Head of School Letter – June 15, 2022

Dear FXW Community,

If I mention the name “Bob Vila” would you know to whom I am referring? Some of you are aware that Bob Vila was a host of one of the first home renovation television shows when I was just a teen, well before Property BrothersLove It or List It, or one of my favorites, Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanne Gaines. Bob Vila, with his thick Boston accent, hosted a show called This Old House, and before on demand or recordings, I tried my best to not miss an episode.

I likely was attracted to This Old House for two reasons: for starters, I do not know which end of the hammer to use when nailing in screws or bolts (yes, I just wrote that). Second, because I genuinely enjoy seeing how things begin and then how they turn out. Today’s home do-it-yourself improvement shows do an excellent job of showing the before, during, and after.

For those of us at FXW, we celebrate alongside our parents when we see student development, progress, and advancement. Equipped with the benefit of perspective, our interest in seeing this progression is pertinent to what we do at FXW. For example, last month we hosted our new preschool families and, last weekend, we witnessed our 8th grade walking across the altar to receive their diplomas. The closing days of school also allow us to celebrate other moving up ceremonies, including the always loud and proud traditional Grade 3 Clap-Out at OSP.

In the coming weeks, we will have completed our Independent School of the Central States (ISACS) Self-study Report. This self-study will be the guide for which we will seek the School’s ISACS re-accreditation, a process that we do every seven years and allows us to gauge our progress. ISACS membership has requirements each of the years between the re-accreditation visits, and we are very proud of the many highlights of this self-study, specifically our diversity and inclusion efforts. Whether it is all the faculty and staff participating in workshops throughout the year, or the recent Family Values exercise, each of our intentional initiatives and all our efforts represent the fact that we did not let a pandemic deter our progress by taking on new or necessary initiatives—ones that represent who we are as a school and ones that we can say represent who we have been for three decades.

As we “wind up” to the end of the school year, I want to thank you—our parents—for your support, engagement, and encouragement over the last two-plus school years. I would like to think we have something unique and special here at FXW, and our parent support of the school is central to this. The foundation of “our house,” which we call the Charisms, will be standing strong for years to come thanks in large part to the parent-school partnership. The culture and climate within the school requires ongoing maintenance and we have addressed this with many initiatives we have undertaken these past two years. I would like to elaborate on one, in particular.

Another sign of fortifying our foundation was on full display over the last nine months. Almost 30 faculty, staff, and Board members have participated in a comprehensive Compensation, Benefits, and Evaluation Review process. On Friday, June 3, the entire faculty and staff, along with many Board members, participated in presentations on creating a more mission-based compensation structure, a fair, competitive and affordable benefits package, and a more substantive evaluation process. All faculty and staff were provided the opportunity to submit feedback, ask questions, and share their input. Our work is not complete though, as we now determine which recommendations to implement, and secure the resources needed to fulfill our objectives. The June 3 meeting was a penultimate step in a year-long process and highlighted a priority identified in the 2018-2019 Strategic Plan.

It is important that our families know this is an important project for the school to undertake. We believe every FXW student deserves the best, and we are proud of the faculty and staff we have recruited and retained—and yet we are saddened when we lose good people. We know the education field continues to be challenged by staffing shortages, yet FXW has responded to this challenge, and we look forward to determining how we can best serve the FXW student in the years to come.

While the end of school and the offerings of a Chicago summer are always a reason for excitement, it is also a time to be wistful for the year gone by. Every school year is unique, and may we all remember the 2021-2022 school year, and our wonderful FXW Class of 2022, with fondness and joy in our hearts.

Finally, those of us who have graduates this year were reminded how quickly time can pass as we have seen pictures of our children from preschool, to the OSP Clap-Out, to the early days of HNC and now graduation. So, I invite you to pause, even for one moment in the coming days, and look at your child and appreciate the before and the present for all the beauty they hold, and for what the future has in store for them.

Until we meet again.

Michael Kennedy

Head of School