“Designing” the Future

Dear Flint Hill School Family,

“Back-to-School Night” season is well underway, and these events provide a great opportunity to meet and learn from each of the faculty members who are teaching your children, and to hear what they have planned for the year. The Middle School kicked off this annual tradition last week and it was a tremendous success. One parent commented to me quite sincerely, “I want to go back to Grade 8 myself now. I really do!” Another parent encouraged me to use our format for Back-to-School Nights as a marketing tool for our Admissions Department. And a few parents, who initially expressed concerns about their children having new teachers, came away pleased, impressed and excited about what is ahead for their children.

With that being said, I want to note that our teachers are engaged in far more than just teaching or coaching our children. Our faculty and staff live and breathe being Huskies, and are always working hard to improve and advance our programs. Leading the way in various areas are people like Bill Ennist, Assistant Head of School for Academics; Emily Sanderson, Dean of Faculty; and Mia Burton, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, who help guide an innovative process of working with faculty called “Design Teams.” In Bill’s own words, “Design Teams are established to discuss issues of importance to the life of the school, and to the people who have signed up for the design team.” The group uses the Design Thinking process, which combines “empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analyzing and fitting various solutions to the problem context.”

Our Curriculum Committee, Department Chairs and Division Directors have already been hard at work at this, using our vision, mission and core values as a guide. Numerous topics are on their agendas for review and discussion this year. For example, our TK to 6th Grade Department Chairs are evaluating horizontal and vertical curriculum alignment, the role of Department Chairs in faculty accountability, the definition of rigor and its application for each grade level and Middle School requirements.

Our 7th-12th Grade Department Chairs are reviewing ways to support and promote student research methodology, grade distribution, articulation of the course placement process, perceived grade inflation and leadership training, among numerous other topics.

And the Curriculum Committee, which includes all Department Chairs and Division Heads, will discuss ways to help students find and develop individual passions, how to bring creativity and problem-solving front and center in the curriculum, best practices in the use of technology, professional development, and more. All of these matters take time, thoughtful reflection, professional experience and a true commitment to making education better. Above all else, we are looking at ways to resolve existing conflicts, improve and enhance the educational experience we provide, and to ensure that our program creates the very best experience possible for our students.

I deeply appreciate the efforts that Bill, Emily, Mia, and all our educational leaders are putting into this process. I also want to thank all the faculty and staff members who have volunteered to help shape the direction of the school by participating in Design Teams. It is their commitment and their willingness to give of themselves that make all the difference in the world for our growing program.

I look forward to hearing more great feedback from Lower School parents following this week’s Back-to-School Night. The Upper School will close this annual rite of passage next week. To everyone who attended the Middle School night last week and to all the faculty and staff, I extend our deep appreciation for the work you are doing in that division and for the thought and care that went into our discussions that evening.

Best wishes to everyone!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster