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

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There’s a first time 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.

April 6, 2017

Change Is The Only Constant

Our school community received my news this week that next school year will be my last at Friends’ School. I would like to use this space this week to extend my thanks to all of you, parents, teachers and staff, and trustees for the outpouring of love and support that I have felt, mixed in of course with some sadness.

If you missed my announcement, accompanied by a letter from our board chair Elizabeth Henna, you can read them here.

Change is never easy.  Moving on from a good thing is hard.  They say that change is the only constant, words first uttered by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

And so is the case here at Friends’ School.  Dynamic organizations never rest on their laurels or accept the status quo.  They are always looking to grow, to change in positive ways, to create new opportunities, and to learn new ways of being.

One need only look at Friends’ over the past six years to see how we have changed and grown for the better.

And now it is time for someone else to take the reins and continue to create Friends’ future, just as I did in 2011.  And it is time for my wife Steph and me to create our own future, a future that remains unclear at this time, but one that will carry us forward in a new stage of life as empty-nesters.

So thank you for all of your kinds words, and for expressing your excitement for our future.  Thank you too for conveying your real emotions as you have shared sadness that I won’t be at Friends’ beyond the summer of 2018, as well as concern for the unknown that a departure like this brings.

I hold the utmost confidence that the search for Friends’ new head of school is in the most capable hands.  Our Community Board, led by board chair Elizabeth Henna, has been hard at work for a number of weeks now laying the groundwork for a successful search and transition.  Our board is composed of dedicated, smart, hard-working people who love this school and who are entrusted with its future.

The board, and the search committee that it appoints, is eager to share with you the process and invite you to be involved. In the coming days, our entire school community will receive the first of many communications updating you on what’s happening and informing you of ways you can participate.  Our weekly Happenings newsletter will have a regular update on the search.

In the meantime, my focus will be on the fifteen months that I still remain as head at Friends’.  I still have many goals and there is a lot of work ahead to continue to make our school as excellent as it can be.  I am blessed with an outstanding team of teachers and administrative staff who make my job rewarding and joyous every day.

Thank you to all of you for your kind words and hugs. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and finishing this year strong, and to continuing to lead our school through the next school year with all the passion and energy that I’ve always given.

Enjoy your weekend.