Come to Friday Forum to hear about Trinity, other local schools

Published 1:00 am Thursday, April 11, 2013

During the fall semester, I went to Jackson to meet with The Rt. Rev. Bishop Duncan M. Gray III. The purpose of my visit was to reach out to the diocese for guidance as we at Trinity Episcopal School began planning for the future. I asked him what he felt the role of an Episcopal school in Mississippi was. He thought for a moment — his head slightly bowed; fingers laced together at his forehead before looking up, and smiling at Will Devening (Board of Trustees Chairman), Walton Jones (Rector of Trinity Church) and me. He began explaining that those involved in Episcopal education are called to create schools that foster the Episcopal identity in producing servant/leaders. The bishop is a wise man. One feels it when in his presence, even before he opens his mouth. God works mightily in Bishop Gray and surely for greater purposes than our meeting that day, but we needed no more explanation. He was right. He is right. We had our true North.

We are currently in a strategic planning process, and the Bishop’s simple but profound guidance, our self-study, and our research of educational best practices have led us to several programs in various stages of implementation and execution. The first focus area is an increased emphasis on academic rigor and accountability and the student support services we provide as safety nets for those struggling to meet higher academic expectations. Next, we have prioritized the Episcopal identity in all areas, but specifically in the area of service learning and character education. To this end the bishop has called a gifted and dynamic young man to serve as a full-time chaplain. His name is C.J. Meaders. He is completing his final semester of his Masters of Divinity at The Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. In addition to overseeing religious curriculum, C.J. will create the footprint for a service learning program that will involve all Trinity students from three year olds to seniors in meaningful service locally and globally. Lastly, we are creating a global studies program that will build global competencies and cultural empathy so that our students will emerge ready to lead in a world that research strongly suggests will require our young people to be ready to sit down at the table with more nations than ever before. We believe that through these initiatives and responsiveness to our mission and Episcopal identity we are producing students who are ready to lead and serve both locally and at the global level.

I lament that I do not have enough space here to elaborate on the specifics of our plans and programs spinning out of the initiatives mentioned above. However, if you are intrigued I hope you will join me at the Natchez Chamber of Commerce Friday Forum. It is at 8 a.m. Friday at the Natchez Coffee Company. I and other Natchez area educators will be discussing what we are up to in our schools. Again, I hope that you will be there so that I can share our plans and learn from your ideas.

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LES HEGWOOD id the head of school at Trinity Episcopal Day School in Natchez.