A Progressive School Visit

ISACS_4x6By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Alexandra and I spent Sunday – Wednesday this week serving on an ISACS visiting accreditation team. As you may know, ISACS sends teams to schools every seven years for a visit; our own is coming up this fall. Prior to the visit year, the school conducts a Constituent Survey (which you may recall having taken last spring) and writes a comprehensive Self-Study, covering all school areas and incorporating the data from the Constituent Survey. It is always a rich experience, being able to immerse ourselves in another school’s culture for several days. This particular school – The Roeper School in Michigan – is, like us, a Progressive Preschool – 12th grade on two campuses. We are finalizing the dates for our own accreditation visit, but it is only months away!

This week the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival visited us to perform Julius Caesar. Tonight into tomorrow is our annual Women’s Retreat. We are grateful to parent Karen Morrison and Gilda’s Club for hosting us for this event.  

Advisee Games: A Favorite SFS Tradition

Advisee Games_Main ImageBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

The annual Advisee Games were enjoyed by all on Tuesday. We don’t have the final results yet, but competition was fierce in some quarters; in others, students enjoyed a beautiful day in the sunshine in more laid-back fashion. This is really one of my favorite SFS traditions, and I think most of the student body enjoys it as much as I do!

Before the Advisee Games on Tuesday, the We Act community service group attended part of WE Day Kentucky, an annual celebration of service, along with our Middle School counterparts. Reed Gabhart’s space below is filled with a detailed recap of the event by Shelly Jones, so please check that out. This was a particularly special WE Day for us, because our accomplishment of raising $10,000 over the last several years to fund the building of a school in Haiti was realized this year, and our group was featured in a film shown at the event. Check out the film and our spokesperson Elizabeth Johnson ’19 here.

Earlier in the week, we had a presentation from Moshe Ohayon, founder of Louisville Tutoring Agency and the nonprofit organization Educational Justice. The Educational Justice program matches high school student Activists with middle school student Achievers, with the goal of utilizing the intellect and achievements of the older students to help struggling younger ones. We have several students participating in the program currently, and they spoke about their experience in glowing terms. Moshe’s visit was to get signups from students who are interested in being trained over the summer to become Activists in the fall, and a number of students indicated their interest. It is a one-hour commitment per week for the school year and there is flexibility. Please visit www.educationaljustice.org for more information!

Coming and Going!

China Trip_1By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Welcome back from Spring Break! Two and a half weeks till AP exams; five weeks till regular exams; six weeks till graduation. Hang on!

Our China trip-goers are back safely and had a wonderful adventure. Next week, we send a group off to the Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival in New York. As well, students have several interesting local opportunities in the coming weeks. Next week, a group will attend the Festival of Faiths panel “We Are Already One – Religion and Compassion in World Affairs” with Karen Armstrong (author of a book the freshmen read this year in Culture and Civilization), Ambassador Matthew Barzun, and Noah Feldman, moderated by William Vendley. And the Music Performance class will attend a rehearsal of the Louisville Orchestra. Next week also brings We Day, the annual celebration of service that our We Act community service group attends. The following week, a student group will attend the Actors Theatre New Voices Showcase of Plays, and we’ll have our 16th annual Women’s Retreat, planned by the women of the faculty and staff for interested students. One note about all these local trips: except for the Women’s Retreat (which isn’t too far, and thanks to Gilda’s Club for hosting us), we can walk to every single one. The benefits of a downtown location!  

Next week also brings our annual Advisee Games, weather permitting! (Rain date is Thursday, April 27th.) Students will dismiss that day from Seneca Park at 3:30 p.m., although some faculty and staff will return to school and can transport students who need rides back downtown. Pictures and report from the Games to come next week!

College Corner April 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

Don’t forget about your April college preparation to-dos! Read on to see what you should be doing now as a sophomore, junior, and senior.

Sophomores:

  • Send off for college viewbooks and browse college websites.
  • Listen in Morning Meeting to the acceptance announcements and chat with seniors about their college admissions journey.
  • If you have a learning difference and need extended time on standardized tests, make sure your documentation is updated and contact Michelle Salerno in the The Learning Center in order to verify your documentation.

Juniors:

  • Take the SAT reasoning and ACT tests.
  • Register for the June SAT reasoning and/or subject tests and ACT tests.
  • Keep your focus.
  • Meet your deadlines for Senior Project proposals.
  • Review the list of suggested colleges with Kit Llewellyn and begin researching/exploring.
  • Make sure your learning difference/special needs documentation is updated if you expect to receive extended time on your standardized tests.
  • Update your profile and resume on Naviance.

