May 3, 2017

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

The concept of teamwork is very top of mind for me this week. It may have to do with the fact that we recently worked as a team to pull together a tremendous report for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) Interim Visit last week. Or it may have to do with how much I love to watch athletic games and see our Huskies working so hard to pull together to play their best. Having been a coach myself for many years, I have a tremendous respect for all that goes into that effort. It also could be that I felt that sense of teamwork among all of our performers during the Arts Jam Concert and the “Mary Poppins” performance. They all worked as a team to ensure that their performances were professional and exciting.

It could also have been the Volunteer Appreciation Tea we hosted last week to honor our parent volunteers. I had the opportunity to talk to some of our parents about being a part of our team and how all of their efforts — day in and day out — help us accomplish all the great things we want for our students. And whenever I think of our faculty and staff, I always see a cohesive team that is at the core of who we are as an institution. While they are teaching different subjects and working in different disciplines, they collaborate together in so many ways and make it all appear seamless. I also want to acknowledge our Board of Trustees, a wonderful group that is constantly working often behind the scenes for our school as a strong viable team. The teamwork theme surfaced again during Senior Day. Celebrated last Friday, a number of Seniors gave speeches and shared advice with the underclassmen. So much of it was related to and focused on the teams that they have been on or the classes they attended. It was nice to hear that they referred to these groups as if they were “almost family.” This was a constant theme throughout the day.

We all know that teams are important, and along the way, we learn that there are a number of traits that really do make a team function at its best: support for others, trust, engagement, hard work and open communication. I played and coached soccer, lacrosse and track and field for many years and loved being a part of those teams. Through those teams, I learned how important it is for everybody to work together in fluid motion. In a recent article, Flint Hill graduate Matt Kennedy ’14, who is on the Villanova basketball team, shared that their coach gives them the advice to “play hard, play together, play smart, and play with pride! If we do those things for 40 minutes during a game, we consider our team successful regardless of the outcome.”

As we “huddle” together as a community in preparation for our final charge, to the end of the school year, I’d like us to all keep a few things in mind:

Positive Intent. As a school, we do really think through what we are doing and what we are trying to accomplish. Are we perfect? Of course not! But we do everything in our power to do things well, and if we miss the mark along the way, then we will want to hear it from you and learn from that. As “teammates,” we need to fight the negativity that occasionally surfaces. If you ever hear comments like, “What are those people thinking out there?” Or, “What is happening at that school?,” it is most often a sign that people don’t have enough information on a situation or they have been misinformed. We are always working in the best interest of our students, and if you ever have questions, our doors are always open.

Communication. Time and time again, I have said, “We need to know the facts.” Decisions are never made in a vacuum here. There are always reasons for a decision, and while we may not be able to know everything, certainly you can ask and have a better understanding of whatever is happening. We need to communicate openly, honestly and respectfully to clarify things. And this important aspect of communication leads to my next point, trust.

Trust. We need to trust the fact that we are in this together. Trust is at the heart of all endearing and enduring relationships. Trust us by being open and honest and communicating with us, and we will always do the same. After all, we are Huskies, and we function best when work as a team.

In the yet-to-be-published report from our VAIS Visiting Team, the final paragraph hit me. I think I can share it with you!  It speaks to us, as a community:

The school cherishes the image of the husky team all working together to pull the sled. It’s rare to see a school that truly and authentically walks its talk. Flint Hill is one such school. One could describe it this way: some schools feel like a community built on the back of a school; at Flint Hill it feels like a school built on the back of a community. The degree to which the members of this community support one another — faculty to faculty, faculty to kids, kids to kids — is inspirational.

It’s going to take a team effort with lots of positive intent, communication and trust to finish this exciting year strong! So team, let’s pull the sled together, charge forward with a loud “go Huskies,” and let’s make this happen!

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster