Dasha Klebaner's Letter to the Board of Trustees

To Karen Fisher and the Castilleja Board of Trustees:

      Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the board for sustaining a school that has provided me with the most rewarding education a young woman can receive. Castilleja, you have truly given me unparalleled opportunities. I was able to go on an unforgettable trip to India my junior year—the best experience I have ever had abroad. I was able to sit in the presence of such individuals as Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, Mohammed Yunus, and Jill Bolte Taylor, whom I was given the utmost privilege of introducing. I've been blessed with the most unique and innovative set of classes and electives that I can imagine. I have been surrounded by brilliant educators, and even more importantly, students, who have motivated me to spread my existence into as many corners of this world as possible. I have been given all this, and I can't even begin to thank you enough.

      However, these unmatched academic experiences pale in comparison to one thing—the growth that I have experienced in every part of my being under the mentorship of Bear Capron. You can add as many global trips and seminars to the curriculum as you want, invite as many renowned speakers as you possibly can—nothing has fostered my development into a confident young woman as much as the guidance of Bear Capron.

      Walking into the theatre for an afternoon rehearsal after a day of classes feels like coming back to yourself. In the presence of Bear Capron, you find your own passion, your own soul. Each of your limbs, your movements, your lines, your sounds—they all suddenly belong to you. You have returned to your home. Bear Capron taught me how to find my presence, both on the stage, and in my own life. He sat with me and showed me how to know myself through the characters I portrayed. He was there when I cried over silly boy problems, and he was there when I cried because my mother had become ill. He was there to understand me when other teachers brushed me off as a rebel, or a "spaz." He was there to bring me back to myself when I had lost my sense of identity. He was there on the global trips India to enhance the educational experience of traveling abroad. He was there as my advisor to treat me as an equal, as a friend, but simultaneously to impart upon me his unwavering wisdom. When my political views were attacked by most of Castilleja campus (including teachers), he was there to support me in voicing my opinion—even though he disagreed with it. He was there to help me make my college decisions. He was there to repair my friendships. He was there to have coffee the day before I left for college, allowing me to depart with only my most cherished memories of home in mind. Give me another example of one teacher who has done a fraction of this for any of his/her students.

      We alums have all heard the rumors, regardless of the lack of information distributed to us. We are aware of the apparent reason for Bear Capron's dismissal. Many students have written to you regarding this—I have seen nudity in films in at least half of my Castilleja high school classes, and I know that Cashback utilizes nudity for an artistic purpose, not one that is provocative or inappropriate. Castilleja tried to do away with Bear Capron during Lysistrata, and now again, for simply showing students a different perspective—one that is not harmful, and moreover, one that they should not be hidden from. How is it that we are encouraged to watch historical movies about war and violence, but punished for viewing humanity in a way that is arresting, peaceful, and beautiful? In the past few weeks, students have gone home sick because they are at a loss for what to do without their Uncle Bear. Girls in the play have called me in complete distress because their most valuable educator, mentor, and friend has disappeared with little or no explanation.>/p>

      Castilleja, it is not too late to undo what has been done. If the administration upholds this decision and its supposed underlying reasons, Castilleja will be remembered by its alums, faculty, and students as a school which rejected emotional and intellectual growth. It will be a school which is remembered for instilling in its students a great talent for Calculus and English Grammar. It will not be remembered for all that I once valued from it—the unique ability of teachers like Bear Capron, who were able to know and separate each student as an individual, and to encourage, rather than hide from us, our ability to question the status quo; teachers like Bear Capron, who allowed us to grow into powerful young women who would be capable of truly knowing themselves and knowing the world.

      The administration surely believes that it "knows best" when it comes to the students at Castilleja, much as parents may think about their own children. However, Castilleja must come to grips with the fact that we aren't children. With the education we receive and the values of integrity that are instilled in us, we often know what's best for ourselves. In the past few years, Castilleja has made several abrupt decisions without involving any semblance of student input. How was the administration supposed to know the importance of Latin in the lives of the students when not even ASB was consulted in the decision-making? During my college selection process, one of my top choices was Haverford College because there were at least two students on every single administrative, decision-making council at the college. You can argue that this is because it's college—the students must be more intelligent, mature, and equipped to make decisions. I can tell you right now that I am in college, and the girls with whom I spent my Castilleja years were more than equipped to aid in making the decisions that influence their own lives.

      I greatly appreciate your time in considering what we alums have to say. Please reconsider your decision regarding the dismissal of Bear Capron. Please consider returning to Castilleja the most incredible man I have had the joy to learn from and to call my friend. Please consider returning to Castilleja its very soul.

Dasha Klebaner
Class of 2009

Dasha Klebaner's Second Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Ms. Fisher,

      I already sent you a letter expressing how valuable Bear Capron is to the Castilleja campus. I am writing now concerning ideas that encompass more than just one brilliant educator and mentor.

      In the past few years, most students, alums, and teachers will agree that Castilleja has taken a turn for the worse. Ms. Lewis, one of the most exemplary teachers Casti has seen, left her job as an administrator, I assume for a reason. Stars such as Ms. Barker and Ms. Pietrzyk have retired or are retiring. Brilliant instructors that I cannot name for fear of endangering their jobs are considering leaving Castilleja in light of recent developments. All I can say is that Castilleja would be extremely sorry to lose them. Now Mr. Capron is gone, and his absence and lack of any contact with students has yet to be explained.

      I visited Castilleja a few days ago. It's not just the students, Ms. Fisher. Faculty are terrified of their head of school. They are afraid to speak up, and they are second guessing every one of their teaching decisions over the past few years, wondering "Would that have gotten me fired if a parent complained?" Teachers don't understand why their attempts at even talking over the current situation have been thwarted. This doesn't sound like a prized institution to me. It sounds somewhat like a totalitarian regime.

      We are losing everything that made Castilleja the unique, progressive, innovative institution that it is—or was. The school is at a crossroads right now. If it goes through with letting Bear Capron go, it will have chosen a path towards mediocrity, a lack of integrity, and backwardness. Please think this over and grant Bear the due process he deserves.

Thank you,
Dasha Klebaner
Class of 2009

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