Ran Randolph '80 is entering his second year as President of Norfolk Academy's Board of Trustees, and during his opening message on the first day of faculty and staff meetings for the 2021-22 academic year, he spoke as a proud father.
Earlier this month, Mr. Randolph dropped his youngest son Peyton Randolph '21 off for freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As he'd done for his two older brothers, Ranny Randolph '14 and Christian Randolph '18, he wrote Peyton a letter reminding him to follow a moral compass.
Among Mr. Randolph's encouragements: Go to class and take good notes; do not procrastinate; everything in moderation; be tolerant and respectful; stretch beyond your comfort zone; and “remember the lessons your mother and I and Norfolk Academy taught you...integrity, respect for others, compassion, and service."
During his remarks on August 18, Mr. Randolph admitted that he already misses daily chats with Peyton about Academy life: what he'd learned and how practice went. But he felt confident that his son would follow his advice, in part because he had learned strong values at Academy.
“Raising children is a team effort and Norfolk Academy has been our MVP teammate," Mr. Randolph said. "Thank you for reinforcing and amplifying everything Kristen and I wanted to instill in our sons."
Mr. Randolph opened his speech by asking the faculty and staff to stand and give themselves an ovation for all that they had done, particularly during the grueling year of teaching through the pandemic, and he closed his remarks with a moving statement of profound appreciation. “I gave my sons the very best I could give them--I gave them you," he said. “Thank you to each of you for all you did...preparing students to lead in creating a world that is better tomorrow than it is today. That, my friends, is God's work."
Headmaster Dennis Manning observed that Mr. Randolph had been deeply immersed in work at Norfolk Academy over many years, and that his efforts during the pandemic period have been tireless, including countless phone calls and meetings with the school's medical team to consult about the school's safety measures for maintaining in-person learning.
Classes in this, the Year of Togetherness, begin August 25. As with last school year, this one begins amid a worldwide pandemic that forces adjustments to the school's typical rhythms. Mr. Manning acknowledged the pandemic will cause uncertainty during the year that will undoubtedly necessitate nimbleness throughout the school community.
Among the safety protocols Academy will have in place as this year begins: Everyone inside campus buildings must wear a mask unless eating or exercising; students' desks will be spread at least 3 feet apart; assigned seats and seating charts will allow for contact tracing; air purifiers will be in classrooms; and the school will continue to reinforce the value of vaccines. In addition, students, faculty, and staff will be Covid tested weekly for at least the early part of the year.
However, Mr. Manning offered his utmost confidence that another successful year will unfold because of the collective efforts of everyone who was in Johnson Theater listening to his remarks.
“We do it together as a family," he said.
Mr. Manning thanked Mr. Randolph and the Board of Trustees for its commitment to helping Academy thrive during Covid-19. He also thanked teachers, the lifeblood of the school, and the support staff - bus drivers, refectory workers and cleaning staff among them - who all played essential roles last year and will again this year.
Seeing everyone together again Wednesday morning reminded him of his coaching days, he said, when the entire group needed to pull together to enjoy maximum success.
“What a wonderful team we have here," he said.
As is tradition during opening meetings, the Headmaster honored faculty and staff who have reached service milestones. Those who have served at least a quarter-century were:
- 45 years: History Teacher Richard Oberdorfer
- 40 years: Math Teacher Tom Duquette and German Teacher Chris Nelson
- 35 years: Director of Audio Visual Services Rob Fleenor and History Teacher Toy Savage
- 30 years: Upper School Dean and Assistant Director Eric Acra and Athletics/Fine Arts Administrative Assistant Martha Gentry
- 25 years: Fine Arts Department Chairman Jeff Danielson; Art Teacher Trudy Gaba; Middle School Assistant Director Trish Hopkins; Upper School Administrative Assistant Heather Kemp; Literacy Fellows Director and English Teacher David Kidd; Director of Academic Technology Ed Patterson; and Fourth Grade Teacher Janice Simone
Following the opening meeting, faculty and staff participated in a workshop led by Jonathan Zur, Executive Director of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. The workshop prompted the group to consider how to create and sustain a culture of belonging, and what each person individually can do this coming year to help each student feel a sense of belonging.
Such work is challenging in the current national environment, which is filled with attacks and vitriol, Mr. Zur said. But educators strive to prepare critical thinkers and help students become effective leaders, he said.
“We need to lean in to understand one another," he said.
Later in the week, faculty and staff will discuss two summer reading books: Sweet Taste of Liberty by Caleb McDaniel, a Rice University professor who will speak via Zoom, and Together by Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General.