Dear Flint Hill School Families,

With summer upon us, I wanted to end the school year with a host of upbeat, positive notes.

At first, I thought about giving you a full report on Friday’s Commencement Ceremony.  A class of 133 outstanding young men and women graduated from Flint Hill. It was a beautiful ceremony with incredible weather, music, a number of great awards, and a chance to hear several great speakers: Our Salutatorian, Valedictorian and our Alumni Speaker, Katie Blaszak ‘01. Katie’s speech was full of positive advice and reflections on the “next step” in our students’ lives. Valedictorian Arman Azad and Salutatorian Hailey Scherer gave very inspirational talks. Arman’s could not have been more timely in light of broader issues facing the world today. He left the room spellbound to an outstanding ovation as his speech concluded. Arman is a true example of a Flint Hill education. He joined our Junior Kindergarten program when he was just four-years-old, and his entire secondary school education has been right here, at Flint Hill.

I also thought I should write about the importance of our faculty and staff. These are the individuals who truly make a difference each and every day. And we know that the continuity of key teachers has an impact on our children’s education. To that end, we celebrated the longevity of our amazing faculty and staff last Wednesday. Here is the list of faculty members who were honored on their key anniversary dates. We also had a great moment at Commencement to thank all the faculty. In particular, we highlighted several who are leaving us after making significant impacts:

  • Carlo Grossman, who for 24 years has been a teacher, mentor, and the person who founded our Theater Program. He has left us a legacy for us to build upon as we move forward to promote our theater and drama programs.
  • Bill Ennist has been with us for a few years and is now heading off to his own headship in Indiana.
  • John Logan is retiring as our Director of Information Technology and has had a quiet but remarkable impact on our systems.
  • Adrianne Gaal is retiring after 15 years teaching in our Middle School, and has watched countless classes move through our community.

…but again that was only a part of my many thoughts last weekend.

I thought about writing this letter as a final endorsement of the Flint Hill Fund. Our Annual Fund helps make everything we do happen. From the education that our 133 Seniors received and the support and help that are provided to the faculty and staff to enhance and enrich their professional learning, to the ability to keep our facilities in great shape and give our two campuses a sense of place and purpose. Those are only a few of the reasons why we need your support and need it now as the school year draws to a close. We need to continue the educational momentum that has become such a part of our school. You can see that in the renovations that are already underway this summer with two new playgrounds emerging, an expanded robotics facility getting started on the Upper School Campus, and areas on both campuses being renovated and rejuvenated to make them even better when our students return in the fall.

I wanted to cover all those exciting opportunities in detail. But then, I woke up on Sunday, and all I could think about was the tragedy in Orlando, and questions regarding terrorism and hate crimes. A long list of questions swirled in my head. Questions that, sadly, we have had to confront before both as a nation and as educators. It was just too overwhelming. You cannot learn about the loss of so many lives and the countless numbers of individuals injured without confronting the fact that things have to change. We have to do something, both individually and collectively, as a society. This is not who we are or who we want to be. Too many innocent people around the world lose their lives every day for things that just make no sense. We are in the process of preparing our young people to go out into the world. But this is not the world we want any of them to experience.

My thoughts drifted to what we need to do in our educational system, and in particular at Flint Hill, to make a difference. What can we do as teachers and as parents? How do we focus on our relationships and core values to continue to build in our young people the strength, character and compassion to prevent these things from happening? How do we make certain that we have prepared them to build a culture where love, understanding and respect are the common outcomes? I’m sure you’ve seen the images of long lines of people waiting to donate blood or the vigils and  countless displays of solidarity around the world. There is hope. The vast majority of people want a world filled with love and respect, but we need to find ways to build the bridges necessary to secure that future, for them and for the generations to follow.

As summer gets underway, I encourage you to read Arman’s speech. For such a young man, he beautifully articulated our need to build bridges, to build on the concepts of love and respect, and with that, responsibility, honesty and compassion. We need to think of ways to help our children learn to build on those values as they look beyond the walls of Flint Hill and into the world. I have heard parents report that when their Lower School kids see children misbehaving, they are surprised that not everyone follows the Husky Promise. How do we build a bigger version of the Husky Promise in our culture? The world needs leaders and true world citizens, if we are going to make a difference. And our children can and must be those leaders!

We always say that we are partners in raising these great kids. We need to be partners yet again at this moment, right now. Join us in this step! If you can think of things we could be doing here at school, I would love to hear from you. It is each and every day that we make a difference. We must build a growth mindset that we are in this together.

It has been an incredibly busy year and a very successful one!! I wish each and every one of you all the best over this summer, and I look forward to us all returning with the energy, passion and the “Driving Spirit” that is such a part of our amazing school.

Best wishes to you!

John M. Thomas