Jeff Palmer's Letter to the Administration

Dear Karen, Joan, and Nanci,

      I am writing as a concerned friend of Castilleja (father of Mel '09), adding to the chorus of letters, emails, and calls I know you are receiving. I write not only out of concern for Bear Capron, but also for the many other constituencies of the school: the students, the alumni, the parents, the faculty and staff, the administration, and the board.

      There is a vacuum of facts around the situation beyond the reality that Bear is no longer on campus and his office has been emptied. In the absence of facts, I am operating on the conventional wisdom that the administration has decided that due to their view of some action Bear took, he is being immediately and involuntarily terminated.

      As a business executive, I have had the unpleasant "honor" of being directly involved with employee terminations over the years, whether for economic reasons, performance, or cause. I appreciate the sensitivity of the situation and understand sharing of information may be restricted, some perhaps forever.

      Regarding Bear, it is hard to imagine what he would do after twenty years of service to lead to this outcome. As you can see from the outpouring of concern from current and former students and their parents, there is a tremendous reservoir of goodwill and a presumption of innocence for Bear. I don't believe any of them arrived at this view casually; rather it is based on the years of amazingly positive interactions students and parents have had with Bear. Both students and parents see "Uncle Bear" as one of the most upbeat and encouraging people on campus, seemingly always willing to help as a friend and in a non-threatening way. It is apparent he is one of the most frequently used faculty for on- or off-the-record advice. He is widely seen as a ready and caring resource for both the students and fellow faculty. This contributes to the strong doubt that he would ever be involved in a situation that would be detrimental to either the girls or the school.

      Given the widespread visibility and concern about this situation across a wide swath of the community, I ask that the board work together with the administration to confirm (i) the offense really happened, (ii) if so, there is some way to resolve the situation that would allow Bear Capron to continue as a member of the faculty in good standing, and (iii) failing the prior option, termination truly is an appropriate remedy. If Bear Capron is terminated, it is apparent both the school and he will lose.

      Let me expand on the last point. As painful as terminations can be to organizations, I've found that terminations for the "right" reasons can improve morale and respect for management. In this case, I am afraid if termination is pursued in the absence of visible and credible evidence of truly egregious conduct by Mr. Capron, morale will be damaged across a wide swath of the Castilleja community, especially among students, alumni, parents, and faculty and staff.

      I do not believe this is good for Joan, occurring as one of the final events in her tenure which has brought many positive returns to the school. "What have you done lately" tends to inform most folks thinking, and I'm afraid terminating Bear during Joan's last year would stain her legacy.

      As it relates to Nanci, the Castilleja community does not know how directly she has been involved in this decision. That said, this situation will reflect on her as well, and is equally unfortunate as Nanci approaches her installation as Castilleja head of school. Not the best way to get started in a new job.

      And for Karen and the board, as custodians of Castilleja's history, present, and future, it will raise questions about oversight.

      Bottom line, I hope some appropriate resolution to the triggering event, short of Bear's termination, can be found to avoid the adverse impact across the school community. I'm not saying there is never a situation which would understandably lead to termination. What I am saying is that if termination of Bear Capron proceeds, I believe there will be a high and unfortunate level of collateral damage. I'd be curious who in the larger Castilleja community "wins" with such an outcome? I don't see how the causes of conscience, courtesy, character, courage, or charity are enhanced.

      My sincere best wishes to those in possession of the truth to somehow put this matter behind the school in the most positive way possible.

Jeff Palmer

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