Letters from the Head of School

For the 2017-18 School Year

06-15-18: Wishing you a Wonderful Summer

Dear Parents,

I returned from my sabbatical, as planned, on June 1, just in time for the traditional year-end celebrations and recognitions of our students and their accomplishments. I am thrilled to have been here to reconnect with families and staff, and happy to see our wonderful students promoted to their next educational adventure, whether it be Middle School, Upper School, or beyond. 

Huge thanks go to the entire Administrative Team, who ably kept everything moving forward while I was gone. My confidence in their leadership allowed me to truly be away for those few months. In particular, Peter Kraft as Acting Head, and Board President Elizabeth Gewecke, filled in very important roles and continued the good strategic and long term work of the school. Peter, in his first year at the school, brought a calm presence and thoughtful leadership to the daily operations of the school. We are so lucky to have him here. 

My sabbatical was all I hoped it would be: I had time away to reflect on my work and the school, time with family and friends to reconnect and deepen connections, and time to travel, read, and engage in the world outside of school. Just as we often challenge our students to do, I thought I should get outside my comfort zone and do something I had never done before, so I attended a week-long silent retreat. We rarely have time alone with just ourselves and our thoughts. It was a powerful experience. 

I explored, created, connected, and committed in my time away. But now I am very happy to be back with the work and colleagues I love. Much moved forward while I was gone and will continue to move forward over the summer.

Of particular note, as we announced at the February State of the School meetings, the OES Board of Trustees approved at its January meeting a capital and endowment campaign to celebrate our upcoming 150th anniversary (in 2019-20) and to continue our long-term commitment to the school’s excellence. The purpose of the campaign is twofold: 1) to realize the next building improvement in our Campus Master Plan by renovating and expanding our gym and indoor athletic facilities, and 2) to secure OES’s future by increasing our endowment through current and planned gifts.

Since the Board approved the campaign in January, a Building Committee has been formed under the leadership of current parent Dan Drinkward ’95. After a comprehensive Request for Proposals process, we have hired Hacker Architects to design the new athletic facility. Hacker has a long history on our campus, most recently with the design of the new Lower School, and we look forward to working with them again. At the same time, a Campaign Cabinet has been formed under the leadership of parents Alicia and Don Morissette. The Campaign Cabinet is already hard at work on our fundraising efforts in support of both the athletics center and endowment. Both of these groups continue their hard work over the summer to move the building project and campaign forward. I know we will have much to share in the fall.

We had another string of great athletic successes this spring, with the boys’ lacrosse and both boys’ and girls’ tennis earning State championships, along with a great showing at States in golf and track. In addition, Middle School students pioneered Project X, their culminating experience building on our Essential Competencies. In the Lower School, students engaged in their own mindfulness work as part of our student wellness focus. This is a small sampling of the magic that goes on in our classrooms, day in and out.

Thank you for investing in an OES education for your children and for playing an important role in all we do on our children’s behalf. I wish you a safe and enjoyable summer.



Mo Copeland
Head of School

05-21-18: Lockout Drill

I wanted to let you know that we will practice our Lockout Emergency Procedure on Tuesday, May 22 at 1:30 p.m. A lockout drill is one in which we simulate a lower-level threat in the vicinity of the school. In these instances, we are not expecting a problem on campus, but out of caution we secure building perimeters (lock outside doors) and get everyone inside. Beyond that, business and activities proceed as normal. 

This drill has long been planned, and normally we would not send a note to our community about such regular safety drills. This is strictly an internal drill for our training purposes and parents will not receive a Honeywell notification. However, given that our nation experienced another school shooting last Friday in Santa Fe, Texas, we felt it was best to inform the community of our plans. We also wanted to give parents and teachers the opportunity to speak with students in advance of the drill if they would like. 

The events in Texas are a reminder of the need for clear safety protocols at schools; they are also a tragic example of the violence that is all too common in American society today. While the Administrative Team considered canceling the drill in light of the Texas shooting, we ultimately decided that it is more important than ever to hold such preparedness activities. Nevertheless, we are sensitive to the timing.

In that light, we also offer as a resource the National Children Traumatic Stress Network for tips on talking with children about crises, including school shootings. The Psychological First Aid Team of our School Emergency Operations Plan follows NCTSN best practices for much of its work. These resources are designed for all manner of disaster, but they do have thoughtful and practical suggestions.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. In the meantime, thanks in advance for your support.

Warm regards,

Peter A. Kraft
Acting Head of School

03-20-18: Student-led Town Hall

Dear OES Community,

In the aftermath of the recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students across the nation are mobilizing to discuss ways to address school violence. As educators and parents, we encourage our students to be informed about critical issues and active in our communities. Further, as a school founded on inquiry, we support our students engaging in discussions of complex issues.

On Wednesday, April 4, students from Portland-area schools, including OES, Lincoln, and Catlin Gabel, are organizing a Community Town Hall meeting with local, state, and federal representatives and their staffs. The event, which is entirely organized and run by students, will be held from 7:00ー9:00 p.m at Portland State University’s Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom. The goal of the Town Hall is to provide a forum for legislators to discuss what is being done to combat school violence. The event will include statements from the various representatives and a structured question and answer session. The student leaders have made it clear that all perspectives are welcomed and everyone's opinion will be respected.

We are proud of local students' involvement in this national dialogue. We are especially pleased that OES students are living out our mission to "use their power for good in local and world communities" and engaging in "open and rigorous inquiry." Nevertheless, as a 501(c)3 (non-profit) organization, it is important to make clear that OES is not endorsing, either implicitly or explicitly, any candidate or office holder, nor are we advocating any specific legislative or legal action.

The students are expecting strong attendance for the event, and we applaud their leadership in organizing and facilitating this important evening. If your own child would like to attend, please make sure they RSVP here so that the student-leaders can plan accordingly.

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know. Until then, enjoy the remainder of your Spring Break.

Warm regards,

03-09-18: OES Plans for March 14

Dear OES Community,
As many of you know, Wednesday, March 14, is an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff across our country to pause and honor all who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It is also a chance for the OES community to demonstrate our common goals of student safety, civic engagement, and peace.
In advance of Wednesday’s events, I want to share with you the plans for each Division, all of which will begin at 10 a.m. and last for approximately 20 minutes:

  • In recognition of the unique needs of our youngest learners, the entire Lower School will hold its weekly gathering at 10 a.m. This “Gathering for Peace” will include songs, reflections, and silence around the simple and hopeful theme of peace.
  • In our Middle School, to honor student choice, there will be several options available at this time: a chance to create art or music in the Middle School Commons, an opportunity to play outside, or Middle School students can gather at the Belltower with the Upper School.
  • Finally, Upper School students are organizing a voluntary event at the Belltower during Gathering. This will include the ringing of our bell to honor and commemorate victims of school violence.
March 14 is an important day for OES students to have their voices heard. I am especially proud that students in the Middle and Upper Schools have taken the lead in using their power for good while also creating a safe and inclusive environment for all. In this way, our students have demonstrated the initiative and leadership that are hallmarks of an OES education.

These are challenging times. But OES is committed to helping our community navigate complex issues. Our Identity Statement is clear: We educate “toward a larger purpose—toward inclusion and respect, understanding and compassion, service and social justice, toward meaning and commitment beyond ourselves.”

Abraham Lincoln famously remarked, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” A great education is in many ways the same: it takes determination, balance, and a commitment to decency and respect. Developing these qualities takes time. But the journey is very much worth it.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Warm Regards,

Peter A. Kraft
Acting Head of School

03-01-18: School Safety and Student Voice

Dear OES Community:

As March begins, I want to remind you that I will be away on sabbatical beginning today and returning June 1. I am looking forward to some rest, meditation, lots of reading, and time with my family back East. In my absence, Associate Head of School Peter Kraft will serve as Acting Head of School. I am grateful for the leadership of Peter and the entire Administrative Team who will guide our school over the next three months. They are a strong and experienced group and we are fortunate to have them.

