Roots and Wings
The Deerfield Parents Network builds partnerships among Deerfield parents.
Even a decade ago, parents’ roles at Deerfield were more reserved. But with changing technology, instant communication, and high expectations for top prep schools, parents have become a bit more . . . ahem . . . hovering. But rather than dismiss parents, Deerfield has sought to partner with them. With input and leadership from faculty and parents, the Deerfield Parents Network (DPN) blossomed this fall as a venue for parents to connect, address school values, create a unified front around issues such as off-campus drinking, and offer advice and wisdom to incoming families.
In September the DPN published its first newsletter, The Link, full of tips and guidance for parents from parents, including “A Primer for Parents: Ten Things We Wish We Knew After Drop-off Day.” To further help parents connect with each other, the DPN also created the “First Link” program.
Just as Deerfield’s longtime Green Key program matches older students with new students on the first day of school, First Link does the same with new parents and established parents. One on one and person to person, First Link helps to answer those nagging questions that might seem silly but lead to worry nevertheless: No, not everyone is wearing designer clothes, and yes, students will have help moving in—so there’s no need to bring hired movers.
“When your child is accepted at Deerfield, it’s very comforting to get a phone call [from another parent] and hear, ‘We’re so glad you’re coming and do you have any questions?’” said parent Katy Flato, who edits The Link newsletter.
Overall, the DPN’s most important function is to help impart the values of the school to incoming families and to offer advice that establishes a sense of equality among all students. “This advice might include not bringing in designer furniture to your child’s dorm, or talking about what it means to serve kids alcohol, or not having extravagant meals at the Deerfield Inn,” Dean of Students Toby Emerson commented.
Four-time Deerfield parent Linda Whitton is passionate about the impact the DPN can have on creating a more inclusive Deerfield community and building bridges between families from diverse backgrounds.
“We need to make sure that if you’re a family that grew up in a boarding school environment and this is all very comfortable for you, you’re also aware that that’s not the case for everyone at Deerfield,” Whitton said. “We need to make sure that we’re all welcoming and inclusive because that’s the kind of behavior we want to model for our children, and it’s also the right thing to do for the families at Deerfield.”
“Most parents love Deerfield,” Whitton continued. “In the past there haven’t been a lot of ways for parents to give back to Deerfield and really get involved . . . the DPN is a chance for them, no matter what their background, no matter where they come from, to help shape the best Deerfield and to shape the best experience for their children.”