Mr. Davis Departs for Six-Month Sabbatical

A road trip to Texas? A silent retreat? An Alabama civil rights tour? These detail just a few of the many adventures that Mr. Davis will embark on during his six-month sabbatical.

Though St. Luke’s does not have a traditional sabbatical program like many higher institutions, the Board of Trustees suggested that, if Mr. Davis intended to elongate his time as Head of School, they would support and encourage him to take time off for reflection.

Mr. Davis sums up the opportunity in just a few words: “It’s an incredible gift.”

This is especially due to the fact that the Head of School has been given the time to simply take a break and engage in any activity that he may find meaningful.

“There’s no expectation from the board or from the school that I fulfill any specific responsibilities,” Davis notes.

When he departs campus on October 15, the Head of School will travel to Jackson Hole with his wife for twelve days to rewind and decompress. After that, it’s a road trip to Dallas – including a stop at Monticello along the way – to visit his wife’s parents. Next, he’ll travel to Houston, where he will be able to spend some much-anticipated time with his seven-month-old granddaughter.

In December, he’ll attend his godson’s wedding, and, ultimately, he’ll depart on the ten-day silent retreat that he spoke about during his meditation just a few weeks ago. Though Davis has been meditating almost daily for about three years, he never intended to embark on such an ambitious adventure. After asking for advice from a friend who is well-versed in the world of mindfulness, Davis decided to apply to the program, which will take place in Texas and restricts participants from talking, reading, using technology, or watching TV for ten days straight.

“I have a feeling it is going to push me inward in ways that I have never imagined before,” Davis says.

Though he doesn’t know exactly what he will learn, he hopes that he “will come back knowing [himself] a lot better and approaching the world with a little more wisdom.”

While on sabbatical, Davis will practice mindfulness and inward thinking in other, more traditional ways. This includes yoga, meditation, and reading an entire stack of books.

“I’m going to read more than I ever have,” he says, acknowledging that it’s truly “a mind-expanding treat.”

Davis will certainly not forget his responsibilities at St. Luke’s during his time off. In fact, he will spend much of his time preparing for the “Life Worth Living” course that he will be co-teaching with Ms. Parker-Burgard next year. The course, which is based on an undergraduate class at Yale, presents students with the fundamental question: what makes a life worth living? Preparation for this course will make up a large chunk of Davis’ reading.

Mr. and Mrs. Davis also plan on joining Upper School students on the Alabama Civil Rights Tour in March.

Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations, Ms. Julia Gabriele, will take on the role as Acting Head of School during the six-month period.

“[Ms. Gabriele] is every bit as capable as I am of handling anything that happens,” Davis notes.

As for an ultimate collaboration between Mr. Davis and Ms. Gabriele, no formal plan has been made. Still, the two, who have worked together for 17 years now, are sure to communicate for the next six months.

Davis remarks that Ms. Gabriele “will bring different perspectives” to the job, many of which will be “better perspectives in some incredibly important ways.”

For SLS, this is not only a re-evaluation of the school through fresh eyes, but one “through eyes as experienced and sharp” as those of Ms. Gabriele, Davis notes. Ms. Gabriele is sure to put her own spin on the school during her time as Acting Head of School.

For Mr. Davis, his sabbatical will offer him “time and headspace to reflect on the future of [his] leadership at SLS and what the school needs from [him].” He will spend much of his time contemplating the future of the school.

“I want to be nimble and prepared [so that] St. Luke’s can be at the leading edge of what it means to be a great school.”

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