Kevin Lewis Installed as 13th Head of School

Congratulations to Kevin Lewis who today was officially installed as the 13th Head of School of St. Andrew's Episcopal School. "By listening to understand, respecting difference of beliefs and opinions, showing grace, and simply being kind we can improve and grow a sense of belonging at St. Andrew’s," said Lewis as he addressed the community. Read his full speech below and view photos from the ceremony here. 

Belonging

I have always been a naive person.  That has manifested itself in many ways in my life.  For example, I am often the last to get a joke because I don’t ever consider that the person making the joke might not be serious. Honestly, April Fool’s Day is a rough day for me. I am also often the last person to believe that someone has ill intent.  I tend to trust in ways that sometimes have hurt me.  But when I first came to St. Andrew’s over 17 years ago I found a community that is built stone upon stone on a value system with trust and honor as a central theme. So for a naive guy like me, I have found the perfect place.  I can leave my technology anywhere and know it will be back there when I return,I can leave my office door open and enjoy our beautiful campus without wondering if someone will be snooping around, and I can have open conversations knowing that I can trust that the conversation is built on honest sharing. 

Also for a naive guy like me, I believe that we can continue to build a school with the capacity to respect differences and still operate with a common identity, mission, and value structure that allows us to be unique in this city and state. In this community, we have many different backgrounds and experiences and do not have a single story.  Chimamanda Adichie’s concept of a single story and how easy it is to create stereotypes has been discussed in chapel on the North Campus recently. Adichie asserts that we all have more than one story and reminds us of the importance of being mindful to not associate only one story with a person or group of people. 
  
Recently I was asked, “What is the Kevin Lewis story?”  Well, I was in a professional setting and I began to go through the details of my career and education, as you do.  As I ended though, I reflected on what I had just relayed and then said, “but that is not really THE Kevin Lewis story but only one of my stories.”  You see, my resume does not tell the story of who I am, what I value, and what I believe.  It doesn’t talk about how I was raised by incredible parents.  It doesn’t talk about my love for my wife and the pride that I have in my daughters.  Nor does it address the joys that I experience when I am with my friends or my relationship with God and how that has changed and grown in my life.  Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t address the grace from those around me that I have received along my journey...the grace which has allowed me to learn, evolve, and grow.

You see, while we are all God’s children, we all have individual needs and differences based on the stories of our lives that we must embrace as a school community, and we must be a community with grace for one another and willingness to forgive as we sometimes fail. We must also be open to necessary change in order to meet the different needs and stories within our community.  As we consider all of the needs of our community we must look at our programming, curriculum, and operations to make sure we have alignment to meet these needs. We must maintain and enhance the academic excellence so clearly defined in our mission while ensuring that the needs of different learners are met and the experiences of all members of our community are represented. Part of this work is making sure that all of us within this community feel a sense of belonging and have our voices heard, knowing that we are an important part of St. Andrew’s.

Our Episcopal identity clearly lends itself to supporting the values needed in a community to support this sense of belonging.  Loving our neighbor as ourselves and visibly valuing each individual's dignity are clear values within our baptismal covenant that we also include in our school values.  While these values are a starting point for creating a community of belonging, they aren’t enough.  How do we celebrate every individual’s value to the community and voice within it with a goal of creating that sense of belonging?

It begins with paced progress in taking the time to know one another and truly listen.  We are in a world right now where sound bites are everything and people are quick to judge.  Guilt by association has been a verdict passed by all of us way too quickly.  We must hear each other, understand where each other is coming from, and agree to disagree if necessary.  It is OK to be friends with someone even if you disagree with them on particular issues.  In today’s society, the media and social media have drawn lines in the sand, created content for us which only reinforces our beliefs and never challenges us to think differently.  But it should not be a novel idea to listen and learn from one another. At St.  Andrew’s we often say that we teach how to think, not what to think. When we have an external culture reinforcing our own way of thinking, it is more important by the year to maintain this approach.  Part of our responsibility at St. Andrew’s in teaching how to think is to teach that no one has all the answers, not to think that your way is the only way, and not to think someone is bad because they don’t agree with you. 

Mrs. Portera’s 1st grade class, I had the opportunity to read the book Stellaluna by Janell Cannon to you last month.  The book tells the story of a baby fruit bat who fell into a bird nest and was raised as a baby bird.  Against her own instincts, Stellaluna accepts her fate of learning the ways of birds, but eventually she rediscovers other bats and learns to be a bat again.  Ultimately, Stellaluna discovers that she can be herself and be friends with her bird siblings accepting who they are as they accept who she is.  

Using the example of this children’s book, I believe that we can do better about how we are a welcoming community and a place of belonging for all of our members. St. Andrew’s has a long history of change and evolution which we often take for granted happened easily. But as Maya Angelou once wrote, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” We must understand that change, even though it is positive, is not without complications and sometimes pain.  When we try to love and respect one another, we recognize that is not always going to be easy.  Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians writes that “Love is patient.  Love is kind.” So while we must be patient and kind with each other as we listen and learn from one another, I believe, perhaps in my naivete, that it is possible here at St. Andrew’s through our history of love and care and willingness to show grace when needed that we can show that “respecting the dignity of all persons” is not only a core value of the school in print, but is how we live our daily lives in this community.  By listening to understand, respecting differences of beliefs and opinions, showing grace, and simply being kind, we can improve and grow a sense of belonging at St. Andrew’s. 

Some of you might know that both of my daughters' favorite singer is Harry Styles.  While I can’t say I am necessarily a super fan as they are, I will say that I am particularly fond of the lyrics to his song “Treat People with Kindness”. I will read some of them to you as I know you don’t want to hear me try to sing them.

Maybe we can
Find a place to feel good
And we can treat people with kindness
Find a place to feel good

I got a good feeling
I’m just takin it all in
Floating up and dreamin’
Droppin into the deep end

And if we’re here long enough
They’ll sing a song for us
And we’ll belong

Maybe we can 
Find a place to feel good
And we can treat people with kindness
Find a place to feel good

Giving second chances
I don’t need all the answers
Feeling good in my skin
I just keep on dancin’

And if we’re here long enough
We’ll see it’s all for us
And we’ll belong

Maybe because I am naive I think that a community of people treating each other with kindness and grace is when we will all feel like we belong, or maybe I’m not that naive and it’s just that simple.  
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South Campus | PK-3 to Grade 4

4120 Old Canton Road | Jackson, Mississippi 39216
Tel 601.987.9300 | Fax 601.987.9324

North Campus | Grades 5 to 12

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