December 6, 2017

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

I hope you have enjoyed reading the writings of some of our community voices as we focused the month of November on different aspects of gratitude and giving back. From Sally Hazel’s article on volunteerism to Linda Okoth’s report on connecting our community through service and Meredith VanDuyne’s introduction to the idea of philanthropy, they all allowed us to reflect on a true pillar of our great school: relationships. We talk all the time about how important those relationships are and the impact that they can have on all of us. Like you, I am sure, I have spent the month of November fully immersed in building new relationships, maintaining current ones and renewing old ones. They are central to how we all interact together. They are probably some of the most powerful, personal and meaningful aspects of our interactions with others. And the articles published by Sally, Linda and Meredith made it very clear to me, and hopefully to you as well, how important relationships are in our lives.

Over Thanksgiving, our home was filled with gratitude. We hosted this year, and we had an eclectic mix of family and friends who gathered for this important celebration. From my brother, from South Carolina, and Emily’s sister to our niece, who is now a freshman at college, there was a focus on building new relationships. It gave us a chance to share stories and fun memories, but above all, the holiday brought a whole host of different personalities together to enjoy each other’s company.

On Sunday morning, I returned with nine other faculty and staff members from the NAIS People of Color Conference (POCC) in Anaheim, California. Nearly 6,000 people gathered at the conference to talk about diversity, inclusion, equity, social justice, and all aspects of living in a diverse world. In between the great talks by some outstanding leaders and the various workshops offered, there was time for us to build relationships. I had the opportunity to meet with educators, administrators and leaders from throughout Virginia. I met with people from around the country who are also engaged in this important work. In the process, we exchanged business cards, shared experiences and ideas, learned about best practices and started what will certainly become powerful relationships in the years ahead.

I also had the opportunity to connect, with my Flint Hill colleagues, by having meals together, during walks to and from the hotel, and other informal opportunities for talking and sharing with each other. I was able to meet with former employees and people who I have known for years, who were attending the conference. I even had lunch with an alumnus from the Class of 2011, who is now a Latin Teacher in Houston. We were able to talk about his college experience, his first few years as a teacher, and his plans for the future. The relationship that we built when he was a student continues. In fact, we should always remember that relationships can and often should last a lifetime. We talk about the independent school world being very small because of the relationships we build along the way in different schools, different cities, or just in our everyday lives. And it is!

I saw the same concept in action at our Upper School Admission Open House. In many cases, we hope, events such as that one are only the beginning of what will become long-term relationships with new families. I watched how the student ambassadors and parent volunteers reached out to attendees to make certain that they were not standing alone and to make sure that they felt appreciated and valued during their visit.

Upper School Director and Varsity Boys’ Basketball Coach Rico Reed, whose team won the recent Tip-Off Classic, shared a note from a parent which referenced an event on Friday evening as our Boys’ Basketball team was warming up. On the sideline, there were two little youngsters from our Lower School. They were standing in awe and admiration of these great athletes, and began to stick their hands out, hoping for a high five. To the parent’s delight, our athletes (who were high fiving each other as they went through their drills) made a point of widening their run back to get in line to high five their young Husky fans. Without realizing it, they had created a connection with those two young students, who will always remember and cherish that night and that game!

As we continue forward, let’s commit to continuing to build our relationships here at school. They require us to be open with each other, honest, direct, respectful and responsible. For relationships to work, there has to be compassion, empathy and trust. And at the heart of what we hope is our Flint Hill experience is this foundation of building the most positive relationships possible, because they are not just for today or tomorrow, they are truly for a lifetime. We may run into each other in airports or in various parts of the world, or simply in the grocery store down the street, or in the hallways as we pass each other. These interactions, whether they are daily or after years, renew our relationships with each other in ways that demonstrate the power of that bond. And the relationships you are building at home with your children, the relationships that you are building here with your partners at Flint Hill, and the relationships that your children are building with their teachers all speak to the core of who we are as a school family. Each interaction and each experience together strengthens, we hope, those relationships.

Enjoy this very special time of the year! I look forward to all of us collectively working to grow our relationships and to make them even more productive and impactful, as we continue to move forward into this most exciting school year.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster