AndrewLoewer.com
LTS Identity Article

Archived for posterity, here is an article (and a cover letter that circulated with it) I wrote my senior year in high school. If nothing else it certainly hit a nerve and got discussion going. Even though I'm more and more distant from Long Trail these days, it will be interesting what will stand once the dust settles. Good luck LTS, I imagine you'll need it.


5/22/05

Dear Teacher, Student, Administrator, or Community-Member,

By now, many of you have probably seen or heard of my latest article in some form or another. The original draft portrayed a viewpoint held and supported by a number of students and faculty. However, when it somehow found itself in the hands of administration, some took offense to the opinions presented. Response was mixed. I had one individual accuse me of being pretentious, aristocratic, and ignorant. Most others were positive but amazed at the existence of these sorts of feelings. Personally, I believe a newspaper article should accomplish two things: inform people of facts and ideas they didn’t know and evoke thought and conversation. Apparently, this article (that was unfit to print) accomplished both.

After a few constructive conversations, I reworked the article to incorporate some of the alternate viewpoints. Others agreed the piece had the same message sans the “enthusiasm” behind the other provocative article. Sadly, this piece also did not see print. Now irritated, proponents of my original piece encouraged me to self-publish and even to submit copies to the local papers. I am not interested in letting the world hear the product of our growing pains nor twisting and damaging an already hurting image. What I am interested in is promoting and evoking the sort of positive conversation I was able to experience in the process of pushing this piece. Argue what you want, Long Trail has some deep divisions that we would benefit from closing – hence the article in front of you now. I encourage you to think the situation over from an objective perspective.

Signed,

Andrew Loewer



A few notes on the material discussed:

The quite positive light I cast on Kate Logan in the piece led a few individuals to tell me about the events that occurred during and after that graduation that didn’t make it into the Associated Press or Long Trail lore. Her intentions were good and her message great, but the response was like nothing she ever imagined. The repercussions were profound as the school had to deal with national media attention and community bewilderment and shock. These unexpected events ultimately led to Kate’s message being lost and a good amount of psychological trauma for her. Unfortunately, this must be attributed to the society we live in, which as Kate found, is much unlike the Long Trail cocoon we enjoy.

Despite popular belief, the Cheney & Co. project did get Long Trail School more than a new logo. Financial pressures ultimately led the school to seek this consultation which included marketing and fund-raising programs and instruction as well as the design and production of the “new look.” An alum came in to school the other day to enjoy an end of the year celebratory breakfast with our class last week and sentimentally asked what happened to the house on the common room floor. I simply replied that we’re not allowed to use it anymore. When softball wanted it on some of their merchandise, they were told they couldn’t. Perhaps the most insignificant change in this marketing program, it’s a tangible sign of the changing times.

Many question my motives for criticizing the institution that has brought me places I never imagine I could go. Honestly and truly, it is out of love for the place. Long Trail has definitely changed over my six years here. I just hope others have the opportunity to grow in the same environment I was afforded. While my classmates complain and moan about what goes on. I’m about the only one going out of my way to try and do something. I hate to say it, but unless you do the same, you’re just one of them too.

If you find this thought-provoking and worthwhile, I encourage you to pass it on.


Long Trail School’s Perpetual Identity Crisis
By Andrew Loewer


Over its 30 years of existence, Long Trail has worn numerous facades and gone through many identities. Expectations of students, parents, administrators, donors, and admissions have, frankly, created a place with a rather confused image.
Conflicting messages have drawn an ever separated and disparate student body – not in diversity, but in attitude and motivation. There are those who came for the “independent coeducational college-preparatory 6-12 day school” and there are those who came for Long Trail. One hundred and eighty-six. That’s the “magic” number – the size of a student body calculated to sustain and optimally allocate resources and budget with the addition of the new building. There has been some difficulty in expanding the school to this number and have been a great deal of growing pains along the way. The somewhat divided community and visions are a product of these stark realities and induced augmentation.

