Moving Flint Hill Forward

Dear Flint Hill Families,

Thank you to everyone who participated in the tremendous Winterfest last weekend―it was a huge success! I am sure all of us who walked past our new inflatable Husky through the front doors were impressed by all the energy in the building. A special thanks goes to Winterfest Co-chairs Shaza Andersen and Susan Hernandez, and the team of volunteers who came together to decorate, help with games and activities, staff the School Store and work at the Igloo. The day could not have been the success it was without our volunteers!

Amidst all of the excitement, a question was shared with me that I worried others may have as well. It had to do with our strategic planning process. Why are we asking parents to participate in this process? Are other schools doing this? Ultimately, why are we doing it?

The simple fact is, there isn’t a successful school or a business in this country that doesn’t do strategic planning. In fact, we want to be in the mode of strategic thinking at all times. Everything we do here has to be intentional, deliberate and strategic.  We have an obligation to make certain that we don’t just try to predict the future―we need to create it.  That is where the strength of our experience will come from.

In today’s world, no strong school can or should be static. We can’t solely rely on what has been done in the past. We must always  work to make certain that we are solidifying the skills our children need while also preparing them for their future. To some degree, we are doing this right now as part of our learning experience. If we weren’t doing that, we wouldn’t see a Third Grade class creating their own viewbook to share with the Admission Office. We wouldn’t see children in the Middle School fly a hovercraft from the Commons up to Mr. Lamont’s office to deliver chocolate. And our Upper School Robotics Program wouldn’t participate in a major competition. Last weekend, Flint Hill competed against 52 other teams from across Virginia Orange County High School. There were 36 award nominations and Flint Hill secured 12 of them. In fact, two of our teams have now made it to the state finals, one of which is an all-girls’ team! The steps taken to create all these opportunities have all been strategic.

Strategic planning is a process that our Board initiated last year as we began to work with Ingrid Healy, a Development Consultant. She helped us with our series of parent satisfaction surveys last spring, and helped lead the fall focus groups that many of you participated in. That led to a Board retreat in October, when all the input was considered. At that time, we determined that there are six major areas that are critical to our future:

  • Governance and Leadership
  • Community and Constituencies
  • Academics
  • Student life
  • Signature programs
  • STEM initiatives

From that process, task forces were created with the participation of Board members, parents, faculty and staff, and some alumni. Their main objective was to do a deep dive into all of those areas with the question being, “Where should we be taking these areas within the next three to five years?” On January 16, they all submitted reports to a Steering Committee led by Trustee Lisa Lisker. A major meeting is scheduled for the end of February to take our next step in this process. During this meeting, more than 80 people from all of our constituencies will reflect, debate, discuss and share their reactions to our strategic thinking. At the end of this year, the Board hopes to pass a strategic plan that Flint Hill will roll out at the start of next year. For more information, you can read the charges to the Task Force committees and other information here.

The reason why we have been inviting people from all our constituencies to participate at different levels is to enable everyone to be included and engaged in this process. We are educating your children—an enormous obligation and responsibility—and we take it very seriously. Our students are happy, excited and are learning. That’s because we are doing education, I truly believe, the right way. Are children facing rigorous expectations? Yes, without question. Are they going to be fully prepared for the future? There is no doubt about it. Are we continuing to grow and learn? Are we constantly thinking about how and what we are doing? Absolutely!  Are we rigid in saying, “This is the only way?” No. That’s why we want everyone’s voice in this discussion. Our hope is to listen, share, get engaged, inspire and ultimately motivate each other as we begin to get excited about where we are going as a school.

We have lots of moments of great joy and excitement! The Girls’ Swim team, which has never performed higher than seventh place in the ISL, catapulted to second place this year in a league of 17 schools, surpassing schools with Olympic champions on their rosters. I am proud of the growing list of colleges and universities that are accepting our soon-to-be graduates, and to hear our students talk about their hopes and dreams as we look to the future. It is an exciting time! We want you to be very much a part of it and to share the confidence that our graduates have when they leave us, that they have been prepared in an atmosphere that truly was focused on relationships, balance and innovation.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster