Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Year in Review, 2013-2014

As the 201314 school year draws to a close we are eager to share some of the notable
accomplishments by our student body:

  • The new middle school facility has proven to be everything that we hoped. If you have not yet seen the facility, please don’t hesitate to let me know so we can take a lap. The new synthetic play field has been a fan-favorite among middle school students in the morning, and has been a great resource for physical education and Pursuit, as has the playground. The Pursuit area is much brighter, more welcoming and age-appropriate.
  • We had another incredibly successful year with regard to high school placement. Students will be attending the following schools in the fall
    • Ensworth (20)
    • Montgomery Bell Academy (9)
    • Harpeth Hall (7)
    • University School of Nashville (5)
    • St. Cecilia’s (1)
    • St. Andrews School, Delaware  (1)
    • Webb School, Bell Buckle, Tenn.  (1)
    • Big Picture High School  (1)
    • Brentwood High School  (1)
    • 33 students were accepted to every school to which they applied and 8 students applied to only one school, and were accepted.
  • Thirty of our graduates started in kindergarten.
  • The fall semester saw an incredible production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and the all-school musical, Seussical, was equally wonderful with 130 students in the cast and crew. Five of our students won awards at the Scholastic Art Awards - certainly an impressive accomplishment!

In athletics we had another successful year:

  • Girls Cross-Country, HVAC Division A Champions
  • Boys Cross-Country, HVAC Division A Runners-Up
  • Girls and Boys Soccer, HVAC Division A Runners-Up
  • Wrestling, 3rd place in the HVAC
  • Girls Basketball, GNAC Champions
  • Girls and Boys Swimming, HVAC Combined Champions in the inaugural HVAC meet
  • Nine athletes won individual championships in the sports of wrestling, swimming, tennis, and cross-country

As proud as we are of the records, we are equally proud that 96 percent of our students competed on a team, 91 percent were two-season athletes and 46 percent were four-season athletes.

  • As the one-to-one laptop initiative in the middle school has been a significant change and a positive success, this year we added a new laptop for every fourth and fifth grader for their use while at school. Additionally, we added a class set of iPads in every classroom, K3 this year, that have very successfully been used to enhance the curriculum.
  • We sent a six member chess team to the state championships where they took third place. They went on to compete at the national level in Dallas, TX, and out of 300 competitors in each division, Harding players came home with medals and four individual trophies for placing in the top 35.
  • We had 13 seventh grade students receive state recognition through the Duke Talent Identification Program for their success on the high school ACT. One student received national recognition, which put him in the top three percent of students in the nation.
  • We had 47 seventh and eighth graders receive recognition on the national language exams including 1st- and 2nd-place state winners in French, 2nd place in the state in Spanish and four students who received Summa Cum Laude recognition in Latin.
  • We had another very positive year in admissions and will likely open the year with our second highest historical enrollment with 75 new students from 35 different schools, 18 zip codes and five states. We also had our lowest historical attrition rate, at four percent.

Whether building a garden that is maintained and nourished by the fifth graders or incorporating
robotics into the curriculum, it has been an exciting year by all measures. 

We are now focused on our planning to make 20142015 the best year possible!

