May 18, 2017

Challenging Minds, Nurturing Spirits: An Exciting Step Forward

Many of you celebrated with us on Tuesday of this week, when we launched our brand new logo and tagline. You’ve worn the T-shirt, you’ve seen the hat, you’ve drunk from the water bottle!

The overwhelming feedback that we have received from everyone is very positive.  From our preschoolers to our middle schoolers, teachers, staff, parents, trustees, and alumni, we have heard that the new look for Friends School is a modern and exciting change.

You have also asked great questions:  Why are we doing this now? What was wrong with the old logo? Does this incorporate everything that Friends School is? Who came up with the design? How?

An over-arching rebranding effort has been on the to-do list for our Community Board since our last five-year strategic plan. A lot has changed at Friends since we adopted our previous logo over 25 years ago. Not only were we looking for an updated design that would represent our new identity as a Preschool-8th Grade School and Teacher Preparation Program, we were also aiming to create an exciting look that would tell our story well into the future as we feature online more and more.

Jay Ferracane, Meg Hansen, Howard Rubin
This entire rebranding effort was formally approved by our board to begin last December and has been led by three extremely creative and dedicated people:  Howard Rubin, Meg Hansen, and Jay Ferracane.  Howard is a trustee of our school, a current parent, chair of our Strategic Marketing Committee, and managing partner of Match Marketing Group. Meg is an alumni parent and our Director of Marketing and Communications. Jay is also an alumni parent and he owns AngryBovine, a creative studio that specializes in brand development and interactive. The three worked as a tireless team over the course of approximately 4 months to bring this long-desired project to life.

Before any design began, Meg, Howard and Jay reached out to all the constituents in our school, over the course of several weeks, and began the essential discovery process, asking the key questions: “Who is Friends School?” and “What sets us apart?”  Not surprisingly, among the hundreds of responses, from those who have known us for 30 years to those who are brand new to Friends, most expressed similar themes and feelings about our school.  These were all carefully considered and informed the design process. Meg has skillfully summarized hundreds of responses in the passage below (which can also be found at this link.)

Jay’s team brought five design ideas to Meg and Howard who selected two finalists to present to our marketing committee and rebranding focus group – two committed teams of teachers, staff, trustees, and parents who pondered, and questioned, and voted.

Our preschool team rocking the new look
The winning design is the one you see: a heart shape composed of lines representing the mountains, land, and water of Colorado. Jay tells us that this triptych design is a metaphor for the three-part design of our previous logo: head, hand and heart.  Online, this logo can be animated so that the lines move, which supports our strong belief that the school never remains the same. We are a dynamic organization on the move, continually growing and improving our program.

Jay added that, while the contemporary ‘cool’ design appeals to middle schoolers and our older alumni, there is a lot more heritage in it than some people realize. The red color is reminiscent of the previous logo.  The heart form is still present, albeit more subtle. And while we make it clear that Friends is a progressive, dynamic learning environment, there is also a nod to more traditional education in the shape of a school shield.

In removing the apostrophe in the Friends School name (as so many brands have done before us), we have made our mark considerably more adaptive and recognizable in the digital world.  In Howard’s words, “The logo sets us up to serve us well into the future.”

Our tagline Challenging Minds, Nurturing Spirits is lifted from our Vision Statement.  It harkens back to the very beginnings of our school when our founding parents created a school that is a stimulating, engaging and heartfelt environment, where children could learn by doing, where individuality is honored, and where each child is known.  It also speaks to our emphasis on outstanding academic success.

We are deeply indebted to everyone who participated in this process, our marketing committee, rebranding focus group, all who participated in the discovery process, and particularly to Meg, Howard and Jay for their energy, creativity, boundless hard work, and passion for and belief in this project.

We are thrilled at the result of everyone’s efforts. I look forward to all of us wearing the new logo with pride for many years to come. Over the summer, we will continue to make changes to feature the new logo: on our signage, website, doors, admissions materials, and more. You will start to see a broader pallet of colors introduced, and we will roll out more clothing options and products with our brand new look.
Who is Friends’ School?
(adapted by Meg from the hundreds of responses gathered during the rebranding discovery process)

Friends School values all learners. We are a creative, challenging, safe environment where every student is seen, known, and loved. Small class sizes allow us to know each student fully for who they are, meet them where they are on the learning spectrum, and help them to know themselves and set their own path.

