Responding to Uvalde – May 25, 2022

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Dear Latin Families,

As you are likely aware, there was a tragic and deadly shooting yesterday, May 24th, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. We are deeply saddened by this heartbreaking news. We grieve with the families affected by this tragedy, and with the entire Uvalde community as they come to terms with this terrible loss. 

Tragic events like this one bring up a broad range of emotions for those of us who work in schools and likely for many of our students. We recognize that this may impact us in different ways in the coming days and weeks, and as we wrap up this school year our mental health team and school leadership are available to support members of our community as they process what has occurred. 

Amanda Gorman shared a message yesterday that read, in part, “What might we become if only we’d listen.” If only we would listen to those who are suffering from mental illness, if only we would listen to those pushing us to make tough choices, if only we would listen to the countless victims of hate and violence, if only we would listen to those who have been traumatized, how different our world might be. 

True listening that leads to change requires both open hearts and open minds. We are committed to listening to you and responding to your questions, concerns, and suggestions. We are committed to listening to students as they share their fears and worries and as they also articulate hopes and dreams. We invite you to listen to your children as they process this and other tragedies with you at home. Please reach out to us if we can be helpful in any way.

Below are some resources for talking with and listening to your children:

This is the 27th documented school shooting in the country this year and follows 15 other mass shootings around the country in the last 10 days alone. Like many of you, I am tired of shedding tears, tired of losing sleep, tired of offering condolences and prayers, tired of wringing my hands. Still I have hope. That hope is rooted in what I see and hear from the students in our building every day. I was encouraged today by several conversations I had with students who were not just outraged or heartbroken, but who are energized to become politically active or who wondered aloud about raising money for victims or who asked good questions about our safety protocols here at Latin. It is easy to become discouraged and disillusioned. But because of my faith in the resilience and optimism of the young people whom we serve, I choose to hope. I invite you to do so as well.

Sincerely,
Peter Timothy Anderson
Head of School

Estimadas familias de Washington Latin,

Como seguramente ya sepan, hubo un tiroteo trágico y mortal ayer, 24 de mayo, en la Escuela Primaria Robb en Uvalde, Texas. Estamos profundamente entristecidos por esta desgarradora noticia. Nos afligimos con las familias afectadas por esta tragedia y con toda la comunidad de Uvalde al aceptar esta terrible pérdida.

Los eventos trágicos como este generan una amplia gama de emociones para aquellos de nosotros que trabajamos en las escuelas y probablemente para muchos de nuestros estudiantes. Reconocemos que esto puede afectarnos de diferentes maneras en los próximos días y semanas, y a medida que finalizamos este año escolar, nuestro equipo de salud mental y el liderazgo escolar están disponibles para apoyar a los miembros de nuestra comunidad mientras procesan lo que ha ocurrido.

Amanda Gorman compartió un mensaje ayer que decía, en parte, “En qué nos convertiríamos si solo escucháramos”. Si solo escucháramos a aquellos que sufren de enfermedades mentales, si solo escucháramos a aquellos que nos empujan a tomar decisiones difíciles, si solo escucháramos a las innumerables víctimas del odio y la violencia, si solo escucháramos a aquellos que han sido traumatizados, cuán diferente podría ser nuestro mundo.

La verdadera escucha que conduce al cambio requiere tanto corazones abiertos como mentes abiertas. Estamos comprometidos a escucharles y responder a sus preguntas, inquietudes y sugerencias. Estamos comprometidos a escuchar a los estudiantes mientras comparten sus miedos y preocupaciones y también expresan esperanzas y sueños. Les invitamos a escuchar a sus hijos mientras ques procesan esta y otras tragedias con ustedes en casa. Comuníquense con nosotros si podemos ser útiles de alguna manera.

