May 19, 2016


Graduation season is upon us.  It is the time for transitions, for saying goodbye to the school year we are finishing, and saying hello to the next adventure, the next grade that awaits.

During this busy time, Friends’ School received some excellent news this week.  We have been officially re-accredited by the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS).

Following unanimous votes by ACIS’ Accreditation Committee and full Board of Trustees, Friends’ remains one of only thirty-two schools in our state, and one of only three in Boulder, to hold such an honor.
It has been quite a process to get here.  Our staff immersed themselves in intense work for over a year examining our programs and practices, and preparing a 64-page self-study. 

Back in February this year, a team of school leaders and experienced educators from across the state spent four days at Friends’, interviewing all staff, as well as a number of parents, students, alumni, and trustees, learning all they could about our school. That team produced its own 45-page report about our school which was filled, not only with commendations about what we do well, but also suggestions and recommendations for how we can continue to improve.

Over the next year, we will be taking those recommendations to heart, and putting plans into place to make our school an even better place for all of us – for the students, of course, and also for the parents, teachers, staff, and volunteers who all make this school great.

In the concluding paragraph of the visiting team’s report, the ACIS representatives wrote: During our three-and-a-half days on campus, we immersed ourselves in the school’s culture and daily rhythm, reaching three important conclusions:

1) Every aspect of the program and student experience reflects the school mission and philosophy of educating the whole child, head, hand, and heart.

2) High aspirations pervade the mission and culture of Friends’ School, which provides an unusually rich preschool to 5th grade program, including a Teacher Preparation Program.

3) Friends’ School is poised for growth, with recent plans to acquire a second campus and launch a middle school.”

In addition, the team presented us with five major commendations for the work that we do here at Friends.

FACULTY AND STAFF COMMITMENT: Faculty and staff are committed to the school and one another, making the atmosphere professional, inspirational, and joyful for adults and children alike.

STUDENT FOCUS: Students at Friends’ School clearly have a love of learning and are highly engaged at school. This is a direct result of how well the teachers know the social emotional development and learning profiles of all the students. The way that teachers interact with and speak about the students is warm, respectful and authentic.  It is obvious that they honor each student and value their roles as social and emotional educators.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: The sound and fiscally conservative management style of the school is outstanding.  Friends’ School benefits from a strong Business Office staff and an involved and experienced Finance Committee and evidences a responsible, consistent, and fiscally conservative approach toward its financial management.

USE OF SPACE: It is amazing what is achieved in such tight space.  Everyone is adaptable, flexible, and efficient and this enables the faculty and staff to get the most out of the current facilities.  Friends’ School’s facilities offer a warm, bright, and inviting learning environment for its students. The school’s hallways reflect its mission, both literally and figuratively. 

MIDDLE SCHOOL: Excitement about the middle school initiative is palpable among the leadership of the school. Both the board and administration have dedicated enormous time and energy to the research, planning, and new learning required by this ambitious strategic project.

We couldn’t agree more! This is fabulous news on which to end the school year. 

Thank you for being part of the journey with us.  Wherever your travels take you this summer, and whichever adventures await you, I wish you a restful and wonderful summer vacation. 

May 12, 2016

When you have your health, you have everything

TPP Director Ed Walent thinking through the concept
of differentiation with teacher candidates
We have a lot to be grateful for. And sometimes it takes outside events to remind us of this.

As many of you know, Friends’ is the home to a highly successful, nationally-known, Teacher Preparation Program. Not only do we have our six teacher candidates working in classrooms at Friends’, we partner with nine other schools – independent, charter and public schools – to provide outstanding teacher training to more than thirty new educators every year.

Friends’ is an agency designated by the State of Colorado to confer Colorado Initial Teaching Licenses to our program’s graduates in either Elementary Education or Early Childhood Education. Participants in the Program may also choose to complete a Master’s degree in Education and Human Development through Friends’ partnership with the University of Colorado Denver.

The parents and students of Friends’ School know the teacher candidates in their classrooms well.  They often know some of the other teachers-in-training who are placed in other classrooms in the school, but they don’t get to meet teacher candidates who are placed in other schools, and they don’t know our Teacher Preparation Program (TPP) staff very well.

The TPP is extremely ably run by Director Ed, Walent and Program Manager, Julie Hart.  You may see them waving at you in the parking lot some Tuesday mornings. Ed has been at Friends’ for five years, and Julie has served in various teaching roles, and now this position, at Friends’ for many of the past twelve years.