The recent events in Parkland, Florida, have weighed heavily on our nation and our school. Understandably, the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have led to further discussions about how we can ensure that students at OES are safe, and also how we can best support students, faculty, and staff who want to engage in calls for change. We want to share with you how we plan to proceed as a school.

OES is committed to the safety and security of students, faculty, staff, and visitors on our campus. To support that commitment, we maintain an Emergency Operations Plan modeled on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and we regularly train on incidents ranging from accidents to earthquakes. On Monday, April 2, during our annual Professional Development Day for faculty and staff, we will conduct an active shooter training simulation using best-practice protocols. Our Security Team and key leaders will receive additional training on school security measures over the next several months.

We recognize that many of our students, faculty, and staff are struggling with how to respond to recent events and searching for ways to exercise their power for good. To that end, as many schools around the country are doing, on Wednesday, March 14, at 10 a.m. we will hold a “moment of remembrance” at the Belltower for all victims of school violence. Students in the Middle and Upper Schools are also working with Division Heads to organize additional ways for students who wish to participate. On Friday, April 20, as part of both a nationwide event and the annual Upper School Culture Shock programming that is already planned for that day, Upper School students will lead opt-in sessions that explore ways to curb gun violence.

Our world is diverse and complex, as are the people and points of view within our OES community. At the same time, our mission grounds us in these core values: ensuring the safety of our students; believing deeply that the advancement of knowledge flows from open and rigorous inquiry; and educating our students toward a larger purpose of inclusion and respect, understanding and compassion, service and social justice.

As we work through these difficult issues together, Peter and I thank you for your continued support of OES. We welcome your thoughts and comments. In my absence, Peter is available at kraftp@oes.edu.


Mo Copeland
Head of School

Peter Kraft
Associate Head of School

01-05-18: Welcome Back!

Dear OES Families,

Welcome back! I hope you all had a great winter break with your family and friends. Can you believe we’ve made it this far without a single snow day? Let’s hope we can keep that streak going.

The fall was filled with exciting experiences and opportunities for our students and our community. Each time I visited classrooms, I was amazed at the passion and creativity of our teachers and the enthusiasm our students show for learning. As a community, we immersed ourselves in weekly Gatherings, all-school music concerts, student-directed plays like Macbeth(s), research projects, and a full slate of athletics, including a fourth state soccer championship for our varsity girls. I am so proud to see our students learn by doing and grow by giving their all, in and out of the classroom.

We have some special events coming up in early 2018 I’d like to tell you about. First, our Parent Community Link (PCL) hosts author Amy Morin to share from her new book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do. Known as a dynamic speaker, Morin is a licensed clinical social worker, college psychology instructor, and psychotherapist. Her new book focuses on raising self-assured children and training their brains for a life full of happiness, meaning, and success. Please join us in the OES Chapel for Amy Morin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17. Save your seat at oes.edu/events.

I also hope you will attend our annual State of the School. We are offering two parent sessions: Wednesday, January 31 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, February 1 at 9 a.m. Both gatherings will be held in Fariss Hall. All parents are invited to hear more about our health as a school and some of our plans for the future. Please look for an invitation next week where you can RSVP.

Shrek The Musical, our first all-school production in many years, runs February 28 through March 3. Students from all divisions and teachers in the Visual and Performing Arts department are already entrenched in preparations and rehearsals to bring you six days of great shows in the Great Hall.

Lastly, mark your calendars for our 32nd annual Auction. Co-chaired by parents Diane Engelhard Jones and Sandra Cost, this year’s theme is Aardy’s Enchanted Auction. I hope you’ll be among the masqueraders and wood sprites who celebrate and support the OES community on March 10 at Pure Space in NW Portland.

