August 14, 2019

Dear Flint Hill School Family,

I hope your summer continues to roll forward with lots of fun and that you are still taking full advantage of this incredible time of the year with your family! This week also marks our “official opening” for faculty and staff, as our new faculty and staff members return for a week of “in-service.” Many of us here at school are ready to start and cannot wait to see you and your children back on campus! Many years ago, I learned that I Iove the start of a school year! I value the excitement of building new relationships with students, parents, and fellow educators. I love the energy, dreams and “positive intent” that everyone seems to bring to the start of a school year. I have to admit that while I do desperately need and value time away in the summer to refill my bucket of energy, my focus always quickly returns to looking forward to getting us all back together.

Right now, I would like to direct your attention to a series of coffees that I will be hosting as soon as school gets underway. I strongly encourage you to add these meetings to your calendar. This year, we have tried to tailor back a bit of the “Coffee Calendar.” We are fully aware of how busy everyone is and how time is so precious. We have carefully looked at how many Division Coffees and every imaginable gathering are reasonable or necessary. We want to do everything we can to make ourselves as accessible, available, and approachable as possible. At the same time, we want to respect the fact that people can’t make it to everything.

I have traditionally hosted a series of coffees called, “Headmaster’s Parent Discussion Series” in the fall and in the winter. My winter sessions this year will be dovetailed into preset Division Director Meetings. My series tries to accomplish several things.  Initially, they give parents a chance to get to know me better and for me to get to know you. I want you to truly feel like you can talk to the headmaster of the school, ask questions, learn about what is going on at school, and truly realize and appreciate the fact that we are all in this together. The second phase of my series is to allow me the chance to hear from people. I am always stunned by how many parents seem to be intimidated by coming to my office or feel like they can’t talk to me. I will never forget a phone call from a parent many years ago. It was a father who had a fairly serious concern that really did need attention. He finally got me on a Sunday evening at home. He said, “John, I just needed to talk to you, and I didn’t want to bother you at the office.” In the most polite way possible, I tried to explain to him that there is a reason why I am in the office. And in fact, my view of leadership is that leadership should always be a service role. It is trying to be of service to parents, students, faculty and staff, alumni, and our greater community.

Bottom line, my fall sessions are going to focus on that very approach!  The “why” of what we do and why we are building the culture of Flint Hill. You will see the dates in our school calendar, but please make sure that you write them down, and, if possible at all, I would love to have you join us:

  • Lower School: Thursday, August 29, 8:15 a.m., Multipurpose Room, Lower School/Middle School Campus
  • Middle School:  Tuesday, September 10, 8:15 a.m., Multipurpose Room, Lower School/Middle School Campus
  • Upper School: Thursday, September 12, 8:15 a.m., Multipurpose Room, Upper School Campus

 

These sessions are set up to be open, honest, and direct discussions. I sincerely hope you will join us, because the sessions will provide you with the opportunity to get to know other parents, welcome new families who may be joining us, and actively participate in the discussion at hand. Our sessions will also be available live in a webinar format, where you can click on the link from your office or home. They will also be posted on our Resource Board for you to tune in and hear what we talked about at any time during the upcoming year.

Also, please remember that these events are meant to be a parent “discussion” series. They are not intended to be a lecture or a talk-at-you kind of approach. That is not my style or intended approach. Instead, there are things that I may need to share with parents or need to explain, but then I value and want your feedback. But I always want the atmosphere in the room to be open enough so that we can talk, share, and learn from and with each other.

This fall series will have a theme and an agenda. It is simple and straightforward, “Why do we do what we do?” Why is the school year structured the way it is? Why is the curriculum at each of the divisions structured the way it is? Why and how do we approach discipline situations? We will also talk about the “why” of fundraising, technology, the Learning Center, and the College Counseling process. So often, during any school year, we will hear things, whether it is factual or rumor, and we wonder why. Why are they doing that? Why would they say that? We want you to know the facts and to be valued members of the discussion

And to be very transparent, some of these questions arose from last year’s Parent Satisfaction Survey. We will be going over that in far more detail later. And while, ultimately, the results were very gratifying, some questions helped us realize that people didn’t understand the “why” behind some aspects of our program. Why do we, sadly, occasionally lose some students? Why do people talk about a “no tolerance” policy? And what in the world does that mean? Why do we put such a focus on technology? Why did last year have such an emphasis on fundraising? And the list can go on and on. And the answers are a bit different for each Division, so please join us to help know your child’s Division more clearly and directly. The truth is that we as a school want to be as open, transparent, honest, and direct as we can be. And so let’s talk about that and let’s talk about why the social-emotional component of education today is so critical,  not just for our students but for us as adults and parents.

So, please mark these Headmaster’s Parent Discussion Sessions on your calendar because August 29 will be here before we know it. The meetings only last an hour, but I hope they open the door to what will become an ongoing conversation. Collectively, school and home, we are raising an incredible “next generation” of young people. We need them to be ethical, confident, and competent. And by openly sharing, talking, and truly understanding that we are together in this journey makes it just that much more productive for our children …and supportive for us as parents as well!

I look forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster