Head of School Letter⁠—October 2019

Dear Parents,

As we welcome the fall season (just don’t look outside right now), the brisk weather serves as a reminder for us to stop and reflect on the start of the 2019-20 school year. By measure of our student morale, parent feedback, teacher accounts, and by most other metrics, the year is off to good start. At FXW, we have adopted and embrace a spirit of continuous improvement, and we hope to build on the positives while addressing the areas that need more of our attention.

Once again, we wish a warm welcome to our 92 new families, whom by now have settled in. I have heard from many of the parents of their successful adjustments to the new year and their child(ren)’s transition to their new school and community. For their information, and as a reminder to our returning parents, on a regular, if not monthly basis, I will share in this space thoughts, ideas, and even some words of wisdom. The objective of the Head of School letter is to be informative, maybe even inspiring, but not preachy.

As we strive to strengthen the parent-school partnership, our efforts are always to be transparent to establish mutual expectations and build trust. On occasion I lean on the expertise of others in the field of education as we all strive to raise happy, resilient, and prepared students. My hope is that my messages are helpful, enhance our partnership, and keep us connected.

This month, I recycle a theme from a prior communication because I find it appropriate this year—our 30th anniversary—as we celebrate three decades of great success. As I reflect this October, I take you back to October of 2015 when I shared in my monthly letter a wonderful book and concept I was introduced to many years ago.

An important theme that I believe is relevant to our past, present, and future comes from a book called Ubuntu, by Stephen Lundin and Bob Nelson. Ubuntu is an African philosophy based on the idea that you/we can’t exist as a human being in isolation. Because we are all interconnected, Ubuntu adheres to a saying “I am because you are” or in simpler terms, as humans we are all in this together. We may often think of ourselves just as individuals in a community, separate from one another. In reality we are connected, not just through FXW, and what we do can affect the whole world.

The common explanation of Ubuntu is best understood through the story of an anthropologist who proposed a game to children in an African tribe. He put a basket of fruit near a tree and told the kids that the first one to reach the basket of fruit would win all the fruit. As the story goes, the anthropologist told them to run, and all the kids took each other’s hands and ran together, reached the tree together, then sat together enjoying the fruits. When asked why they ran like that, as one of the children could have taken all the fruit for oneself, the reply was “Ubuntu…how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?” In my opinion, the entire FXW community could be positively impacted “if” or “by” adopting the Ubuntu approach.

As I imagined the theme this year for our faculty and staff, I had these images of collaboration in my mind. This year we are all focusing on the Charism of Service, and as we consider all the ways we serve each other and others outside FXW, we all can find new and innovative ways to move FXW forward— together.

We can apply Ubuntu to all areas of school life, and if we are willing to “grab each other’s hands,” we can move FXW forward—together. I am excited to share that there are very concrete ways that illustrate how we can best and better serve our students if we band together. Just a few are: 

  • Rekindling of the Listen to Learn initiative, which has provided us with great feedback which will make its way into our decision and policy making. 
  • World-renowned speaker and author Rosalind Wiseman giving a presentation to the parents, faculty, and students on HNC Campus. Consistent with her talk, we believe changes and additions to the Student and Parent Handbook (pages 19 through 22) two years ago are helpful to support an emotionally safe and nurturing learning environment. 
  • The FXW Fund is in its final week. Together we can make a difference in our aspirational goal of 100 percent parent participation in this annual giving campaign, made all the more remarkable after an amazing and inspiring 94 percent faculty participation in the FXW Fund. 
  • Sharing inspirational messages in our weekly With Mission In Mind, which serves as reminders of our deliberate diversity and intentional inclusivity. 
  • Overwhelming interest in our 30th Anniversary Celebration this Friday. With over 500 tickets sold, we are excited to gather together to celebrate our rich history and bright future. 

Finally, as we opened the school year with 995 students, FXW continues to be the model school of a diverse and inclusive community, the ideal paradigm for Catholic education in the city of Chicago, and the standard for faith-based independent school education. As always, we are grateful for your partnership as we move FXW forward—together.

I look forward to seeing you on or around campus and throughout the fall.

Michael Kennedy
Head of School