I have never liked saying goodbye. It is never easy. It has always been emotional and difficult for me. I have talked throughout the year about how in the school year, we reach the point when we need to say goodbye to Seniors, students who are moving, and/or moving on, and great faculty and staff members who may be leaving us at the end of the year. I have vivid memories of each of the great schools that I left throughout my career. At each one, Emily and I put down roots, our kids went to school there, and we made the school a way of life and not just a job. And each time I drove off the campus on that last day, there were tears streaming down my face. I ultimately learned how each one of us goes through this process in a very individual, private, and personal way.
Schools are families; our school here is a family. There are some folks who have talked about their impending departure at the end of the year throughout the entire year. It is their way of processing the upcoming change and the transition that they will go through, and the one we will go through next year without them. And there are many others who do not talk about it and really do not want any attention drawn to themselves. I was always one of those folks. At each school, I just wanted to get to the end of the year, continue doing what I did, and then drive off into the sunset to my new adventure. I call it “The Lone Ranger Syndrome.”
I also learned along the way that it really is not a goodbye. It is much more a case of see you later or hope to cross paths again soon. This is a small world, much smaller than any of us have ever dreamed. We will certainly see everyone at some point so it really is not a goodbye.
Each of the people departing this year has added to our school community, to our sense of culture, and to the development of their students over the years, their colleagues, and countless parents throughout their tenure. It is an amazing group of people who have devoted significant parts of their lives and careers to our great school. See a list of departing faculty and staff. On any given year at schools, departures will vary in number and in reasons. I have seen one division or even a department have more faculty leaving one year, and hardly any the next. I have seen people leave for family reasons, for relocations, for a chance to “restart their engines,” and simply because it is the retirement age. Changes in leadership can also occasionally stimulate people who have considered a change for sometime to finally decide this is the time. While it is sad to say goodbye, it is sad to say so long and see you soon to great members of our school family. It also offers us the opportunity to say thank you and to share with them how much their service has meant to our children and to us as parents. If you feel moved to, I hope you will find a moment to say something or jot a note to them. Teachers, like all individuals, cherish those experiences of appreciations.
Sometimes, these moments also come to us as questions about attrition, retention, and how the numbers fit. Nationally, at great independent schools, it is interesting to note that the average attrition for both faculty and staff and students is between 12% and 15%. Some years it may be a bit higher or a bit lower. For teaching faculty this year, our attrition is actually at about 14%. It is also interesting to know that our overall attrition of our student body is at only 5.5%. Regardless of the numbers, each person is important to us and we will miss them all. We value, honor, and deeply appreciate the amazing contributions they have made individually and collectively.
As I was driving over this Memorial Day weekend and thinking about writing this letter, suddenly the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler came on the radio. As you have gotten to know me over the years, you know that music and songs, sometimes fill my reflections and seem to express, far better than I can, the feelings that I have inside my thoughts. Here is a link to that great song. It is absolutely appropriate as we think about these wonderful people who have been tremendous Huskies. They have cared for our children and have served as confidants for us as parents and colleagues alike. They truly have helped make our school the great place that it is today. But our paths will continue to cross again and hopefully they will be back for Homecomings and social events, or just to visit when they can. They will take great delight in seeing your children and seeing you again in the years to come. At the same time, many of them are going off to new adventures, new opportunities, new parts of the world, and new experiences that will continue to generate within them the love of learning and teaching, and the passion for life that they have so generously shared with each and every one of us.
Meanwhile, as we send our best wishes to our departing faculty and staff, we also begin to gear up for next year already by welcoming new members to our school community. The process of coordinating searches for vacancies in the faculty and staff, falls to our Dean of Faculty Emily Sanderson, with the help of Assistant Head for Academics Bill Ennist, the division directors, the department chairs, and a whole host of fellow faculty and staff members who help candidates go through a very rigorous interview process. While we will have a full set of mini biographies on each new member of our school family at the start of the school year, I thought I would at least share a brief update on some of these new members who have been hired to date. See a list of new faculty and staff. They are an impressive group and come from a variety of backgrounds with a range in years of experience. I know you will join me in welcoming our new Huskies as they transition into their new roles throughout the summer and into the fall. They will soon add their unique talents, personal touch, and passion to our Driving Spirit and will join us in continuing our very exciting educational journey into the future.
It is hard to believe that next week our students in the Middle and Upper Schools will be taking their exams, Middle School will have their Color Games and Lower School will have their Field Day. And the following week, we will be celebrating Closing Ceremonies at all three division levels. This is a time to celebrate this incredibly productive school year and all that our children have accomplished. And then the next is Commencement Week, with a full set of special experiences for our seniors as they prepare for their departure from secondary school and head off to the next stage in their educational journey. Hold on to your hats! Enjoy this beautiful spring weather and collectively as a school family, join me in embracing, congratulating, thanking our departing faculty, welcoming the new members of our school family, and cheering the great achievements of all of our students!
Best wishes to you!