Our Wildwood, Summer 2021, Volume 46
SUMMER 2021/VOLUME 46 Wildwood Our
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS!
Wildwood School cultivates reflective scholars, bold innovators and compassionate leaders equipped with the skills, ethics and inspiration to transform their world.
DEAR FRIENDS A Letter From Landis
2008: Landis and International Community Involvement participants in Vietnam
our secondary expansion, and every year between and since have served the school well and prepared us to meet this moment. You’ll see that for yourself in the pages that follow. Particularly in times like these, I’m reminded of a quote I’d read in the years just after I’d begun working in independent education. In a sort of raison d’être for all of us in independent schools, Lucy Madeira Wing said of the girls’ school she’d founded in 1906 to prepare girls to lead women’s colleges: “The excuse of a private school in a democracy is that it shall be a laboratory, a place for the demonstration of old experiments and the trying of new. It is a place of freedom.” Wildwood School has been that place for 50 years. Our graduates and our students carry that spirit and mission outward and forward in ways that most of us will never know. I hope you enjoy this issue of Our Wildwood, a reflection on all that we have been, are, and will be to all who are a part of our community and beyond.
Interviewing at Wildwood School in 2006, I remember spending hours talking with members of the community in the lower-level conference room at the middle and upper campus. A then-10th grader on the student interview panel asked me what superpower I’d choose if I could have any. It was such a fun and novel question, and I didn’t have to think long to realize what I’d chose: time travel. That’s what this issue is all about. And it’s why, when colleagues began talking about including an article that would capture elements of the history of Wildwood School, I volunteered to write it. I knew it’d be a gift to talk with some of the folks who’ve brought Wildwood School to this place, its 50th anniversary as a school and its 20th anniversary as a K-12. It is my good fortune to work with colleagues, some of whom have been at Wildwood School for three decades, and a dedicated Board of Trustees, all of whom are committed to maintaining Wildwood School as a constantly evolving institution, growing and changing to meet the needs of the time. It’s been my privilege to work with the likes of Andrew Solmssen, our current Board Chair, and his predecessors Joel Brand, Lisa Flashner, Cynthia Berkshire, Lee Rosenbaum, and Cathleen Collins, three of whom continue in their Board service. Lyle Poncher, another former Board Chair who was instrumental in scaling Wildwood School from a K-6 to a K-12 in 2000, is in his 30th year on our Board. Together with you, they, all my colleagues, and the rest of our Board, are working tirelessly in service to the students in our care now while stewarding the school in service to the students who’ll benefit from the Wildwood School that will be. One thing is clear, especially after the events of recent years, the mission, philosophy, and pedagogical and other foundations laid in 1971 at our founding, in 2000 with
With warm regards,
Landis Green Head of School
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
TABLE OF CONTENTS We’ve got great stories to tell features
p4 Looking Back on the Founding of Wildwood It seems right that we should capture the stories of founders and friends, teachers and trustees who’ve left a legacy at the school, all contributing their vision, their time, their work, and their resources to make Wildwood School possible.
p16 Wildwood’s DEIB Arch
p42 Distributed Learning Learnings
Early on, Wildwood committed to a diverse community. Educator and lawyer Belle Mason led a group of parents who sought to establish “a different kind of school,” and it was soon evident that this included being accessible to all. Monique Marshall, 5th Grade Lead Teacher; and contributors Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach; Deb Christenson, Upper School Humanities Teacher; and Landis Green, Head of School by Karen Dye, Director of Equity and Inclusion, and
In February 2020, as we noticed that other parts of the world were starting to shut down because of the pandemic, our team did what we always do—we used evidence and research to facilitate planning and implementation of a major shift to our program. by Jaimi Boehm, Director of Middle School; Sarah Simon, Assistant Director of Elementary School; and Vanessa Stotland, Assistant Director of Middle and Upper/Interim Director of Upper School
by Landis Green, Head of School
COMMUNITY CONVERSATION Student to Former Students .............................. p10 New Teacher Insights . ............................................ p50
LASTING LEADERSHIP Faculty and Staff ........................................................ p32 Board of Trustees . ....................................................... p36 Current Faculty and Staff ................................... p54
REMEMBER WHEN Alumni & Alumni Parent Memories ......... p12
IN MEMORIAM A Special Tribute ........................................................ p35 Wolves Remembered .............................................. p53
THE WORLDWIDE WILDWOOD WEB Wildwood’s Global Citizens . ........................... p14 Outreach Around the World ............................. p38
LOOKING AHEAD Fundraising Initiatives ......................................... p44 Campaign Enhancements ................................. p46 Future of Education .................................................. p48
THROUGH THE YEARS A Celebration of Activism .................................. p20 A Celebration of the Arts . ................................... p22 A Celebration of Athletics .................................. p24 Five Decades of Innovation .............................. p26
ALUMNI NOTES Tell us what you’re up to ...................................... p51
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
FEATURE by Landis Green, Head of School
Looking Back on the Founding of Wildwood
“No single person is responsible for a path; instead, it is the sum of the actions of numerous people over a time that dates back to the distant past.” —GEOFF NICHOLSON, FROM THE FORWARD TO IN PRAISE OF PATHS
to teachers who brought the vision to the middle and upper school program to trustees who’ve made Wildwood School a part of their life’s work—there are definitely through lines. DIFFERENT BY DESIGN—THE EARLY YEARS Belle Mason was the first. A public school teacher who, in what now appears to have been a relatively naive moment, thought it’d be “interesting” to start a school. Belle had instincts about how children learn. She’d been introduced to an English school called Summerhill, where the operating principle was aligned with the student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach construct that became language central to Wildwood 30 years later when the 10 Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) served as the framework for the introduction of the middle and upper school program. Longtime Wildwood employee Marcia Capparela described Summerhill’s founder as having had some “pretty radical ideas” at a time when most desks were in rows, material was memorized and regurgitated, and
Fifty years. There’s no shortage of information about Wildwood School after 50 years as a school and 20 as a K-12. Documents have been written, interviews published, reports drafted, and plans made. And yet I didn’t want to let this time—this moment in our school’s history—pass without talking with some of the people who’ve known the school over time, trying to capture some of the through lines of what gives Wildwood heart. For this article, I was especially interested in talking with some of those who were centrally involved in the years surrounding the founding of the school and then the expansion to K-12. It also seems right that we should capture the stories of founders and friends, teachers and trustees who’ve left a legacy at the school, all contributing their vision, their time, their work, and their resources to make Wildwood School possible. As Geoff Nicholson wrote, “No single person is responsible for a path; instead, it is the sum of the actions of numerous people over a time that dates back to the distant past.” Talking with dozens of people—from Belle Mason, one of the founders in 1971,
1990s (L to R): Marcia Capparela and Hope Boyd at Jog-a-Thon opening ceremony
teachers were seen as the repository of knowledge. At Summerhill, founded in 1921 and now celebrating its 100th anniversary, the idea was and is that students will take the lead, both with regard to their learning and the functioning of the school as a community. They saw their philosophy and program as an antidote to an increasingly elevated focus on testing and assessment of children. Those with whom I met about those early years of Wildwood spoke with joy, conviction, and purpose in creating something, in working toward the development of a program that would be wholly good for children. Founded in 1971, as many independent schools were, I dug a bit to understand how what was happening in public schools at the time—busing, especially—might have driven the push to launch Wildwood and multiple other Los Angeles schools that year. Howard Stevenson, Ph.D., a professor of Urban Education and Africana Studies in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, has encouraged, “As we look to the future, have we told the truth about our past?” The founding of Wildwood was not in reaction to something but rather was an inspired endeavor looking to programs—like Summerhill—that were focused on pedagogy and progress. With her son, a niece, 10 or so other students, and two teacher friends, Belle started Wildwood School. I laughed with her about it because Belle’s somewhat disappointing answer to the obvious question many people have asked over the years is, “I don’t remember. I don’t even know where ‘Wildwood’ came from, but I remember the naming process because it mattered, and that when I came upon ‘Wildwood,’ that just felt right. That was a really good name.” Once it was up and running, Belle turned the school over to a group operating proprietary schools as she went on to a long career in law. Within a couple of years, the school was in the care of passionate parents, essentially the forerunners to the Board of Trustees that steward the school now. Marcia, who was at Wildwood for more than three decades, joined the school as parent and then as employee during those years. With a hint of nostalgia, Marcia described those early years as “nothing but the will to make it work and the belief in the direction we were going in terms of understanding child development and how kids learn.” Teams of teachers and a succession of heads pulled from myriad philosophies, all in keeping
with this core tenet that children learn best when working to understand and master a concept or skill in service to something greater. By the time my predecessor, Hope Boyd, arrived, Marcia had worked with a succession of heads, all of whom she describes as having contributed. As she notes, “It was really interesting for me to watch each of these heads of school do what they did, leave their mark, prepare the school for the next one. Hope could never have done what she did had it not been for Margaret. Margaret couldn’t have done what she did if it hadn’t been for Anne, on down the line. For me in my career, it was really a joy to watch this whole thing flower over
1992: Hope Boyd at elementary school
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
FEATURE Looking Back on the Founding of Wildwood
Dream …” list (wildwood.org/whenparentsdream), generated as the middle and upper school program was starting to be envisioned. In a session facilitated by the founding director of middle and upper, George Wood, current Wildwood elementary parents, at least some of whom had older children in other Los Angeles schools, were able to co-create the broad goals of what a K-12 Wildwood School would grow into. George and I spoke at length about his work to bring his own experience and knowledge to bear while marrying it with the priorities that Wildwood School parents, trustees, and employees had identified as they envisioned what a K-12 school would involve if it were to serve as a natural extension of all they’d known and appreciated about Wildwood elementary. Pulling together others as founding faculty—Tassie Hadlock-Piltz, Mark Ossenheimer, David Reese, Melinda Tsapatsaris, and others—George was clearly motivated to deliver on and honor that group of parents and trustees who were relying on all of them to give life to a middle and upper program that would engage and empower children and young adults in ways equally meaningful and authentic to the elementary program. Of that parent group, George said, “Some of the parents had bought into the vision even before I got there. They knew what they were looking for. That’s why they came and found me.” George, Tassie, Mark, David, Melinda, those parents—and all the founding folks—saw school not as a means to an end but as something relevant, important, and of its own in the present. Melinda recalls how “radical” some of that early work felt at the time, rightly pointing out that John Dewey’s research and work largely focused on how children learn as children but not in adolescence. The charge at Wildwood was to extend the elements of progressive practice in education through the high school years by emphasizing things like interdisciplinary work, projects, portfolios, and the centrality of social-emotional learning as being key to guiding young people through adolescence. An emphasis on the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (See pages 16-19 Wildwood’s DEIB Arch.) was front and center in creating K-12 culture, just as it had been in the K-6 program. A CULTURE OF SERVICE AND COMMUNITY Wildwood School has had countless partnerships, large and small, with public school partners over the years,