Friends students are academically challenged and prepared to enter the world as thoughtful, kind, genuine, self-advocating, confident, and empathetic citizens. A strong balance of rich academic and social emotional curriculum with an emphasis on character development allows our graduates to successfully transition into any high school environment. Our students not only learn the importance of a social emotional education, they actually LIVE it.

A Friends School education promises essential foundations for a life of success. Our vision is as clear today as it was 30 years ago: challenging minds, nurturing spirits, honoring individuality. 

May 10, 2017

That Time When You Filled In for 3 Months and Stayed for 20 Years!

Kathy Sherwood
At the end of this school year, just a couple of short weeks from today, Kathy Sherwood will be stepping into retirement.

Kathy has been planning this moment for a while as she has gradually let go of some of her responsibilities over the last three years. And even though we have known for a long time that this time was coming, it is still hard to say goodbye to such a long-time and much-loved teacher and administrator at our school.

Kathy was our preschool and elementary P.E. teacher for 17 years, until she passed the torch to her friend and mentee Lindsey Hilliard three years ago.  Over the years, Kathy has been director of our summer programs, she has been a teacher assistant in the preschool, she has directed our AfterCare and enrichment programs, overseen the school’s gatherings, managed all of our big celebrations, created all of our class and specialist schedules each year, substituted in every one of our classrooms, and taught in our Teacher Preparation Program. She is a parent to two Friends’ graduates, and still plays an active role with many of our alumni students.  It leads me to wonder if there’s any part of Friends’ School, or anyone at Friends’ School, that Kathy has not impacted.  I think not!

Kathy has also been a Special Olympics Director and Coach, a high school P.E. teacher and Gymnastics coach, an Adapted Physical Education District Consultant, a Fitness Trainer for Special Populations, she taught Adapted P.E. undergraduate classes at CU and she owned a preschool and children’s center for 10 years. She has quite a resumé!

Back in October 1997, when her son David was three years old and her daughter Jenny was nine, Kathy agreed to fill in for a recently departed P.E. teacher for three months.  Twenty years later, we are finally saying goodbye!

David graduates this month from MIT, top of his class, with a double major in Aeronautics and Finance, having just received an award in New York as one of the most accomplished aeronautics student in the nation.  Jenny is completing her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.  She conducts research with The American Foundation for AIDS Research and has just returned from Bangkok where she is still working on a project to prevent violence against women who have been sex trafficked.  Jenny and David are both Friends’ School graduates.

Kathy was instrumental in creating and developing the amazing P.E. program that our kids love today. From the very start, she has always been more interested in helping our students to learn life skills that they will need to succeed, more than specific athletic skills.  Kathy designed a P.E. program that focused intentionally on the social and emotional skills that children need to thrive: team-building, leadership, good sportsmanship, helping others, and more.

She was the first to bring in the circus program to Friends’ and invented the now legendary Scooter Board City. (Please see this 2012 article for more details.)  Her goals have always been to support kids to speak with, rather than at, each other and to learn how to show good sportsmanship on and off the field, to challenge themselves, to solve problems creatively, and to love physical activity.

I do have a sneaking suspicion that this is au revoir not adieu, as Kathy has shared that, as much as she is looking forward to retirement and travel, she can’t quite cut the ties to the school that has been her family’s home for the past twenty years.  We may see her in our buildings as a substitute teacher, and she may still help us out as we prepare for next year’s summer programs.

Thank you, Kathy, for all the love and laughter of the last two decades, and for helping us grow our kids into better people.  We are very grateful and we will miss you. 

May 4, 2017

The Power of Stories

6th grader Beck explaining his science fair project to Erika
Norman. Beck studied the relationship between different salt levels and
how they affect the boiling point of water in a vacuum chamber
At Friends School we believe in the power of stories. Every student, teacher and parent at our school has stories to tell.  Every day, amazing things happen at our school – from small teachable moments to important planned events.  At the end of every day, children get into cars and stories tumble out.

I started this blog on my first week at Friends in 2011 because I know the importance of sharing the stories that I see every day with you. And I’ve been telling stories here every week since.

At Friends, as many of you are aware, we also tell our stories on social media.

There is a whole other side to Friends School you may be missing.  As an organization, we are very active on social media, principally on Facebook, but we also have a presence on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Blogspot, and LinkedIn.

We strongly encourage all of our families to follow us on social media because we want you to know and share our stories.

