Giving Thanks

Chris Agnew
3 min readNov 20, 2020

When my oldest child, Blue, was two years old he attended a Waldorf early childhood program in Washington State. Over meals at school they would say what they were thankful for and after everyone shared, they would finish with “blessings on our meal and kindness in our heart”. This started a tradition in our family at the dinner table every night (well…most nights) that lasts to today.

Past the fall equinox, darkness longer than daylight, and the holiday season, we’ve reached the reflective period of the year. I hope Thanksgiving week timing is coming right when you need it. A chance to take a deep breath and reduce the noise.

Each of you has contributed your time, heart, and soul in so many ways over summer and fall to bring us to this point.

  • I’m thankful for the 390 students educated by TSS through Friday programming with Teton County School District in Wyoming this fall.
  • I’m thankful for the 16 Place Network Schools experiencing all the challenges of restarting school in COVID with the support of TSS.
  • I’m thankful for our second-year Graduate fellows and 12 current Graduate students in-person learning experiences at a time when most adult education is virtual.
  • I’m thankful for the 268 Mountain Academy students in modified in-person learning requiring complex and dynamic decision making on a daily basis.
  • I’m thankful for our volunteer Board of Directors providing a steady hand of leadership through uncertain times.
  • I’m thankful for TSS donors stepping up in generous ways to give us the financial stability to support staff and plan long term.

Overall, in times of challenge, I’m thankful for the TSS community.

Without a global pandemic, I would like to visit each campus and see you personally to express my appreciation for all the ways you’ve contributed to TSS success in 2020. Absent that, I hope you all felt recognized and appreciated with announcements this week.

  1. Gratitude bonus. To recognize the hard work, hardship, and care of staff delivering our mission to students through COVID-19 we are extending bonuses to faculty and staff across TSS. On the December 3rd payroll in-person learning staff will receive up to $2000. Staff required to be on campus as part of their job with limited student contact will receive up to $1750. Remote workers at TSS will receive up to $1250. (“Up to” is based on full-time equivalent status.) TSS philanthropic support, good financial planning, and cash management make this possible.
  2. Health insurance. As has so often become a norm, TSS health insurance costs will experience another double-digit (11.1%) increase for 2021. We have chosen for the organization to absorb the entirety of this cost increase so that TSS employee health insurance premiums remain flat from 2020 to 2021.
  3. Staff back to full time. We still have had a number of staff at 80% from the initial cuts we made in March. Beginning November 30th, these staff will now be back to 100% fulfilling our original commitment to the individual as well as allowing affected departments to get closer to more standard workflows.

We recognize our matching retirement benefit has still not been reinstated. We will revisit reinstating retirement through the spring budgeting process for 2021–22. Retirement is both a large dollar figure (almost $250,000 annually pre-COVID) and a long term commitment. We want to be confident that when it returns, we can commit to it for the long term.

Lastly, in lieu of an in-person holiday party in December, keep an eye out for more information about a short virtual TSS community gathering in December. I wish you all peace, time outside, and time with loved ones (in person or on-screen) over the Thanksgiving holiday. For the health and wellness of our community, please make the hard decisions to limit gatherings and exposure outside your household and maintain physical distance when you do. As Blue’s Waldorf pre-school would say, “blessings on all of you and kindness in our heart.”