the time I was there.” Marcia, of course, was central to the work, and along the way, she and her colleagues stayed true to that original philosophy while increasingly documenting curriculum, structures, and systems that would make the school sustainable. HOPE, GROWTH, AND OPPORTUNITY Hope Boyd joined Wildwood after years teaching and serving as an administrator at more traditionally structured schools. In response to my wanting to understand what Hope’s transition to Wildwood was like, Marcia recounted her saying repeatedly that “Wildwood was the school she’d been carrying around in her head. ...” Geoff Boyd, Hope’s son, corroborated the sentiments, sharing that “I think she saw Wildwood as an opportunity to really create something with value, and I think that meant a lot to her—more than just a job, more than just having a place to go.” Geoff remembers his mother as “incredibly excited” about the inevitable growth of Wildwood in the late 1990s. She’d brought with her to Wildwood an understanding of how schools operate and was able to put systems and structures in place at Wildwood that hadn’t existed before. But it was through the expansion to K-12 that she was able to contribute most to what Geoff remembers as being one of her key passions: being a part of guiding children to grow into kind, contributing adults. Clearly central to the shift from an elementary to a K-12 was a commitment to preserving the culture of Wildwood, to creating a school that—in age-appropriate ways—would continue to place a premium on what would come to be known as the Habits of Heart, as well as the Habits of Mind. That is evidenced in the “When Parents
2001: George Wood with secondary students
“It’s amazing what a group of people can do together–some people do more, some do less, but it is that whole community thing. We want to make the world better. And that’s what our kids want, right? That the whole Wildwood experience was one of the most important things we’ve all done in our lives. It’s changed our lives.” —JOHN FRIEDMAN, BOARD OF TRUSTEES AND ALUMNI PARENT OF SAM ‘96 (ELEMENTARY), JULIE ’05, AND CHARLOTTE ’07
both before and since the expansion to K-12. Upper school teacher Deb Christenson, who’d had a long career in public education, was hired early in the K-12 incarnation to lead our Outreach Center. (See pages 38-41 Teaching Teachers.) Recalling a meeting with George and Roy Romer, the former Colorado governor who was then serving as the superintendent in Los Angeles Unified School District, she “vividly remembers” them all being “deeply invested in social justice as a driver of progressive schooling.” It was affirming to come to understand how central to our expansion those partnerships with other public systems were, both for us and, in some ways, for them. Being of service—in the community or by fostering innovation in peer schools—was top of mind as the founders of middle and upper thought through how best to build on the success of the elementary program. Originally hired to lead the school’s diversity work, which eventually became her focus for more than a decade, Rasheda Carroll launched the school’s Community Involvement and Internship programming. Rasheda and others were clear about wanting the expanded Wildwood School to reflect both an institutional purpose and, as she
2007 (L to R): Rasheda Carroll and Melinda Tsapatsaris
put it, “have students understand both their own power as individuals and their purpose—their responsibility— to contribute in real ways.” The Outreach Center, Community Involvement, and Internship Program all remain central to the student experience and have served as models for schools around the country. Founding faculty were acutely aware that none of the transformative work that happens in any classroom can happen without a web of support from staff and administrators, volunteers, and trustees. That’s certainly the case at Wildwood. Several founding faculty fondly recalled being young teachers from Ohio and New York, sleeping on sofas and in guest rooms in what felt like a foreign land: Los Angeles’ Westside. Mark, David, and Melinda all referenced it. I sat down and talked with four of those who made it possible: Jeanne Fauci, John Friedman, Lyle Poncher, and Colleen Pundyk. (See pages 32-37 Lasting Leadership.) Having dutifully prepared a list of questions in advance of a meeting with them, I quickly realized the best tack was to sit and listen to them talk. How grateful I am to have had the chance.
2014-2015: Deb Christenson facilitating Outreach Center program
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
FEATURE Looking Back on the Founding of Wildwood
2015 (L to R): Landis Green, Colleen Pundyk, and Lee Rosenbaum
AN UNDETERRED VISION Noting that there’d long been casual conversation among parents and trustees about the idea of Wildwood evolving into a K-12 school, they spoke of the people who became determined to make it happen in the late 1990s. That included them, of course, and people like Chris Dorr, Patty Dorsey, Peter Hursh, Larry Jacobson, Richard Moss, Tom Schulman, Robin Swicord, and many others. There was some pushback and an earlier well- intentioned, relatively formal report outlining what a downright bad idea it was to take the school to scale. As Lyle recounted when receiving the report, “I thought, ‘Well, very interesting, but I completely disagree.’” They were undeterred. As John Friedman explained of their drive to create something new, “I think many of us didn’t want the education to be the same type of education that we all had and that was also available in the community at the time … Wildwood as an elementary school was … unique … there was no other school like it, and I think we wanted to perpetuate that.” The idea that it could even be possible was, as Jeanne recalled, reinforced by the fact that they’d successfully secured the current elementary campus and moved the K-6 program lock, stock, and barrel. Seeing that the community had the wherewithal to create a vision, execute it logistically, and raise more money than they’d ever imagined gave the idea the lift it needed. As the then-Board Chair, Lyle worked with others to establish committees of trustees and parents who researched education models that would serve to extend the work of the elementary program in age-appropriate ways while also providing what he described as a
