Dear Flint Hill School Families,
On Monday morning, I was standing at the front door of the Upper School greeting and welcoming the students as they came in. It was our first time this year asking students to wear business attire to school. This is an Upper School effort to focus on “the business” of going to school and will be done at various times throughout the year. Let me tell you; our students looked absolutely outstanding.
As I greeted the students, my eye kept drifting to the window that looks into my office. Standing in that window is the lantern that we lit on September 16 at the All-School Gathering. The light, which we turn on with our Lifers, at the start of each school year, shines brightly day and night. It remains lit until the last senior has completed all of his/her graduation requirements. It has been a long-standing tradition that I am excited to support and to carry on.
Another tradition and milestone in the year is tomorrow’s Founder’s Day. This event is another moment when we bring the entire student body together and, once again, focus on our people. People who have been here before us. People who are here now. And people who will continue to promote the “Driving Spirit” of our great school. Bringing all of the students together across campuses is always a massive undertaking. And yet, I know our seniors are looking forward to being with their Lower School buddies, while the Lower Schoolers are thrilled to have the seniors come to visit. This event is also an opportunity for teachers and staff to gather and to reflect.
Early in the event, I typically spend time reflecting on positive things that have happened at School so far in the year. Achievements like the Cyberpatriot competition and the success of the literary magazine. Winning football and volleyball championships in the fall. We have the “State Player of the Year,” “Gatorade Player-of-the-Year,” and “Coach-of-the-Year” for the Varsity Volleyball Team. And we just won the MAC Boys’ Swimming and Diving Championship, the Rock Climbing Championship, and the Boys’ Basketball Team won the regular season of the MAC Championship for the third year in a row. In the arts, we have had students make the All-District, State Honor Orchestra, and All-District Choir, and received great reviews on various plays through the Cappies program, just to mention a few! It is exciting to see so much activity and positive growth.
There is a moment during this assembly when we recognize those members of the School community — teachers, staff or alumni — who have passed away during the past year. During this “Sundown Ceremony,” we will acknowledge their contributions to Flint Hill and to the great foundation that we have in place. This year, two of the names that will be read belong to former heads of school.
After that ceremony, we will take time to recognize teachers and staff who are celebrating milestone anniversaries. Would you be surprised to know that 15 of our teachers and staff are celebrating their 5th year at Flint Hill? Eleven members are celebrating their 10th anniversary, and 8 are celebrating their 15th year! We also have two people — Larry Brooks from the Facilities Team and English Teacher Tracy Peterson — celebrating their 20th anniversary. They will be recognized for this tremendous milestone during tomorrow’s event and their portraits will be displayed on both campuses.
We will also take time to honor Science Teacher Fred Atwood, the first-ever Flint Hill employee to reach the 30-year milestone. Fred began teaching at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Alexandria 43 years ago and was there for 13 years, before transitioning to Flint Hill during its reorganization process. Fred has left an indelible mark on our school and will continue to do so as a teacher in both the Lower and Upper Schools.
At the end of the event, we honor the winners of the Driving Spirit Awards. The winners are nominated by fellow colleagues, parents, staff and students. I appoint a committee to make the final decisions and they are never taken lightly; Flint Hill is filled with outstanding people who demonstrate the Driving Spirit and make a difference in our school community. Four members of our faculty and staff will be recognized at tomorrow’s assembly. Because the winners don’t find out until the moment they are announced, this moment always reminds me of the Academy Awards, as I read statements about each individual while trying not to give away their identities before the awards are presented. When the names are finally announced, the gym usually explodes in applause and excitement for each award recipient.
Thank you for sharing your families with us in this great experience! It is an honor to partner with you, and I look forward to this exciting second semester as we charge ahead.
Best wishes to you!
John M. Thomas