Benchmarks of Progress

This is the time of the year when Tax Day suddenly loomed! I am sure all of us had to take time to step back and reflect on all that has happened in this year. We had to consider certain benchmarks: our own income, our family income, investments we have made, donations given to support organizations, and many other factors. The end result was a snapshot of exactly where we were, specifically looking at the benchmarks of our progress year-to-year. Tax season always gives us that moment in time.

At School, we also have benchmarks, and I talk, occasionally, about how important they are.  At this time of the year, a couple of key ones suddenly give me great confidence in all that is happening here. To give you some sense of what we look at, consider these markers:

  1. Attrition. Attrition is a number that gives us an indication of how many families will be leaving us at the end of the school year; it is a normal part of school life. The National Association of Independent Schools reports that 10.2% is the average percentage for a strong, rigorous independent day school in our region. Even reaching 15% is not considered a sign of concern. This year, Flint Hill’s attrition is 4.1%! That is a remarkably low number and we are deeply appreciative of all the families who plan to return next year. Among them is an Eighth Grade student who was accepted to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and made the decision to remain here at Flint Hill and join our Upper School next year. The student’s parent noted that they have been here for many years, and they were so pleased that Flint Hill has prepared their child for the opportunity to be accepted at TJ. “It speaks to the excellent foundation that Flint Hill has provided.”
  2. The College Acceptance List. College provides one of the greatest fears for many parents. More and more, families want to start the process earlier, which sadly, only increases anxiety and ultimately can be detrimental to the student experience. Part of the joy of the college process, however, is guiding students in finding the right fit. Our college list is a large one this year, and we take pride in that because our students are looking for the right department, the right program or the right part of the country where they can attend school. Our focus has never been on the names of the universities or what would look good on a bumper sticker. Still, our college list is incredibly impressive. Updates are still coming in from students, but here is a link for you to see the schools which have currently accepted our great students. They are an impressive array of schools that range from nearly all of the Ivies and MIT, to schools that are focused on engineering and the arts, as well as strong liberal arts schools, from coast to coast. Schools in Canada and England are also included in the list. Our students have an incredible opportunity and tremendous options for the years to come. I am excited by the confidence and the poise with which this Senior Class has gone about their searches and where this will all lead.
  3. The Intangibles. One of the key things we look forward is the sense of accomplishment that we see among our students, sometimes just while observing a classroom and watching students deal with difficult questions or beginning to grapple with concepts that have to do with history, science, mathematics, or even a language. The fact that so many of our families stepped up and helped host a group of 15 French students, who have been with us for the past several weeks, spoke to that willingness to engage in education and personal growth. We saw it at the Arts Jam Concert, which I know many of you were able to attend last week, as we had our largest crowd ever. This concert, held annually at George Mason University, is probably one of the most powerful ones I have ever had the good privilege to witness. Led by our amazing faculty and staff, we had 160 students engaged and eight separate performing groups that provided an evening of musical talent that had everyone thinking of Broadway, the Kennedy Center, you name it! It was clearly evidence of an amazing program, and when you realize that these were scholar-artists, it helps put a unique perspective on all that we are accomplishing.

 

We have also seen accomplishments on the athletic fields and courts. This year, we have already earned five conference Championships! In fact, 20 titles overall spread among all the teams. The spring teams are all vying for their respective titles. Several are ranked in the State and all of the scholar-athletes are working hard. Nearly 18 students will ultimately be heading off to colleges and universities where they will continue to play.

Another benchmark, that we are not ready to announce yet, has to do with the State of Virginia Governor’s School Program. This is an annual competition for students to compete for a spot. If they win, they will attend the Governor’s School during the summer, between their junior and senior years. When independent schools get one or two youngsters in, that usually gives them bragging rights. We have averaged five for the last seven years, and we don’t anticipate this year to be any less. As a matter of fact, we are very hopeful that it will be more. It is a clear testament to the education that our students have received and the ability of our youngsters to be in such a competition and to earn those spots.

All of these accomplishments speak to the foundation our faculty and staff are offering to our amazing students. As you read these newsletters each and every week, you pick up on all the things that are happening in the Lower School, Middle School, as well as the Upper School. In fact, looking ahead to next week, there are two major Upper School events that I hope every family will consider attending. One is the Upper School Visual Arts Show, which will open on Monday, April 25, with a reception at 6:00 p.m. The portfolio, arts, digital arts and ceramics classes will all display  their work throughout the Upper School academic building. And also next week, on Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30, at 7:30 p.m., the Upper School Dessert Theatre will present “Crime and Mystery: Two One-Act Plays,” a student-led production under the watchful supervision and support of our Director of Drama Productions Carlo Grossman.

Flint Hill is an incredible place! It truly is the place where we have allowed our students to take meaningful risks, to be themselves, and to make a difference. All of the benchmarks speak to the continuing strength and growth of this remarkable program.

Enjoy the great sense of spirit that irradiates across both campuses, and let’s all look forward to bringing this school year to a very successful and productive conclusion.
Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster