A Letter from the Headmaster - June 1

Please see our amended statement here.

Dear Commonwealth families,

Were we not confined to our homes I’d be writing today about measures we would be taking to protect our students in the wake of the unrest and destruction that swept through Back Bay late last night after the peaceful demonstrations protesting the killing of George Floyd and the sickening, ongoing incidence of violence against black citizens by police. And we would, as a school community, be taking some time to share thoughts and responses to events of recent days, as we have in the past, so that all of our students could hear how vulnerable some of their classmates feel. (I recall the powerful fear voiced by some of our Muslim students at daily announcements in the wake of the 2016 election.) 

These conversations would help to parse events and to put them in context, enabling students to come to grips with the complexity of forces at play, and so contemplate constructive actions. And they would, I hope, help students steer clear of simplistic responses that are, tragically, the currency of too much of our political discourse. But for most of us, our sequestration means that these incidents come to us through our various screens, often in fragments and shorn of history and context. 

I write this from my office at Commonwealth. I have just walked around the neighborhood and spoken with neighbors and businesspeople, some of whom were awake through the night as helicopters hovered and looters selectively smashed windows up and down Newbury and Boylston Streets. What I learned and saw made clear, as Mayor Walsh and other officials have said, the importance of sifting the very real, long-standing grievances of communities of color in Boston and around the country—highlighted by the disproportionate suffering of those communities during this pandemic—from the opportunistic destruction perpetrated by a small minority of those who came out yesterday. 

I have faith in the ability of the city to respond to these events so as to restore order and safety to Commonwealth’s neighborhood, and to continue to work for greater safety and security for all of Boston’s neighborhoods. The school was founded in the city—at a time when civic safety was considerably more tenuous—so that its students could be exposed to and grapple with real-world issues, and so that it might play some small role in taking on the deeply rooted inequities and injustice that continue to afflict our communities and country. 

Given our relative isolation, we hope that families will be able to help our students think about and process events of recent days, and to consider in what ways they contribute, in the months and years ahead, toward a culture that respects and protects the dignity of all. And for any of our community who might feel that these events are far away and remote from their lives, there are the boarded-up windows of the businesses near our school as a reminder that our fortunes are linked.

Stay safe, and, as you are able, speak up. 

Bill Wharton