When I first started going to LTS, the school’s webpage (student created and maintained) had Robert Frost’s famous poem running across the bottom which really sums up what Long Trail is:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I cite one of Long Trail’s most famous graduates, Kate Logan, because she quoted the poem in her speech that fateful day. She was proud of her school. LTS had not only allowed her to develop academically, but to develop herself by challenging and inspiring her individuality. Her times at LTS gave her enough confidence to explore the side of herself that Frost discovers in his journey on the second road. It’s unfortunate that Long Trail couldn’t celebrate Kate’s milestone with her that day. Numerous internet references to the event can be found with such applauds as one user’s view that “I, for one, can only thank God that we live in a country where a girl is free to engage in such subversive activity… I wish I knew Kate Logan.” I respect her individuality courage and am glad to go to the school that gave her the confidence to stand up there. It’s a shame that Long Trail felt the need to lash out against one of its own, renouncing her as “extremely unfortunate and selfish” and a “significant embarrassment” in press releases. Though by no means am I advocating naturism (heaven forbid), I would hope a school based on the individuality of students and that prides itself on its accepting community would at least be open-minded rather than coldly and sternly prejudice. I to value the aspects of my education Long Trail provided outside the classroom I would have received nowhere else. It is these principles coupled with the community-sense of this school that really differentiate it from an education at another institution. Unfortunately, this is fading in many regards due to a changing place.

Courtney Callo relates, “Long Trail is evolving, we’re a very different place than we were when I first started here… you can’t go back, you can only draw on the good things from the past.” Whether or not we are carrying the positives from the past with us into the future is debatable. What is certain is that certain economic obligations are set in stone and the growing pains we are enduring and show no sign of stopping – twisting and turning a community constantly pointing fingers and spouting rhetoric about the direction of the school.

As many may know, Long Trail actually shrank last year – further setting it back from the goal of 186. The so-called “hemorrhage” came largely from a large transient middle school population – that is students not continuing from the middle school to the upper school. There was a time when this would have been acceptable. However, in this case, these students, whether at Long Trail willingly or not, served an important economic purpose. In fact, a certain individual had the spunk to point out to Courtney that she had better to do her job if she hoped to stick around. It was in this spirit that the order for Long Trail’s recent identity redesign performed by Cheney & Co., professional marketing and design firm, was passed down through the ranks. Suddenly, more than $50,000 materialized, allegedly unusable for any other purpose, though, as many contend, money is money. Fifty-thousand dollars is greater than any teacher’s salary and equals the tuition of almost four students – a hefty sum for an institution the size of Long Trail. Courtney relates, “Cheney hated the house, they thought it made us look like a kindergarten.” Apparently, a new logo that goes from BOLD to NOT BOLD is a better fit for us, as much as it does resemble the countless Lance Armstrong LIVESTRONG bracelets everywhere. We’ll give Cheney the benefit of the doubt.

The idea, of course, of a marketing package such as the one Long Trail purchased is to broaden the audience to which it sells. What this means for Long Trail is that new and different varieties of students are attracted and enrolling in the student body, including ones that do not necessary want all aspects of a Long Trail education (e.g. rigorous academics AND student-teacher interaction AND social development, etc…) or necessarily plan to stay for more than a year or two. Throwing these sorts of ingredients into the mix causes a universal hindrance: negativity. These students aren’t invested in this place, so they could care less. But what can be done? As Dave Wilson says, “If we can’t pay the bills, no one can go here.”

Well, the good news is people are trying to bridge the gap. Faculty initiative in starting Project X, Dave and Peter’s new push to regularly meet with students and parents, and various student ideas demonstrate an obvious interest in holding on to the principles of LTS. However, in order for this truly to be accomplished, several things need to happen. First, the sense of community needs to be re-instilled into Long Trail life. In my opinion, this is best done by giving everyone a stake in the community – listen to each other and work together. Long Trail alumni valued the knowledge they gained from Long Trail from both academics and the community interaction that allowed them to find and express their individuality. It needs to become implanted in the local mindset that learning extends beyond the classroom and occurs from interactions and activities with peers and adults alike.

The challenge I leave to you, Long Trail students of the future, is to make it through these awkward years and strike a compromise between big and small. The fact of the matter is that Long Trail needs to grow and will grow whether people like it or not. Serious initiative needs to be made by students, faculty, and administration alike to keep what the idealists of Long Trail hold so dear. Frankly, when push comes to shove, many are no where to be found.

Something has to give, and honestly, I’m not liking the way it’s looking.

Farewell LTS, you’ve done me well.