Welcome (Back) to the Hilltop

A few weeks ago, I sat with my daughter in a Manhattan coffee shop. I couldn’t help but notice a pair of twenty-something young men hovering around a laptop and talking excitedly. I was intrigued by their energy and asked what they were doing. “We’re working on a movie pitch,” explained one young man. I couldn’t pinpoint why at the time, but these guys gave me a happy charge. Amid a summer tainted by ugly politics, violence, natural disasters…these two reminded me that life goes on, creation and excitement go on, young people full of ideas and ideals go on.

Today I welcome 111 new students to St. Luke’s. In their presence I feel that same optimism fill me. Every student walks onto campus with hopes of friendship, belonging, trying and accomplishing. Every teacher looks ahead to a year of new relationships with students—as mentors, coaches, and friends. It’s a time brimming with promise.

"Veterans" greeting newcomers

“Veterans” greeting newcomers

I’m going to leave you with a little video I shared during faculty meetings. Like my coffee shop meeting, and new student orientation, it left me exceptionally positive about the spirit of our children.

Welcome Back to the Hilltop

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

 

There it is again. That buzz, that palpable energy flowing down hallways and across campus. Students and teachers filling the school with warmth and excitement.  It began with today’s new student orientation—tomorrow that energy will swell as our full student body arrives, ready to make a new beginning.

For the first time ever, I’ll miss greeting students as they arrive for the first day of classes. A small cohort of St. Luke’s teachers and administrators will attend Jim Decatur’s service in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Wild horses could not keep me from Jim’s family—but I am saddened to miss the fresh faces and endless possibilities of the first day.

I cannot adequately thank this community for its support. In true St. Luke’s form, we came together to deal with a terrible loss. Parents, students, and alumni wrote, called, and came to the Hilltop in droves wanting to know one thing: What can I do to help?

Our teachers, though still deeply shaken, have made our students top priority. Classrooms are sparkling, lessons are primed, and everyone is ready to make this a wonderful year.

I’m back on campus Thursday. Jim will be in my thoughts—his big smile in my heart.

NAIS Board of Trustees

Welcome back St. Luke’s families. I hope everyone had a refreshing, rejuvenating break. The Hilltop is buzzing with the life and energy of well-rested students and faculty. Despite aggravating weather forecasts (c’mon already with the snow!), spring’s presence is tangible and most welcome.

I return with news of my recent appointment to the National Association of Independent School’s Board of Trustees. The NAIS board includes many independent school pioneers and innovators, as well as true thought leaders in education. To have a seat at the table where critical conversations start is a privilege.

I’m particularly excited about NAIS President John Chubb. Chubb brings a penchant for research and data that will benefit all independent schools and more broadly, education. You can get a good sense of his philosophy and vision in this opening presentation from the NAIS conference. In it Chubb celebrates the power and potential of “independence.”

Above all, I’m energized by the prospect of bringing NAIS insights to the St. Luke’s community. Stay tuned.

 

Welcome Back to the Hilltop

“Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

William Shakespeare

On this day, everything is possible. We can ace this course, score that goal, invent the next big thing, and save the world. As we walk into school for the first time, all bets are off, all dreams within reach.

A good summer fuels this optimism. This was certainly the case on the Hilltop, as construction began on the new Science Wing. As you arrived today, you saw a big pile of dirt – or mud – but I see kids and teachers in the labs and hallways, brainstorming, designing, building. I see people of all ages getting pumped about science, feeling it in their veins. So many possibilities!

This summer, St. Luke’s students also went into the world to find their voice and make a difference. Five students (Jojo Brame ’14, Lauren Britt ’15, Doug Butman ’14, Wyett Dalton ’14 and Christian Duncan ’14) joined Sonia Bell (Director of College Counseling) and Kate Parker Burgard (Director of Character Education) on a week-long Youth Service Opportunities Project in Washington, D.C. As Kate wrote on the Center for Leadership blog: “Each day, we got up and traveled to a different site where we helped with some of the many services available to help those in need.  From sorting clothes at the Community Family Life Services, to picking up trash for Parks and People, to packing juices in the Central Food Bank, to preparing food in the DC Central Kitchen we had a great chance to lend a hand to these critical support services…in trips like these I often think the biggest difference we make is in ourselves.”

Jereme Anglin (Director of Theater Arts), Dale Griffa (Music Department Chair), Lisa Hobbs (SLS Parent and Musical Accompanist) and 17 students found their voices performing Godspell at the Fringe Festival in Scotland (photo gallery). A few days into the festival, I received this email from SLS parent Jon Jodka:

“Kim, Henry and I have been here in Scotland since Saturday morning and we are having a ball. We just enjoyed the third Godspell performance in four days and I felt I couldn’t wait to get home to let you know that the St. Luke’s group here is doing you and the entire Hilltop community proud. Their performances have been high energy, filled with great song and heavy drama at the end. Jereme, Dale and Lisa all deserve huge congratulations for the way they have inspired these young men and women to give their all in front of an international crowd. More important than the performances, in my opinion, is just what a great group of nice kids this group is..they seem to genuinely care for and be rooting for each other. Kim and I are so appreciative that Nick has had the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful experience. I’m sure you will hear plenty about it when they all return to CT but I wanted to share my joy and excitement with you while still here.”

Some of us found our voices and made a difference closer to homeWeddingMM & M while reuniting with family and friends. I must say, however, that I lost my voice on my son’s wedding day, July 27th, unexpectedly overcome by emotion as I watched the ceremony that included my other son as officiant and my daughter as bridesmaid.  Sometimes emotion sweeps over us when we least expect it to.  In this case, it had something to do with the joy that any father would feel when seeing his children together in a wedding ceremony.  On further reflection, I realized my tears also sprang from the hopes I have for each of my children.  The future holds little certainty, of course, so in that moment the power of possibility, concentrated by the power and optics of a deeply personal public ritual, felt both potent and overwhelming.

As the new school year begins, I don’t want to lose the meaning of those moments. As we rush toward our possibilities, let’s remember why we’re here.  We come to school for the sake of our children, to nurture their possibilities.  We do so by encouraging and pushing them to be their best selves, and frequently that work manifests itself in one of the many timeless, traditional rituals of school.  Like a wedding ceremony, the many public rituals of school sharpen our sense of what children can become.  That sense of possibility is what keeps many of us coming back, year after year, to this most noble profession and this most inspiring school.  As we begin this school year, I hope every St. Luke’s student, teacher, and parent feels awed by their hopes and dreams, by the power of possibility.

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!”

Søren Kierkegaard

Enter to learn. Go Forth to Serve. Welcome back to the Hilltop.