During the many conversations and interactions that resulted from the events of the summer of 2020, Dean of Strategic Initiatives Leucretia Shaw thought a lot about the ways in which Blair could better express its values and hold community members to a standard for living and working together. The idea of identifying and introducing a series of community “norms” was born. The ensuing guideposts of how we care for and treat each other took shape throughout the fall, as Mrs. Shaw and a team of students, faculty and staff invited classmates and colleagues to submit suggestions.
The group received hundreds of submissions promoting kindness, dignity, positivity, respect and acceptance, and spent the fall and winter months combing through them and determining which made the most sense for Blair. After much collaborative distilling and wordsmithing, the team shared five norms with a variety of individuals on campus to discern if they captured the spirit of how Blair should function with regard to day-to-day life on the hilltop. The group listened to wide-ranging feedback and refined the norms and its plans for introducing them to the community.
Along the way, an official name and visual for the norms came under consideration, and Renee Tracey ’23 brilliantly coined The Five Fundamentals. “The name was perfect and truly captured the foundational expectation to which all Blair community members should hold themselves and others accountable,” explained Mrs. Shaw. “Regarding the visual, fine arts teacher and Fundamentals Selection Committee member Evan Thomas took to developing a graphic that depicted The Five Fundamentals in a way that pleases the eye while maintaining the importance of each Fundamental individually.” Associate Dean of Students Andee Ryerson also lent her artistic perspective to an additional design the group adopted. Both will be used accordingly, on campus and beyond.
The Fundamentals were officially introduced to the campus community during School Meeting in early March. Student members of the committee presented each Fundamental one by one and offered thoughts on what it means to live them. In a presentation anchored by words from other faculty committee members, including English teacher Bob Brandwood and Dean of Campus Life Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, The Five Fundamentals—1) See the good; 2) Know yourself & practice honesty; 3) Honor the dignity of others; 4) Show care in all spaces; and 5) Be curious & suspend judgment—made their debut. Directly following the rollout of The Fundamentals and the visual, teachers and students spent advisor block together discussing them with prompts devised by Mrs. Conforti-Browse (and approved by the Selection Committee).
The work of The Fundamentals Selection Committee is not done, as part of what the team worked on throughout the months before the March presentation centered on the infusion of The Fundamentals campuswide. Focusing on how The Fundamentals can best be incorporated into all aspects of school life—academics, residential life, student life, athletics and other areas (which include the work of the admission office and Blair staff, as well as sharing them with members of Blair’s extended family)—will be a major part of efforts throughout the spring. Additionally, a new Fundamentals Recognition Committee has been formed to periodically celebrate nominated individuals who embody particular Fundamentals at School Meeting.
“What I’ve loved most about this endeavor has been hearing our student voices,” said Mrs. Shaw. “Our five student team members were so honest and quick to tell us adults what would and wouldn’t speak to students. I give them a huge amount of credit for attending our twice-a-week meetings, sharing their insights and offering input. Without their contributions, we wouldn’t have ended up where we did, and their commitment to helping develop The Fundamentals really showed how much they care about the way Blair is and what Blair people do.”
In fact, that sentiment captures exactly the goal of the committee at the start of the norms-creation process: Articulating a collective sense to the Blair community of how we want to be and developing values for how we live and work in this space together. “Everyone at Blair has value and should be uplifted, and we should all show care for each other,” Mrs. Shaw said. “To be committed to making sure everyone is thriving and growing in ways that make sense is a real testament to one’s own development as an individual and how we develop as a whole community.”
Mrs. Shaw expresses her deep thanks to members of The Fundamentals Selection Committee for all that they have done and will continue to do moving forward:
Barbara Angiolelli, instructional technologist
Bob Brandwood, English teacher
Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, Dean of Campus Life & director of leadership programs
Eleanor Dana ’22
Sharon Merrifield, language, mindfulness & health/wellness teacher
Ryan Pagotto ’97, Associate Head of School
Patrick Payne ’23
Lorry Perry, Assistant Head of School for Academics & Dean of Faculty
Laura Posner ’22
Leucretia Shaw, Dean of Strategic Initiatives
Evan Thomas, fine arts teacher
Kecia Tillman, registrar
Renee Tracey ’23
Miki Wang ’21