Head of School Letter – June 18, 2021

Dear Parents,

At a recent family gathering, the topic of one’s favorite book came up from across the room. I wandered over to jump in and listen. Most impactful? Most memorable? Most enjoyable? These factors, including for me, the most challenging to finish—raced through my mind when I was determining what to contribute to the conversation.

One sibling mentioned a book that describes the last 15 months of our school operations. As we come to the close of the year, a year we will all remember but may want to forget, The Boys in the Boat is a book that highlights the key themes for FXW of responsibilities, roles, and overcoming challenges.

The book by Daniel James Brown is a story of nine working-class boys from the University of Washington crew team, who demonstrated what can be done when synchronized in their commitment, determination, and optimism. The team was not expected to defeat the elite teams from the East Coast or Great Britain, and yet they did. They were not supposed to make the 1936 Olympics, and yet they did–winning the gold medal. To get there, they relied on trust, and it produced the desired, if not surprising results.

To know the sport of crew is to understand that each rower plays an important part and fulfilling their respective role is necessary to the overall success of the team. Throughout this year at FXW, each of us took our responsibilities seriously to follow the protocols so each child could have an in-person learning experience for as many days as possible. This cooperative approach to the many guidelines to which we were subjected allowed for a successful return to campus achieving our objectives of avoiding school spread and allowing us to stay in-person—and for that we are grateful.

At the Grade 8 graduation exercises this past weekend, I shared with the graduates the themes of effort and attitude. As the University of Washington rowers exhibited, their positive attitude—along with their effort—produced unexpected results. One statement we adopted this year was to “control what we can control,” and as this year comes to a close, I am proud of my colleagues for their performance in areas within our control. The effort of the FXW faculty and staff was the difference-maker and it was their outstanding attitude that created a remarkable learning environment—and to them, we are grateful.

Our gratitude extends to our families who fulfilled their role by being supportive in numerous ways. Whether it was completing the daily screeners, communicating openly and empathetically, or providing constructive feedback when we may not have been perfect. Each of these serves as a reminder of our valued partnership. I am often heard saying: culture is achieved with a sustained effort. This year is a wonderful illustration that we have a community and a culture of acknowledgment and appreciation. Our parents were supportive of the faculty and their efforts and over 70 percent contributed generously to the Mother Warde Fund and PAC year-end funds—and for that we are grateful.

While we have a busy summer ahead of us, I am hopeful it is relaxing for you and your family. As we plan this summer, we look to next year where it will feel more “normal,” and in early August we will communicate what the start of school fall will look like. As always, we will continue to emphasize our value proposition and will stay true to our core values. Our Charisms and Mission will inform our planning for the school year, and beyond. FXW has an unwavering commitment to continue our efforts to be the model of a diverse and inclusive school community, the paradigm for Catholic education in Chicago, and the standard for faith-based independent school education.

We will realize this vision together through a strong parent partnership and 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 – all for the benefit of our life-long learners.

As we see our city reopening, it can be easy to forget that the majority of us came out of this pandemic inconvenienced but confident we would be all right; fatigued but with a stronger resolve; and emotionally impacted but grateful for the support of our community. Let us remember that we lost loved ones over the last 15 months, and for some in our community, their circumstances are forever changed.

We also remind ourselves that our community demonstrated all that is great about being at FXW. We had only 33 reported cases over 10 months, provided vaccinations onsite for our faculty and staff, and developed new approaches from the circumstances we faced. One such example was an even more celebratory Clap-Out and social event for our Grade 3 students and their families earlier this week. As the 2020-21 school year comes to a close, I ask that you join me in pausing and taking stock of our good fortune of having an FXW—for which we can all be grateful.

Finally, as I shared with the graduates, nothing can compare to their FXW education, and that is okay because the FXW experience will guide them through high school and beyond. The FXW version of The Boys in the Boat story is quite similar as our team of parents, faculty, and staff came together and exceeded all expectations when confronted with the many challenges of the past year—for which we can all be grateful.

I wish you a healthy and restful summer,

Michael Kennedy