Head of School Newsletter - June 4, 2021
Dear CAIS Community,
This has been a week of news about transitions, and I have sent out messages to our community honoring a variety of long-serving CAIS team members who will be moving on. As I mentioned in an earlier letter, because of the cyclical and milestone-punctuated nature of school calendars, most of our big transitions happen all at once (as opposed to throughout the year) and can therefore seem more jolting.
I have one more announcement to make, and although this person has not been at CAIS for double-digit years as measured by the calendar, it seems like he has put in at least five years of work since August of 2020 alone. I am speaking, of course, of the one-and-only Adam Ross, our stalwart Pandemic Response Coordinator. This will be Adam’s last year at CAIS after seven years (counting in non-pandemic time).
As I reflect over the challenges of the last year, our successful emergence from this pandemic (so far…) would have been unimaginable without Adam. He has been equal parts researcher, strategist, communicator, emcee, phone operator, policy-maker, finger-wagger, consensus-builder, and, of course, educator. Some of our newer families may not realize this, but Adam is a fluent speaker of Mandarin (“superior” level on the OPI) who did his M.A. thesis on the Dream of the Red Mansion or 《红楼梦》. This year, however, Adam became fluent in a new language—the language of infectious disease and public health. We will never forget the fluency with which the term “AFM” gracefully rolled off his tongue in a Task Force meeting. Even Dr. Ben Lui was impressed! (AFM is the acronym for a term that I shall not mention here—this is an unapologetic inside joke that I hope will make Adam smile—don’t try Googling it or looking it up in Urban Dictionary, you won’t find it.) There were times when I asked, “Adam, are you man or machine?” The correct answer to this question is “Yes.” As I look for an apt Chinese cultural reference that captures Adam’s contribution, I think of the 1960s exemplar Lei Feng 雷锋 (1940-1962) from Northeast China. Lei Feng is a legendary figure known for his selfless service to others who is reputed to have said that his personal mission was “to dedicate his limited life to the unlimited service of others” (把有限的生命投入到无限为人民服务之中). We have emerged from this pandemic healthy and confident—for this we have Adam to thank.
It seems as though Adam was put on the planet for the purpose of the kind of work he has done this past year. However, Adam disagrees, and as I mentioned above, his first love and calling is Chinese language education. Adam has accepted an important role in the Chinese language program of an independent school in Seattle. While I know he will miss handling saliva samples and parental requests to waive quarantine requirements, I suspect that Adam will find equal joy and fulfillment as he returns to an academic role, and I am certain that his new school will be better with Adam on the team. I will miss Adam’s professionalism and his friendship. Please join me in thanking him and wishing him well.
(Image from www.81.cn)
So Now What?
In the early days of the pandemic we were inexperienced and had myriad requirements that we needed to understand and execute. Ignorant and erring on the side of caution, we did some things that we later revised (remember, Middle School parents, receiving earnest emails multiple times each week about Preschool kids with diarrhea? Looking back, some of that stuff was worthy of The Onion. Now, with experience (and success) under our belt and DPH restrictions on cohorting, distancing, testing and screening being rolled back, the job of pandemic response coordination has become slightly less taxing and much more knowable. Going forward, the responsibilities will be handled in my office, with Lucy Ngai-Saul and I remaining on top of DPH guidance and getting information to affected stakeholders. As many of you know, Lucy is extremely detail oriented, organized, and efficient, and I have been on top of DPH regulations from the beginning. I am confident that we—along with operational support from Health Center Director Lesly Louie (“Nurse Lesly”)—are in a good position to ensure continued success as we move into the 2021-22 school year. Specific questions and guidance about pandemic response operations will be addressed in August at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.
This Day in Chinese History
Finally, on this day (June 4) in 1989 the world witnessed what has come to be known as the Tian’anmen Square Incident (or sometimes simply 6-4) where government troops forcefully clear thousands of demonstrators from Beijing’s central square using tanks and weapons, killing and injuring untold numbers of unarmed citizens.
(Image from the New York Times)
Updates from Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross
Normally notes of farewell are tinged with expressions of sadness, yet at the end of this, well frankly, challenging school year, I look back at the past 12 months instead with a mix of satisfaction, relief, and pride for how well we have fared as a community reopening in the fall and now operating as a fully in-person school. We have only had a handful of COVID cases (with thankfully no one seriously ill) and have had NO transmissions of COVID on campus. Following local health guidance, we have implemented a host of risk mitigation procedures that have kept teachers, staff, and students safe at school. We’ve gotten all of our classes back to in-person learning successfully. And please note that I say WE—this work to get everyone back in school has only succeeded because everyone in this community has made a commitment to adhere to our safety protocols. Serving as a “Pandemic Response Coordinator” is not work I could have done alone, and so I thank everyone for your diligence with daily Magnus surveys, weekly saliva testing, COVID testing when we have had symptoms, and sticking to the many—and sometimes tedious—procedures to keep everyone safe. For my part, I look back at this past year with a feeling of gratitude—even as terrible as this pandemic has been, I would have gone bananas if I had been working from home all of these months. I have been very grateful to be together with students and adult colleagues working and learning together, even with the hassles of masking, distancing, frequent hand washing and…yes, dealing with a lot of spit week after week!
I leave CAIS to return to Chinese language teaching and program development. Many of you know that I spent many years teaching Chinese in Seattle before coming to CAIS, and I am returning to Seattle to work at the Northwest School to help build their fledgling Upper School Chinese program, as well as to start developing a curriculum to begin offering Chinese in their Middle School starting the year after next. NWS is also a true international school, with a boarding program of students from Europe, South America, and Asia (though necessarily smaller these days in the pandemic), and I am excited to work with students from China and Taiwan to help out in our program. Another reason I am moving back is to begin a house rebuilding project—I’ve worked with an architect to design a complete rebuild of a property I own there, and it will be easier to manage this rebuild close by rather than here in San Francisco. And, last but not least, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and even rejoining my old chorus (which, believe it or not, I rejoined in its virtual format over the past year—now there’s an unexpected silver lining of life in the pandemic if there ever was one!)
I bid farewell to CAIS confident that our community will continue to thrive with the courage, inclusivity, and perseverance to emerge from this pandemic even stronger than before. We really have shown that “we take risks and responsibility, we champion and care for others, and we push ourselves to stick with it even when things get tough.” This year has proven it. I will be back to San Francisco often, and I look forward to visiting to see the work of the CAIS community, particularly at the new 19th Avenue campus in a little over two year’s time. 我们后会有期！ (Until we meet again!)
Chinese American International School
Early Childhood Division (Preschool) | Alice A. Carnes Center
42/52 Waller Street
Early Childhood Division (K-1)
and Lower School (2-5)
150 Oak Street
Middle School (6-8)
888 Turk Street
San Francisco, CA 94102