An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Summer mailing: A letter from Upper School Director Felicia Wilks
Summer mailing: A letter from Upper School Director Felicia Wilks

Dear parents and guardians of Lakeside Upper School students,

Welcome to the 2018-2019 academic year at Lakeside! Whether you are new to the Lakeside community, or you have been a part of the community for many years, I hope you and your students are as eager to begin the year as I am.

Last month I had the opportunity to see Lakeside students embodying our school's mission at a Global Service Learning site in Thailand. As students built wattle-and-cobb bathroom structures, they communicated effectively with members of the host community, even in the absence of a shared language. They negotiated building methods and design with their peers: not always agreeing, but always showing a commitment to dialogue and consensus over "winning." They read books voraciously, passing them among the group. They worked hard all day, had no access to the internet or to their family and friends at home – and connected deeply with the new friends they made on the trip. They dealt with bug bites, stomach troubles, low-grade fevers, and fatigue, yet their spirits were high and they were working ahead of schedule by more than a week. It was truly impressive.

Our students' resilience and openness to new experiences is built on a foundation of support – support for each other, support from the highly capable and thoughtful trip leaders, from their teachers and advisors on campus who fostered their interest in GSL, and, most of all, from parents and guardians at home who encouraged their children to venture out to a new place in the world, despite missing them and even worrying about them. As a parent whose child was on a different GSL trip this summer, I know personally how stressful it was to see my daughter take off in late June – and how amazing it was to see her return in late July, more confident, more reflective, and more aware of herself and her place in the world. As a parent and as an educator, it was profoundly moving.

I learned early in my teaching career that my most important work – more than explaining grammatical structures and dissecting novels' themes – was being part of the web of support each student needs to grow into a healthy adult. At Lakeside, a significant aspect of my work as Upper School director is partnering with parents and guardians, faculty, and staff to pool our good thinking and resources in order to support our students. Together, we need to engage students at home and at school around not only what they are learning, but what they are feeling, seeing, thinking, and observing. Graduating the students described in our mission – individuals who take responsibility for themselves and their communities, and who have an awareness of how people who are unlike them see the world – only happens when many adults listen to them and help them interpret their world.

A core way Lakeside guides students to take responsibility for themselves is through helping them understand and live by our Statement of Community Expectations. A belief that students can make good, independent decisions is central to our mission. For this reason, our school does not rely on a set of rules to govern behavior on campus. Instead, the principles that make Lakeside a connected and vibrant community are expressed in the Statement of Community Expectations, which articulates what it means to be committed to the principles of consideration, integrity, and inclusion. The document guides us all – students and adults – in making decisions that enhance the ways in which we learn from and with each other.

Upper School faculty, staff, and administrators will work this year to ensure all students understand the important ideas laid out in the Statement of Community Expectations. I urge you to read the statement yourself – a copy will be mailed home later this week – and discuss it with your students. Your engagement with these expectations will provide important support to your students as they work every day to contribute to a strong and healthy community where each individual feels known and valued.

Finally, this year we welcome a new member to the Upper School administrative team: Betty Benson will serve as the new full-time assistant director, focusing on student life and discipline. In a rigorous nationwide search, Betty was selected with the enthusiastic support of groups of students, parents and guardians, faculty, and staff. Betty has taught chemistry at Lakeside for four years; has advised many students in her roles as the 9th-grade coordinator and 12th-grade coordinator; and has served as the faculty representative on the Judicial Committee. These experiences inform her approach to supporting students in moments of inspired excellence and during times when they make mistakes or errors in judgement that are important moments of learning and growth. Please join me in welcoming Betty to her new role when you see her on campus!

The coming academic year will give us many opportunities to partner in encouraging and celebrating these promising students. I look forward to seeing you and your students in the coming weeks!


Felicia Wilks

Upper School Director