“true alternative” to the landscape of middle and upper programs in Los Angeles at the time. Jeanne and Colleen, who by then were visiting and researching schools as far afield as Chicago, Washington, DC, and New York, hosted multiple visioning sessions with parents, whose enthusiasm for the project was growing exponentially. Dennis Littky—an education reformer who’d been the focus of a TV movie Lyle had produced—became a consultant on the project, or a “Dutch uncle,” as Lyle described him. Those connections led the team to the Coalition of Essential Schools and to having Deborah Meier, Ted Sizer, and, eventually, George become involved. As energizing as it was to be involved in a project that some describe as being some of the most rewarding work of their lives, if not the most rewarding work, the path to a K-12 school was anything but smooth. A small yet vocal group of community members were vehemently opposed to Wildwood expanding to K-12. Construction delays made it impossible for students to start the year in the building; instead, they spent months in conference and event spaces nearby. And some of the families who’d had older children matriculate to other 7-12 schools
1998: Board of Trustees and staff who voted to approve K-12 expansion (see inside back cover for credits)
2019 (L to R): Jeanne Fauci, Landis Green, and Lyle Poncher
“It was really a tremendously wonderful team effort. It was one of those things that you ask ‘How often in life do you get to make a difference?’ And this was one of those times, and people got that, and a lot of people worked really hard to make this happen, a lot of people.” —LYLE PONCHER, BOARD OF TRUSTEES, BOARD CHAIR, AND ALUMNI PARENT OF AMY ’97 (ELEMENTARY) AND ZACH ’11
work through a DEIB lens. Having maintained a healthy gender balance for years now, the Board has also continued to make progress in broadening the diverse perspectives present around the Board table. Hope Boyd often reminded colleagues and parents that our true role as educators wasn’t to prepare our students for our present but rather for their future. Disruptions like those that have occurred in this year that marks our 50th anniversary—a global pandemic, a broad call to face and fix the systemic racism that’s plagued our society for centuries, and a debilitatingly divisive political climate—aren’t the exception to the rule. We can’t know the disruption, challenges, or opportunities our children and our students will face over the course of their lives, but we can provide them with the Life Skills and Habits of Mind and Heart to be undeterred in meeting them, contributing to the solution, and using their individual and collective power to make their personal and professional communities better for having had them involved. Like hundreds of people I know who’ve made a difference at Wildwood School, only a sample of whose stories I’ve captured for our school’s archives and noted here, Wildwood School graduates will, no doubt, contribute to the “sum of the actions of numerous people over time.” W Note: It goes without saying, but I am very grateful to those who made time to sit and talk with me, telling me stories, and providing insight on the culture and history of our school. The transcripts of the conversations will be captured as part of the school’s archives, so that perhaps at the time of our 75th or 100th anniversary, those who are part of the path then might have as a resource the stories of those who have been a part of the path now. Wildwood School has been fortunate—as have generations of Wildwood School students—to have such hardworking and dedicated visionaries.
couldn’t, as much as they believed in the philosophy of Wildwood, resist the pull to have younger children follow older siblings. The tenets that connected Summerhill and the Coalition of Essential Schools—arguably the most important of them the idea that students should be at the center of their own learning—continues to drive curricular and programmatic innovation at Wildwood. Evidence of that has been documented in more recent articles about everything from Systems Thinking, a program researched and introduced by former Wildwood teacher and now administrator Sarah Simon, to our professional development partnerships with public school counterparts through the Outreach Center, led by Steve Barrett, to the introduction and expansion of the Wildwood Institute Model, as envisioned by Lori Strauss, former director of upper and then associate head of school. FORGING OUR FUTURE Never static, at this writing, the Board of Trustees has structured the six Design Teams outlined in this issue (pages 46-47). Ensuring that the Board’s historic commitment to issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are central to envisioning the school’s future, all six Design Teams have been asked to approach the
2019 (L to R): Trustees Ashley Kramer, Lisa Flashner, Cynthia Patton, and Kira Powell-Verica
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
COMMUNITY CONVERSATION Student to Former Students
Same but Different
Graduating student Joseph Benefiel interviews alumnus Matt Levy of the pioneering first class of Wildwood’s middle and upper school and Rachel Gutkin, an elementary alumna and parent of three Wildwood students. JOSEPH: What was the feeling you had going into a brand-new school—not just a new school for you, but it was also a new school itself? MATT: I came from Lincoln Middle School and joined Wildwood as an 8th grader. My parents were attracted to the philosophy of Wildwood and a different way to focus—the depth, not just on the academic but also the emotional, human side of things. I was bored at public school, kind of coasting through classes. I needed the push in the right direction. I started in classes with 9th graders because there were only eight of us. There was no one ahead of us, so we were setting the example—even coming up with the school mascot. There was a whole debate about what the mascot and colors should be. The adults let us have that control and discussion. We could have been the Wildwood Wyvern or Mad Dogs. Warriors was also popular, but then the peaceniks were anti-war, so Warriors lost to the Wolves! I was quiet, so it was actually a great opportunity to start fresh and learn about who I am. It was this supportive environment where everyone can be weird and different and do their own thing—to work with that and be OK with whatever we were growing into. JOSEPH: Well, clearly it worked for you. I’m curious, what are the biggest tools that you have taken away from your Wildwood experience? MATT: That depth of conversation matters more than breadth of knowledge. We’re really going to learn about it, such as understand the human motivations behind war. Joseph talks with Matt:
