Head of School, Chuck Baldecchi

11 Announcements displayed.

  • May and Final Head's Letter

    Dear TLS Community,
     
    I have so many wonderful memories of The Lexington School. I have memories of the interview process and the energy and enthusiasm I felt for this school. TLS clicked in my heart from the start. I remember our first Holiday Concert with Bella in my arms, Alex in Erin’s belly, and Cade not yet a thought. I remember our last Holiday Concert and tears streaming down my cheek as the sound of sweet voices singing “One Candle” wafted through the gym. This year’s 8th graders were born the year we arrived at TLS, and the 8th graders I first handed a diploma to that first Friday in June fifteen years ago are now knocking on the big 3-0.
     
    There are so many milestones to remember over the years like moving into the Lower School Building, Celebrating the 50th Anniversary, starting The Learning Center, and breaking ground on the new Academic Center. While those milestones are significant, the truth is they aren’t what I have reflected on the most these last couple of months. It’s the community. It’s the students and their parents. It’s the faculty and administration. It’s the board of trustees and the alumni. It’s the trust we share – that we have earned over time. The beautiful work of education and leading a school community is that each day and each decision is different. There is no “playbook” with the right answers, and when there is no “right” answer, trust is essential. Humans make mistakes, especially humans who are growing into young adults. Making mistakes is the only way a person learns, grows, matures. Adults make mistakes, too—parents, teachers, Heads of School. If we trust one another, though, we allow room for imperfection and, paradoxically, that leads to a “perfect” education. Like the students who have graced these “halls of learning,” I, too, have grown up as a person, as a father, as a friend, as a leader. The Lexington School is my home. An old African Proverb says, “It takes a village, to raise a child.” The Lexington School has raised me; it’s my village. I share this experience with the thousands of children who have gone to school here since 1959, and I will be forever grateful to every member of this community—this school—for the rest of my life.
     
    The term Alma Mater can be translated as “nourishing mother,” and the idea is your school nourishes you—feeds your intellect, your character, your soul, your humanity. How can someone ever say thank you for that? The good news is a mother doesn’t need a thank you. She gives love unconditionally. Because of this, I have been “nourished” by The Lexington School, and I love her back unconditionally!
     
    With gratitude for a job I love (past, present, and future),
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
  • April Head's Letter

    Dear TLS Community,
     
    In my first month on the job fifteen years ago, I met with the “new” faculty for a day of orientation led by Ann Eames, TLS’s legendary English teacher and Director of Professional Development, along with our faculty mentors. Ann led an exercise that morning where she named each of TLS’s Heads of School and asked faculty to step forward if they were hired by that head of school. Ann stepped into the circle when Bud Pritchett was named. As she went through the list, at least one faculty mentor stepped forward as the headmaster that hired them was mentioned. Finally, she named Molly Strassner, my predecessor, and all the newly hired faculty stepped forward. Then she named me, and I stepped in to introduce myself. I remember thinking that morning, I hope to one day leave my own legacy with this faculty.
     
    Teachers have changed my life. When I think back to my childhood, I can remember each teacher from Mrs. Harkness’s four-year-old preschool in the basement of her home to my “tutors” at St. John’s College as I defended my graduate school essays. Each and every one had distinct gifts that allowed me to learn and grow. Teachers are why I got into education. What I came to know is I loved teaching because I always learned from my students. When one becomes a head of school, the faculty in a way become your students, and, as has always been the case for me, I have learned more from my “students” than I have taught.
     
    During the interview process for The Lexington School, I acknowledged openly I knew very little about elementary education. To date, my entire professional career had taken place at boarding high schools. I had no idea what to expect of a four-year-old, a first grader, or a fifth grader, and my knowledge of middle schoolers was mainly interviews and transcripts. I am not quite sure how it happened during that 90-minute interview, but the faculty and I developed a trust and a rapport. What I knew in my heart after that faculty meeting was that The Lexington School was the right school for me. It was the right school because its faculty were professionals who knew their stuff: Mary Beers and her team were preschool child whisperers, Marijo Foster and her lower school faculty had forgotten more elementary pedagogy then I would ever learn in my lifetime, and Una MacCarthy and her faculty loved and understood that mystifying, glorious, and confounding beast known as the middle school student. I knew that for my leadership style and vision to work, I needed experienced professionals in the classroom. It was apparent that I had them.
     
    Over the years, I have been in awe of my colleagues and what they could accomplish with love, sweat, tears, and knowledge. I have seen a shy five-year-old transform into a confident young sprite after her teacher grabbed every teaching moment over nine months to slowly build confidence and voice. Reading and writing is a gift that rewards a person with a lifetime of learning and reflection, but teaching a child to read and write is a labor of love that can be painstaking and trying. It takes a special patience and mastery to do it well. At TLS I have had the honor of watching master educators do it every day. Understanding comes from trial and error—it is easier to sacrifice understanding for memorization. At TLS, I can walk into a science experiment one day or a language arts debate the next and see the messy work of teaching understanding taking place. Master teachers take the time necessary to teach understanding. TLS’s faculty are truly masters of the craft of teaching. I love watching our teachers teach as much as I love watching our students learn.
     
