Recently, a friend of mine who is head of an Episcopal school in Dallas (and a former ESA teacher), Mark Crotty, wrote the following sentence in a blog about education:
“An exceptional independent school helps each student steadily become a grander version of his or her unique, best possible self.”
As we begin a new year full of hope and excitement, this sentiment is a great reminder of what it is we are supposed to be doing! And it underscores the power of a community united by and living by a set of ideals. These ideals are found in the words of our mission and values statements: scholarship, honor, joy, challenge, instill, develop intellectually, spiritually, physically, freedom and responsibility, respect and informality, eclectic community, individual talents and strengths, positive contributions, energetic citizens. These are all high ideals, and as great as our scores and outcomes have been over the years, the greatest accomplishments of this relatively small school in Acadiana are the ripples of excellence, idealism and leadership that we have sent out into the world. Our students and alumni carry the ideals of ESA with them, and we are proud of every act of integrity, kindness and idealism.
Commitment to a mission is the defining characteristic of independent schools, and it is one of the main reasons for their success. Providing access to the powerful and unique experience of ESA is another hallmark of this great school. In the original bylaws, that commitment is crystal clear:
“We shall provide a program for and be sensitive to the needs of children from low-income families as requested by the donor of the school property as condition of the donation, in order that the gift serve a broader purpose than the legitimate education and guidance of the privileged, and include more concretely that specific Christian value of serving those less fortunate, as well.”
To that end, we provide exceptional financial assistance to families, and the Tates-Tutwiler Endowment (which specifically provides for this commitment) has grown to nearly $1,000,000. This endowment has been funded almost exclusively by our alumni who give so that others can experience the power of the ESA education that they had. They give because they know that intelligence and talent are not distributed in the same way that wealth is, and that the return on this early investment will be compounded beyond measure in the years to come.
The ultimate success or failure of a school will always be determined by the quality of its people and their commitment to the translation of these big ideals into everyday excellence. This is what I am most proud of at ESA. From the parents who entrust us with their most precious treasures to the Trustees who work tirelessly to ensure the future of ESA, from the incredible students who bring excitement and curiosity and energy and talent to the most dedicated group of educators that I have ever seen, everyone is committed to helping “each student steadily become a grander version of his or her unique, best possible self.”
As we begin a new year, let us welcome our new families not only to the events of the year, but also to the idealistic world of our school! I’ll summarize it this way: ESA is dedicated to preparing its students for leadership in a world that desperately needs their talents, imagination, intellect, integrity and compassion.