In mid-April, Ed received some bad news.  After he noticed some unusual symptoms, Ed’s doctor discovered that he needed to undergo quadruple bypass heart surgery.  Through some family contacts, Ed was able to be admitted to the Mayo Hospital in Phoenix, and underwent surgery on April 20.

Ed is now back home, recovering slowly but surely.  We miss seeing him, learning from him and laughing with him every day around Friends’, but we know he is at home taking care of the most important work of all, which is to return to full health.

Last weekend, Ed’s former co-director of the TPP, Shelby Pawlina, who is now director of our brand new middle school, went to visit Ed.  This was no easy task, as Shelby heself had just returned from the doctor where she learned she had ruptured her Achilles heel.  Shelby injured it playing in our annual staff vs. fifth grade soccer game!  Shelby is currently on crutches and will find out soon about potential surgery.

While at Ed’s house, Shelby had the task of informing Ed about another major injury in our Friends’ community.  Tayler Bledsoe, a Friends’ School alumna student, and daughter of our administrative assistant and Alumni Association coordinator Jana Bledsoe, was involved in a serious scooter accident last week, resulting in severe injuries.

Needless to say, this has not been a good few weeks for several members of our community.

The good news is that all three are expected to make full and complete recoveries.  All will be well.

In a recent email communication with Ed, he reminded me of the well-known adage: “When you have your health, you have everything.”  For those whose health is suddenly, or even not
Ed Walent
so suddenly, taken away from them, this is such a truism. 

For those of us who are lucky enough to be in good health, it is sometimes easy to forget how fortunate we have things.

As the parent of two teenage daughters, and as the leader of a school, it is a rare day when something challenging doesn’t occur, or someone doesn't approach me with a complaint, or an issue that must be solved.  Some of these problems are major and genuine, and need my immediate attention. Something is wrong and it needs to be fixed.

More often than not however, when put into real perspective, some of these problems might not be considered real problems at all. Rather, they are inconveniences, or a bother, that can often be solved by taking some time to put them into perspective.

Not as important as being knocked to the ground from a scooter, or having your chest sawn open.  Not as important as serious illness or the potential loss of life.

As a leader, it’s good to remember this perspective from time to time.  Perhaps even always.

All of us at Friends’ wish Tayler, Shelby and Ed a speedy recovery – and to anyone in your family who may be unwell or suffering at this time.

Enjoy the sunshine. 

May 5, 2016

In the News

At our new campus celebration:
Admissions Director Melanie Leggett, Director of Finance
Jen Cope, and board member Carol Hampf
This week the calendar turned to May.  All parents and teachers know that the really busy season is upon us. This week at Friends’ has been no exception.

Many students are wrapping up and presenting their AOE projects (Area of Expertise). So much learning happening in the building.  The fifth grade students soundly beat the teachers and staff in our annual soccer game (the score was 4-3) which was a lot of fun for participants and spectators alike.  The preschoolers are loving the water play that is happening outside now that the weather has warmed up.  They also enjoyed a magical pajama day in the dark!

Our parent council organized a lovely family potluck dinner on Wednesday evening, which was a wonderful event for preschool and elementary parents and kids to mingle and meet staff informally. The fifth graders and their parents host a spectacular spring fling carnival this afternoon on the elementary playground.

Channel 7 sent a news crew out to Friends' to interview fourth grade Cameron K., who is soon to travel to Washington D.C. to participate in the National Spelling Bee. Librarian deana harragarra waters also got on camera.  We will let you know when that story airs.

Lance & Maegan McCardle with Friends'
board chair Elizabeth Henna
Our fourth grade class is deep in rehearsal for their upcoming performances of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors here at Friends’ and also on the campus of the University of Colorado. Our fifth grade class is gearing up to leave on Monday for a week-long trip to the four corners area, Mesa Verde National Park, and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

Our teacher candidates are putting the final touches on their last papers of the semester and are ready to graduate and claim their Colorado alternative teaching license.

Showing campus plans to Howard Rubin

Through it all, we celebrated the purchase of our second campus on Kalmia Avenue, a story that hit the press:  both the Daily Camera and Biz West. You can click through to those stories here.

Thank you to those who came and celebrated with us on Wednesday morning. Parents and lots of questions about the progress of our middle school program and all the architectural drawings we had on display.  We take possession on June 1, and we are ready to roll.