Seniors:

  • All colleges should respond with financial aid offers by early April.
  • Meet with Kit Llewellyn and your parents to discuss which college is your best match.
  • Consider financial aid packages carefully as offers arrive. You should have received your SAR from FAFSA.
  • Try to visit or revisit the colleges that have offered you a place.
  • Listen to the advice of your parents and Kit Llewellyn, but insist that the choice be yours. Do not be overly influenced by the college name prestige.
  • Follow acceptance instructions carefully.
  • Students on waitlists should write letters expressing interest and send any additional information.
  • Make your final college choice and submit your deposit by May 1st. This is not a postmark deadline!

Grandparents’ Day at the High School

HS Grandparents' Day_1By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Today we welcomed over 50 grandparents to the High School for Grandparents’ Day. They went to two classes with their grandchildren and enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by our Parent Association and many parent volunteers. I absolutely love Grandparents’ Day because it allows grandparents to get a little view into the everyday life of their grandchildren, actually sitting in class, listening to the discussion, and sometimes even participating themselves! Unfortunately, unless their grandchild has a free period during their visit, grandparents won’t get to try their hand at pool and ping pong, but there’s always next year!

Next Monday is our annual Cultural Day. Each year, we take one day to focus on a particular area and explore our downtown environment – all of the places we visit are walks! The 9th graders focus on media, with visits to the Courier-Journal, Metro TV with the Mayor’s Office, Actors Theatre’s social media coordinator, and Louisville Public Media. The 10th graders’ theme is the arts; Flame Run Gallery, 21C, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Louisville Palace. The 11th graders learn about the legal/justice systems, with this year’s offerings including a visit to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, a talk with an immigration attorney, and a trip to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The 12th graders stay closer to home, focusing on the transition to college and life, with topics like financial literacy and car maintenance. It’s always an interesting experience for the students, and should be a fun way to kick off the week before Spring Break!

The Importance of Discovering Talents and Abilities

Woodworking projectBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I saw some fantastic keynote speakers at the recent NAIS Conference. Alexandra is writing in the upcoming Wyvern Report about Dr. Brené  Brown, so I want to share some thoughts here about Sir Ken Robinson’s talk.

You may have seen one of his TED Talks; he is interesting and engaging in those, as he certainly was in person. His message was that we (society and educators) need to think differently about people’s talents and abilities. In terms of students and education, he believes that if time at school is disengaged from students’ talents and energies, the things that lift them up, then they will become enervated. This resonated with me in terms of the importance of extracurriculars to a healthy school community, so that – in keeping with Progressive philosophy – we educate the whole child. Finding something every student loves and is good at is vital to development, and I certainly believe that when a student finds a passion outside of the classroom, academics actually tend to improve, as well.

Robinson believes that the goal of education should be learning, rather than training. As he notes, we are glad our children have sex education, but we would not be so much in favor of sex training! Education is, he says, not to prepare them for something to come but about who they are in the here and now.

Ultimately, he concludes, if children discover what they’re good at, feel good about those things, and have a solid community around them, they’ll learn better. I couldn’t agree more.  

Diversity Week Events bring Understanding

Diverstity Week HS 2017By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I asked Terri White, School Counselor, to recap the Diversity Week that she and Spanish teacher Angela Katz, along with a group of students, held last week. A huge thanks to Terri White and Angela Katz and the excellent leadership in the student committee for all their work on this multi-day event! Read on for Terri’s account:

The High School’s annual Diversity Week brought thoughtful and interesting programming to the Downtown Campus all week. Highlights of the week included a two-part panel on Tuesday, a privilege activity on Wednesday, the Diversity Fair on Thursday, and the Diversity Potluck on Friday.

The panel first featured speakers from the community. Ted Farrell, a local immigration attorney, answered questions on immigration, current laws, the three branches of government, and the impact of the new administration. Karina Barillas from La Casita answered questions and presented information on the experience of documented and undocumented immigrants. Fatima Zuhali and her daughter, Ayah Kutmah, spoke about their experience as Muslim women in the United States and how to be an ally. Then it was our students’ turn: six of our own students (Iqlas Abukar, Muni Yusuf, Shams Shaker, Andrea Brito, Aakriti Bista, and Hana Ibrahim) shared their experiences of being immigrants to the United States or children of immigrants, of being Muslim and wearing – or not wearing – the hijab. It felt significant for students to hear both from adults in the community and from peers that they sit next to every day.

On Wednesday, students participated in an activity designed to understand privilege. The students were divided by grade, lining up side by side. Several statements were read. Students were then asked to take a step forward for each statement that was true for them. The activity offered a visual representation of privilege. The activity was followed by an all-school discussion. The discussion was an amazing moment for SFS. Students were sharing their experience of privilege or lack of privilege and educating each other. You could hear a pin drop as all of the students were focused on whoever was speaking. The amount of support and respect in the room was palpable. This was one of those moments when you truly appreciate and are in awe of the SFS student community.

