OPINION: 50 years later, Urban School core values continue to carry school community

Zoe Meneghetti, Editor-In-Chief of News

The 2016-2017 school year marks lots of change for The Urban School. This includes the creation of The Salkind Center and a new job title. However, despite these grand changes, The Urban School has been able to stay true to its original values. “Learning is an active, joyful process of discovery…” begins the first of the seven core values of The Urban School. While creating and identifying Urban’s most important values, Urban parents, teachers, and students asked themselves, “‘What do we believe in for a student body in terms of how we want to treat each other beyond the handbook?’” said Dean of Student Life, Charlotte Worsley. Ever since The Urban School was founded in 1966, “the actual substance of the core values haven’t changed” she continued. After 50 years of these values, how do they manifest themselves within the modern Urban?

The most obvious of Urban’s changes this year can be seen by simply walking around the block. In the 2016-2017 school year, Urban  completed the Mark Salkind Center on Oak Street, complete with all-new classrooms, faculty office spaces, student space, and a gym. According to Urban Dean of Equity and Inclusion, Clarke Weatherspoon, “the new building is an expression of the core values.”

According to Weatherspoon, the new building “provide(s) new spaces and abilities” that Urban did not have before. In between classes, lunch breaks, and after school, students are seen running around and playing basketball in the new tournament style gym. Though at first glance a group of students playing basketball may seem routine or insignificant, the atmosphere of new gym in between and after school hours adds to the “trust, honesty and mutual respect among students and teachers,” which is the third of Urban’s core values.

The new gym “has been a way for me to interact with upperclassmen. As a freshman, it’s been a fun way for me get to know the school and to feel more comfortable as a freshman. The old gym wasn’t connected to the school as much, but this gym is right in the middle. I always know that there will be people playing,” said Nathan Storey (‘20).

Along with the new gym, the Salkind Center has allowed for the creation of the UrbanX Labs on the Page Street campus. According to The Urban School of San Francisco’s website, “UrbanX Labs is Urban School’s integrated and interdisciplinary approach to the design, technology and engineering educational needs of the 21st century.” UrbanX Labs bridges the science, math and art departments. Though the new UrbanX Lab is not inside of the Salkind Center, the addition of new classrooms allowed Urban to dedicate a room to industrial science classes. The new building has given “a new space, which helps us facilitate the type of learning we’ve been doing for decades here. UrbanX Labs gives students a place to discover” said Bethany Hellerich, UrbanX Labs teacher and coordinator.

UrbanX Labs embodies Urban’s core values, specifically the school’s commitment “to reflection, evaluation, evolution, and innovation as means to improve teaching and learning.” The creation of UrbanX Labs, according to Weatherspoon, has given Urban students “more room to explore.”

Lastly, another change that Urban went through this year was the introduction of new job titles. Formally the 9th/10th Grade Dean, Weatherspoon is now the Dean of Equity and Inclusion. According to the Urban website, “diversity and inclusion and access [have] been critical values at the Urban School” since 1996. Weatherspoon said that his new job “attends to what the school [Urban] wants.” Weatherspoon said his new job “is a continuation of the work (of) Charlotte Worsley, Ken Garcia-Gonzales (former Dean of Students, Multicultural Programs at the Urban School), Stephen Thomas (former Urban Art teacher)” and others. The creation of the Dean of Equity and Inclusion speaks mainly to Urban’s third core value: “We honor the uniqueness of each individual and embrace diverse backgrounds, values and points of view to build a strong, inclusive community and to prepare students for lives in a multicultural society.”

For the past 50 years, Urban has held the same fundamental values. When asked if these values will ever change, Weatherspoon said “I don’t think so. One of the beautiful aspects of being an institution is reimagining how the values are expressed.” As Urban continues to evolve, we will continue to mold ourselves around the core values upon which the school was built.