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2020.04.08 ─ Whew! What a Ride!

April 08, 2020
By Jef Fowler, Head of School

Happy April 8th, Veritas!

These past four weeks have been like reliving the startup of Veritas Academy all over again, with the round-the-clock calls, texts, emails, and now─unlike in 2004─video conference calls and a huge community with which to communicate and coordinate. Frankly, it's been invigorating. Exhausting but invigorating.

By the way, what’s all this Tiger King stuff I keep hearing about in the real world─are some of my fellow Okies giving us a bad name? I wish we’d just keep the crazy in the family instead of documenting it for all the world to see.

VIRTUAL VERITAS

By the end of last week, your survey responses, coupled with lots of conversations and emails received since then, have made it clear that for many of our families the pacing and planned accelerated ramp-up of our online instruction is daunting, even exasperating. Don’t worry. We’re pulling back. Not across the board, but certainly in the grade levels and areas most needed. 

I continue to mean what I said earlier: we’re not going to waste this (hopefully) once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand the delivery or practice of “education” by overwhelming students and parents with academic content and rigor. Besides, the new operating environment in homes simply does not allow that for most of us. I want to see our students continuing to bust it in Math and languages and to do quite a bit of reading─especially the kind that involves reading with parents!─but not be burdened with too much of everything else. 

And I don’t want to see our teachers be even further buried by having to try to replicate or reinvent assessments in such an anomalous environment. Instead of business as usual, let’s focus on the core subjects that are additive/cumulative and then explore alternate means of teaching, conveying, or revealing the goodness, truth, and/or beauty of everything else. Most of all, I want Veritas families coming out of this time stronger and closer─to each other and to God─than they’ve ever been before, learning and experiencing things together. If they return to school depleted, but having covered 90% or more of their originally scheduled content, then Virtual Veritas will have been a failure. And as hard as this time is for everyone, it’s even harder for those of our faculty─a substantial number─who are also Veritas parents trying to simultaneously teach their own kids at home while also teaching ours.

In Senior Leadership, we’ve been discussing crisis management using the metaphor of a captain of a ship in stormy seas. The captain’s second priority is to keep safely on board as many of the people and as much of the cargo as possible. Applied to Veritas, if we eventually arrive in a safe harbor with a fraction of our people but most all of our cargo (academics) on board, then this captain should have been mutinied. Now, I’m not declaring the dead languages to be deadweight and chucked overboard, but I am saying this to parents, the captains of their homes: keep your boats afloat and save your kids (& selves) by casting off what is weighing you down. Caveat: for the School of Rhetoric and all credit bearing classes (those counting toward a Veritas diploma), abide by the instructions of the teachers; but for all others, especially in the School of Logic, exercise your judgement on what you and your kids can handle. Don’t pull back for the sake of ease (depriving your child of the opportunity to overcome adversity), but for necessity. We want you and your kids still on board when we finally make port or calm seas.

All that to say this: we’re scaling back on the ramp-up, particularly in the SL, so hang in there. And for those of you thriving academically, give thanks...seriously...and keep up the good work, then inquire of your teachers for additional work if you have the bandwidth and interest in that area.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Easter

The dreary, wet weather we’re expecting tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday aligns well with their counterparts of Passion Week on the days when Christ partook of His last supper with His followers, agonized in the garden the fate that awaited Him, then endured the crucifixion, foresakement of his Father, and time in the tomb before gloriously arising on Easter morning... when we will be greeted with bright sunshine this year. 

There will be no school work over this holiday weekend, so please families, put forth the effort to plan what could be the most powerful time of reflection, commemoration, and celebration of what our God has done for us. This particular Easter weekend, in isolation with our families, could be more impactful than any we’ve ever experienced. Let’s not allow it to slip by.

Regarding other events…

Defender Dash & Back To Veritas fundraisers

Postponed indefinitely. The school board has decided to forego any attempts at fundraising for the remainder of this school year unless it is for the direct benefit of families who have experienced a severe financial hardship as a result of the economic fallout from the pandemic. Keeping the boat afloat and all of our people on it is our top priority. 

Graduation

Fortunately, this most important of all of our upcoming events is also the last scheduled event of the school year, so we have the benefit of time in making a final call on when, where, and how this will take place. Last week, things weren’t looking too good as the models were predicting the coronavirus peak to hit Austin in early May, but now that forecast (by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) predicts an Austin peak on April 19. 

Like I said previously, we want to have some kind of graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 (aka, the Class of Covid-19) on our campus on or as close as possible to its originally scheduled date of Fri, May 22. And we just might add the year-end cookout to the bill to make such a day a community-wide feast and celebration of our reuniting and of our graduates who have persevered for many years only to have their ending here threatened with an inauspicious absence. Let it not be. 