Read a bunch of Howard Zinn and talk about American history and how problematic it is and unpack these things. It allowed for a lot of questioning. Helped me be the extrovert I am. So that’s huge—it inspired curiosity and a love of learning that I just wasn’t engaged in previously and that stayed. I got my BA, a master’s, and now I do research. The human side matters, too—in the workplace so much. It’s how we work with people and seeing what things are not working. The ability to have dialogue, to work together, work through problems … and not yell at each other! At big organizations, it’s the people. Wildwood knows that. It’s built that in, and that’s helped me be successful. JOSEPH: What are some distinct memories of your elementary experience? RACHEL: I came to Wildwood from a big public school where they didn’t know you, and I was very unhappy. I started in 5th grade and immediately all these teachers, even teachers I didn’t have, would come up and say, “Hi, I know you’re new. Welcome.” That really helped my transition when many of the kids in the class had been there for years. JOSEPH: That’s awesome. I think that the essential idea of new students coming in and feeling welcome is still very much true today. What was it about your experience at elementary that made you want to have your kids attend? RACHEL: That positive feeling. Once we decided we were going to send our first one, we agreed, well if anybody gets the warm feeling, everyone gets the warm feeling. And it’s been that same thing. JOSEPH: Wildwood has changed a lot, but it’s also very much the same. So when I talk to you, an alumna of decades away from me, we still have that shared experience and shared values, regardless of when we attended. Joseph talks with Rachel:
“” JOSEPH: NOT TO MAKE YOU SOUND OLD, BUT YOU ARE A PIECE OF LIVING HISTORY. MATT: IN CLASSIC WILDWOOD FORMAT, WE’D HAVE A FISHBOWL AND ACTUALLY TALK ABOUT IT, NOT JUST LET IT LIE LOW. THE AMAZING TEACHERS AND PHILOSOPHY BEHIND IT MADE THAT POSSIBLE. RACHEL: I REMEMBER MY TEACHER, DOUG, MAKING IT EASY AND WARM—HE IS NOW THE TECH HEAD TEACHING MY OWN CHILDREN.
JOSEPH BENEFIEL ‘21 Joseph, a “lifer,” senior, and Student Council president has a strong connection to Wildwood’s history, with both his mother and grandmother teaching here for more than 55 years collectively. His favorite class this year is the Wildwood Institute for Entrepreneurship (WIE), where he has been developing his nonprofit business, Joe’s Cookies (100 percent of profits go to charity). This fall, Joseph is attending Tulane University on a Posse Foundation scholarship. MATT LEVY ‘04 Matt is a member of the first graduating senior class. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs with minors in Spanish and history at George Washington University, and a master’s degree in international policy studies at Stanford University. After nine years working in various data analytic roles in San Francisco, he is currently the director of data and performance management at First Place for Youth, maximizing the organization’s ability to make meaningful changes in the lives of transition-age foster youth. Matt’s sister Isabella ‘13 attended Wildwood K-12. RACHEL GUTKIN ‘90 (ELEMENTARY) Rachel is a graduate of Wildwood’s elementary school. Twenty years later, Rachel is parent to current students Lucy G. ‘28, Liev G. ‘30, and Mila G. ‘32. She is a maternal- fetal medicine physician. Her career is filled with accolades, and she has worked numerous clinical research studies and published on several public health topics. Rachel’s brother Jacob also attended Wildwood, arriving as a kindergartner in 1989 and graduating elementary in 1996.
RACHEL: The thing I took away from my experience and hope my kids will take away from theirs is the idea of being in a place that values you for you and supports you in childhood. That they want you to stay a kid for as long as possible. That is the gift I got from being there and the gift we’ve been able to give our kids. My daughter talks constantly about how this has been her other home. And I just can’t thank the school enough for that experience because I feel like there’s no other place I could imagine would give that to my children.
RACHEL: Yes. It’s interesting—All School Meeting was the same in that we had it every week and we sang the same songs. Good Morning every Friday! The system that’s in place now with 5th graders leading it allows kids to grow into a place of confidence that they can stand up in front of the school and give this presentation.
JOSEPH: Is there something you’d like to say to the community, to your kids, to your past self?
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
REMEMBER WHEN Alumni & Alumni Parent Memories
Wildwood girls basketball coaches Jillian Smith and Eric Polk made the team a family, and we all still are in touch to this day.” “
Oh, the stories we can tell!
AMARI MCRAE ’18
“I would say, in a time when I didn’t know who I was, afraid of what I could be, scared by how others would categorize me– Tanyaa Raymo welcomed every version of me. I would go to her desk when I needed a break from class and a break from the world and she would give that to me. Every day she made me feel not only loved but valued and important.”
CHLOE (FAIRCLOTH) DAHL ‘08
“I fondly recall learning the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in Deb Christenson’s Modern US History class. At the time, I did not anticipate the utility of approximately knowing the lyrics to this song, but now I do: every time my college dorm evacuated for a fire alarm, some students would play We Didn’t Start the Fire on a loop, and I would think back to Wildwood and appreciate that the song meant something to me at all.” MIANA SMITH ‘17
“ JOG-A-THON WAS A HIGHLIGHT AT WILDWOOD! I recorded the kids’ laps around the tracks over a few years of the annual event. It was great hanging out with the other parents, but more importantly watching the older children helping the younger kids. I also loved that all the kids and parents were so encouraging and cheered for every student. There was a real camaraderie among all the kids and parents. I will never forget that.”
“ItAI DIsreALI WAs MY teACHer FOr senIOr InstItUte JAZZ BAnD. He tAUGHt Me eVerYtHInG I KnOW tODAY AnD Is A MODeL FOr HOW I GO ABOUt MY MUsIC BUsIness WItH eACH OF MY CLIents.”
