Education Should Change, Graduation Stay the Same

Traditional education reflects the changing of the seasons.  I have always loved that the academic year mirrors a growing season.  While a growing season culminates in a harvest, our season culminates in graduation.  Graduation is beautiful and stressful, a beginning and an end, a time for mourning, a time for reflection, a time for celebration.  The ceremony connects the present to the past, which is why it should rarely be changed.

We all can agree that any change is difficult.  A definition of stress related to natural science could be the bending of a material under conditions of change.  Our human endeavors and attitudes bend, uncomfortably so, upon conditions of change.  Yet, change is also healthy and refreshing; change revitalizes our endeavors.  And many of our educational endeavors need constant refinement, improvement, and yes, CHANGE.  If I could just waive the magic wand, I would make the curriculum more relevant and meaningful, and make the instruction more engaging and effective.  But graduation should remain the same.

When alumni attend graduation in support of a relative or friend, I want the ceremony to elicit the same emotions that they experienced upon their own graduation.  Of course, the salutatorian and valedictorian speeches change and names change, but a common rope should connect all alumni.  You have been a part of The Westfield School, and you are part of the Westfield family.

W. Carroll

College Admissions

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Westfield esteems our high college acceptance success rate of 100%, a rate which has remained constant through the years.  Not only are we providing a premier education, we are by your side in navigating the college admissions process.  The landscape of college admissions has become increasingly complex and inevitably creates stress on students and families.  The financial challenges alone are enough to give me a slight nervous tick.  In addition, our children want and need to have serious input regarding their college placement, and some of them have not had much experience making big decisions.

Westfield has a college advising office designed to help families navigate the daunting but exciting process of choosing where to go to college.  We begin talking with students during their ninth grade year as they take their first practice college entrance exams, the PSAT and PACT.  We discuss academics and their transcript, and we also discuss the importance of extracurricular involvement, leadership, and service.  This guidance continues with students throughout their Upper School years.  I have found that the guidance programs at large high schools tend to focus on the students at the very top and very bottoms of their classes.  However, at Westfield we help ALL of our students and their families generate options regarding college placement, and we help generate discussion and feedback regarding such options.

On the topic of college placement, I encourage you to be mindful of the economic, technological and societal changes that have taken place in more recent times.  Many of you have heard or read that the future prospects for members of this generation will be less connected to the name on their degree and more connected to their skills.  I often borrow a colleague’s summary of this idea and say, “It’s not where you go to college, it’s what you do while you are there, and what you can do when you graduate.”

Recently a parent and I discussed decisions regarding extracurricular activities for our children.  And everywhere we turn, we see that the youth need to do more and achieve more in order to have a competitive college application.  Even prior to high school we feel pressure to have them do more in order to be prepared to be in a position to generate a competitive college application.  Thus following such thinking leads us to believe that the children need to be in highly competitive athletics, competitive arts, and leadership programs.  They also need to learn computer coding, become a math whiz, and volunteer in the community.  And while we should and do aspire to have children who can do it all, we need the balance and perspective of living in each moment.  Our students have a life to live right now and can do amazing things today.  Of course if I could unlock the secrets of striking such a balance, then perhaps I could be a famous writer instead of a Headmaster!

W. Carroll

Supporting Our School Mission through the Annual Fund

Our Annual Fund campaign for the 2016-17 has begun, and we are already seeing strong support from Westfield families and friends.  At our kickoff Friday night, donations and pledges totaled over $27,381 toward this year’s goal of $150,000 including 75 percent of our families participating.

The Annual Fund is the mainstay of our fundraising efforts to support the overall mission of the school.  For many years, Westfield families, grandparents, past parents, alumni, and community friends have supported our school in generous ways through the annual fund campaign.  Westfield is a better place because of the yearly support and donations through the Annual Fund.

While past Annual Fund revenues often have been used for “gap” funding in the school budget to cover projects that could not be funded by tuition only, the main goal for a school annual fund program is to fund extra projects and programs that support the school’s mission and enhance the overall experience for students. Many schools for many years, including Westfield, have used the Annual Fund to fill the “gap” between tuition revenue and regular ongoing expenditures.  While the change from the “gap” mindset to the educational enhancements mindset takes time, and the budgetary planning takes time, we believe this approach is in the best long term interests of the school.  In other words, we want normal operating expenses to be covered by tuition and are moving in such a direction.

Hence, we are restructuring this year’s Annual Fund campaign to provide students with tangible resources, programs, and technology above and beyond the normal needs.  We are moving away from thinking of the Annual Fund as a program of fundraising that merely supports the general fund.  Last year’s annual fund campaign, which totaled over $180,000, funded a new roof for the Lower School, new flooring in several buildings, LED lighting, and HVAC replacements with partial funding for the 1:1 iPad program in the Middle School. While these were significant needs for our school, we want to get to a point where all of the major maintenance projects, such as new roofs and HVAC replacements, are covered in the regular budget and the dollars raised in the annual fund campaign can be used for special programs and projects.  Thus, our goal for the 2016-17 annual fund campaign is to transform our Media Centers into spaces that invite and inspire literacy, creativity, and problem solving.  We also want to fund further expansion of the technology resources available to the students by introducing a 1:1 laptop initiative for our 9th and 10th graders.

As we move forward in this year’s annual fund campaign and for the future, our goal is to have Board of Trustees members asking fellow Board members for gifts, faculty members asking faculty members for gifts, parents asking parents for gifts, and grandparents asking grandparents.   We want our annual fund program to be conducted for the benefit of the children rather than be a fundraiser conducted by the children. We are not asking the students to sell discount cards nor will we provide the students with a prize room or other structure of individual incentives.  We will continue to use the discount card as a thank you to each and every donor who gives at any level to the annual fund.  And, to reward the entire school community, we will offer some school-wide and classroom based incentives, such as a day off of school in the spring and class pizza parties.

