WHM: Who runs the school? Girls!
Former Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg once said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Within the first hour of this school year, we had, for the first time, heard speeches from both a female Senate President and female Head of School, proving Justice Ginsburg’s words to be a reality. While this may not have seemed very substantial, it was only a few decades ago that neither me, nor any of my female-identifying peers, would have even been allowed admission into Albuquerque Academy. I suppose, contrary to Caiden’s belief, our school’s birth in a problematic and exclusive environment does not prevent our institution from necessary change. We now belong to a school for which women make decisions as Head of School, Associate Head of School, 10-12 division head, and all academic departments, plus physical education.
The largest and most recent change in womens’ positions of power was the shift in Head of School from Mr. Watson to Ms. Puente. Not only does Ms. Puente’s mere existence as Head of School indicate our progress, but so does the exceptional job she’s doing to improve the Academy. As a former soccer coach, she made the realization that “women… tend to pass the ball instead of shoot. And I think sometimes you need to be reminded that we could take the shots too.” While it has not always been easy with initial criticism about her absence of children of her own—a critique I highly doubt a male would face—Ms. Puente has proven that this is not only true for soccer. She believes that “Academy is a really healthy school… and I just feel fortunate to be a part of it. What’s important to me is that we make student centered decisions on everything that we do and that student voice, choice, and agency is central.” Her philosophy for teaching and learning is to “look at ways of making it happen not at ways of saying it can’t.” So far, this has certainly manifested substantial, and beneficial changes. This year, in the middle of a global pandemic, she has created daycares at the beginning of the 2020 school year so teachers could teach and their children were cared for, stocked bathrooms with menstrual supplies, and added 20 courses to meet student demand. Despite hearing sentiments like “the only reason I got the job was because I was Hispanic or female” and constantly having her credentials overlooked, Ms. Puente has persisted in becoming an inspiration for all students under the judgemental eyes of a society that was not built for women. Next time you decide to pinpoint your discontentment of a community-wide decision about a logo onto one person, remember the nearly impossible job she has undertaken and the massive amount of opportunity that she has granted.
If you are a student at the Academy, you’ve probably heard of Dr. Christine Lenhart. Currently the 10-12 division head, soon-to-be Associate Head of School, and formerly an Academy student, Dr. Lenhart is another fantastic inspiration for all our female student body. As a student, Dr. Lenhart felt that she “was in an environment where [she] could question [issues she cared about] which [she] appreciated.” As a member of the Student Council she was specifically “concerned about the certain [history] curriculum and how [she] felt like there was a lack of female voices in certain areas.” Of course she is still working to improve the curriculum, which she feels “we can always grow,” but even when she was in our shoes, she went to an administrator to use her voice as a student to represent our community from the lens of a woman of color.
A few months ago, I was sitting in Dr. Lenhart’s office conducting an interview about the dress code—an issue that I particularly feel passionate about. What I wasn’t aware of is that I was sitting in front of a woman who, as a student, protested the dress code in a similar way that I am doing through Student Senate. What most don’t know about Dr. Lenhart is that she was in our exact same shoes as “a female who was dress coded in a way that [she] did not like…It definitely brought a different lens.” In fact, it was this experience that led her to lead a collaborative effort with plenty of other students to write the dress code in the most neutral manner possible. While I personally am not always content with our dress code, the progress we have made and comfortability questioning the current situation would not have been possible if we didn’t have such an empathetic division head.
The quotes I collected for this article were not merely the product of formal interviews. They were real conversations with people in power who I personally felt I could identify with and feel comfortable talking to. There was a certain understanding that went into these conversations that showcased the empathy I, and I’m sure many other female-identifying students, feel when communicating with the decision-making women in our community. They are women who care deeply about our school and can make decisions that, by nature, can impact the members of our community who historically have not been prioritized. As college guidance counselor Mr. Jacoby articulated, “we need people from all different backgrounds to be in leadership positions in society.” I agree completely, and while our staff isn’t a perfect utopia of inclusion, we are a step closer to a model of society that our generation must keep in mind.