Katie Isenberg's Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Ms. Fisher and members of the Board of Trustees:

      I graduated from Castilleja in 1993. I'm writing because I've learned that Bear Capron, one of my most influential, beloved mentors from Castilleja, has been removed from campus, without a clear explanation. This news concerns me, because I believe that a Castilleja education is only as good as its faculty, and the school's integrity is only as sound as its relationship with its community, including alumnae. Without Bear, students will be deprived of a unique, seasoned, deeply nurturing teacher and mentor. Without open communication about what led to Bear's removal--including an objective review and perhaps a reversal of that decision--concerned alumnae may feel, at best, disconnected from the school, and, at worst, disaffected. I believe this situation provides an opportunity and a responsibility to uphold Castilleja's stated values in how it treats both Bear Capron and its extended community. Handling this situation with integrity, straightforwardness, and respect is the right thing to do, and it will give concerned alumnae all the more reason to support the school going forward.

      Even among Castilleja's excellent faculty, Bear Capron stands out. He approaches young people's education wholistically, with an eye to both their intellectual and their emotional growth. Bear taught me in drama classes from eighth grade through senior year, and he directed me in school plays and musicals throughout that time. He often cast me in roles that were just beyond my comfort zone--perhaps they required a little more dancing, or more lines memorized, or getting inside the mind of a character who stretched my empathy. Time and again, Bear met my self-doubt on the brink of such challenges with not just confidence that I could rise to the occasion, but with sheer excitement about the growth ahead for me. This wholehearted enthusiasm for what Castilleja students can achieve, and joy when they do so, is part of what makes Bear such an inspiring leader for Castilleja women. It is never about Bear; it is always about the students and their development into poised young women who can deliver a speech, dance a dance, appreciate a playwright's words, or empathize that much more with their fellow-human beings.

      Empathy is a hallmark of Bear's deep gifts as a mentor. When I was trying to decide among colleges I had been accepted to, Bear sat down with me and listened to all of the factors I was struggling with. He never tried to influence me with his opinion. He just tried to help me hear myself more clearly, by listening carefully and treating my choice with the utmost seriousness. That kind of careful listening and attending to a young person's soul is a precious gift. When a person has given that gift so generously to so many young souls for twenty years, in my opinion, he has more than earned a careful and empathic hearing. If the school's administration is disinclined to give him one, the Board of Trustees should insist upon one.

      Losing Bear from Castilleja would be sad under any circumstances. Losing him for an unjust reason would be shameful. I would ask the administration to make a full, straightforward explanation to the Castilleja community, both on campus and off. I would urge an open evaluation, and the courage to change the outcome if it was a mistake. I hope that the school's leadership demonstrates those five C's we as students learned to emulate. The alums know that Castilleja's most seasoned, beloved, long-respected teachers--of whom Bear Capron is certainly one--continue to lead with those C's. Please show us that the leadership of the school is committed to their efforts, and to those values.

Katie Isenberg
Castilleja '93

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