FAREWELL FROM VINCE DURNAN:
Dear Island School ʻOhana,
Such a gift this year has been. You could easily be forgiven for not even knowing I had parachuted in last summer to pitch in for this single voyage through the academic calendar, culminating in the graduation of the remarkable seniors showcased in the pages of this publication. There’s every chance that you may not remember me, but I surely, surely will remember you. The newness and the differentness of it all guarantees that these recollections will stick.
At the top of the to-do list on arrival was finding a talented, engaging, receptive next head of school to carry the baton here. It would be hard to imagine anyone more perfect for that combination of challenge and opportunity than Nancy Nagramada. Where I lived in the moment, she will be looking to the horizon. Where I worked around the edges of things, she will get to the heart of what matters. Where I tried to microwave a few ideas, she’ll be able to marinate and stew the next big projects—all with your considerable help. Hers is the chance to know this school community, from Hāʻena to Kekaha, the way it deserves to be known. Time will be her ally, and Island School’s ally, if you let that happen.
What happens here is unlike anything that my wanderings in the world of schools have yet shown me. Maybe in part because we lack any colleagues on island in a similar situation, much of what we do and how we do it is filtered through examples from far away, in both time and distance. What results is our own answer to doing school. My guess is that with Nancy’s landing Island School may more actively search out our educational cousins in other settings, that we’ll do more of what the rest of the world has started calling benchmarking.
If we went in that direction, we’d likely discover a few essential truths. Island School stretches a budgeted dollar further than almost anyone, and we budget more of those dollars for need-based aid than others would ever imagine possible, and we bring together a community of people from an amazing range of backgrounds and mindsets to somehow agree on enough to make this place possible. To do all three of those things simultaneously stands as even more amazing. I would defy even the most capable school hotshots to replicate what we already have.
And then it would be time to think about what we will do next, having reached this particular shore—where do the Voyagers go from here? Our campus, for all the right reasons, is maxed out, as we saw on May Day, with every square foot occupied. We’re bringing on essential classroom space with the David Pratt building you’ll read about in the pages that follow, but we’re strapped every day at lunch for places to sit down. And we feel the local housing crunch acutely every time we offer a faculty position, not to mention the strain that the general cost of living puts on our modest wages and salaries.
Fortunately for us, if we decide to solve these riddles, we’re doing so from a position of strength. You cannot convince me that Island School does not have the people and the resources to figure this out, to find a way to make this part of paradise an educational oasis. As I’ve said to the dedicated, idealistic, risk-tolerant founders who got us started, we just need to commit to something that’s as hard as what they did.
Let me sign off with a question. Having developed a huge feeling of aloha for this remarkable school, I wonder about our theory of change, about the what, the how, and the when, not to mention the why, of the right next steps here. May you find the way forward together, understanding the power of this time in the school’s history, rooted in our singular past and leaning toward the future.
With so much gratitude for your kindness,
Interim Head of School 2022-2023