The 2016-2017 annual fund campaign continues through June 30th, and I am a confident with your support Westfield will continue to excel. As we move ahead, I ask each of you prayerfully to consider making a gift to this year’s campaign. Many thanks to those who have already contributed, and special thanks to ComSouth for their generous matching gift offer. We are committed to using these funds in a way that glorifies God and enhances our school community. Thank you again to all of our parents, grandparents, faculty, alumni, and friends for your devotion and support of all things Westfield.

William Carroll

Head of School

 

 

Students and Social Media

The technological age has in some ways transformed the social lives of youth and young adults.  Many of us who grew up prior to the rise of social media have a difficult time understanding the technology itself and an even harder time showing our children how to use technology in a safe and responsible way.  Technology should be thought of as a tool.  Like knives or hammers, such tools can be utilized to prepare shelter and meals, or the same tools can be used to create mayhem.

As I have read and reflected on current and recent past trends in social media, I believe that parents have primary responsibility for supervision and education of children and young adults as they engage with others on the various social media platforms.  The school should and will intervene if we believe that the learning environment is being eroded through something like online bullying.

Over the past few days, I have been in contact with four local area Heads of School regarding an unfortunate and rather disturbing situation (recently addressed in a letter to parents).  This situation was the catalyst for the conversations which then went on to discuss what can be some very rocky terrain.  Our discussions primarily centered upon student use of social media, current trends in social media, including the role of parents and the role of schools regarding safe use of such media.

The school should intervene if school officials have reasonable grounds for believing that the safety of a student is being threatened or compromised.  Also, schools should make reasonable efforts to educate students about safe use of the internet.  I believe that schools should try to strengthen our partnership with parents through providing resources and occasionally hosting information and educational programs for parents.  This idea was one that our leadership team began working on this summer.  One such event which we have planned as an informational meeting for parents will be held in the Recital Hall on Tuesday, September 13 at 5:45 p.m. I encourage parents to join us for this meeting to become more social media savvy.  I also want to share one of my favorite resources for helping parents navigate the world of technology found by visiting the link below at Focus on the Family.  I hope to see you on September 13th.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/kids-and-technology

William Carroll

Head of School

 

Welcome to 2016-2017

Welcome to the 2016-2017 Academic Year.  The Westfield Faculty and Staff have been diligently preparing for the return of our students.  We all have work ahead of us as we begin a new school year.  I expect amazing growth for our students peppered with a few healthy challenges.

I can say with confidence that the faculty this year is dedicated, prepared, and talented.  Our teachers have been discussing how they might work towards helping the students achieve their potential.  We believe that each child has incredible potential, and we believe that teachers play a role in helping the child see and move towards such potential.

God has blessed our United States of America. The election season always provides a great opportunity for a wide range of discussions; although, the current cycle has at times stretched the boundaries of politics as we know it.  Nevertheless, the election season is an incredible time to communicate to the students how grateful we are for the blessings of our nation.  I challenge our community to use the discussions that arise during the campaign season to instill in our students a sense of patriotism and gratitude.  What a blessing that our nation can have a reasonable democratic process for choosing a leader!  What a witness it would be if our students can appreciate the sacrifices made to build the nation and can walk in the spirit of a grateful heart!

On behalf of the faculty and staff, we love our students, and are excited to get the new year underway.

W. Carroll

Roller Coaster Fun

In 5th grade science, we just finished a unit on motion.  We focused on vocabulary terms such as friction, force, acceleration, velocity, speed, and different types of energy.  As a culminating activity, we created roller coasters using the Paper Roller Coaster Kits.  This was my first time using these kits so I literally gave each group their kit and said, “Go for it.”  I didn’t spend a lot of time giving directions, guidance, or help.  I was AMAZED at how well the students worked together, encouraged each other, discussed science topics to help them, and used creativity to construct their paper roller coasters.  I loved hearing conversations about having to use a greater slope in order to create more acceleration so the marble could make it through a loop, or having to use more tape to decrease the friction caused by the folding of the paper tracks.  I even heard students discussing terms we didn’t discuss in class like g-force.

It took us an entire week to build the coasters, but in the end, all groups were excited about their final product.  This was definitely a STEAM related activity as it incorporated Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math skills.  We displayed our coasters in the hall, and we invited the 4th grade to come test out each creation using marbles.  Then the 4th graders voted on their favorite one.  Enjoy some of the pictures of our creations, and look at the end to find the winning group!

~Mrs. Shelley Greer

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And…our winning group…

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Precious Cargo

I don’t know about you, but I love a good story; particularly one that is simple and yet has a deeeeeeeeeep meaning and lesson that I can easily remember, take to heart, and do my best to live each day.

One of my favorite stories was told by a minister from Mississippi over 100 years ago, and it involved two paddle boats. These two paddle boats left Memphis about the same time, heading down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail’s pace of the other.

Words were exchanged, challenges were made, AND the race began! Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the Deep South.

One boat began falling behind – not enough fuel. There had been plenty for the trip, but not enough for a race! As the boat dropped back, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship’s cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the other sailors saw the cargo burned as well as the coal did, they helped fuel the boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, BUT burned their cargo.

Like the story, God has entrusted cargo to Westfield – children! Our job is to do our part in seeing that the precious “cargo” reaches its destination.

Thankfully, at Westfield, faith and values are shared, demonstrated, and taught daily in some way to all of our children who are surrounded here by a supportive, nurturing Christian environment. It is this “heart education” and environment that will ensure our children have the opportunity to reach the destination God intended.

The Westfield School is a special place with special people! Let’s not take it for granted, and let’s strive each day to make the lives of our children even better.

Kim Cassell

Dean of Students