Thursday brought the Diversity Fair, an event first held last year that invites any student or group who wishes to have a booth or table. This year, displays included Gender Club, Black Students Association, Chinese culture, Jewish culture, Sweden, Mexico, Somalia, Appalachian music, henna, and traditional dress worn by students representing Nepal, Somalia, Mexico, Ukraine, and Iraq. There were many games and activities to help educate and entertain the students.

The events were capped off on Friday with the annual Diversity Potluck, where students bring in and share their favorite dishes during lunch. A feast of epic proportions and rich in ethnic and cultural variety was served to the student body. The Diversity Potluck never disappoints and is always a wonderful and different way that the students share themselves with the community.

NAIS Conference brings Inspiration

NAIS logo_4x6By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I’m writing this from the NAIS Annual Conference in Baltimore. NAIS is always one of my favorite professional development opportunities; the depth and breadth of the workshops and speakers are superb. The opening keynote speaker was Onaje Woodbine, author of Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball. He was accompanied by dance and spoken word to deliver his thoughts on the storytelling that occurs through basketball on the streets. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking delivered the afternoon keynote. Sir Ken Robinson and Brené Brown are speaking today; I look forward to those sessions as well!

In attending workshops at the conference, I generally choose topics that focus on the health and well-being of students and faculty. I think the school environment and culture at St. Francis is healthy and corresponds well to the mission and core values of the school, but I also think there’s always room to be better and that we never want to become complacent. I hate being away from school, and in particular from the students, but this conference is always worth it in the thoughts it provokes and ideas it inspires.

Speaking of thought-provoking and inspirational, our annual Diversity Week has been the best yet, thanks to Terri White, Angela Katz, and our student Diversity Committee. Because I had to miss several of the days, Terri will share a report on the week’s activities in next Friday’s newsletter.

Please come out to see Nineteen Eighty-Four tonight or tomorrow – 7:00 p.m. both nights in the Performing Arts Space on the Downtown Campus!

Chant, Debate, Yak Dance, and Snow Leopard Dance!

Tibetan MonksBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

At the High School, we enjoyed a fabulous presentation on Wednesday from a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks. Thanks to parents John and Cindy Borders for making their visit possible and to parent Will LeStrange for accompanying the monks and helping explain the various aspects of their performance – chant, debate, Yak Dance, and Snow Leopard dance. The students were charmed by the monks and learned quite a bit about their culture, in addition.

Our Black Students Association (along with their counterparts from the Goshen Campus) had the opportunity to go to the Speed Cinema on Thursday for a special viewing of “I Am Not Your Negro”. We appreciate the invitation by SFS parent and Speed cinema curator Dean Otto. The groups returned to the Downtown Campus for pizza and discussion afterward.

Continuing these themes, we are gearing up for Diversity Week, with special programming each day next week planned by our student Diversity Committee under the faculty guidance of Terri White and Angela Katz. I’ll report more on that next Friday!

College Corner March 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

Don’t forget about your March college preparation to-dos! Read on to see what you should be doing now as a sophomore, junior, and senior.

Sophomores:

  • On Sunday, March 19th, all sophomores will sit for the Pre-ACT from 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. on the Downtown Campus. Please bring three #2 pencils (non-mechanical), a calculator, a snack, and $12 cash or check (issued to St. Francis School).
  • Begin visits to nearby colleges/universities.     
  • Research interesting and challenging summer courses, jobs, and activities.                
  • Use Spring Break to visit colleges along the way, if you are traveling.   
  • Take virtual tours online.

Juniors:

  • If you registered, take the SAT test this month.                   
  • Sign up for the May or June SAT, June ACT, or June SAT Subject tests, if applicable.
  • Use Spring Break to visit prospective colleges.    
  • Keep reading and finish up strongly this year.
  • Meet with Kit Llewellyn to look over your preliminary list of suggested colleges and share them with your parents through Naviance.
  • Compile your activities/community service into a resume on your Naviance account.
  • Research summer camps, seminars, and summer academic sessions on college campuses for your enlightenment.

Seniors:

  • Report any issues to Kit Llewellyn.
  • If colleges require additional information, send it immediately.   
  • If accepted, denied, or wait-listed by a college, notify Kit Llewellyn.
  • All colleges should reply with financial aid packages/scholarships by April 1st, or at least early April.
  • Meet with parents and  Kit Llewellyn to discuss which college is the best match.
  • Consider financial aid packages carefully!
  • Try to revisit colleges where you have been offered a place.
  • Listen to the advice of parents and Kit Llewellyn, but insist on your choice, if it feels right to you.
  • Follow acceptance/housing instructions carefully.
  • Students on wait-lists should write letters expressing interest and send additional  information (for instance, update on your Senior Project or any awards/honors received).