We all know the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Just this past week on Facebook, I’ve seen photographs of several wonderful events happening at our school:

- our fifth grade Destination Imagination team won second place at the regional competition and qualified for Global Finals in May (unfortunately the event overlaps with their Silver and Gold ceremony and they have chosen to stay in Boulder for graduation!)

- our middle school science fair was a resounding success, and I came away extremely impressed by the quality of the investigative work.

- our preschool and elementary school classes delivered baskets of flowers to all our neighbors on
Delivering May Das baskets
May Day.

- we have a few fantastic items that did not sell at the Heart of Friends Auction that we know some families won't want to pass up! 

- our preschool Parent Celebrations where we thanked our parents for all you do to support your children's love of Friends' School. 

- the fourth and fifth grade classes visited the Colorado State Capitol and the Ralph L. Carr Justice Center last week as part of their study of US Government. Students sat in the House and Senate galleries to hear the state legislature debate and pass bills during this legislative session. 

 - the Colorado Mountain Club's Youth Education Program is coming to Friends’ this summer for five days of rock climbing adventure, skill building, and teamwork! No experience necessary.

- all of our elementary classes are gearing up to present their Area of Expertise projects.

- registration for our amazing summer programs is open, with plenty of offerings for every taste.

Please like our social media sites, by clicking on the links above.  I feel confident you will be happy knowing the rest of the story.

April 27, 2017

Scenes from Prom!

Prom King Joe and Prom Queen Lisa
A huge thank you to everyone who came out to our 2017 Prom-themed auction on Saturday night. It was a spectacular evening, and a great reminder of what a fun and adventurous community Friends’ School is.  While some guests came in outfits from the modern day, a surprising number of people went all out to re-live their high school prom days!

As well as a enjoyable party and community event, the auction is also a very important fundraiser for our school, supporting our programs as well as financial aid which allows us to let families pay what they can afford for a Friends’ School education.

Rather than sharing an essay with you this week, please enjoy these images taken by our fantastic photographer Meg Hansen.  Below the pictures, there is a link to a wonderful slide show that Meg has compiled, which is well worth watching – seeing our Friends’ parents, teachers and staff at their finest!

Lastly, our whole community is indebted to the many fabulous people who worked so hard, and so creatively, to produce our auction and who turned our new middle school building into a dazzling party space.  We had too many volunteers to name everyone, but I must send huge appreciation to the following individuals:  Lou Bendrick, Kathy Hagen, Meg Hansen, Jana Bledsoe, Chelsea Flagg, Karen Donahue, Joe Baran, Rachel Relin, Emma Brown, and many more.

Hal and Lou

Kasey and Mark

Lauren and Jared

Katie and Caroline
The MC and the band!

Chelsea and Bill

Mo, Chad, Shelby and Tim

George and Megan

Jeremy, Lou, Mindy, Laura and Brad
To view the slideshow, please click here!

April 19, 2017

Bees and Hippos and Children, Oh My!

Alex (class of '16), Caroline, Ellia (class of '13)
Pop quiz: Which Friends’ School staff member ran her own summer camp program when she was ten years old and lost a five year old in the Hippo House at the zoo?

At age ten, she and her older, more mature friend (age 13) started their own summer camp in Philadelphia.  They took kids from ages 3-5, and spent the summer with them taking them to the park, swimming in the friend’s family’s pool, and inspiring them with arts and crafts projects. One memorable day the group was chased by a swarm of bees in the park, but all’s well that ends well.
And the child was found unharmed by the hungry hippos.
It makes perfect sense that this long-time Friends’ parent, whom we hired to join our staff a year ago, is none other than our Director of Preschool, AfterCare and Summer Camp, Caroline Holland. 
She has been groomed for this role from an early age!
Caroline’s first experience with Friends’ was in 1995, when she observed our play- based preschool as part of her continuing education teacher certification program.  Upon entering the classroom, she realized this was what she calls “truly an extraordinary place”.  The sense of joy, levity and engagement in the classroom was very inspiring.  She found the same to be true many years later when she began a preschool search for her own children.  The genuine respect the teachers give to the children and their devotion to educating the whole child completely aligned with her own beliefs about teaching.
Fast forward many years: Caroline’s daughter Ellia graduated from Friends’ in 2013 and her son Alex finished 5th grade last year in 2016, the same year Caroline was hired.
Caroline picked Friends’ School for her own children because she understood that the teachers here know what is best for the whole child. She sees their true dedication to wanting children to be self-actualized.
Caroline says that the growth mindset that we advocate for so strongly at this school has helped both her and her kids. “I have had the opportunity to continue to grow my brain through my work at Friends’!” she told me. She appreciates the culture here that makes it feel safe to take risks.  That culture helps children, and even parents, to try challenges, to experience failure, and to pick themselves up.

