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September 1, 2020

Dear Madeira Community, 

Today marked the official beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Energy was high and it was a joy to see the students engage with one another and their teachers throughout Opening Convocation, their first class gathering, and the first advisory of the year. Our theme for the year is “Connect,” and today was a grand digital connection! 

Summer 2020 was unlike any Madeira has ever seen – the faculty, staff, and administration doubled and redoubled their efforts as they faced and continue to face the monumental task of opening a school in the era of a global pandemic. While in some ways the summer looked very different, in the past few days it has looked remarkably similar to previous years. Leading up to the opening of school the faculty and staff engaged in robust professional development and learning that centered on the social, emotional, and academic needs of students and the pedagogical approaches we will use to reach all learners this year. Tomorrow we are eager to begin classes and welcome students to their new digital learning spaces.  

In early January 2020, as the world welcomed the new year, the 20/20 vision analogy was much invoked, with a projection of a period of innovation and clarity. There has certainly been innovation, but clarity has been elusive for many. The rise of COVID-19 has and will continue to create a range of challenges for families – from general uncertainty to acute tragedy. And our country and schools nationwide wrestle with the next steps to address the racism of our past and present. 

Many have remarked to me in an off-handed way, “What a time to become a head of school!?” And to that I say, “Yes! What a time to lead a school!” Madeira is more than an academic institution: it is a place where students find and refine their voice, connect with and explore their identity, and become part of a community beyond themselves. Through the historical fabric of our institution, students are connected to generations of women who graduated from Madeira – women who graduated stronger, more confident and powerful versions of themselves, able and ready to go out and change the world. 

As we begin this year, we reaffirm our community values: awareness of self and others, compassion, creativity, intellectual curiosity, integrity, and resilience. To learn and grow in community and as a community, we allow these values to light our way. In response to the ever-shifting local and global landscapes, this year we have made some fundamental changes to the Student and Parent Handbook. There have been adjustments to the daily and yearly schedule and programming due to COVID-19, and we have made necessary edits to policies and practices to reflect that. Similarly, we are reaffirming our commitment to a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. 

Throughout the year and beyond we will be sharing some of the critical work we are undertaking to address inclusivity and equity at the School. We know that there is hurt and anger in the community and it will take time to rebuild trust and strategically work to implement clear antiracist policies and practices. Below are some of the initiatives we will pursue, and we will share updates throughout the year: 

  • The Board of Trustees’ Diversity Committee is partnering with the School’s leadership to inform a strategic approach to addressing bias and racism at Madeira. The Trustees will continue to enhance diverse representation at the Board level, will continue to provide Board education on equity and inclusion, and will work to bring an antiracist lens to all of the Board’s deliberations and decisions.  

  • This fall the School will host an opportunity for Black alumnae to share their experiences to help us deepen our understanding of past and present racism at the School and as a step to move toward healing.  

  • Pedagogically, we will continue to implement culturally responsive teaching strategies. A frame for our work will be Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond. 

  • We will begin to examine the curriculum through the lens of equity, inclusion, and positive representation, using frameworks such as those developed by Teaching Tolerance and the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. 

  • We will take a comprehensive look at Madeira’s disciplinary system and process with an eye toward transitioning to a non-coercive disciplinary model. We will seek student input and feedback throughout this process.  

  • When our students return to campus, we will facilitate workshops for students, faculty, and staff on topics such as implicit bias and microaggressions.

Equity and inclusion initiatives have no end point; these are ongoing commitments. Similarly, courageous conversations and practicing civil discourse have never been more important.  

Madeira’s mission and vision are to launch women who change the world and to lead innovation in girls’ education. At this moment in history, these guideposts are vital for the future of girls, women, and the world. I am passionate about girls’ education, and I am both eager and excited to begin this journey together to lead the next generation of Madeira women. The ideals and values that connect our collective community together, our commitment to excellence in teaching and learning, and our resolve to forge a pathway to a bright future will indeed launch women who will change a world in need of changing.  


Festina Lente, 







Gretchen Warner 
Head of School