Reflecting on April 24 – Editorial, Issue 10 – Volume CXII

The Ed Board Considers Effective Communication in Large Scale Remedial Talks


On April 24, Assistant Principal and acting Upper School head Priyanka Rupani, Upper School Dean of Student Life Joe Bruno, Upper School English Teacher Cory Zeller, and Principal Dan Frank spoke to the student body about behavioral issues in the Upper School. We appreciate the sentiment of the assembly and understand that there have been issues within the Upper School that need addressing.

We would like to be clear that we are proud of the administration for taking the step of having such an assembly. Additionally, we feel lucky to have leaders who clearly put care into the subtle and unsubtle trends in our Upper School. That being said, we want their leadership to be most effective so we wanted to examine what we think could be done better. The same way they wanted to start a conversation about our Upper School culture, we want to start a conversation off of that conversation about how to best reach the students and make Parker better.

We, as an editorial board, had some ideas about how the assembly might have been improved and how issues like this can be addressed more effectively by the administration. The lecture given on the 24th had three weaknesses that are endemic to schoolwide conversation: a lack of clarity, condescension/moralization, and a call to action that conveniently lacks specifics. So let’s talk about them. 

Often when the administration speaks to students about behavioral issues or something else, there is a lack of specifics about what necessitated the lecture in the first place. During this lecture, for example, there was little in the way of specifics beyond “dropping people from group chats” and vagaries about videoing other people. Too many students, who had little idea about what the speakers were referring to, were just left puzzled about why we were being talked to. Additionally, the talk lacked explanation about why what students were doing is wrong such as why, for example, videoing someone is wrong. 

Another thing we thought could have been better at the assembly was that the administration could have leveled with us more and better avoided condescension. The moralizing around simple actions further hurt their message and turned even more people off from listening to the important conversation. 

There was also no discernible and concrete call to action. There was the vague “be better and be good to each other” spiel, however, there were no specific actions outlined in the talk. Of course this was inevitable given that there were no concrete issues outlined for concrete solutions. But we fear that in order for the assembly to really spark change, the Upper School needed a more specific goal.

To be clear, we don’t deny there’s an issue with behavior at Parker (there certainly is), but we would love for the issue to be addressed more clearly. There needs to be clarity, less condescension and moralizing, and a clear path forward. If the issue that was addressed is specific to a student or group of students, we suggest that the administration communicates the message to those involved. This way, those students are receiving specific guidance as to how to change their behavior. Addressing the message to the entire Upper School in many ways started an important conversation for everyone, but also unfortunately left many students feeling confused. We look forward to the future of Parker’s Upper School administration, especially given its new head, and we hope that the future will incorporate more effective contact and transparency with the students.