Caroline has a BA in sociology from Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, outside Richmond.   She is Montessori Lead Certified through the Montessori Education Center for the Rockies. She was first attracted to Montessori education because of its appreciation for individuality and its ultimate respect for the child. She sees the same thing with her preschool team of teachers at Friends’.
As a parent at Friends’ for so many years, Caroline always had the impression of how hard the teachers worked.  Now, as an insider, she understands how much harder they work than she ever realized, how committed to their profession they are, and how they continue to grow their skills.  Lifelong learning is not just a cliché.

Last year was Caroline’s first year directing our summer program.  Coached by long-time director Kathy Sherwood, Caroline is glad we offer summer opportunities to children of such a wide age range, ages 3-14. Her previous school had no summer camp option.  She is grateful that Friends’ meet our families’ needs and that kids get to try so many different things.
As Director of AfterCare, she feels fortunate to have such a great staff, and she loves when parents tell her how much they love seeing the staff playing and interacting with the children.
And we feel fortunate that Caroline has continued her relationship with our school in such a meaningful way.
Even with all of her multiple roles here at Friends’, Caroline assures me that she’s constantly on the look out for bees.  She also learned her lesson long ago – always count the children in your care.  As far as I know, she has never lost a child in the Hippo House since she was ten. 

April 13, 2017

My First Ever Prom

Add caption
There’s a first for everything and this year I’ll be going to my first ever prom for the Heart of Friends’ Auction on April 22nd.

Despite the fact that I’m wearing a tux in this photograph, I never went to prom. (The picture is actually from a formal event at the University of York during freshman year.) I grew up in the traditional world of English boarding schools, therefore was robbed of the experience of presenting my date with a too-big corsage then posing with her for an awkward photo under a balloon arch. I didn’t arrive by stretch limo or slow dance to Bryan Adams under a disco ball. Alas, poor schoolboy!

On the upside, having a mid-life prom means that I don’t have to panic about finding a date or worry about getting her home before curfew. My wife, Steph, already said yes and she’s a good sport. My bow tie doesn’t need to match her dress and she doesn’t event want a corsage (it doesn’t go with her fit bit). For the record, Steph has decided not to dress in the prom theme, and you don’t have to, either, but I’m sure she’ll wear something respectable! I will be breaking out a brand new bow tie! Besides, the theme isn’t really the point.  The point of our Heart of Friends’ Auction is to have a lot of fun together as a community, all while supporting a fantastic cause.

The auction portion of the evening supports our students and teachers for next school year and the “paddle raise” is critical for supporting families who would not be able to attend Friends’ School without some additional resources. Thirty percent of our families do not pay full fee. Without financial aid, our community would be less diverse and vital. It is what helps to make us a community.

On a related note, you might see this fine lady
when you come to our North Campus.  This was
the view from my office there on Wednesday!
And we certainly are a vital, fun community. During the last six years that I’ve been head of school, Friends’ auctions just keep getting more fun. I’ve attended in various years wearing a mullet, a silver suit and tie, a Blue Brothers look-alike outfit, and with totally tubular Duran Duran highlights in my hair.  It’s a blast!

 It’s one of the few times a year our busy parent and staff community can have an adult night out and bond over drinks, great food and dancing.  This year we’ve lowered our ticket price, changed our venue and added our very own homegrown  band. All reports coming out of rehearsals are that they not only have fun together, they are pretty darned talented! The silent auction is better than ever and, spoiler alert, the administrative staff has put together something that comes in a little red wagon that you won’t want to miss.

So, if you haven’t already bought your ticket, please do! Join me for my first prom. I might even get to be prom king yet — a ticket enters you into a drawing to win a prom court title. (As a Brit, the prospect of wearing a crown is deeply appealing).  I’d really like to come up with a big “promposal” for all of you: maybe Dacia could spell out P-R-O-M in tater tots or Lindsey could  do it with PE mats and cones.  Let me know your ideas.

Remember: I’m new to this.