
I also asked her about the things that sparked this idea to initiate change, to which she responded, “I spend a lot of time observing what exists, in this case I had a much wider scope to cover. I tried to figure out what is the school looking for, where the school going in its current vision. For me, collaboration is key, being in a lot of classes, talking to as many people as I can, and asking them how can we continue to do well, and what can we definitely improve on in the future. Actually, being a collaborator is very important to me, I can’t work just alone. The collective wisdom, of both adults and kids, people that have been here a lot longer than I have, have been very useful to me during my time here.”
Among the new positions will be a new director of academics, and a new director of student life, as well as four ‘class deans’.
Change is coming ‘Varks!