Dear Flint Hill School Families,

As we continue to reflect on best practices, it seems almost too simple to say that our most important outcome is to create good people. But ultimately, that is what we all want for our children, both as parents and as educators. We want our children to be educated for sure. We want them to be able to communicate effectively and think creatively, and we want them to be ready and be able to succeed in whatever they do. But the foundation for all of it is a set of core values that influence and strengthen their character.

Our school’s core values — honesty, respect, responsibility and compassion — are critically important to all of us at Flint Hill. They are direct and to the point and serve as guideposts for every member of our community. They are at the foundation of our relationships; they are entwined with our concept of directed guidance and discipline and, ultimately, impact how we judge ourselves and interact with each other.

In the Lower School for example, the core values are intertwined with the Husky Promise. Our Lower School students learn that promise and recite it on a regular basis. In the Middle School, students focus on a Social Contract that they help create, and it is a guiding force for their interactions during the course of the school year. In the Upper School, our cores values are reflected in the Honor Code. All of this serves to weave our core values into the fabric of everyday life at the school in developmentally-appropriate ways. We hold high expectations for students, faculty and staff alike, and obviously there are challenges along the way. Great kids and even great adults will sometimes make mistakes and errors in judgment. However, the way we respond to and overcome these stumbling blocks makes all the difference in the world.

Here is a breakdown of the meaning behind the core values we have adopted as a school:

Honesty. We know that we need to be honest in everything we do. Whenever I have to deal with a student who has been brought to me to talk through a situation, I always reference the need for honesty as we talk through the solution. As a school, we also have to acknowledge when we are doing things well and when we are not. That is one of the many reasons we regularly solicit feedback from our parent community, either on a one-to-one basis or more broadly through our parent survey process. That honest and direct response helps us get better as a school. With our children, the expectation of honest and direct feedback makes a tremendous difference in their lives as well.

Respect. This is at the core of all of our relationships. We need to demonstrate, value and expect respect. As an example, our commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts is grounded in respect. We need to help our children, at every age, appreciate differences, whether they relate to culture, learning styles, socioeconomic status, or ability. We need to respect every member of our community for who they are and for what they bring to our educational experience.

Responsibility.  I frequently remind our students that we have two major responsibilities in life: to look out for ourselves and look out for each other. We need to make good decisions, use sound judgment and do the things that are expected from us. We know right from wrong and are united on that front at school and at home. The concept of looking out for one another is at the heart of our sense of being Huskies. We are a team pulling that “sled of life” together.

Compassion. Compassion needs to be part of all of our interactions. It is active empathy and understanding. Compassion is doing things with a gentle and caring approach that truly shows that we are in another person’s corner and have his/her back. We expect that among our students, between students and teachers, and between teachers and parents.

During the All-School Gathering on Monday, I shared with the students the story of the Iditarod, which defines our sense of school culture and best practices. The Iditarod is the lengthy, sled-dog race across Alaska that commemorates a compassionate moment in 1925, when people raced 1,150 miles, from Anchorage to Nome, transporting serum to fight diphtheria and save people from dying. Ultimately, the Iditarod race was created to commemorate that moment in time. A lantern was lit at the beginning of the race and stayed lit until the end, to show respect, for those who put their lives on the line in that first race.

Each year, during the All-School Gathering, we light our school lantern to honor our educational journey. The journey is often beautiful, successful and breathtaking. Other times, it can be filled with challenges. But most importantly, we are doing it as a team. The lantern is lit by our team of Lifers, students who started here in Junior Kindergarten or Kindergarten and have remained with us nonstop until their exciting Senior year. This year, five students have been here since Junior Kindergarten, and they officially lit the lantern, surrounded by their nine classmates who have been with them since Kindergarten. The lantern sits in the Upper School front window and will remain lit until the last Senior finishes the educational journey at the end of the school year. It symbolizes our core values and our sense of purpose as the year goes on.

Our best practices, grounded in our core values, are built into each and everything we do and say at Flint Hill.

As summer ends and fall beings tomorrow, join me in my excitement for what’s ahead during this school year and the educational experiences that are ahead for our children.

John M. Thomas