Head of School Letter—January 2019

Dear FXW Community,

What are your thoughts on New Year’s resolutions? I ask this rhetorically to provide some perspective after turning the page on 2018. The new year reminds us of the opportunity for renewal in some aspects of our daily happenings or to rededicate our efforts in other areas of our lives. It also is the time when we reflect on the past year while looking forward to the opportunities ahead. While some of my resolutions have already changed (several times over), I used the recent break to reflect on this wonderful school community and what more we can do for our community.

My colleagues and I aspire to create the ideal learning environment filled with incomparable experiences; in short, we want what is best for students. Yet “everything they need” has evolved over the years and schools have had to adjust to meet these needs.

As we reflect on giving our students everything they need, I want to update you on the HNC Principal search. Prior to break, we sent a message to the faculty and staff indicating that we wanted to use the time to take stock of our HNC Principal Search. Through the work of a faculty search committee, the parent search committee, and based on faculty feedback, we narrowed the search to two finalists. Our Interim Principal April Greer was one of those finalists. While the other candidate’s qualifications were also impressive, we decided not to move forward with her candidacy.

When we asked April to take on the role of Interim Principal for the 2018-2019 school year, we had two main goals. First, of course, we wanted her to head the HNC leadership team for this year, which she is doing well. Second, we sought a clearer idea of the qualities needed in the Principal’s role to best serve the students and faculty, while also allowing more time for our other new administrators—including Andrew Miller and Alyssa Brescia—to settle into their new roles and working relationships. Under an aspirational search timeline, we also hoped to announce the new Principal during the school year, but also realized that the process might take more time, and this is indeed what has happened.

As April continues as Interim Principal, the “interim” title serves several purposes. It indicates our ongoing support of April filling the role as the campus leader and continuing her positive relationships with students, families, and colleagues. It also provides April more opportunity to deepen those relationships, gain experience, and receive institutional support, while also leaning on the wisdom and expertise of others. Additionally, we are allowing more time, with a very capable person as a campus leader, to determine if we proceed with another search. In this way, we will be confident that we are giving the FXW community exactly what they need in a Principal.

FXW is a place that can be easily described as busy, and as we look back on 2018, I want to mention just a few highlights of what we have done to support the needs of the students and faculty. These lists are more extensive than the space allotted, and the plans and priorities are too numerous to list comprehensively, but I invite you to click here for a partial listing of what we have accomplished in 2018.

It would be easy to be boastful about the good work of my colleagues and how your partnership supports these efforts. Instead, we take stock of all these accomplishments because these are what define great schools and this is what we believe our students, faculty, and parents need. To that end, I loved the note from a student thanking me for “changing his life” by adding the much-needed bottle-filling water fountains at both campuses.

As we move towards “giving them everything they need,” we build on these initiatives and reflect on their impact, all with an eye toward using these as a guide to continuous improvement. Our vision is simple and yet profound: Frances Xavier Warde seeks 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. We will realize this vision through proactive and intentional efforts to identify and implement best practices, adapting to the ever-changing circumstances in education, and by adopting a spirit of continuous improvement.

Looking forward to 2019, I would also like to share just a few of the things we will be doing at FXW. In your child’s folder next week, as well as through In the Loop, you will receive a synopsis of the Strategic Plan priorities. Our work on these objectives has commenced and you will hear more about the plan in the coming months. One component of the Strategic Plan is the development of a Campus Master Plan. This will outline the best and most effective use of our facilities. As our Strategic Plan indicates, we want the facilities to match the caliber of our teaching and to support the strength of our program. This is one area for growth for FXW and certainly addresses what we need.
In addition to specifics spelled out in the Strategic Plan, we have dedicated our efforts in other areas that are integral parts to the FXW experience. In the weeks ahead, we will be:

  • Conducting a K-8 “Schedule Audit” to determine how best to deliver on our mission and more specifically our Charism: A Community of Thinkers and Leaders in an Academically Enriched Environment. As the student-teacher connection is at the center of our decisions about changes to our learning environment, we hope to develop a schedule that works to makes the most of time, space, and personnel; eliminates obstacles; creates opportunities to expand our programming; and increases student performance, satisfaction, and enthusiasm.
  • Conducting a Compensation Review which continues our efforts to address the opportunity to enhance the compensation and benefit package for our faculty and staff. The goal is to maintain our low faculty attrition rate while being more competitive in attracting new faculty, and to ensure our faculty salaries are equitable and in line with peer schools.
  • Continue to discuss our space constraints in light of our curriculum offerings while seeking creative solutions to offer the finest academic program and unmatched experience.

In closing, allow me to share the wisdom of a colleague of mine:
While it’s true that January 1st is just an arbitrary date, exactly like December 31st, the New Year is nevertheless important in our lives. The New Year is a time to set goals, but more than that, the New Year is a time to set our intention. Intention is not the same as the goals we set. Goals are what we hope to achieve; intention is the experience we want to have.

We turn to intention as it will articulate the feeling we want to experience throughout the day, in meetings, in conversations, and our adventures. When we set intention, we set an internal compass for our experience while sense surrendering how to get there.

Setting an intention that is congruent with our passions and possibility helps manifest a life that is rich, rewarding, full beyond our wildest dreams.
– Jeff Shuck

Using the words of Mr. Shuck as a guide, we have begun this new year and new semester with great intention and we appreciate the support you provide us in making the year a great one.

Michael Kennedy

P.S. Thank you to all who braved the weather to come out for our Gala Kick-Off on January 24. It was a wonderful evening and a great precursor to the celebration that will take place at the Gala on February 23. Be sure to buy your tickets and enter the Big Chance Raffle – this is a great way to support our School, have a fabulous time, and maybe win $25,000 in the process.