BENICIO WALLRAFF ‘16
“JANE KAUFMAN AND HER DIET COKE.”
JOLIE WHITESELL, alumni parent of Benjamin ‘11 and Juliette ‘19
ZACH FABRICK ‘16
“ MR. OSSENHEIMER, MR. MCFARLAND, AND HOPE BOYD helped shape my life and show me how to not be just an adult but a globally responsible human. They made me consider how my actions affected others, showed how to avoid letting the actions of others negatively influence me, provided me with guidance, and even transportation in moments of need. These three, along with Lewis Forsheit, Peter Breslin, and Tengiz Bibilashvili, are part of why I became a special education teacher.”
Mr. McFarland was so informative and helpful! His advice on writing thank-you notes post-interview has been some of the best professional advice I’ve ever gotten.” IVY JANE ’11 “I attended Wildwood School from kindergarten through 12th grade. The Habits of Mind and Heart taught me to put as much effort into academics as I did into being a responsible member of the community. Most importantly, it was because of the education I received at Wildwood and the emphasis on lifelong learning that I was empowered to become an educator.”
RAQUEL LEATHERWOOD ’05
JACK COGHLAN ’19 “COACH pAt COLLeY HAD A HUGe IMpACt On Me–It’s DIFFICULt tO pICK OnLY One MeMOrY. He COACHeD Me FOr tHree YeArs, AnD We COntInUe tO MAIntAIn A GreAt reLAtIOnsHIp OFF tHe COUrt. He WAs A FAtHer FIGUre AnD reALLY BeLIeVeD In Me–HArD On Me In BAsKetBALL BeCAUse OF HOW MUCH He CAreD AnD ALsO tAUGHt Me A LOt ABOUt LIFe In GenerAL.”
JULIE FRIEDMAN ‘05
“JAN STALLINGS IN 5TH GRADE was the best teacher! Tough and fun! You knew she loved you and cared for you, and she kept us preteens in check.”
“My drive to pursue international relations and political science topics all began while I was at Wildwood in Deb Christenson’s political science elective in 9th grade and the Model U.N. Club I helped found from 10th to 12th grade.”
KENDRA SMITH ’95, elementary alum and current teacher
“One of my favorite memories is our biology trip to Bermuda with our teacher Sal Trento, who I absolutely loved! It was so beautiful, not only because of the scenery but because of how much Sal truly immersed us in the environment and made sure we had the best possible experience. To go cave diving with bats, learn about various types of amphibians, etc., with my friends was just unreal.”
CONOR GRICE ’ 17
LEAH PERRY ’09
“I gave tours at the middle and upper campus and relied on Wildwood students’ spontaneous participation. I’d have a group of prospective parents with me and I could grab any student—in class, in the hall, coming, going—to talk about what they were studying, and they’d be game. They’d be articulate, attentive, brave, and friendly. It was my favorite part of giving tours. I was just so proud of them for their generosity and grateful to them for their thoughtful input.”
DIANE FRESCO, alumni parent of Emma ‘17, Sam ‘20, and Tess ‘20
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
THE WORLDWIDE WILDWOOD WEB Wildwood’s Global Citizens
A glimpse of Wolves at home in the world.
LOS ANGELES URBAN CAMPUS
Student inquiry is supported through internships, outdoor adventures, and athletics, broadening opportunities to learn and awareness of the complexities and diversity that define Los Angeles, our state, and the world.
ALUMNI ATHLETICS COACHES
Matt Kinzelberg ‘04, Basketball Nick Stone ‘05, Soccer Jeremy Munter ‘06, Basketball Parker Cain ‘08, Basketball Alex Sheftel ‘10, Soccer Jake Schuster ‘10, Baseball Jessi McDonald ‘11, Soccer Kamal Muhammed ‘18, Track and Field Jack Coghlan ‘19, Basketball
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Service learning trips help shape students’ views of other cultures, languages, and ways of life.
We train teachers and administrators around the globe to examine and grow their craft and practice. (See pages 38-41 Teaching Teachers.)
Lindsay Koenig ‘09, Founder, Triple Chip Bakery Santa Barbara, California 2 Tatiana Rogers ‘10, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, MBA Colorado State University 3 Jeremy Steinberger ‘14, J ournalist, Arts and Culture Austin, Texas 4 Dylan Dornfeld ’10, Tour Guide, Responsible Tourism and Social Justice Oaxaca, Mexico 5 Terryn Adams ‘09, Medical student at Morehouse School of Medicine Atlanta, Georgia 6 Piers Brecher ’12, Master of Philosophy, Oxford University; First Lieutenant Fort Campbell, Kentucky 7 Lauren Mueller ‘07, Speechwriter, U.S. House of Representatives U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi Washington, D.C. 8 Chris Henderson ‘14, NBA Marketing Partnerships New York 9 Fiona McGrath ‘18, Director, Museum at the Scotland Fringe Festival Edinburgh, Scotland 10 Sebastian Eisenberg ‘10, Founder, Millihelen Design Antwerp, Belgium 11 Zach Poncher ‘11, Designer, Bottega Veneta Milan, Italy 12 Conor Grice ‘17, Collection Site Staff, Rako Science New Zealand
Our faculty and staff expand their worldviews through myriad growth opportunities across the U.S. and internationally.
