From The Head of School

February 15, 2023

Flint Hill Families, 

Each spring, Flint Hill reaches out to our families to gather their feedback on the overall Flint Hill experience, as well as any key or strategic areas of focus for the School. Though we’re always open to connect on an individual basis, surveys like this give us comprehensive, actionable data to consider for planning for next year and beyond, as well.  

Soon after we return from Spring Break, your family will receive the Flint Hill Parent Survey for the 22-23 school year. Before then, I want to share a bit of how the feedback from last year’s survey has been put to good work for this year:

We’re playing to our strengths.

Consistently, parents share with us what’s important to them:  

  • Teacher attention (99% of respondents agree or strongly agree) 
  • Class size (98% agree/strongly agree)
  • Graduate placement (94% agree/strongly agree)  

We also see a high degree of alignment with our families. When asked to highlight Flint Hill’s strengths, families noted:  

  • Child development (91% agree/strongly agree) 
  • Graduate preparedness (91% agree/strongly agree)
  • Class size (89% agree/strongly agree)

Because we understand the value of small classes, we’re maintaining a disciplined approach to class sizes despite significant demand from prospective families in the marketplace. We target sizes of approximately 18 students per class in the Lower, Middle and Upper Schools with some slight variation in the Upper School depending on discipline and academic level

We combine an innovative and engaging program with a personalized environment, led by expert teachers. We layer in dedicated staff that includes Learning Center coaches, social-emotional counselors and our College Counseling team as we aim to be a school where every student is seen, known and valued. We’re sticking to our secret sauce, and seeking to improve it every day and every school year.  

We’re striving to be better.

We received constructive feedback from our families last year that led to key adjustments for this year.

Communication & Parent Partnership: 

  • We’ve taken active steps to better facilitate communication with families – with adjustments to our newsletter, frequency and direction of all-school communications.
  • We brought back on-campus experiences like in-person back-to-school nights, parent and divisional coffees and more. 
  • We launched a pilot for our Parents’ Association Divisional Ambassadors and we’re already looking ahead to more parent-facing programming across our divisions for the 23-24 school year, particularly focusing on counseling and wellness needs to support our students' overall wellbeing. 

Bottom line: The adage is true, “It takes a village,” and we’re actively building pathways to ensure healthy parent partnership and engagement.

Faculty/Staff Hiring, Retention & Support

There was some feedback regarding faculty/staff hiring and retention, which is both typical (National Association of Independent Schools institutions, like Flint Hill, typically average about 10% turnover on an annual basis) and atypical (leadership turnover for Head of School and other senior administrative positions due to retirements/departures). While sometimes turnover is a good thing (I’m thrilled to be here as “the new guy”!), continued attention to our biggest resources – outstanding teachers and staff – is a must.

As such, we have taken direct steps within our hiring and HR processes, additional faculty/staff professional development and deliberate faculty/staff community-building activities to cultivate professional skill sets and camaraderie as we emerge from the necessary isolation of the pandemic.

Bottom line: One cannot ever lose focus on team or culture in a school, and every effort needs to be made to have the best educators supporting our students every day. 

Student Life Needs  

Some parent feedback centered around student-life issues, including discipline and support. In addition to the hiring of a new Director of Counseling for the 23-24 school year, our team and I have been hard at work reviewing student-life policies as a part of a comprehensive review of handbooks, consistency and accountability for our students.  

We believe both in healthy structure and boundaries, while also recognizing that adolescence is challenging, and students need ample room to take meaningful risks, fall down and be supported in their growth. Expect a revised student/parent handbook for the 23-24 school year which will seek to provide both transparency and clarity on school policies, while continuing to underscore our mission, vision, Core Values and commitment to institutional equity and inclusion for all community members.

Bottom line: The wellbeing of our students and community will always be at the center of every decision.     

I have often remarked to our community: Flint Hill is special by comparison to our peers in our steadfast commitment to growth and improvement. Unlike others, we are not bound by a hundred-plus years of tradition, nor do we ever accept complacency from our students, faculty or community. That remains core to our Driving Spirit, and will continue to be informed by such community feedback. I’m proud to be a part of a community that embodies that growth mindset and actively seeks partnership from all constituencies, and I look forward to what’s to come.

Thank you for your continued support, and please be on the lookout for that annual survey soon after our return from Spring Break. In the meantime, please never hesitate to reach out with any thoughts or questions!

Go Huskies!

Patrick McHonett
Head of School