Letter to the Editor: Theater Article Inaccuracies, Kathy Hopkins

March 2015

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Dear Editors,

It is essential to the mission of Friends School that students are encouraged to think critically and to ask challenging questions. But it is also essential to our mission that students are encouraged to support their arguments with facts and balance and to recognize what others contribute to our common purpose. For many of us in the school community, the recent column about the new theater, “What is the Value of 9 Million Dollars?”, was laudable in the exercise of student voice but fell short in the factual basis and balance of its argument. The tone of the article also seemed dismissive of the incredible sacrifice that Friends families, alumni, and others make to support our students, present and future.

To cite one factual concern, the column did not mention that an insurance settlement from the 2012 fire was the primary funding source for the new theater. The decision not just to replace the old auditorium, which was 50 years old, but to improve the facility, first, was just logical – in fact, a necessity in terms of current building codes – and, second, was made through a Quaker process involving a range of voices and in the context of other capital projects. The stated goal of the construction was never to create something “elite,” “extravagant,” or “futuristic” – in fact (as observational comparison to far more elaborate performing arts facilities at regional schools will confirm), it was to avoid grandeur and focus on function like sound quality and maximizing lighting and set possibilities. Another important consideration was environmentally sensitive design, and the project has since received LEED gold certification.

The column mentioned other priorities for the School, besides performing arts – including sports, academics, endowment for faculty salaries, and STEM programs – but did not note recent capital projects including a new turf field and track; improvements to the football/girls’ soccer and baseball fields and to the tennis courts (as well as the Neff Gym); or how the Global Learning Center addition of classrooms to support academics will allow renovations including two design labs and a flex lab to support STEM education. It also did not mention how the campaign that funded the facility additions and renovations raised $8.4 million for endowment, or that our school, unlike many others, was able to undertake these projects without incurring debt – an incredible tribute to those who made sacrifices to support these projects and those who have managed the School’s resources so responsibly, indeed, conservatively.

As I prepare to retire from Friends at the end of the current school year, there are a few things on my professional “bucket list.” Toward the top is the sincere hope that our students actively realize what others invest in their education – their own families and also a community of families, alumni, foundations, and friends who believe in the value of Quaker education.

With thanks for your attention,

Kathy Hopkins, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid

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