Head of School Letter—October 2018

Dear Families,

As you are well aware, we are currently engaged in our five-week FXW Fund campaign. You have already received a variety of communications detailing the importance and impact of the FXW Fund, and we are very grateful to all of you who have donated or made a pledge.

Because the FXW Fund is a key component to who we are and who we can be as a school community, I would like to devote this space to do a “deep dive” into the rationale behind the FXW Fund and its role within our school community. To do that, we will take a closer look at our financial model and also, ultimately, reflect on our mission, vision, and values and “the why” behind philanthropic support. My intent is much more practical than philosophical; namely, an explanation of why the FXW Fund, and your support, are so important for our shared success.

More Than a Financial Model

By design, tuition and fees cover around 80% of our $15 million annual expenditures. Of the remaining 20%, the vast majority comes from charitable contributions.

This brings us to our first big “why.” Why this financial model? What kind of business plan anticipates a shortfall from its main source of revenue and depends on the generosity of others to make up the difference? To put it another way—why not just raise tuition to cover all of our expenses?

In answering these questions, I think it would be helpful to start by looking at our financial model in the context of the larger educational community while sharing with you our priorities. This financial model and budgeting process is typical in the independent school world and, indeed, even in higher education. Peer schools have similar tuition-to-expense ratios much like ours, and where we may differ is our price point and the intention to develop a budget within the context of maintaining moderate tuition increases while supporting our people and the program they deliver.

This approach allows the FXW experience to be more accessible and affordable to more people, and that is certainly one good rationale to budget in this manner. We are cognizant of the investment you make to be a part of this community, and, in essence, we are asking you to support not just the mission, but the model. From this perspective, we hope we can get your “buy in,” but not just to our budgetary construct. If we dig a little deeper and explore what it is we do distinctly at FXW, I think we will arrive at a much more satisfying explanation of “the why” behind the FXW Fund.

What Does the FXW Fund Support?

I have been told many times by many different members of the FXW community, “tell us what you need and we will be happy to help.” This speaks both to the incredible generosity of our families and the perfectly understandable desire to know with some specificity how one’s donation will be used. I appreciate this thoughtful and prudent approach to philanthropy, and that is why being asked to fill a budget shortfall feels so uninspiring.

Because the FXW Fund goes into general operating revenue, it helps make possible whatever you like best about the School. Maybe it is our arts programming, or our thoughtful integration of technology into our curriculum. Or maybe it is our amazing religious education curriculum and our masses and prayer services, or our incredible teachers and the individual attention that a low student-to-teacher ratio provides. It could also be our efforts to create a safe learning environment—both the physical and emotional safety we never take for granted. Whatever it is that you love best, the FXW Fund helps to make that happen. If we did not have the funds from the generous parent group, our programmatic and personnel decisions would certainly be exponentially more challenging.

Measuring Success

As stated, in order to fully understand the FXW Fund, we would need to reflect on our vision and values in the context of successfully fulfilling our mission. Put another way, the FXW Fund helps to ensure the School’s success. To make that idea less abstract, we must first define how we measure success. The vision for FXW is simple and yet profoundly aspirational—we seek to be the model of a diverse and inclusive school community, the ideal paradigm for Catholic education in the City of Chicago, and the standard for faith-based independent school education–and this
FXW success story encompasses all four Charisms.

As a community of faith, we focus on the importance of believing in something greater than ourselves while fostering and supporting one’s individual religious practices. As we are intentional about the environment in which our students learn—we view differences as opportunities to learn and grow and love. We define academic success in many ways, and a rigorous curriculum is just one variable. It is too simplistic to look just at the FXW test scores that are well above state averages; and a student’s high school placement and success are, again, just a data point. FXW allocates considerable resources to curriculum development, faculty professional development, and implementation of best practices to ensure our students are prepared to succeed inside and outside the classroom—with service being a tie that binds this holistic approach to educating the head and the hearts of the FXW student.

We take seriously the responsibility of educating the next generation of leaders within and through a community dedicated to faith, inclusivity, service, and outstanding academics, and we believe that it is the combination of all of these priorities that makes FXW special. These are our pillars, this is how we measure success, and it has been a core value of the FXW education for almost three decades. We are able to accomplish these only in partnership with all of you; we achieve success together.

When viewed through the lens of this success story, the question that I alluded to before takes on a whole new meaning: why is the FXW Fund so important? At the risk of making this message longer, allow me to attempt to be succinct: Our children are entering a complicated world, full of new technology and opportunities but also full of competing priorities and never-before-seen challenges; it is a world that somehow feels both more accessible and connected and yet more divided than ever before. Navigating the educational journey to become a good student and a good person has never been easy, but now it is perhaps more challenging than ever before. That is where we need an FXW.

Meeting that challenge is at the heart of everything we do. Your financial support through the FXW Fund allows us, quite literally, to devote the time, energy, and resources to these “big picture” issues. More than that, though, your donation is also a vote of confidence in our mission, an assertion that your measure of success is in harmony with ours. It is a statement that, yes, FXW is preparing our children to succeed in our complex world; yes, we need our students to be leaders and followers who will unite rather than divide; yes, our success is only possible if we all work together; and yes, this truly is important. Viewed this way, we can say that your tuition helps to create an exemplary school, and your support of the FXW Fund helps to create an extraordinary—and very worthwhile—experience.

We want you to support the FXW Fund because you believe in our mission and believe that this mission is vital in the world of today and tomorrow. I hope that we all agree that FXW is also striving to make a difference in the world. Your annual donation does so much more than help us to balance our yearly budget. It is called the FXW Fund because you are supporting the FXW mission, FXW’s values and vision – the FXW difference.

Your thoughtful support is the most tangible statement possible that the success of our mission depends on all of us, together.

With gratitude,