Head of School Letter⁠—June 2019

Dear FXW Community,
In this space, I have referenced my family, sometimes without their knowledge or permission, to provide a context for the message of the month. I have shared my not-so-great parenting as well as “glory” moments when I did get it right, simply as a way to demonstrate the perspective in which I lead. A few of us in administration have the unique position, as well as the great challenge, of leading with the best interest of all students in mind – even the one in my house who doesn’t clean his room. When we see these efforts culminate at Graduation, it is a bittersweet moment and highlights the best intentions of all of us—parents, teachers, and administrators. 

I have been involved in the life of schools for more years that I care to remember (or admit). But there is always something about the Graduation Ceremony that causes me to stop and reflect. It seems to capture all of a school’s emotions in one moment—a celebration of the hard work and accomplishments of the graduates, gratitude for the support and partnership of the teachers and parents, excitement and trepidation for the next steps, fond memories, great friendships, and yes, a little sadness that there are those who are moving on.

This year we celebrated 85 graduates and their families. These newest alumni are matriculating to 24 different high schools across the city and suburbs and, in several cases, across the country. We are excited to remain in touch with them and to hear about their next adventures. There is an element of the unknown in all of this, but there are some things of which we are confident: they will succeed academically; they will be leaders and role models in their high schools and communities; they will advocate for others and for themselves; they will be comfortable and confident in any setting and will view differences as opportunities to learn and grow.

As I think about Graduation and all that it means, three words come to mind:

  • Commencement. I have always found it interesting and appropriate that graduation is often called commencement. On the surface, they appear to be antonyms more than synonyms, but in this context they work together to convey the duality of the moment—a celebration of what is completed and an anticipation of what is to come. And just as we need to hang on to our memories of the past, we also must dedicate ourselves to creating new memories that will live side-by-side with the old.
  • Mission. We often talk about “mission” in lofty or abstract terms, but graduation highlights the fact that our community—especially our students—are the living, breathing embodiments of that mission. We can speak with confidence of their future success in high school and beyond because we know that in addition to the lessons from their parents, they will carry the FXW mission with them everywhere they go. It is part of their past, and it will continue to be part of their future.
  • Change. This is of course the most obvious and, in many ways, the most intimidating aspect. As we counsel our students through the high school admissions process, we constantly reiterate that we want them to go to the best high schools, but also the school that is the best fit for them. In this way, they are fully equipped to make the most of the new situation. I recently heard a prayer “for a season of change” which reminds us that change is inevitable, and the real question is how we act and react to these transitions; it contains the beautiful line, “life is measured in memories, not minutes.” We must savor those memories.

As I look back on this past school year and look forward to 2019-2020, these same three words seem very appropriate: commencement, mission, and change. We are accustomed to transitions in schools—every year one group of students graduates and moves on while another batch of new faces join our family. The same is true of our faculty and staff. This year, there are several changes in our personnel, including new leadership at both campuses, and as an administrator and a parent, this can create some angst and excitement – we just have to choose which emotion will dominate our attention as the poem suggests: “Change itself is ever changing and Lord, if I’m truthful, I don’t like change.” 

As we bid farewell to our departing colleagues and thank them for incredible dedication and years of service, we also look forward to the next chapter, both for them and for the School; we embrace our existing memories and open ourselves to creating many new ones. And as we move forward—or commence—we do so with confidence because we know that FXW as an institution, like our students, is grounded in our mission. There will be new faces and new challenges, but there will also be new opportunities and new growth, and our mission and Charisms will be our constant guide.

With all that in mind, we are excited to announce four new additions to our leadership team. After the respective searches resulted in selecting Lauren Fitchett and Courtney Britton to lead our HNC and OSP campuses as Principal, our next task was to find the individuals to complement and support them and effectively share the responsibilities at each campus. After interviewing both internal and external candidates, we are very happy to have found four people who will serve our students, parents, and faculty and staff extremely well.

  • Norma Guzmán will be joining the HNC leadership team as an Assistant Principal focused on Student Life. Norma was a Principal, Assistant Principal, and teacher at several Catholic and charter schools for 12 years. She comes to us from Swedish Covenant Hospital, where she has been serving as the Director of the Child Care Center since 2014. Norma has a Master of Education in K-12 Curriculum and Instruction and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, both from National Louis University. She brings a wealth of knowledge and compassion and will be a great addition to HNC.
  • Andrew Miller, who served as Director of Student Life at HNC, will move to the OSP Campus and serve as the OSP School Psychologist. 
  • Brad Mallers will also serve as an Assistant Principal at HNC, with a primary focus on Academics. Brad has been teaching since 2010, and has been with FXW since 2015, most recently as a 6th grade Math teacher and Grade Level Chair. Brad is completing his Master’s in Educational Leadership from DePaul University and received his Bachelor’s degree from Butler University in Early and Middle Childhood Education.
  • Autumn Perry will serve as Assistant Principal at OSP. Autumn has been teaching at FXW since 2008. She began part-time, then taught preschool, music and, most recently, Kindergarten. Autumn received her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University, is SLANT certified, and is working towards her Master’s in Educational Leadership at Loyola University Chicago. She received her Bachelor’s in Music Education and Church Music from Olivet Nazarene University.
  • As always, we will share news about other new hires in August. But because our athletic teams will be gearing up before you know it, we also want to mention that Timothy Forberg will be joining FXW as the Athletic Director for the upcoming school year. Tim joins us from DePaul College Prep, where he served as the French teacher and as Assistant Basketball Coach and Director of the basketball club. Prior to that, he taught and coached at St. Laurence High School for seven years. Tim received his Bachelor’s Degree from Northeastern Illinois University and is pursuing his Masters in Secondary Education from National Louis University.

We want to once again thank April Greer, Joe Carlini, Ann McCarthy, Jackie Miller, and Danielle Kelly for their leadership and their dedication to our students, families, and teachers. Their years of service to the School, their passion for our mission, and their love for the FXW family will always be remembered and was once again on display through their collaborative efforts in ensuring a smooth and productive transition to the new team. We wish them all the best, and are pleased to share that April Greer has accepted a position as a 9th & 10th grade Dean of Students at DePaul College Prep; Joe Carlini, thankfully, will remain at FXW in a role that will support his family obligations and a new teaching position closer to his home; Jackie Miller will assist in our summer transition before she decides among the many options that she has elsewhere for next school year; and we are pleased to share that Danielle Kelly will remain at FXW as our Associate Director of Advancement. 

As we head into summer, we do so in the spirit of continuous improvement. We learn from our past while building excitement for the upcoming school year. We direct our attention to the positive intentions and continue our efforts to make the FXW experience a meaningful one for all students. Thanks to your partnership, we can continue on our journey in making FXW the model for faith-based education in the city.

Have a wonderful summer,