A continuación se presentan algunos recursos para hablar y escuchar a sus hijos:

Este es el tiroteo escolar número 27 documentado en el país este año y sigue a otros 15 tiroteos masivos en todo el país solo en los últimos 10 días. Como muchos de ustedes, estoy cansado de derramar lágrimas, cansado de perder el sueño, cansado de ofrecer condolencias y oraciones, cansado de retorcerme las manos. Todavía tengo esperanza. Esa esperanza está arraigada en lo que veo y escucho de los estudiantes en nuestro edificio todos los días. Hoy me animaron varias conversaciones que tuve con estudiantes que no solo estaban indignados o desconsolados, sino que también estaban animados para volverse políticamente activos o que preguntaban en voz alta sobre cómo recaudar dinero para las víctimas o que hicieron buenas preguntas sobre nuestros protocolos de seguridad aquí en Washington Latin. Es fácil desanimarse y desilusionarse. Pero debido a mi fe en la resiliencia y el optimismo de los jóvenes a quienes servimos, elijo tener esperanza. Les invito a que ustedes también la tengan.

Sinceramente,
Peter Timothy Anderson
Director de la escuela

Year in Review

This has been a year of transition in the country at large and at Latin specifically. We were not spared from the fallout of interrupted and unfinished learning, COVID outbreaks, shifts in work preferences, and larger social and political tensions.  Yet, in the midst of all of this, Mr. Kelly stepped into the role of Principal, and with the support of a new leadership team, helped us to navigate the return to in-person learning. We secured a temporary site for our new middle school and named that school in honor of African American educator and classicist, Dr. Anna Julia Cooper. And we celebrated our 16th year as a school.

That we were able to open our doors and keep them open all year in itself was a triumph. But to maintain an average daily attendance that surpassed 90% – one of the highest in the city — was remarkable. Our enrollment swelled to its largest number ever – 755 students at one point this year. We also welcomed four international students to our community:  Benedetto and Jacopo from Italy, Alp from Turkey, and Luisa from Germany. We will miss them as they return to their respective countries.

We hired a few faculty members who will be a part of the founding team at the Cooper Campus next school year. We partnered with the Public Allies program to bring on more people to provide tutoring and other support; members who worked with us in this program were all Latin alumni. We continued our partnership with NYU, adding two more resident teachers. Still, we had trouble filling some positions and we had more mid-year departures than in a typical year. We are deeply grateful to Matthew Dean who returned to the community in the second semester to help teach middle school Latin. And we send well wishes to those who will retire, change careers, move out of the area, or go on a sabbatical at the end of this year.

While we faced challenges in helping students to reacclimate to all of the expectations of being in school, we still had a strong year. The merit scholarship awards for our senior class were the most in the history of the school, both in the aggregate and per student. New colleges enrolling Latin students include Agnes Scott College in Georgia, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and Emerson College in Massachusetts. Additionally, Latin students will attend a range of schools from the American University of Paris, Berklee School of Music, Parsons School of Design, Dartmouth, and University of Michigan. We are so grateful to our fantastic college counseling team.

This was a banner year for us in arts and athletics. We had in-person concerts and arts shows and staged Our Town in the fall and Pippin as the spring musical. Our middle school and varsity teams won championships in multiple sports. After an eight-year hiatus, not only did we bring back varsity baseball, but we also won the charter school championship and beat Dunbar High School in the playoffs. One of our students was named the DCSAA Wrestler of the Year. We put on a successful prom. And we were able to offer a wide variety of clubs and field trip experiences, for both middle school and high school, including overnight trips.

Valete!

Peter T. Anderson
Head of School

Latin & the Arts

Creativity and an appreciation of the arts are central to the Washington Latin education, and the focus on trying out different artistic media pervades the curriculum. Fifth and sixth graders take theater with Mr. Baldwin. Seventh and eighth graders have art with Ms. Malchionno, theater with Mr. Birkenhead, and the eighth graders can also join choir or jazz band with Ms. VerCammen. Through high school, students continue to pursue arts through photography, and advanced art classes with Ms. Coleman and Ms. Malchionno. Creative writing extends across the curriculum, with opportunities for original writing in various disciplines. Many students also hone their writing skills through work on the school newspaper Sumus Leones and literary journal Open Mic.

As such, it is no surprise that many Washington Latin graduates explore careers in the arts for their careers, building on interests they acquired while enrolled here.  Below is a sampling of some of our alumni doing amazing work in theater, music, film, photography, and journalism.

