Mattie Wheeler's Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Ms. Fisher and Castilleja's Board of Trustees (and whomever else it may concern):

      I realize that you have by now received many letters, phone calls, and e-mails about the recent news regarding Mr. Capron. Although I treasured Mr. Capron as a campus figure and as my drama teacher in Middle School, during my high school years I was not directly involved in the Drama program. Therefore, having read the eloquent statements of many of my peers, I will not presume to offer you further reasons that I believe Mr. Capron was an excellent teacher and mentor.

      However, as a recent alum who was very much involved in student leadership at the school (on student government; as editor of several school publications; as a peer advisor; and in other organizations), I wish to voice my concerns about the way in which the whole affair was conducted, and to explain why it was drastically affected my impression of the school. I was shocked to hear about Mr. Capron's abrupt departure and the subsequent lack of information disseminated to students, parents, and alums. To small schools like Castilleja that count on active participation and donation of time and money from those connected with it, fostering a sense of community is crucial. As a student whose sister still attends Castilleja and whose parent was active in many ways in the school community (as CSA President and in other roles), I have always felt a close connection to the school and its administration. I admired administrators like Cissy Lewis and Joan Lonergan, and felt extremely close ties to several of my teachers. However, in recent years I have increasingly felt as though my understanding of Castilleja is different from its growing reality.

      It is my understanding at this point that Mr. Capron was asked to leave due to an incident in a class that involved an R-rated movie. Although from what I understand students had the opportunity not to watch the movie, I do not believe that the specifics of the situation are relevant in this case. From what I know, there is a specific time of year in which teachers' contracts are renewed, or not renewed. Unless Mr. Capron had committed a dangerous crime, I feel as though the proper procedure for asking a teacher not to return the following year should have been followed. As a loyal and integral part of the Castilleja community (at least in the eyes of students), Mr. Capron should at least have been offered the respect of a quiet dismissal. Instead, the administration fired him abruptly and then went into lockdown mode about the whole situation. Not only does this make the administration of the school look cowardly, but it also establishes dangerous distance between the administration and the rest of the community.

      Therefore I seriously question the leadership evident in the school right now. If Castilleja's administration cannot handle this issue effectively and frankly, in a mature manner, I do not have confidence in its ability to continue to grow and improve the school. We all know that to remain one of the top schools in the area, state and nation, Castilleja cannot and must not simply coast on its reputation thus far, which has already been sullied by this incident. The school must continue to innovate while maintaining the quality of a classical education that I truly appreciated about the school and that makes having attended Castilleja something of which I am proud.

      In conclusion: I am aware that the decision of hiring and removing faculty members is not the domain of the Board of Trustees. However, the issue of leadership is under the Board's jurisdiction. When the Board decided to search from within the school community for the future of the school, I trusted that they had done their research and found the best possible candidate for the job. However, the example of leadership shown this year is deeply disturbing to me as an alum. I feel that in this situation the Board can and must regulate the school's leadership because the reputation of Castilleja School is at stake. An incident like this, if not dealt with maturely and swiftly, can cause deep and irreconcilable divides in a school's community. Castilleja, at this crucial point during a national economic downturn and with a change of leadership in the works, simply cannot afford to cause such divides.

      Thank you for your time. I trust that you are in the process of coming up with an answer to all of our questions and concerns.

I remain yours respectfully,
Mattie Wheeler
Yale University '13

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