FINANCIAL

TA / Sibling Discounts

A near-record number of applications for Tuition Assistance was received this year, and that was with a deadline that preceded the recent economic crisis. After now receiving all the recommendations from the third-party which evaluates the financial need of applicants, the Finance Committee is finalizing allocations for Tuition Assistance, as well as sibling discounts (under a new pilot program), and will inform families of their awards next week.

Bridge Fund

With a number of families now experiencing an unexpected and unavoidable financial strain─hopefully, a temporary one─we are forming a Bridge Fund as part of our Tuition Assistance program in order to help returning families bridge their financial gap and remain at Veritas for the coming school year. 

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve called off all fundraising efforts on behalf of the school’s operations this spring to instead make a direct appeal to our community to extend a hand to our brothers and sisters suddenly in distress. This appeal is being made in an effort to keep our community intact for the coming year and anticipated recovery we are praying the Lord will provide. While the majority of us can relate to or are experiencing some sort of financial inconvenience or anxiety, those facing job losses or cutbacks, business closures, and/or other financial hardships need our help. If you are able, please consider giving generously for the benefit of your fellow Veritas families, the families of your kids’ friends. Here are a couple of ideas to consider:

  • The recently passed CARES Act allows a $300 above-the-line charitable donation deduction this year, meaning that a $300 gift to the Veritas Bridge Fund will be deductible from your income taxes this year, even if you do not itemize on your tax return.

    • And for the extremely philanthropic who itemize, the CARES Act also increases the deductible amount of donations from 60% to 100% of adjusted gross income, meaning that an entire year’s income could be donated to Veritas with no taxes owed. (I don’t know who needed to hear that, but you’re welcome. And thank you, in advance!)
  • If you and/or your spouse are still drawing a paycheck or other income and end up receiving federal financial aid (such as a stimulus check) without a pressing financial need, then please consider donating some portion of that to the Bridge Fund, especially if being homebound has also decreased your family’s living expenses for this season.

Federal Assistance

Consistent with our desire to be good stewards of the school’s finances, the school has sought federal funding assistance through one of the programs in the CARES Act targeted at small businesses and nonprofits. Although the rules for the program are still being finalized, it looks very promising that we will receive a loan at 1% annual interest that may be forgivable, potentially up to the full amount of the loan. Still, we are continuing to monitor the evolving rules and regulations governing the use of the loan proceeds and forgivability. What was originally promoted as a no-strings-attached stimulus program may later prove to have strings that could impact the ability to carry out the school’s mission, so we are proceeding cautiously as we learn more about the federal assistance offered to us.

Because the details of the program are not yet fully known, the school board has instructed me to carefully steward any proceeds the school receives strictly according to the terms of the program and to be prepared to pay off the loan─or as much of it as possible─if any subsequently imposed rules inhibit the school’s ability to freely carry out its Christ-centered mission. 

The goal of the stimulus program is to preserve employment during the shutdown ordered in response to the pandemic, so almost all of the loan proceeds must be used for payroll and payroll related expenses. To the extent that we do that and maintain the status of our employees through the crisis, much or all of the loan becomes forgivable via an application process being designed now and to be administered later this summer or fall. 


HOMEWORK FROM THE HOS

Ahh, every Veritasians’ favorite thing: homework. Here it is for all of us aspiring valiants…

GS Students

Imitate James, of the book James And The Giant Peach. Take up Mrs. McWhorter’s challenge to you in this week’s Chapel to be “passionately purposeful, ambitious, adventurous spirits, fully alive and engaged.” As Mrs. McWhorter said, “This week, look for the opportunities for adventure that God sends you.” Watch the Chapel video again for some ideas. And non GS parents, you, too, should watch this video─it’s the sweetest 9 minutes you’ll spend for a while. It might even make you wish that you and your kids were in Grammar School again.

SLR Students

Be useful. Seriously. Make yourself useful to someone, starting with your family─each and every member of your household─this week. Bonus points for taking the initiative to figure out for yourself what you can do right now to add value to your family and then doing it. Remember, in a raging storm at sea, deadweight gets thrown overboard. So don’t let it come to that. And if it does, appeal to mom. (And don’t even think about appealing to your grandparents because most are old-school and would have chucked you overboard long before now.)

Parents

Discuss with each other─your spouses, that is─what you will do, with great intentionality, to make this time between Thursday night and Sunday afternoon the most meaningful observance of Easter that your family has ever experienced. Don’t whiff it. You never know how many chances you’re gonna get.

And with a phrase like “gonna get,” we’ve gone full circle back to Tiger King talk. Signing off. 

Blessed Easter and fare thee well,

-Jef


 

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