Snakes and Lemonade - Graduation Remarks 2014

        Families, teachers, trustees, students and friends, welcome and thank you for coming to the 2014 8th Grade Graduation on this beautiful morning. 
We are here to celebrate the accomplishments of the class of 2014, but also to acknowledge some really talented faculty members who will be transitioning.  For Mrs. Maxson,  Ms. Weber, Mrs. Moran, Mrs. Vrettos, Mrs. Cron and Mrs. Moreira we extend our heartfelt thank you for your dedication to our community, our students and to making Harding Academy such an incredibly special place.
In the middle school we will have a significant loss with Edna Pearson retiring as we celebrated this past Sunday.  For 27 years Edna has provided constant teacher-leadership and particularly during some unsteady times, she has stepped up and steered the ship.  Whether guiding our very successful golf team, helping families navigate the high school process or sharing her passion for history, she has been enthusiastic and energetic and the consummate professional.  We wish Edna  and Roy nothing but the best next year and beyond, and we expect you back often.
This occasion also got me thinking about what an incredibly special class of parents this is as well, some of whom have a twenty or more year affiliation with the school, and are just as deeply committed and involved today as they were when their first child started and we will miss you all, and your contributions very much. (can you imagine an Ambrose or Mudter-free campus?)
In thinking about today’s remarks I gave some thought to what I hope our students take with them to high school, and beyond, and it also got me thinking about what is often found lacking in successful people.
I thought of one example that exemplifies this in some small way, if you will bear with me.  Eight years ago, we lived in the neighborhood, and particularly during the summer I would often walk to work.
One day, while returning home from work a five year old, now a Harding seventh grader had a lemonade stand set up at the edge of his yard, which is not all that uncommon, of course, but he had an entrepreneurial twist as he was also selling dead snakes that he had captured from the creek that runs through the links.  Giving some thought to board of health parameters I passed on the lemonade, but was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of the whole scene.
If I were, indeed, in the market for a dead snake, and was simultaneously parched, there is only one place that I would think to go to serve all of my concurrent needs, and while that was not the case, and I’m not sure this particular venture took off, it had all of the ingredients for some of the characteristics I hope you all will take with you when you graduate, and also unfortunately some of the components that seem to be missing more and more.  That is – creativity, risk and work ethic.
So much has been made of the common core, of new state-wide curriculums and evaluations, of our losing ground to our foreign counterparts, but I think much of the challenge remains inherent in that of a creative nation – in part, it’s what made this country successful, and what will allow us to adapt.  I certainly would not have dreamed of matching dead snakes and lemonade, but then again perhaps this wasn’t the main idea, perhaps it was only the spark that would later start another idea, into another idea and so on, and so on.  As Maya Angelou said “You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have” and so I would counsel you all to continue to be creative, as you have in the classroom, the music room, the stage, the art room and on the playing field.
Risk, too, is evident in any success story.  What was the risk in this case?  Certainly there was a high degree of risk for the snake (it’s a fine line between risk and sacrifice and I don’t advocate the latter), but for the salesman there was little financial risk, some physical risk assuming the snakes did not willingly offer themselves up, but perhaps the most likely risk is that someone may have given him a hard time or teased him, and dealing with naysayers and doubters is likely the hardest thing you will have to overcome when you take a risk.  Every person who has earned success has overcome doubters and pessimists.  It’s never easy, but it’s an important skill to develop.
Hard work, too, seems an ingredient that’s inherently lessening.  In this case a young entrepreneur on a hot summer day who had to set up the stand, mix up the lemonade, get change, etc. and let’s say ‘attain’ his other wares, in order to have a credible operation.
A perfect example of this is our distinguished alum, Mark Dunkerly who has devoted his life to helping disadvantaged youth at the Oasis Center, an incredibly special place.  In addition to working long hours at the center, Mark had the creative outlet of matching troubled teens and beer.  Certainly not in the way you are thinking, but he started a craft brewing company with half of the profits to benefit the Oasis center.  This is lemonade and snakes, on a more successful level.
In only inheritance or the lottery perhaps will people attain incredible wealth without working diligently, but in most other cases that I can think of, hard work is a crucial ingredient.  As Thomas Edison said, “There is no substitute for hard work”.
I was reminded of this several years ago.  During the flood in Nashville we had several trees fall on our house and much of the roof needed to be replaced.  On a very hot day just before July 4th weekend,, the roofers showed up very early in the morning and worked well into the night.  At around 8:00 as they were finishing up I offered them a beverage and said, “I guess you’re working so hard in order to be done and enjoy the holiday weekend?” and he replied, “No, we have another job lined up and if we finish tonight we can get started tomorrow morning.”  Needless to say, they are a very successful roofing company, and I see their trucks all over town.
So there it is – hard work, risk and creativity, and particularly, the latter, creativity, is one that seems to dissipate with time and I would urge you to make a conscious effort to continue creating and using your imagination.  Pablo Picasso said it best when he said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”  
With that I would urge you to continue to put snakes and lemonade together and see what happens.