Class of 2012 graduate Autumn Yancey-Estime works as a Talent Coordinator for Vanguard Management in Los Angeles. She received her BA in Cinema Production from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. She also writes scripts and cultural opinion pieces.

Class of 2013 alum St. Clair Detrick-Jules shared her book “My Beautiful Black Hair” with faculty and families in this year’s speaker series. She developed her love of writing in creative writing and English classes at Latin, and refined her craft at Brown University. She is also a filmmaker and her documentary “DACAmented” won awards at several film festivals. To read more about her work, visit her website.

Class of 2015 graduate Emily Hall became enamored with work in the film industry, and is a television post production coordinator and video editor for the Netflix Series “YOU.” She is also a video editor for the Tastemade global, digital food and travel network. She previously worked as the post production coordinator for the HBO Max series “Our Flag Means Death.” As a student at Washington Latin she started doing her own freelance photography, video and graphic design business, and her work has appeared in Forbes, NBC News, Huffington Post, Photographer’s Forum, and Washingtonian magazine. Even when she was in middle school, Emily enjoyed making documentaries about her classes and teachers at Washington Latin, a passion she continued at American University. To see more of her work, visit her website.

Class of 2014 graduate Brandi Clarke enjoyed her work in the school choir with Ms. VerCammen, and is pursuing a career in music.  Since graduating from the College of Wooster in 2018, she has been using the stage name Brandin St. Clair, and she performs live, and has recorded several videos including “Golden Eyes,” and “Lioness,” available on Spotify.  Clarke performed this past Thursday at the music venue, The Pocket, on North Capitol. Several of her music videos feature her classmates from the class of 2013 and 2014.

The original founder of Washington Latin’s school newspaper Sumus Leones, class of 2014 member Cuneyt Dil, has continued to hone his skills as a journalist. After continuing to write for the school newspaper at American University, he most recently is writing for Axios as a Washington DC reporter. Dil covered California and West Virginia state government for the Associated Press, and Washington DC politics and government for the Washington City Paper.   To read some of his recent publications, go to his page on the Axios website.

Several more recent graduates are earning money in the arts while they complete college. Shelby Griffith, a member of the class of 2019, who performed vocals with the Jazz Band at Latin, is studying popular and commercial music at Loyola University in New Orleans and sings backup for rapper Ncognita. She also performs at Tipitinas in New Orleans with an ensemble and performs with a band named Fuse. Hear her recording with the Loyola University musical group Smiling Faces.

Some of our current students have distinguished themselves with recordings that can be found on iTunes and with artwork on display in local galleries. But that can be a topic for another week….

Valete!

Peter T. Anderson
Head of School

Khashiffa Roberts Appointed Principal of Cooper Campus

Khashiffa Roberts Appointed Principal of Cooper Campus

I am delighted to announce that Ms. Khashiffa Roberts has been appointed as the founding Principal of the Washington Latin Public Charter School –The Anna Julia Cooper Campus. As an integral part of the Washington Latin community for more than a decade, Ms. Roberts brings to this new role a deep understanding of and commitment to Latin’s classical mission, expertise in serving a diverse population of students and ensuring that they can succeed and thrive at the school, and strong track record of building teams and leading faculty to accomplish challenging goals. Her unique combination of experience and dedication to the Latin way makes her the ideal leader of this new campus.

Ms. Roberts first joined Washington Latin in 2010 as a Special Education teacher, with a degree from Howard University in journalism and a Masters from the University of the District of Columbia in Special Education. After five years supporting our students with disabilities in partnership with both classroom faculty and families, Ms. Roberts began taking on administrative responsibilities, serving as Dean of Students, 12th Grade Director, Director of Special Education, and Assistant Principal for Student Life over the next five years. In each of these roles, Ms. Roberts ensured that the foundational principles of our classical model remained central to our daily work, reflected in our policies and practices and clearly visible in our classrooms and daily life on campus. Her leadership balanced this “big picture” focus with her constant devotion to our students, challenging and supporting them in their academic and personal growth in the Latin community.

