I don’t even know how to begin to describe the ascendancy of Brandon Hall as a world-class day and boarding school. When I arrived to this beautiful campus in July 2016, I knew that I landed in a magical place. I quickly grew impatient with those who labeled our school “a best kept secret” or “a hidden gem”. While these descriptors are well intentioned, they simply do not speak the truth of our present-day school. One of my goals in 2017-2018 is to keep you abreast more frequently of all the happenings and exciting developments that take place on our campus on a daily basis. This particular letter serves to recap highlights of my first year as well as providing you with a sprinkling of policy updates.
First and foremost, I share my deep gratitude to your family for choosing Brandon Hall. Our dedication to your children is unwavering and the core values that define us will never change. Let’s begin with key advancements to celebrate.
- Our inaugural summer of the Center for Global Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurial Studies was a great success. We hosted student entrepreneurs from the region, nationally, and globally. The 2-week intensive program received significant media attention and attracted several speakers who led workshops with our students. Included amongst these luminaries was an internationally recognized photojournalist, a former Costco VP, and a NY Times travel blogger. The program will continue to grow in reputation and we are always seeking new speakers and community partners especially within our own talented Brandon Hall families.
- Our boarding program has grown in exciting ways. Our residential students will return to a Sipple dormitory with several key renovations. We’ve also fully transitioned to a dorm parent model and each floor houses at least one to two live-in faculty members.
- You will quickly note the “Find Your Path, Lead the Way” and “Leadership, Scholarship, Service” mottos throughout our school along with our Panther Pillars which articulate core Brandon Hall values. We exist to not only educate the whole child, but to push each of our students to find their passion and hone their leadership skills.
- In 2016-2017, we made community outreach a priority. We hosted over 275 Atlanta-based and global visitors from diverse sectors of public life. In almost every case, our visitors had never stepped foot on the Brandon Hall campus. The word is out about our terrific school and will continue to spread with renewed efforts in 2017-2018.
Finally, there are a number of programmatic and housekeeping items to highlight:
- We have committed to making Brandon Hall a completely smoke free campus.
- We will launch a sustainability and recycling program that honors our pristine campus and its various designations as both a nature preserve and a wildlife refuge.
- Our commitment to student health and life-skill education is reflected in the revisions we have made to our drug testing policy. We have joined the ranks of dozens of our peer independent schools to enact a random testing policy with an appropriate focus on drug education and family partnering. Dean of Students, Eric McAfee, will share more details in a subsequent letter.
- Our Family Handbook has been given a comprehensive overhaul. The former iteration was some 90 pages and filled with some policies and language that spoke to a Brandon Hall of yesteryear. Our efforts have yielded a much more sleek and clear Family Handbook that comprises about 45 pages.
- We will debut almost daily assemblies this year to make it a priority to gather as a community. In addition, I’ve asked our stellar arts department to showcase our talented students once a month in a special program.
I would be remiss if I did not end with a final tribute to our beloved Ms. Dee. Her passing signifies such a profound loss for our community. We were so touched that her family chose to hold a “Celebration of Life” memorial here in our auditorium. On Monday, August 14th, we will have a special morning gathering for our students to offer a final remembrance of Ms. Dee. Our hope is to take a loss and generate ideas for action that will honor her memory. We will have Dr. Dora Soublis with us for the day and our own Amelia Becker, Director of Counseling, Wellness, and Public Purpose to provide ongoing support for any students and faculty who need it. If your son or daughter was especially close to Ms. Dee and needs to opt out of our morning ceremony, please let us know and we will find a quiet place for he/she to sit. True communities are challenged to be their best in the face of loss.
Again, thank you for the honor and privilege to serve as your President and Head of School. I look forward to seeing you on campus for the myriad events and traditions that are on the immediate horizon. There is nothing like the start of a school year. I am elated, inspired, and grateful to work with an amazing team of teachers, administration, and staff.
Dean J. Fusto