Head of School Lee Hark Reflects on a Year in COVID-19

Evergreen Online: How are you holding up? I know this year has been crazy. So personally, how are you dealing with all of it?

Hark: That’s a fascinating thing to be asked because it’s not typically what I get asked. So, thank you for asking. I think everyone sort of wears down toward the end of the year and that’s normal. But this has been an incredibly successful year for Greenhill. Despite the significant challenges we’ve faced, we drafted and passed a strategic plan that charts the course of the school in a couple of really exciting ways. We’ve launched a campaign to build a new science and innovation center and to add to our athletic facilities as well. So the fact that we’ve been able to do that, in the midst of this pandemic, it’s pretty awesome. I get a lot of energy from that.

Evergreen Online: Can you paint us a picture of what school would look like next year in your eyes? What are you looking forward to?

Hark: I think the biggest thing is, certainly from the perspective of an upper school student, rolling back a lot of the restrictions that impede your movement with each other.  For example, the way you spend time with each other on campus, and always have faculty monitor you. It really depends on where we are with the vaccine for the most part, also the condition of COVID in America when school starts again. Everybody’s hope is to get back to doing what we do best, which is being together.

Evergreen Online: Would you require students to get vaccinated?

Hark: My first answer to that question is no, I don’t think we will require the vaccine, certainly not for the coming school year because it’s not a part of the Texas schedule of vaccinations. It hasn’t been folded into that set of vaccinations that everybody has to have to come back to school. The bulk of our students aren’t eligible. it makes no sense to require the vaccine at this point. So I think we’re a ways away from that.

Evergreen Online: This year has been hard for all faculty. Is there anything that’s happening at the end of the year to kind of celebrate getting through all this?

Hark: Every year, we have this event called the Celebrating Teaching Dinner. It’s an opportunity for all the employees to come together. It’s a celebration of the work that we’ve done this year, I think this year, it will be especially important, and we were worried that we weren’t going to be able to have it. We’ve waited to have it until after graduation. So we really want to get through graduation, get everybody safely through. They need to hear from me, thank you for everything they’ve done. Thank them for it. Here we have a series of things that we do to acknowledge and reward faculty at the end of the year.

Evergreen Online: Looking inward upon Greenhill. In your opinion, what is the area of the school that you think has maybe struggled the most during COVID? And what are you excited about when we get out of COVID?

Hark: Not to diminish the difficult student experience, but I think it’s the faculty. It’s just been a very, very difficult year for them. A lot has been asked of them multiple times over the course of the year, and they’ve really risen to the occasion, and they need a break. It feels really essential.

Evergreen Online: What has been your favorite part of this year?

Hark: I think that my favorite thing is the one thing that I continue to point to is just the unbelievable perseverance of this community. To really push through a difficult time and to think about the school’s future and not simply like what’s right here. That was pretty great.