Due to unexpected complications with her immigration status and with a goal to ensure a  situation conducive to her eventual return, Ms. Roberts stepped down from her role as the Assistant Principal in late 2019 and returned to her native Trinidad and Tobago, remaining there through the pandemic. Throughout this period, she has stayed in close contact with Latin’s leadership, and we remained committed to bringing her back to our leadership team so that our students, faculty and families could benefit from her unique expertise and experience.

In 2021, after hopeful progress was made on her immigration status, she began consulting on a formal basis with our leadership team to plan for the Cooper Campus, including on curriculum development, faculty hiring, and more. She has been instrumental in all aspects of this work, partnering with Principal Emerita Diana Smith, and Director of Strategic Initiatives Caroline Gifford, and with me. While addressing issues related to her immigration status, Ms. Roberts has worked from Trinidad this spring, with the expectation of returning to Washington, DC by the summer to prepare for the August opening of the Cooper Campus. Diana Smith has been an essential partner to Ms. Roberts throughout this planning process, continuing as Ms. Roberts’ professional mentor and longtime friend and acting as her eyes and ears on the ground, so to speak, until Ms. Roberts is back in DC. We value having the outstanding leadership and vision of Dr. Smith and are grateful for this partnership in establishing our second campus. Mr. Jimmy Kelly and Ms. Roberts both worked together as Assistant Principals and they have been collaborating over the past few months. They both look forward to a new working relationship in the new year as the principals of our respective schools.

Ms. Roberts will lead a team of faculty that will include a small number of our current 2nd Street faculty and many others hired from other institutions. This mix reflects our philosophy of “seeding” the Cooper Campus with those familiar with the Latin Way and its core tenets, while also establishing this second campus as a community of teachers and learners in its own right. The members of our current faculty who will be joining the Cooper faculty next year include:

Diana Smith, Senior Advisor and Principal Pro Tem (if needed)

Lisa Moore, Director of Numeracy

Carenda Nunn, Dean of Student Life & Culture

Sam Spiegel, Dean of Academic Operations

Joe Starnes, Civics (6th)

Mike Evans, Music (5th and 6th)

Tom O’Brien, Special Education Teacher and Case Manager

JerBria Smith, PE and Health (5th and 6th)

In addition, the Cooper team will have the support and partnership of our senior administration in the centralized roles of finance, development, communications, operations, and technology. Please watch for news of future faculty appointments in the coming weeks.

I hope you join me in celebrating this important news about the Cooper Campus.

Valete!

Peter T. Anderson
Head of School

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History month, and in the weeks leading up to Spring Break, the school took time in and outside of class to reflect on the contributions and challenges faced by women. In the Daily Bulletin, administrators included facts and quotes about women, from their increased participation in graduate studies to the wage gap.

Sixth graders in Ms. Moten and Ms. Reed’s classes are reading the historical fiction book Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed about a Pakistani girl whose dreams of becoming a teacher are suppressed  when she is forced to stay home from school as her mother struggles with postpartum depression. Later she has to deal with the challenge of indentured servitude in the home of a member of the ruling elite. Amal, who is one of the few literate people in her village, overcomes these challenges through wit and wisdom. Some sixth graders  are also reading I Am Malala to complement this text. Students have studied the life of this Nobel Laureate and women’s education advocate and have also learned about the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto.

In seventh grade Ancient Civilization, with Mr. Wills, students are learning about female inventors, business leaders, politicians, explorers, and engineers. They have read about the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women suffrage and Title IX, which prohibits against sex-based discrimination in education. Students also learned about Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who expanded her country’s trade routes throughout the Northern and Eastern regions. Students read about Tabitha Babbitt who, in 1812, invented the circular saw, Nancy Johnson, who invented the ice cream maker in 1824, and Ada Lovelace, who invented the first computing algorithm in 1843. Students have also learned about modern women entrepreneurs, film makers, and journalists.

In eighth grade, in Ms. Haywood and Ms. Breitman’s English classes, students are finishing up a memoir unit, examining lives of many luminaries including soccer star Megan Rapinoe and supreme court justice Sonia Sotomayor. They are analyzing how the authors reflected on the choices they made and how they handled setbacks and challenges.

