Returning to a new norm

New format brings together President, Associate Head, Parents Association President for State of School


Parents from both campuses gathered to commence the new school year and hear from Harvard-Westlake (HW) President Rick Commons on Wednesday. Due to the pandemic, this evening marked the first in-person State of the School announcement in over two years.

“We’re a stronger community when we get to know each other face-to-face,” HW Associate Head of School Laura Ross said.

President Rick Commons, Associate Head of School Laura Ross and HW Parents Association President Pam Lumpkin-Baffo address parent body in Saperstein Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 7.  (Camryn Banafsheha)

In order to acknowledge the importance of this renewed tradition, a new format was implemented: Ross and HW Parents Association President Pam Lumpkin-Baffo joined Commons on stage for a Q&A segment.

Although this program looked differently than those executed in previous years, Commons ignited the ceremony with the annual recalling of his summer adventures, a tradition that has grown dear to the school community. His heartfelt family anecdotes and – for the first time – the recitation of a poem he wrote this summer brought the audience members through an emotional 15-minute journey. In addition, Commons offered a moment of silence in honor of 30-year Performing Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies Teacher Ted Walch who retired this summer due to declining health. Walch died on Thursday, Sept. 8. A memorial service will be held for Walch at Saviour’s Chapel at the upper school on Friday.

Commons then shifted into sharing HW’s updated vision for the future. Although Commons pointed out that each aspect of the statement was equally important, at the top of the list stood the school’s “abiding commitment to excellence” and the wellbeing of the students.

Commons, Ross and Lumpkin-Baffo talked about a variety of matters and opened the floor to parent questions.

A returning parent asked the panel to speak about how the school will acknowledge students’ mental health after the period of isolation during the pandemic.

“People tend to say they are going ‘back to normal’ after lockdown, we don’t want to do that,” Ross said. “We want to go back to what we learned so we can better ourselves. The health of our students is our top priority.”