SPS Today: Community Conversation

Rector, board president answer alumni questions


The past, present, and future of St. Paul’s School were at the center of a Community Conversation, hosted Saturday of Anniversary Weekend by Rector Mike Hirschfeld ’85 and Board President Archibald Cox, Jr. ’58.

In an hour of question-and-answer format, alumni asked about how the School is managing the lawsuits it faces from graduates alleging past abuses. One alumnus asked Hirschfeld and Cox to talk about how St. Paul’s addresses the accused, former masters who gave their lives to the School, but also crossed the line in their relationships with some of the students in their charge. He suggested the community also “pray for the sinners.” Congratulations were offered for the therapeutic steps the administration has taken to prevent future abuses.

How, alumni asked, does St. Paul’s ensure a kinder, healthier community today and into the future? Hirschfeld spoke extensively on the training of students and faculty that aims to recognize and address red flags – and prevent them – by instilling in the student body through the Living in Community (LINC) program a habit of standing up for the values of the School. SPS, Hirschfeld said, is embracing inclusivity as a School value, including issues of socioeconomic difference, race, and identity so that the classroom experience of all students more closely mirrors the reality of the world in which they live.

Other topics discussed included how St. Paul’s approaches issues of addiction, the current structure of the disciplinary system (zero tolerance for cruelty and unkindness), including consequences and forgiveness in discipline, the estimated financial impact of the pending lawsuits, and the challenges of attracting and retaining a talented and diverse faculty. The zero-tolerance policy for unkindness and boundary crossing extends beyond students to faculty. Hirschfeld stated clearly that “there is no place for adults to use students to fulfill their needs in any way.”

Hirschfeld spoke of the hope that his successor might create a fresh mission statement for St. Paul’s, one that clearly outlines what distinguishes the School from its peers. The outgoing Rector, who will have left his post by the time of publication, received a standing ovation for the leadership and resilience he has shown in his tenure.

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