After seven days, there are things to be proud of.

Hello Lyme Families,

I have not written a longer school message in a while,  so please consider offering it the time to read.

We plan to share pictures of our classes because they say in one image more than I can in an email (regardless of its length).

There is so much to talk about and it is difficult to know where to start.  Now that we have opened there are so many more positive opportunities which deserve attention, which is wonderful.  I wish you all could see your kids and our faculty interact.  It is one of the most reassuring and beautiful sights you could imagine.  Kids are adjusting to masks very well.  The morning and afternoon routines, while unfamiliar and likely more complicated for everyone, are working out better than I envisioned (but please let's keep it up).   For me having kids and teachers back in the school make me feel alive again.  I feel so fortunate.

Despite these wonderful events we must acknowledge there have also been periods of tension.  As I considered what I wanted to communicate this morning I was conflicted about whether to keep the focus on only those things that are positive or to acknowledge the challenges that we are facing as a community.   What I realized is that focusing on only the positive would be disingenuous and pollyannish.  Ignoring the challenges only to focus on the positive, discredits those times when we as a community really are surrounded by only positive messages.

The isolation, stress and enormous amount of time it has taken for us all to adjust and to respond to a pandemic is taking a toll.   I don’t think anyone is surprised that it would.  For those of us who have been in Lyme for many years we can recognize this impact,  for those who are new to Lyme, I want to reassure you that our community is even better and will be again soon.  

It has been very appreciated to have such an outpouring of support for the different efforts which have contributed to the successes we have accomplished.  One of the challenges has been when these expressions of support have focused on individuals,  it may feel to others that their efforts have been overlooked.  As one who has been publicly acknowledged, I want to publicly acknowledge that any success which has been associated with me is the result of many people.  

The faculty rightfully receives a lot of praise, and your expressions of support for them is well deserved.  The challenges they have to overcome to educate in a pandemic are unimaginable unless you have taught a class of 20 young children (in a pandemic).  The simple details of being heard through a mask, playing with legos, guiding a student in reading words on a page, keeping the energy and enthusiasm of middle schoolers elevated as they solve equations or discuss topics,  is hard under the best of conditions, a pandemic not being one of them.  Our faculty are utterly committed to making sure they can take care of their students, the complexities and nuances of how that is accomplished in a pandemic is a heavy layer on top of the challenge of accomplishing this under normal circumstances.  As we look for examples of how we can be assured we are doing this according to experts, the rule seems to be that there are very few rules which every can agree with. This makes it hard to feel that ones efforts are not open to criticism or accusations of impropriety.  This fear makes a challenging situation more worrisome for anyone who is trying to do their best under unfamiliar conditions. 

As for others in our organization, it is equally challenging, we likely can all imagine the challenge of being a nurse in a pandemic (we can presume that our assumptions would be underestimating the challenge).  What may escape notice is the challenge others may face -- Elise Foxall, our Academic Director as she works to support the faculty and learning while also keeping our progress on our institutional goals moving forward;  Miki McGee, our Special Education Director, must detangle all the laws surrounding Special Education which were written for different conditions while also supporting families and students who face greater challenges than many others, Laura Geary, our Library and Technology Coordinator,  who has to balance keeping our technology infrastructure operating while teaching teachers innumerable new and unfamiliar tech skills to support learning at a distance and also teaching students how to use these tools to justify and support their ideas; Amanda Perry, our School Secretary, who must balance the requests for assistance from every one of us and maintain her characteristic poise and grace;  Janet Mitchell who, in the midst of all the financial and personnel implications of opening in a pandemic, must also keep the school’s financial responsibilities in order (oh, and we are starting to build next year's budget on Monday); our wellness staff, Rachael Stanton, and Connie Balch, who support students in lives that, despite a pandemic,  continue to be impacted by addiction, divorce, loss, mental health and relational uncertainties;   Doug, Keith and Tony, our B&G staff, nearly all of whom are new to the school in the last two or three months, must figure out how to open the school, clean the spaces and keep it disinfected while also learning where the breaker is to the outlet in room 104 is;  Chef Paul who manages to feed all of us with a smile (despite the fact that two of our refrigerators are currently broken) and make it taste so good that I even order it as take out for my dinner.  At the center of our school are some of the most amazing human beings I have worked with, our educational assistants.  They are the ones who keep our school operating.  Their completion of the plethora of minute critical tasks, however, is not the aspect that I am most grateful for.  It is how they fulfill these tasks --with  joy, flexibility, professionalism, kindness and compassion—  these attributes have earned them my highest praise, admiration and respect. 

The School Board, have had to spend an incredible amount of time weighing facts, hypothetical conditions, priorities and uncertain outcomes.  It has likely placed unexpected strain on all of them in a variety different ways.  It has also placed them in the most uncomfortable position of doing so in a very public setting.  As one who has spent my career in this spotlight, I can attest to the unpleasantness of this fact, there is very little if anything to be envied of anyone who spends any length of time in the public spotlight, so we should appreciate all those that are willing to do so.

Examples like these, as well as even more discrete examples, like Angus and Joseph, two 8th graders, who spent last night assembling wagons for us to use, and the support Sarah Glass and PTO whose contributions have been so instrumental in supporting our school;  Gary Thrasher and his team who set up the tent for our art classes; Chief O’Keefe, Michael Whitman and James Graham who help us every morning as crossing guards so we have staff available to care for our kids,  there are examples of 8 Lyme medical professionals, Doctors and Nurses, volunteering their time to help us remain open while we hire a new nurse, town officials like Margaret Caudill-Slosberg and Mike Hinsley who have stepped up to assist with screening, Dr. Karen Huyck and Dr. Antonia Altomare who have contributed their incredible professional knowledge and expertise to assist us in interpreting the complex and often contradictory medical guidance we receive. 

There are as many of these examples as there are people in our school,  I have likely omitted some very important individuals, to them, I apologize.  The fact that I cannot keep track of all the ways people have stepped up to help us, is an indication of how many there are and how proud we can be of our collective and individual response to the challenges of a pandemic.  So in the end, I can’t help but feel good, even knowing that we are working through challenging situations.

It may not be perfect, but life does not need to be perfect to be wonderful.

Thank you all for your patience and support, especially when it is so challenging,


Jeff Valence
Guy in the Front Office,  The Lyme School 
35 Union Street, Lyme, New Hampshire 03768  |  facebook
Compassion • Integrity • Fairness • Perseverance • Courage• Responsibility • Acceptance of others • Individuality