Alex Cussen, Middle School
Humanities Teacher Wildwood’s Research Exploration and Advancement Program
Denmark/Germany/ United Kingdom/Sweden
ALUMNI AT WILDWOOD
ALUMNI CURRENT EMPLOYEES Kendra Elstad Smith ‘95 (elementary), Visual Arts Teacher Michael Fujikawa ‘95 (elementary), Visual Arts Teacher Elana Fruchtman ‘03 (elementary), Kindergarten Lead Teacher Carl Burgin ‘07, Part-Time Music Teacher Paige Verdun ‘13, Advancement Assistant for Events and Alumni Relations ALUMNI FORMER EMPLOYEES Zöe Estrin Foxley ‘91 (elementary), Associate Teacher Alex Sheftel ‘10, Math Teacher Timmy Gonzalez ‘10, Elementary School After-School Assistant Jessi McDonald ‘11, Associate Teacher
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
FEATURE by Karen Dye, Director of Equity and Inclusion, and Monique Marshall, 5th Grade Lead Teacher; and contributors Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach; Deb Christenson, Upper School Humanities Teacher; and Landis Green, Head of School Wildwood’s DEIB Arch
as the father of progressive education in America, John Dewey solidified those ideas when he said, “All points of skill are represented in every race ... and a society that does not furnish the environment and education and opportunity of all kinds which will bring out and make effective the superior ability wherever it is born is not merely doing an injustice to that particular race and to those particular individuals, but it is doing an injustice to itself for it is depriving itself of just that much of social capital” (Dewey, 1909). Early on, Wildwood committed to a diverse community. Educator and lawyer Belle Mason led a group of parents who sought to establish “a different kind of school,” and it was soon evident that this included being accessible to all. By 1996, there was clear messaging around collaborative, open-minded inclusion and practice, as well. The head of school, Hope Boyd, was a powerful Black woman who made sure Wildwood was a community that felt warm and welcoming, where everyone said “good morning” to one another. At the same time, multicultural practice was left to the skills of the individuals who were hired, and the administration supported teachers who brought innovative ideas and anti-bias practice to life in their classrooms. FORMALIZATION OF INSTITUTIONAL COMMITMENT Rasheda Carroll served as the school’s first official diversity practitioner, beginning in 2001. By 2008,
When a middle school student was asked what belonging entails in a school community, this was the response:
“To belong means to be somewhere where I can just be myself.”
It seems simple. The question was asked during a meeting of the students of color in affinity space, and to the kids, it was obvious. But that simple statement packed a powerful punch, as research shows the ability to be one’s authentic self through growth and learning in the educational journey is critical to a student’s development and confidence throughout life. Fostering a sense of belonging at Wildwood is essential to our students’ success. When Wildwood was founded as an elementary school in 1971, the country was at the tail end of the civil rights movement and racial equality was at the forefront of many educational institutions. Especially in progressive education—which at its root emphasizes social democracy and responsibility—equity and justice were inherent to progressive pedagogy since German philosopher Johann Friedrich Herbart first made the connection between individual development and societal contribution in the early 19th century. He advocated that five key concepts provided the framework for moral and intellectual development, one of which was justice and equity. Known MULTICULTURALISM IN WILDWOOD’S FOUNDATION
this role had evolved into Wildwood’s first director of multicultural affairs as Wildwood formalized its multicultural programming and expanded it K-12. Working alongside Head of School Landis Green, Rasheda facilitated Wildwood’s shift from a general commitment to diversity and inclusion to administrative and curricular programming, and things began to take shape and change. Part of that change was the creation of the school’s Multicultural Leadership Team (MLT). The birth of what was initially named the Diversity Council also occurred in 2008, and it was a rocky start—the group of faculty and administrators recruited for the team launched by trying to attend to about 20 team-generated goals but soon recognized they had taken on more than they could manage. In the years following, structure was put in place to streamline the council, which became the Multicultural Leadership Team, a 12-member, well-oiled machine, with thoughtful recruitment and onboarding practices and annual goal setting focusing on two to three goals each year. The team also attended to its own growth and learning, and with the guidance of expert facilitators from Visions Inc., the team got its sea legs and became a leader in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) work in the independent school world. initiatives: the development of the Multicultural Scope and Sequence. K-12 faculty were led through multiple workshops during which they examined several social identifiers, or the “Dimensions of Self,” in relation to our K-12 curriculum. At each level, teachers reflected on ways they taught some of these identifiers (e.g., race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.); they worked together to name how Wildwood approached different identifiers in the curriculum and looked for gaps and overlaps. MLT then worked to design a scope and sequence for each grade level to focus on specific themes, so that from kindergarten through 12th grade, there would be opportunities for students to do a deep dive into a particular aspect of identity. Once the faculty knew the scope and sequence, they were able to create programming and curriculum applicable to their theme(s), bearing in mind that the grade-level themes were NOT designed to limit a teacher’s ability to teach about other aspects of identity and multiculturalism. Over the years, PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT Soon thereafter, MLT engaged in one of its major
Multicultural practice was left to the skills of the individuals who were hired, and the administration supported teachers who brought innovative ideas and anti-bias practice to life in their classrooms.
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
FEATURE Wildwood’s DEIB Arch
Work within the community after the racial reckoning spurred by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others in the Black community as well as the Black Lives Matter movement was especially pertinent to the most recent DEIB initiatives.
