People Make the Difference

I am sure you have heard me talk about the people that make this place great.  Just last weekend, we had a full Sunday of admission open houses for prospective families.  In every event, I geared my remarks around the purpose of our vision and mission as a school and the people who really bring it to life. It is their passion that allows them to have the driving spirit that inspires, motivates, and supports our students. We are in the people business and we are a school family that thrives in a world of personal contributions and attributes.

If you stop and think about last week’s weather events, it all came back to the people. With snow, rain, ice, and frigid temperatures, the ultimate decisions for delays or school closings, were in people’s hands. They had the best interest of the students at heart by making sure that young people weren’t driving on the treacherous roads or that there were no students standing by bus stops in unimaginable frigid temperatures. Each and every thing we do has to do with people.

Last Thursday marked one of the biggest milestones in the school year.  We celebrated our annual Founders Day, a day when we directly focus on people. It is an all-school gathering for the students, faculty, and staff members.  Occasionally, some parents join us, but it is truly a day to talk directly with our students.  It is a chance to share with them some of the history of the school and the people who made this school what it is today. If you have never been to one of the programs it begins with a memorial service.  We recognize those members of our alumni and former faculty and staff who have passed away over the last year by tolling the school bell in their honor. We also take time each year, to focus on someone in our history who has made an enormous impact on our school.  This year, we took the time to honor William (Bill) A. Hazel.  Bill passed away last year, but his impact on our great school will be remembered forever. Our Learning Center in each division is named the “William A. Hazel Learning Center.”  It was Bill’s vision, working with former Headmaster Tom Whitworth, Hank Berg, and others who brought about the existence of the Learning Center. It was one of the most visionary steps the school took in its early years and truly one that has had an impact on the learning of every child and teacher on both campuses.

It was wonderful to share Bill’s story with the students and to talk about the fact that in the business world, he owned one of the largest construction companies in this region of the country.  The William A. Hazel Company (with their bright red trucks and yellow lettering) continues to work on many of the major construction projects around this entire region. He did all the site work on the East Campus and 10 years later on the West Campus as the Upper School was created.  But it was truly his “Make It Happen” approach that helped lead to the vision of the Learning Center.  He strongly believed that there are wonderful, bright, and capable students who learn just a bit differently, and who cannot be allowed to give up on themselves.  And the educational system cannot be allowed to give up on them.  It has become a hallmark at our school.  It has become something that is at the core of what we teach and how we share with each other.  It was William A. Hazel’s impact that truly made it happen.  We were blessed to have his wife of 58 years Eleanor Hazel, along with his daughter, two of his sons, and two of his grandchildren joined us for this tribute.  It was great to welcome them to the school and to thank them profusely for the legacy Bill has left for all of us.  It was also exciting that we had three former faculty and staff members returning for this special ceremony.  Ed Kline, former business manager, Hank Berg, former assistant head and founding faculty member, and Linnea Nelson, former director of the Learning Center, were able to join all of us to witness this celebration and to share in the outpouring of appreciation and gratitude.

We also took time to congratulate several members of our faculty for some recent accomplishments. They are:

  • Kim Duncan, Upper School science teacher, was recognized by the Chemical Society of Washington with the “2013 Leo Schubert” memorial award.  This award recognizes the outstanding teacher of high school chemistry in the Washington DC area.
  • Andrew Carle, director of Makers Education, received the Stanford FabLearn Fellowship. The Transformative Learning Technologies Lab at Stanford University selected Andrew “as a pioneer in generating an open source curriculum for Makerspaces and FabLabs around the world.”  He is one of only 10 teachers selected.
  • Tom Verbanic (Director of Athletic Operations and Head Varsity Football and Baseball Coach) has been selected to be the Head Coach of the United States Underclass (non-seniors) Football All-Star Team for an international game against the Canadian National Team in February, in Dallas, Texas.
  • Flint Hill just received a plaque from the Apple Corporation making us a “Distinguished School for 2013-2015.”  This recognition couldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Melissa Scott, technology integration department chair and Emily Sanderson, dean of faculty.
  • Maddie Krug, Upper School English teacher was notified that Flint Hill is one of the finalists for the “2014 Crown Award” from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.  This is the top award for a scholastic or collegiate literature magazine.

It is also at this ceremony when we take time to recognize the “Driving Spirit” award winners for this year. It was a tremendous honor to recognize, Jill Moore, French teacher and modern language chair, Rico Reed, Upper School assistant director, and Sheena Hall, Lower School director for their outstanding commitment to our school and the impact that they have had on everyone.  Here are the nominations that I shared with everyone at the ceremony.  I was excited that after the ceremony, a senior came to see me to find out how he could nominate two teachers for the Driving Spirit award.  He said that when he was listening to those powerful remarks, they made him stop and think that he have been fortunate enough to have two people who really have had an impact throughout his school career and he wanted to nominate them.  The process is actually very simple.  To nominate a teacher or a staff member, please email Ana Yarbrough or me, outlining the reason why you would nominate this person.  You can send your nominations at any time during the year. Your wonderful thoughts and comments are very much a part of the selection process and I welcome each and every nomination.

As we go forward, let’s always reflect on how our lives revolve around “people.” Whether it is our children, students, teachers, coaches, or you as parents, everything is related back to people and the relationships we create.  This weekend will lead us into the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Day.  He was someone who had a tremendous impact on our culture and ultimately the world.  Through his examples, his heartfelt courage, and leadership he made all the difference in the world.  The number of quotes that all may cherish from him is almost endless. Three quick quotes that always resonate with me are:

  • “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

  • “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of those individuals who came into our lives for a lifetime of memories. While most of us never had the opportunity to meet him, we will never allow ourselves to forget his leadership, his example, and the legions of people, of all races, who followed him in the Civil Right marches and who changed the character of this country and our commitment to celebrate and respect all people.

As we move into the second semester of the school year with all the concerts, games, and activities ahead, please always keep in the forefront of our minds that it all comes down to the people.  It is our young people that we are helping guide, nurture, and support.  And it is the great people who teach and share their talents with our children that truly will have a lasting influence on them for a lifetime.

Best wishes to you!