August 25, 2016

A New Journey

Ribbon cutting on the very first day of Friends' Middle School
Welcome back to school.  We are so glad you are here for our 2016-17 school year! 

We have many new families at Friends’ this year, in every grade from our youngest three year old classes, to our very first middle school class, and we warmly welcome you all to this very special community. We are thrilled to have our elementary and middle school students on each campus and we look forward to having our preschoolers begin next week.

Each week, in this space, I share with you this blog.  It will contain stories of what is going on around school, reflections on general trends in education, anecdotes about different people in our school community, or news of school developments.  My intention is to make it a useful and informative resource for you, occasionally amusing, and perhaps even poignant sometimes.  I hope you enjoy.

As wonderful as the start of the school year has been, we were not expecting the delayed start of school that happened on Wednesday with police activity in the neighborhood. Thank you all for your understanding and flexibility as we made the best decision for the safety of our students and community.

Friends’ School always puts the safety of our people first.  Our staff undergoes rigorous safety training twice a year and we invest annually in safety upgrades to our campuses.  In a September blog, I will update you on all that we do to make our campuses as safe as possible and the latest changes.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about school safety, please do not hesitate to connect with me or your program director.

First day of Kindergarten
We have a new administrative structure this year as we evolve to support each program in our growing community in the best way we can.  Caroline Holland is our new Director of Preschool, Associate Head Mandy Stepanovsky takes on an additional role as Director of Elementary School, and Shelby Pawlina, in her 22nd year at Friends’, is our Director of Middle School. Each of them work closely with me, and with each other, to support the students, parents and teachers in their respective programs.  You will hear more from each of them at your program’s Back To School Night that are all coming up in early September.

As I look back on these first three days of school, I have loved hearing the laughter in the buildings, seeing children greeting old friends, and witnessing the warmth and smiles as new friends are made.

In a letter that Kindergarten teacher Beth Huennekens sent out to her parents this week, she wrote; the random acts of kindness, communication skills, boundless energy, and contagious curiosity has set this group apart.”

At our brand new North Campus, Shelby let 6th grade parents know: “I witnessed a conversation about cell phone use at middle school. Through their discussion, students came to the same conclusions that are in our family handbook without ever mentioning any preexisting “rules”. Voice, choice, and respectful listening…I wish I had this one on video. I’m sure it won’t be the last time! In the gaga pit today, students negotiated rule changes, and demonstrated honest sportsmanship. This class really cares about one another. You would be hard pressed to know who the new students are in the group. Kudos to all these great people! Already, what I have been dreaming about is coming to fruition! We are in for a great year!”
Language Arts teacher Diane Bramble and music
teacher Maria Burbano at our elementary
school gathering this week

And in a letter to our teachers and staff from Friends’ Community Board Chair Elizabeth Henna, I read: “At the new family picnic for elementary families last night, I visited with a dad who was setting foot on Friends’ campus for the first time the night before his oldest child starts kindergarten today. It was wonderful to see his excitement and hear how impressed he already is with our welcoming campus and people. I know that while the kids and their parents are beginning their school year now, each of you has been working hard over the past weeks and months to prepare for this time. I want you to know that I and other trustees deeply appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work required to launch a new school year, especially when that year includes a new program, new facilities, new staff, and new responsibilities.”

I get the fortunate privilege of working with all of these individuals, and all of you, each and every day as we team together to educate and raise the most important people in the world: the next generation. 

Thank you for entrusting us with the journey.

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