In the upper school, Mr. Day’s AP Language and Compositions students watched, read, and discussed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, and also had a conversation about transgender identities in response to some comments the author made in an interview a few years ago. The book deals with the experiences of the Nigerian author and her studies about economic power and gender.

Meanwhile, in Ms. Hamd’s World History II class, students are wrapping up a unit on the Black Panther Party and are focusing on a different key female Panther each day. Students learned about Elaine Brown, who was the Chairwoman of the party from 1974-1977 and who also served as the Minister of Information for the Party. Students watched the documentary “Vanguard of the Revolution,” about the Black Panthers.

And, last night our most recent guest in our Distinguished Speaker series was Stacey Samuel, one of the few African American women in a management position in the news media. See Speakers page for the recording.

The rich tapestry of readings in the various classes this year help students gain access to unique and diverse perspectives and experiences of women around the world. As we close this month, I hope you can reflect with your children over Spring Break about some of the inspiring women they have read about this year.

Valete!

Peter T. Anderson
Head of School

2012-2013: Preparing for the Transition

Our last year on the 16th Street campuses was one of major transitions. Teachers knew the school was bound for a bigger and permanent address after six years in temporary spaces in churches, a house, a trailer and a Sikh center. Still, during the 2012-2013 year, teachers were wistful about parting from the non-traditional spaces that had become our “homes” on Decatur, Allison, and Upshur Streets NW.

Upper School French teacher Ms. Karen Lambert had taught for several years in public schools before taking a lengthy maternity leave, then joining Washington Latin in 2011. She said she found the Decatur campus intimate and upbeat, even though her room was so tiny that she couldn’t have the classroom and closet doors open at the same time.

Other teachers had fond memories of their classrooms, however uncommon the spaces.

Upper School English teacher Mr. Nathan Day, who joined the school in 2010, also enjoyed the small, shared spaces. “The fact that it was a house helped foster close, relaxed, familial relationships with students, and a sense that we were all in this work together. I also remember Joe Starnes’ speech at the 2013 Valediction, about how he didn’t want to leave Latin… and he’s currently teaching and advising my 5th grade daughter Alice (whom I remember carrying into Decatur in her infant car seat one afternoon).”

Seventh grade Youth Empowerment Seminar and English teacher Mr. Joe Green started as an intern (“teaching fellow”), in September of 2007, becoming full-time the following year. His classroom was also cramped and occasionally uncomfortable. He had 22 students in each class, and one single window A/C unit to keep the place cool. In the sweltering heat of June and September, this was particularly hard. “Everyone was schvitzing, just drenched, including me,” he adds, noting that “on the other hand, persevering through those conditions and still being able to teach and learn is what helped lay the groundwork for the community we have in Latin today.”

Upper School English teacher Ms. Laurel Seid joined the school in 2010 in the Decatur library, before becoming Director of the Upper School the following year. She enjoyed the esprit de corps that grew from the non-traditional environments the school inhabited. She fondly recalls walking with students between the Allison and Decatur campuses, even in the rain, snow, cold and heat. She also enjoyed forming the school’s redesigned Community Council and helping them write a constitution in the mildewy, windowless yellow room in the basement of Decatur, with the help of 2012 graduates St. Claire Detrick-Jules and Ingrid Medina, and 2013 graduate and current teacher Joe Starnes.

Still, when the time came to depart these eclectic spaces and consolidate all eight grades into a single campus on 2nd Street in 2013, teachers were thrilled to be starting a new chapter with spaces that offered a full service of activities. Sixth grade science teacher Ms. Teresa Dobler joined Latin in the fall of 2010. She remembers packing up the science room at the Upshur campus, excited to have storage closets in the new building and to have a room with a sink.

“At Upshur I would often send kids back and forth to the bathroom during labs for water and hand washing, so a sink was such an exciting upgrade!” remembers Ms. Dobler.

Now that we have been at the current campus for nine years, we have started to take the simple pleasures of this space for granted, but it is a pleasant reminder to take a walk through the memories with the teachers who made the move from the 16th Street campuses to this one at 2nd Street and see how the world of Latin has changed and grown.

Valete!

Peter T. Anderson
Head of School
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