Head of School Letter — September 2018

Dear Parents,

As we transition from summer into fall, I have been thinking a great deal about change and constancy. What things change, and what remains constant?

During our Back-to-School Mass, Fr. Greg Sakowicz shared how excited he was for the new school year, but he also noted that summer seemed to fly right by. Then, tongue in cheek, he questioned why nobody in Chicago ever says, “wow—that was a fast winter.”

Change was one of the themes of my brief message to the students, faculty, and parents at this all-school gathering. Referencing our faculty summer reading, I noted an important theme made by educational innovator George Couros: “Change is the opportunity to do something amazing.”

Couros’ point is important to keep in mind; it is also, it seems to me, particularly challenging in our contemporary world. So much is changing – it seems like every day brings us something new and, at least lately, so much of that feels like new conflicts, new challenges, and new doubts. In this sea of change, there are many things that do remain constant for us, such as the mission of FXW, the Charisms, and the commitment of the women and men on faculty and staff who make “amazing” things happen.

The comfort of constancy also comes in part from our school routine. As we settle into the school year, there is something very reassuring – not only for the students but also for parents and teachers – about the daily FXW cycle, from drop off to pick up. But more important than just a predictable schedule, of course, is what happens during each day.

I heard a wonderful phrase today, and I think it is important for us all to appreciate how profound it is: while norms may have changed over time, the difference between right and wrong has not. In my admittedly biased opinion, there are very few schools that do what we do and have what we have. We strive to keep our core values of faith, service, inclusivity, and academics at the center of all that we do, not because it is easy but because it is the right thing to do. Our faculty works tirelessly to grow professionally and to connect with and inspire each student because it is the right thing to do. We seek to partner with parents to learn and grow together because it is the right thing to do. Those things have not changed at the Frances Xavier Warde School and they never will.

Coupled with this steady foundation is our desire to instill a spirit of continuous improvement. Our ever-evolving world requires this; we must seek out those opportunities to do something amazing. At his recent 25th anniversary Mass, Fr. Tom Hurley made a similar point. He stated he did not become a priest on his ordination day, but rather he has become a priest over the course of his life and experiences. All of those experiences, both tragic and joyous, are contributing to his “becoming a priest.”

As a racially, economically, and religiously diverse Catholic School in the city of Chicago, there are some obvious challenges that we face today. We must seize our opportunities “of becoming” by doing something amazing. To that end, we are very excited to welcome Julie Lythcott-Haims to campus on October 9 to inaugurate the Maggie Daley Speaker Series; demand has been so high that we have established a wait list and livestream option. I also want to share news about other upcoming events.

Plans are in the works for our adult community – parents, faculty and staff – to come together, hopefully in late October, for a conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion facilitated by leading thinkers in the field. At the same time, our teachers and administrators are working together to plan age-appropriate ways to discuss current events in our classrooms, as we work to continue to be a safe place to talk about issues and topics that can be perplexing to students. We will communicate more details about both initiatives as soon as plans are finalized.

I also want to recommend an event next Monday, September 24, hosted by Old St. Patrick’s Church, called “Confronting the Crisis.” I appreciate the leadership of Old St. Pat’s and their willingness to offer this important listening session and address the issues in the Church that have recently made the headlines.

Neither our conversation on race nor Old St. Pat’s forum on abuse will provide final solutions. We must not be discouraged by that but rather recognize them for what they are – part of our ongoing journey to learn, grow, heal, and love. That, above all, is the right thing to do.


Michael Kennedy