Four hundred and ten St. Luke’s parents, faculty and staff gathered on the Hilltop for the 12th annual State of the School (highest attendance in the past seven years!). Every year, I think: This just can’t be as good as it was last year. And every year, I’m happily proven wrong. The warmth of the evening, the easy camaraderie, and the caring – about our school and one another – all add up to a deeply satisfying evening.
I began the presentations portion of the night with two honors that left me struggling to get through my words. First, I thanked former Board Chair Christine Seaver for her legacy and leadership. She received a standing ovation which she says she will never forget. Next, I presented the Distinguished Faculty Award to Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning, Guy Bailey. Along with the joy of this honor came the bittersweet news that Guy will retire at the end of this school year. As I told the audience, “That will be our school’s great loss, of course, but it will also make our profession poorer.”
In his first year as Board Chair, Bob Wyckoff embraced our State of the School theme of “possibilities.” He expertly guided us through exciting developments, including a 3D animation of the new Science Wing. Bob also gave a concise overview of St. Luke’s financial sustainability and wrapped up with a stirring video clip from St. Luke’s 2013 Graduation Ceremony. It features English teacher and SLS alum Frank Henson as the Parent Speaker (his son Eliot was graduating). Frank’s address is, in Bob’s words: “Incredibly inspirational and a wonderful example of the magic that can be created for students by a great teacher speaking to hard work, service and the love of our St. Luke’s Community.”
“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”
– John Dewey, 1915
I used this statement from John Dewey to kick off my presentation. It captures the timeless need to evolve for our children. I spoke to the call for deeper learning experiences students will remember and apply throughout life. I shared many examples of wonderful SLS teachers creating learning that lasts on the Hilltop.
I also highlighted the extensive research of the St. Luke’s Learning & Technology Task Force and the four recommended areas of focus that emerged from their work:
1) Digital Citizenship: Our children were born digital natives but they must be taught to be safe, responsible digital citizens. We are working to expand and deepen the digital citizenship curriculum in both the Middle School and the Upper School.
2) Online Learning: St. Luke’s is piloting a variety of online and blended classes that offer students more freedom to learn when and where they want, to move at their own pace, and to interact with teachers and students across the world. With five online and blended offerings, St. Luke’s has invested prudently in this exciting realm. As we learn from our collective experiences, we’ll improve and grow the opportunities for our students.
3) The Design Lab concept, currently in development, will expand St. Luke’s engineering courses, increase access to the FabLab and all of its amazing equipment, and create resources and curriculum to fuel design thinking among students and faculty. Much more to come on this initiative as it comes to life.
4) Mobile Technology: Last year, we launched a one-to-one iPad program in the eighth grade. This year, we expanded that program into ninth grade. We did this to give continuity to our 9th graders, to allow us to build on the previous year’s experience, to increase facility with laptops combined with iPads, and to learn from mistakes – in short, to apply our credo of continuous improvement.
St. Luke’s will continue to develop our mobile technology program in the belief that an increasingly digital world asks students to become fluent users of technology. They need us to guide them to become skillful and ethical users of the best tools, to prepare them for their lifelong education and careers.
I had the pleasure of wrapping up with a video, created by our Marketing & Communications Department, highlighting the world of possibilities at St. Luke’s – through the eyes of several SLS teachers and wise beyond their years students.
By next week, I’ll post a video of the State of the School presentations. For now, I hope this synopsis provides a sense of key elements. I want to thank a community that transforms every gathering into a family reunion. The Above & Beyond award goes to the amazing group of parents, led by State of the School co-chairs Jane Ahrens and Cindy Holland, that transformed our lovely Dining Commons into an upscale banquet hall. We could not do this every year without a passionate, talented team of individuals. To everyone involved – thank you for proving me wrong yet again.