I will be away on sabbatical from March through May. This is my first time away since I began my role as Head in September of 2011. I am planning a wide range of activities as well as time to research and reflect on issues and ideas related to OES. My stack of books and articles to read grows by the day! Associate Head of School Peter Kraft will serve as acting head until I return and I am confident the school will function in its usual rhythm.

I am grateful to all of you for your support of OES as a school home for your student. It is my sincere hope that every student feels challenged, cared for, and encouraged during their years with us. It is an honor to be part of this community of learners, thinkers, and leaders. As always, please reach out with any questions or feedback.


Mo Copeland
Head of School

10-10-17: Honoring Our Diverse Community

Dear OES Community,

Fall is most definitely here. The mornings are cool and dark, and although the sun still warmed us on Homecoming evening, it chilled down quickly as the boys took to the field. Homecoming is a heartening event—bringing our community together to celebrate the opening of school, our championship sports teams, and our abiding connection to this extraordinary school. My sincere thanks to Homecoming Chair, Frances Phillips, and the countless parents, volunteers, and staff who worked hard to make it a memorable event for all of us.

In recent months, our country has experienced a widening political divide, unprecedented violence, and more than our share of natural disasters. People are more outspoken than ever about where they stand on the issues of the day. The instantaneous ways to disseminate news and share our opinions make our differences more obvious than ever as they are fast and easy to communicate. In this environment, it is particularly powerful to see our students engaging in the challenging and potent issues of our world. Our students, like all of us, are trying to figure out a complex world and seeking clear values and principles in which to ground their understanding.

In challenging moments in the world and at our school, I continually return to OES’s mission, vision, and value statements:

Our School philosophy matters: Grounded in the belief that the advancement of knowledge flows from open and rigorous inquiry, we cultivate the life of the mind and the whole person by connecting questions with exploration and discovery, theories with scrutiny, expression with art, and self with subject.

We are deeply committed to inquiry. Through our Episcopal tradition, we are equally committed to inclusion, and to hearing all voices. This is how we learn and grow. This is what creates a vibrant school setting. This is what we plan for, foster, and encourage in a place that strives to be open to all points of view and to honor the differences among us.

Welcoming new ways of looking at the world is built-in at OES—it’s inherent in our inquiry-based teaching model. We ask questions and we observe. Noticing and respecting how others see the world is a natural byproduct of being in community with people from ages four to 70-something who possess different viewpoints and come from all corners of the world.

We all benefit, and we all grow, by engaging with our diverse community.

Our Vision: Connecting people, ideas, and cultures to advance knowledge, create solutions, and enhance meaning.

The diversity we treasure is also represented in our faculty and staff, within our family population, and among our alumni network. At OES, we believe we all have something to learn from each other and work to build a community of openness, tolerance, and respect.

As a school, we challenge ourselves to be open to the ideas of friends, families, teachers, politicians, and anyone with whom we come into contact. We teach our students to respect the opinions of others—whether or not they agree— while also thinking critically so that they can create their own path and ultimately find their power for good in the world and share it with others.

This path is different for everyone and we may not all reach the same conclusions. But if we respect each other along the way, we believe we can create an intentional, thoughtful, and interesting community right here on our own campus. There have been some recent exceptional examples of students standing up for what they care about—the Volleyball team supporting a teammate potentially affected by the travel ban, and students at the Homecoming dance confronting inappropriate language, as examples. I applaud and appreciate whenever I hear stories of students making their values widely known among their peers.

My goal over the next few months is to continue to explore ways in which we can have difficult conversations as a community, to engage and learn from one another. For example, as a faculty and staff, we read Renée Watson’s compelling young adult novel, Piecing Me Together over the summer. Our Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement, Dori King, then led us through an engaging exercise to explore our own identity and understand each other better. And just this week, our Upper School is beginning opt-in conversations on challenging topics between students and teachers. This is the power of the arts, academics, and the overall school environment. As we continue this exploration, true to our Episcopal tradition, I urge us to listen and be open to the differences around us. I also welcome your feedback on this difficult and important process. We take this path together, not knowing the obstacles and joys that await us along the way.


