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The Magazine of Charlotte Latin School
Director of Academic Transition and Student Success
Isa has the experience, education, and drive to make a difference in students’ lives. That’s crucial to the success of this exciting new program. We want all students at Latin to feel like this is their home, that they are seen and appreciated for who they are, and that they belong here. I look forward to working with him on this important initiative that is part of Latin Leads, our strategic plan.
– Chuck Baldecchi, Head of School
Have you met Isa Stokes? He’s new to Latin this year and our first Director of Academic Transition and Student Success. His job is working with students new to Latin and new to independent schools to ensure their transition to life at Latin is positive and successful. He also works with students new to Latin from other independent schools whose curriculum doesn’t exactly align with Latin’s. These students may need additional support in an academic area or social/emotional learning assistance. He covers it all, closely working with students—with even daily touchpoints—to ensure they get the comprehensive support they need to thrive here.
To understand Stokes’ passionate commitment to education, you must know his history. He grew up in inner-city Baltimore; he’s the first in his family to graduate from college, and he’s a committed lifelong learner currently working towards a Master’s degree in
Talent & Organizational Development at the McColl School of Business at Queens University. As a youth, Stokes was selected to participate in a program for students to attend an independent school for high school—which led him to The Asheville School, a boarding school for grades 9–12 in Asheville, NC. The experience was life-changing. He saw first-hand the transformative potential of education, establishing a lifelong commitment to using his education for the betterment of others.
Stokes is Latin’s founding Director of Academic Transition and Student Success. As such, he is charged with designing a program structure to best support the successful transition and retention of students and their families. The structure must also support the many issues affecting comprehensive student well-being. Currently, he works with 22 students, meeting with them frequently, even daily. “I think of myself as a bridge
between Latin, the students with whom I work, and their parents. I’m here to make the transition easier,” said Stokes. “Working with parents to continue the support at home is an important part of the process.”
How students are supported is wide-ranging and may include working on executive functioning skills, pacing, academic coaching, emotional support, and a bridge summer program in the future. “We work at a fast pace here at Latin,” said Stokes. “Many incoming students are not prepared for the pace.”
Students who aren’t new or in transition have also benefited from this new program, because, as he points out, “As a community we all are in transition, and the social emotional support is beneficial to all.”
A tool Stokes introduced is the Legend Planner (available on Amazon). Students use this to organize their Latin lives, set personal goals, articulate their
dreams, focus energy on what’s most important, and achieve balance in their lives. The Legend Planner has been so successful that other areas of the school are introducing it to their students.
The highly collaborative position entails working with school leadership, colleagues, students, and their families to organize and implement missionaligned initiatives. Key internal partnerships include the Academic Leadership Team, Deans of Students, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As Stokes says, “Access alone is not enough. This work is an important part of Latin’s strategic plan. I’m grateful for the assistance and support of the many who work with me to ensure all of our students feel a sense of belonging at our amazing school.”
Read more about Isa Stokes
Latin Leads Update
By Dr. Sonja Taylor, Assistant Head for Academic Affairs
Following the January 2023 launch of the Latin Leads strategic plan, the immediate focus has been on Goals 1, 3, and 4, with the formation of three task forces addressing the Portrait of a Latin Leader (Goal 1), Community Wellness (Goal 3), and Purpose and Belonging (Goal 4). Work on
will begin in the 2023–2024 school year. Work on
begins this spring.
Progress on Specific Goals
Portrait of a Latin Leader
The Portrait of a Latin Leader (PLL) Task Force was organized in November 2022. (Leadership + Design is a consulting partner to complete this work.) The task force comprises faculty, staff, and administrators. The group held its initial meeting in December 2022, which introduced model portraits and allowed for reflection on the meaning of leadership at Latin. Since that time, L+D has held visioning sessions with the senior administration, faculty, and staff (January 2023) and two follow-up working sessions with the task force members (January and February 2023). In March 2023, all employees were invited to explore progress and offer feedback on the emerging attributes that have begun to shape the portrait. The design team used this input to further refine the portrait and narrow the list of attributes. During the April professional development day, the L+D team led an all-employee session for cross-functional ideation and collaboration among faculty and staff where they discussed the characteristics that personify student leadership within and beyond the classroom. The portrait will be completed in June 2023.
The Wellness Task Force was organized in September 2022, and has met regularly since its inception. The task force has focused on Initiative 3.1, defining wellness. The larger task force was subdivided into working groups charged with exploring best practices in peer and aspirational schools, in higher education, and in corporate and non-profit entities. The working groups conducted interviews with representatives from each of the aforementioned entities and this data is being analyzed to identify themes. To understand the current state of wellness at Latin, Middle and Upper School students, as well as employees, recently participated in the Authentic Connections survey (Initiative 3.2). The findings from this survey coupled with the work of the task force will help us to identify appropriate responses to identified wellness needs. The first phase of the Task Force’s work will conclude in Summer 2023.
Purpose and Belonging
The Purpose and Belonging Task Force held its first meeting in October 2022. This task force meets regularly and is focused on Initiative 4.2, Accountability and Reporting. Similarly to the Wellness Task Force, some task force members have been interviewing peer and aspirational schools to learn more about the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) metrics that inform their goal-setting and measures of progress. Other task force members have been interviewing internal constituents about how DEI metrics are used in academic, operational, and advancement areas. This work is ongoing. Another essential part of Goal 4 is Isa Stokes’ work (Initiative 4.3). The most significant progress is that Stokes was hired. But more specifically, Stokes has been actively working with students and families to support their successful retention at Latin. Examples include partnerships with faculty to ensure students set and meet academic goals, assisting students with time management and self-advocacy strategies, and supporting new-to-independent school parents as they learn to navigate an unfamiliar setting.
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