(In Zen funerals, we talk directly to the departed).
I am at a loss for words. I am hoping that words will come.
I am picturing you. Smiling. Laughing.
Always finding humor in the tensest situations.
And a great, great laugh.
You have been such a great part of my life and the life of ICS, even from before there was an ICS, even from before there was a Lavelle Prep.
A few of us had been meeting with the staff of the Charter Center, trying to get a charter school planning grant for The Verrazano Foundation. We had a vague idea about creating a school which would level the playing field for young people living with emotional challenges. (In those days, we were still calling them “mental illnesses”).
We were getting nowhere.
Then you arrived from the West Coast to become the #2 person at the Center. Wonderfully, you saw some merit in our dream. We got the grant. You could see the hope in what we were trying to do, sometimes more clearly than of the rest of us. You coached us through negotiations with the city and the state.
I remember meeting with you at a small restaurant in Central Brooklyn. By then, you had left the Center. The City wanted to know how our school (which was so far out of the box even for charter schools – which were still pretty radical in those days) would survive if things didn’t work out as we hoped. On that rainy afternoon, we created sixteen different scenarios. Through variations in enrollment and facility costs and variations in student mix. We created sixteen different budgets, all of which were included in our application. (One budget is the norm). Seems crazy now.
Eventually, we got the charter. We couldn’t have done it without you. We may have been the first school in your Charter School Incubator.
And after our incubation period, you continued as my therapist. I think you thought of yourself as a charter school consultant, but you were really crucial to my growing through the difficult early years of Lavelle Prep. Every week, I would leave our open-architecture office and go out to my car so that I could talk with you in private about the stressors I was facing, all the doubts and fears.
Eventually, when it was becoming difficult for us to justify even your very modest fee, you agreed to join our Board of Trustees so that I could continue to profit from your wisdom.
You were one of the three Lavelle trustees who also served on the New Ventures board when we added our second charter school, and you were a stable source of guidance as we worked through the merger.
You were always there. As we began to face up to the whiteness of our team, — our student body was overwhelmingly kids of color, — you were always there to help me find a path. As we struggled with the challenge of stretching our reach, your commitment to all the kids everywhere who were not getting the education they deserved was always a source of strength.
I think of myself as a pretty dedicated person, but your commitment was enormous. Endless. Dauntless.
And you always brought such calmness to the challenges we faced. You have always been there. As we have talked about bringing New Ventures to other communities, of bringing the design to scale, as I have imagined the future, you have always been in the center of the picture.
I am finding it impossible to imagine the picture without you.
How do we go forward without you? How do I go forward without you?
Even in the darkest, most challenging situations, you will be there in my heart, smiling, laughing, a great, uproarious laugh.
I miss you so much already.
I love you, Dirk.