Affinity space for adults also emerged, moving from off-campus potlucks thrown by parents of color to on- campus gatherings with carefully designed programming, offering support and connection for parents of students of color. These spaces led to an annual summer gathering for families of students of color, the Multicultural Community Dialogue event each fall, and the Multicultural Family Story Night every spring, which also have served as strong ways to build community for our new and current families each school year. An important characteristic of Wildwood’s DEIB programming is that it was always intended to include all constituencies of the school. The Parent Multicultural Collaborative (PMC) grew out of a parent diversity group that had existed for more than 24 years at Wildwood. The group began as a collection of committed parents concerned about equity and diversity and wanting to create space for discussions around difference at Wildwood. Currently, PMC is supported by MLT in its programming of speakers and the facilitation of the events mentioned earlier for the community to explore and learn together, keeping the work for students, faculty, and families in close alignment. This is the power of Wildwood’s DEIB programming— each piece is connected to the MLT as the core group in a systematic way. And the DEIB work extends beyond the walls of our building. As part of our internationally known Outreach Center, Wildwood’s Multicultural Leadership Institute (MLI) kicked off its first weeklong summer
faculty have been invited to revisit their multicultural theme, ask questions, and make revisions to the scope and sequence toward integrating the work into existing curriculum in interdisciplinary ways. The Multicultural Scope and Sequence has been a living document that is still and will always be in process of refinement and revision, as all best practice should be. One of the hallmarks of Wildwood’s DEIB programming, which MLT was also instrumental in developing, is community affinity spaces. The first affinity group began in 2007, when a racially charged incident in the upper school turned into an opportunity for institutional growth and led to students of color gathering for discussions. The birth of this space gave way to a middle school student of color group, followed by upper school spaces for both white anti-racist and LGBTQ+ affinity. Most recently, MLT has launched a white anti-racist space for middle school students, both student of color and white anti-racist affinity groups for 3rd-5th graders, and revived Cultural Connections, an opportunity for all K-5 students to meet and explore DEIB topics on a regular basis. All these spaces have developed and grown their own responsive and proactive curriculum based on the needs reflected by students and the current events of the time. This cutting-edge work invites the deepening of community and the early and necessary exploration of racial and gender identity, encouraging students to talk and think about identity in ways many adults in their lives never could at their age.
OWW SUMMER 2019
protocol for effectively engaging, sustaining, and deepening interracial dialogue. Work within the community after the racial reckoning spurred by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others in the Black community as well as the Black Lives Matter movement was especially pertinent to the most recent DEIB initiatives. Along with revisiting the curriculum and practices to ensure anti-racism and anti-bias remains a priority, the work included the creation of the Alumni Anti-Racism Think Tank, a task force co-facilitated by Karen, Director of College Counseling and Alumni Relations Amy Abrams and Advancement Assistant for Events and Alumni Relations Paige Verdun ‘13 to inform about ways the school’s DEIB practices impacted alumni during their time on campus and brainstorm around potential anti-racist practice and programming for our community going forward. Though the task force stayed active for just a few months, an opportunity for further connection was borne from it in the form of an additional affinity space for middle and upper school students of color focused on creativity and conversation—the biweekly Crafters of Color gathering, facilitated by Moreau Halliburton ‘18. With the rise of discrimination and violence toward the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community in our country, more recent efforts have been focused on support, education, and training to better serve the needs of this community. In March 2021, writer Sharon Kwon, author of “This Is What No One Tells You About Being Asian in America in 2021” facilitated an APIDA affinity group for parents and students. In April, Kwon was joined by Renee Tajima-Peña, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and UCLA Asian Studies Professor, for a schoolwide event as featured guests of the Parent Multicultural Collaborative. As we look ahead to the immediate future, we are re-imagining Wildwood’s messaging to include a further sense of belonging for all community members. It is in belonging that our students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni feel seen, heard, valued, and loved. When all is said and done, Wildwood’s mission of cultivating “reflective scholars, bold innovators, and compassionate leaders equipped with the skills, ethics and inspiration to transform their world” will only happen if these scholars, innovators, and leaders feel they belong in the world. W
programming in 2013, and more than 200 people from 56 schools nationwide have been able to take advantage of this MLT-led professional development opportunity since. Over the years, MLI has brought in facilitators such as nationally known DEIB consultant Alison Park; Bill Cross, author and originator of the racial identity model; and co-founder of AWARE-LA Jason David, a former Wildwood teacher who was also instrumental in the development of MLI. PROGRAM EVOLUTION In 2017, to reflect the current nature and goals of this work at the school, Rasheda’s title changed to the director of equity and inclusion. Soon afterward, the Board of Trustees undertook the work of assessing the school for its effectiveness in creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. The Board Diversity Task Force used a tool from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) called the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) to produce some recommendations for building a more diverse community, including through recruitment, retention, and socioeconomic equity. While remaining a Wildwood School parent, Rasheda began sharing her considerable skills and experience at Westland School in 2019, after 18 years at Wildwood. She currently serves as Westland’s assistant head for equity, inclusion, and counseling, where she works alongside fellow Wildwood parent and former employee Melinda Tsapatsaris, head of school, and Marcia Capparela, assistant head of school. strong DEIB foundation laid by Rasheda and Landis. An experienced practitioner, having instituted DEIB programming at two different independent schools in the Midwest, Karen created a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Action Plan for Wildwood with input from MLT, academic and other administrators, and the Board of Trustees. Karen played a key role in updating the school’s hiring guidelines to incorporate a stronger diversity lens toward bringing in more faculty and staff of color, and, along with MLT, has launched work on further updates to the Multicultural Scope and Sequence. Additionally, Karen introduced the Wildwood community to Courageous Conversation about Race (CCAR), an award-winning DEIB TODAY In 2019, Karen Dye was hired to build upon the
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS! | OWW SUMMER 2021
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