Head of School’s Notebook

October 9, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: Hometowns

I wandered over to the Tennis Center on Thursday afternoon to watch our girl’s varsity take on the only team in the league who has beaten us this year. That loss came right after the Outings Week break and our athletes were feeling the effects of their hiatus from sport. But our tennis team has …


September 24, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: A Visit from a Peacock

On Saturday afternoon, just about the time the Football Team was closing out our victory over Orcutt Academy, a peacock wandered onto campus. We hear them a lot in Lillingston Canyon, where there is a thriving flock of peacocks, the descendants no doubt of birds that escaped from a rancher’s enclosure many decades ago and …


June 11, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: Lessons at the End

In the final week of the school year, just a few days before commencement, Fritze Mayer ’21, one of the leaders of our Servons Speaker Series, offered some last bits of wisdom from the senior class. 12 places she thanked, one for each trimester of her four years at Cate: Harkness tables, Parsonage patios, fields …


May 21, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: Inquiry

Our senior inquiry presentations have begun. The first two were on Wednesday night. Ned Sigler ’21 talked about the manner in which we might one day enable human beings to travel to Mars, and why we must. He even quoted Elon Musk, who famously said, “I’d like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.” …


March 20, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: Bursting the Bubble

  Last week I went through all of the communications we sent to families and alumni during the Spring of 2020.  What amazed me most, now with the benefit of hindsight, is how naïve we were. How naïve I was. I wrote to our senior class shortly after we made the decision to suspend in-person …


March 12, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: Falling Behind

  I was on a Zoom call this morning with someone who accredits schools for a living. She was late for the call, and when I came out of her virtual waiting room she said, “I’m really sorry. It’s been a hell of a week and I have fallen behind.” She meant that she was …


February 19, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: Humor and Hijinks

  I have a picture on the wall of my office of the Cate School student body and faculty (then called Santa Barbara School) taken sometime in the late 1940s. Mr. Cate sits looking regal and in charge in the middle of the frame, flanked by his wife, Kate Cate, and the faculty. The underclassmen …


February 5, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: Sustainability

  “I’m not sure how much more of this I can take …” Those words came from my youngest son a few days ago, as he struggled through a particularly uninspiring virtual class this winter. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. He knows it. I know it. And we both know there …


January 21, 2021

Head of School’s Notebook: Unfinished

  Unfinished. Abraham Lincoln used the word at Gettysburg. “It is for us the living to be here dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here so nobly advanced.” Amanda Gorman, the youth poet laureate, used the same word on the steps of the Capitol, a century and a half later, on behalf …


December 4, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook: Kaavan

December 5 is an auspicious day at Cate, the anniversary of our founder’s birth 136 years ago. No doubt Curtis Cate had no idea in those fateful days of 1910 of the scale of the enterprise he was beginning, of his school’s potential impact and its endurance. Likely he was thinking instead of the students he …


November 13, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook: Hopper

  The Williams Household has a new member … an eight-week-old Labrador puppy named Hopper. I am sitting on his dog bed as I write, and he is asleep beside me. It’s a strange comfort he offers, just by being here, at a time when comfort of any sort is most welcome. Hopper’s predecessor was …


October 15, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook: Blinded by the Light

  I have been thinking a good deal of late about first days of school. Maybe it’s because our day students are at last with us on campus, our classes are in person on the lawns and patios of the Mesa and our community is finally whole. Maybe, too, it’s because I can see in …


October 2, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook: The Ride

  In the Spring of 1975, a few months after Space Mountain opened at Disney World in Orlando, my family left our chilly denizens in New England for a few days in the company of Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the gang. Other than the roller coaster at Whalom Park, originally built in 1893 in Lunenberg, …


September 18, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook—News of the World

  I got an email this morning that began, “Here’s what is keeping me up at night …” It’s the most common opening line, actually, in my inbox, and it speaks to the remarkable and daunting dynamics we are all confronting in the world. It’s our truth. But it’s not the only truth. I read …


September 3, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook—The Way Forward

The first letter that I remember writing as Head of School at Cate was in July of 1998. I don’t recall much of what I wrote, save for a short paragraph on various back-to-school rituals I had become accustomed to over the years. Who doesn’t enjoy a pattern that we expect we can rely on? …


May 29, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook — Celebrations

  Just a few weeks ago, I received instructions from the County of Santa Barbara on the do’s and don’ts of “vehicular graduations.” Cars parked a certain distance apart, only family members in the vehicle, windows up, that kind of thing. I started laughing when I got to the part about not leaving the vehicle, …


May 14, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook — Readiness

  I came across Jorge Reynoso this morning. He was measuring our classrooms so that we can determine exactly how many students can occupy them while abiding by safe distancing guidelines. Jorge is our Director of Risk Management and Campus Operations, and he has had a busy spring. There are so many eventualities that we …


April 30, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook — Commencement Season

  In honor of all of the Commencement Exercises that will not happen this year—at least not in traditional form, anyway—The Atlantic magazine has invited a series of notable writers and thinkers to pen graduation speeches for the Class of 2020. The first, which appeared in this week’s issue, was written by Caitlin Flanagan, who …


April 16, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook — Not Alone

  Our Lincoln class is studying two documents this week that betray Lincoln’s posture towards religion. Lincoln’s faith—or lack thereof—is a much-debated topic in the present day, and it was a potential impediment to Lincoln when he was running for office. One of the texts we examine is a letter Lincoln wrote for publication in …


March 31, 2020

Head of School’s Notebook — Grace Comes by Art

There is a video making the rounds this week—it even made the national news programs—that was produced by a family in Great Britain. It’s a cleverly adapted rendition of One Day More from Les Misérables, performed with unusual vigor and gusto just slightly off key by every member of a family of six, the youngest, …