May 30, 2012

Looking Back, Taking Stock, Saying Thanks

Here we are at the end of another school year.  We made it! When I think back to all the students whom I first met back in August and I see them now, the changes are remarkable. 

From our youngest preschoolers to our oldest and wisest fifth graders, what a year it has been.  A year of growing, of learning, of making new friends, of challenging ourselves, of trying new things, of getting out of our comfort zone and surprising ourselves. 

Of course the learning has not just been limited to the children.  The adults in our Friends’ School community have all stretched themselves too.  Our Teacher Candidates have grown from novices to confident teachers.  All of our faculty and staff have set and met goals.  Our parents have contributed in countless ways. Our Community Board has been hugely instrumental in leading the charge as the school continues to evolve. As a first-year Head of School, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way as well.

Please join me as I share some of the accomplishments achieved at our school this year.  Some of them you likely know about.  Others may surprise you.  In one way or another we were all involved, as we like to say at Friends’ School, in “growing our brains”.

• we installed solar panels on our roof which, on these sunny days, are now providing 93% of the power we need to our elementary building

• we introduced an iPad program with outstanding results for students and teachers in both the preschool and elementary school

• taking the first ever draw from our endowment fund, we significantly increased the professional development dollars available to our faculty and staff, resulting in first-time attendance at several national conferences and other training opportunities

• in support of the arts, we also used endowment money to purchase risers for the music room and we will be installing a first-rate sound system in the Great Room over the summer

• most of our students participated in community service projects, including many visits to a senior center, working in local food banks, raising money for charitable causes, and being good neighbors

• the preschool hatched baby chicks, planted a garden, and released a homing pigeon

• our students went on day field trips and overnight trips around Boulder, to Denver, above Jamestown, and beyond

• we successfully implemented the Investigations math curriculum and conducted research into moving our 2nd-5th grade classes into a new math block schedule, details of which will be coming to parents in June

• our 4th graders made the news by running a hugely successful restaurant for two nights, learning small business management, and raising $3,000 for a local food bank along the way

• our preschoolers played and dug and ran and explored and wrote and built and painted and discovered their way through new experiences, all while learning how to be good friends

• we produced new videos for our website on the preschool, the elementary school, and the Teacher Preparation Program

• we had a record-breaking Annual Fund and an extremely strong Auction which directly benefits our students’ classroom experiences and our financial aid program; many parents,  teachers and staff wore crazy wigs which showed a new side of them we didn’t know before

• we increased our admissions picture in the preschool – from starting school with spaces in September to having waiting lists this May

• we increased enrollment in our Teacher Preparation Program by 20% and partnered with new schools including Alexander Dawson School and Bear Creek Elementary

• we have launched plans to celebrate our 25th Anniversary next year and to begin a formal Alumni Association

• by moving the Teacher Preparation Program off campus for next year, we have created new space and programming for preschoolers on Friday which will start in the fall

• we are investing in cooling solutions for the school for summertime and into next fall

• a number of our teachers had articles published in educational publications

• we enjoyed record attendance at several informative parent education speaker events

• we awarded the first annual Polly T. Donald Enrichment Fund grants to two much deserving staff members

• we began this new Among Friends’ column in the Happenings which surprised us by reaching more than 7,000 visitors to this website

Throughout it all, we continued to work and play together to create a school that is like no other - one where children are challenged to know themselves, where subjects are taught in experiential, fully-integrated ways, where creative and critical thinking and children’s natural curiosity are celebrated, where we all become an integral part of a caring community, where everyone is challenged and honored in a lifelong journey of learning.

We are very grateful to those who have been part of the journey and who are leaving us.  A huge thank you to our Teacher Candidates (whom I named in this space two weeks ago) and to Rachelle Price who has taught Spanish for the last two years and who is beginning a Ph.D. program in Linguistics at my alma mater at the University of York in the England. 

We are exceedingly appreciative of our Trustees who are leaving the Board after giving so much of their valuable time, their incredible expertise, and their boundless energy: Robin Catlin, Tom Cohen, Ryan McIntyre, Chad Peters, Mandy Stepanovsky, and Ana Tenzer.  They have all contributed in so many important ways to the growth and well-being of our school.

Chair of the Community Board, Fred Marienthal
And even though he is not leaving the Board, we are all extremely indebted to Fred Marienthal who is stepping down after three years as Board Chair.  His vision, leadership, and wisdom have guided the school through a period of great transition – from Polly Donald’s retirement, through a national search for a new Head of School, to this first year with me at the helm.  Fred loves this school and has kept us all rooted in its founding values and mission.  He is tireless in the work he does behind the scenes and I am honored to call him a mentor and friend.

This Among Friends’ column is taking a break for the summer. I wish you and your family a wonderful, relaxing, engaging, safe, and enjoyable time away from school.  Keep reading, enjoy each other, and I’ll see you at one of our summer programs or back at school in August.

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