Mo Copeland
Head of School

08-16-17: Parent Welcome Letter

Dear OES Families,

Welcome to the 2017-18 school year! After a beautiful Portland summer, and some time away, we are excited to have teachers, students and families returning to campus to engage in our ongoing programs.

A new year brings new faces, and I am delighted to welcome Associate Head of School Peter Kraft and Upper School Head Asha Appel to our community. As Associate Head, Peter will oversee all aspects of the OES program—including academics, athletics, dormitories, and spiritual life. Peter comes to us from Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, where he previously served as Associate Head and Interim Head of School. He, his wife Kim, a Physical Therapist, and daughter Gabby—a new 7th grader at OES—relocated to Portland in early June, which enabled Peter to attend graduation and our end-of-year meetings.

Our new Upper School Head, Asha Appel, previously worked as Director of Teaching and Learning at Kingswood Oxford School in Connecticut. She and her family also made the big move west in June and have settled quite close to school. Her husband, Nick, works in medical administration; their sons, Milo—a new 10th grader, and Kai—a new 8th grader—will both attend OES.

The Division Heads have been working all summer with Peter on our next steps in designing program around inquiry-based learning and our Essential Competencies. As you know, this has been a multi-year endeavor—first, framing the competencies, then evaluating and reviewing them. This summer Peter and the Division Heads have begun the process of integrating them even more fully into our curricular and co-curricular programs.

This work has been energized by the remodel of the former Lower School building, which previously housed the library and classrooms for grades 3 through 5. We have reconfigured the building to accommodate urgent needs in several areas, including athletics, which will get new offices, meeting spaces, and a spacious and airy fitness center adjacent to the trainer’s facility.

In addition, Associate Head Peter Kraft’s office, as well as that for our Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement, Dori King, and Director of Extensions Kati Stenstrom, will be housed in the renovated Lower School.

Perhaps most excitingly, the renovation of the former Lower School has afforded us the opportunity to turn a number of classrooms into what we are tentatively calling the EC3 Design Center (EC3 stands for the Essential Competencies—Explore; Create; Connect; Commit): a maker space that will be available to all classes and teachers on campus, beginning in the 2018-19 academic year. The design of this space is ongoing, with this year’s task to gather input from teachers, tech personnel, students and others to help us determine the best way to coordinate, schedule, lay out, staff and furnish this creative working space.

The building as a whole has been named “Fariss Hall,” in honor of our long term headmistress, Gertrude Fariss, who oversaw the move to this campus from downtown over 50 years ago. The opening of the Lower School last year, and the addition of Fariss Hall this year, are a visible commitment to our inquiry-based program. Both buildings have been designed to encourage exploration, discovery, connection and commitment.

Many of you will remember that I postponed my planned sabbatical last year when my parents’ health began to decline and our former associate head moved to a new school. This year, however, with three excellent Division Heads and an experienced Associate Head, I fully intend to be on sabbatical during the months of March, April and May. I will be here through State of the School presentations in February, and back for the end of year commencement activities. The goal of my Sabbatical will be to step away from the daily work of running the school in order to pause, reflect and re-engage as we approach our sesquicentennial, which will be celebrated in 2019-20. The focus of my reading while I am away will be driven by our strategic plan, focusing particularly on the area of inclusion, civil discourse and diversity of thought; curricular innovation, and the future of education itself. This time away will prepare me to steward OES for the big shifts that are facing independent education—including reconfiguring schedule and calendar, using new tools including technology to incorporate more research and inquiry and to individualize learning, and looking carefully at our financial model to ensure we are sustainable over the next 150 years.

I look forward to seeing all of you at the Bell Tower on September 6th. Enjoy the warm weather, read some good books and get outside into the beautiful northwest.


Mo Copeland
Head of School