An End-of-Year Letter from Executive Director Chuck Jackson

June 15, 2021Leer en español.

Above life’s chaos
A butterfly flaps its wings.
Everything changes.

—Matsuo Bashō

Dear Creative Minds Community:

You may know about the butterfly effect, a concept stating that a small variation in a system can result in large, far-reaching consequences. As scientist Edward Lorenz asked in a paper almost 50 years ago, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”

The closing of our school building on March 13, 2020, was not a small variation, but it was a discrete event whose effects resonated across our entire community.

Since that day last March, I’ve thought frequently about how acceptance is the first step in creating change. I liken acceptance to respect, one of the Creative Minds personal goals. It was respect for uncertainty, and respect for a situation beyond our control, that set us on the path of adapting our strong education program for unusual circumstances.

In fact, all our personal goals have been guideposts for thriving during a very uncertain year. These goals are more than words on a poster; they are qualities we practice every day at school. It’s always a great joy to hear students recognize one another for exemplifying personal goals.

We thrived this year because we practiced resilience and adaptability. We were thoughtful toward one another and displayed strong communication skills. We collaborated in our efforts with a spirit of inquiry, asking for help when we needed it and asking the questions that allowed us to better understand the struggles of our fellow community members. And as we moved through a challenging year together, we were empathetic, giving grace to one another and accepting the graces that were shown to us.

I admit that I never imagined our core values being practiced as they have since March 2020. But I am so proud of our work together and so grateful for our community; I know that we’ve been strengthened by our experiences. Lessons about teaching and learning will carry over into our next school year, generating new insights and practices that will then compound for years to come.

Three months ago, the DC Public Charter School Board performed a qualitative site review (QSR) of Creative Minds through virtual classroom visits.

I’m pleased to say that the results of our QSR are very strong, which Dr. Valaida Wise, the outgoing chair of our board of trustees, noted too. Dr. Wise performs qualitative site reviews for the PCSB (though she didn’t, of course, perform ours), and she knows of what she speaks. My favorite quotation from the QSR report is “Teachers also modeled joy and wonder in learning.” To me, this says everything about the Creative Minds approach to education.

The QSR reiterates what I’ve seen in 2020–21: that in our school’s most challenging year, we excelled at continuing our inclusive, holistic, student-centered program and making it engaging. The report also highlights areas in which we can do even better—feedback that will inform our August professional development.

To learn more, see the QSR summary that I shared at our last board meeting. Or read the full report here.

Extended School Year (ESY) starts on June 28, for students with IEPs who need more time to reach their goals. That’s also the first day of Boost Camp, a partnership with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation.

We invited to Boost Camp the Creative Minds students who were most challenged by remote learning. Boost Camp is happening at school, and students will participate in tutoring in the morning and sports, arts, music, and other traditional camp activities in the afternoon, with a focus on social-emotional development. ESY students have the option of joining the afternoon activities.

You know that inclusion is central to the Creative Minds mission. I’m delighted that with Boost Camp and Extended School Year, we’re making sure all students have the opportunity to succeed, both academically and social-emotionally.

Speaking of at school, I’m excited for even more joyful noise this fall, when all teachers, students, and staff are back in the school building! (Note that we’ll continue to monitor the public-health situation, in case any plans need to be modified). I’m also excited that 97 percent of the staff members who were invited to return next year have accepted our offer. This shows a real commitment to our students, our community, and the work we are doing.

Our full return to in-person learning begins on August 30, the first day of school for 2021–22 and the start of our tenth-anniversary year. If you’ll be with Creative Minds next year, except to hear more from us this summer about back to school.

I leave you with thoughts about air and breathing, two themes for me these past months. Though we have worn masks to keep one another safe, our breath has centered and nurtured us; we cannot exist without it. And with or without these masks, our exhalations—songs, shouts, pleas, whispers, speeches, affirmations—can be powerful forces. The butterfly beats the air with its wings and effects change in a distant place. We move the air with our voices and practice agency, express our points of view, and create change in the world. This is what we at Creative Minds are nurturing in our students.

Breathe, allow your voice to be heard, and keep getting into good trouble,

Chuck Jackson
Executive Director