    My gratitude is not limited to teaching faculty and administration. Every employee at The Lexington School contributes to its noble mission. If bills weren’t paid on time in the business office, the school would cease to function. If administrative assistants, admission, and development staff weren’t welcoming, committed ambassadors of the school, we would be diminished. If tears weren’t dried by the loving hug dished out by a cafeteria worker, our students would be malnourished. If a diligent soul didn’t clean up after a sick child’s bout with the flu met the classroom floor, disease would spread more than knowledge. If school nurses and counselors weren’t there to offer an attentive ear or advice and dispense prescriptions and kindness, our wellbeing would decrease. If a coach had not taken the time to explain self-sacrifice and teamwork, our students wouldn’t understand that we can accomplish so much more together than as individuals.
     
    In reality, I have been a student of this faculty for the last fifteen years. It has been the greatest honor of my professional career to serve The Lexington School with them. What I know and respect the most is that they teach as much with their actions as they do with their words. TLS’s faculty teach not only the foundations of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also the foundations of character, friendship, and community. It is noble and caring work done by noble and caring professionals – professionals I am lucky to call my colleagues and, more importantly, my friends.
     
    To the TLS faculty, I am grateful for the lifetime love of learning you have inspired in me and all your students.
     
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
     
    P.S. At the beginning of this letter, I tell a story of Ann Eames and our mentoring program. I remember innocently saying to Ann that day, “I see that every new faculty member has a mentor. Do I have a mentor?” Ann smiled and said, “No you don’t. You’re the boss.” I was quiet for a while and then I asked one of the most important questions of my career: “Mrs. Eames, will you be my mentor?” Lucky for me and TLS, she nodded her head and accepted the challenge. Although she retired from teaching at TLS many years ago, Ann still edits every letter of significance I write. I am grateful for all of her quiet work. She is an amazing teacher.
  • February Head's Letter

    Dear TLS Families,
     
    Throughout the school year I have used my monthly Head's Letter as an opportunity to say thank you and to express my gratitude for this wonderful school community I have called home for the last 15 years. This month I would like to share my deepest gratitude for Ms. Josephine Abercrombie, Founder of The Lexington School. She is a remarkable person, a mentor, and a visionary leader. She is also a great friend. This past fall Ms. Abercrombie was honored by The Thoroughbred Club of America for her lifetime of contributions to the thoroughbred industry. Horses are one of Ms. Abercrombie’s great loves. Below is the speech I gave that evening about Ms. Abercrombie’s other great love, The Lexington School. It is followed by a lovely video created by Keeneland and TCA.
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
     
     
     
    Speech Delivered to The Thoroughbred Club of America in Honor of Ms. Josephine Abercrombie on Friday, September 28, 2018 by Charles D. Baldecchi, Head of The Lexington School
     
    Dreaming a big dream is, I am sure, a common thread among everyone in this room. If you are in the horse business, you are into dreaming big dreams. Perhaps it is to one day win the Kentucky Derby or, even bolder, the Triple Crown. Ms. A, I know, has had that dream in her lifetime.
     
    I am here today to represent the BIGGEST dream Ms. Abercrombie had in her lifetime. Over 60 years ago, Ms. A dreamed of starting a school that would prepare and educate students for the country’s finest prep schools. Her dream accomplished not only that goal but surpassed even her wildest dreams. The Lexington School, in my humble opinion, is Ms. Abercrombie’s finest achievement. It is her legacy to the Bluegrass, a region that she so dearly loves – one that will live on for generations to come.
     
    I would also argue it is her gift to the thoroughbred industry as well. Can I see a show of hands for anyone in this room who has attended TLS, is a parent or grandparent of an alum, or considers him or herself a friend of the school? [I knew there would be plenty of hands, but I was overwhelmed by the number of connections in the room!] By reviewing the names in the school’s first graduating class, you may recognize a few individuals: Don Robinson (Winter Quarter), Bill Young (Overbrook), Dave Fishback (Vet, Hagyard), Darby Turner (has owned a few horses in his day), Mike Bell (Beaumont Farm/ Mill Ridge, horse trainer), and Sara Clay Branch (Runnymede). In the class of 2018, by my estimate, 20% of the class has deep ties to the thoroughbred industry today.
     
    While the school’s connection to the thoroughbred industry has remained, The Lexington School has changed a great deal since that first September day in 1959 when the entire school consisted of 59 students. Last year’s graduating class alone was 65. The school is currently at 600 students. Its campus has doubled in size to 40 acres. Whereas Ms. Abercrombie used to write a check at the end of the school year to bring the school’s finances into the black, today she issues a “challenge” through her foundation that motivates nearly 90% of our parents to support the school’s Annual Fund and helps raise as much as $900,000 annually. While there wasn’t an endowment until the mid-1980s, today, through the generosity of many of the people in this room including Ms. Abercrombie, the school’s endowment stands at $35 million, which in turn helps fund a robust financial aid program that provides roughly $1.7 million annually to make a Lexington School education more affordable to a quarter of the student body. This fulfills another dream of Ms. Abercrombie’s—making a TLS education possible to not only members of the Thoroughbred Club but also those working the backside!
     
    I will never forget taking Ms. A on a tour of our new Lower School building. We finished the tour and were looking over the school’s playground and athletic fields from the second floor. She just started to cry. It was a good cry, and when she caught her breath, she said to me, “When I started this little school—little school—I never dreamed it would grow up to be all of this.”
     
    Josephine, I am here to tell you that The Lexington School continues to grow and shape the Bluegrass. I love going out in public with Ms. A and seeing the people line up to thank her for the education she gave their children. They often cry with gratitude for the community that embraced their family, and they express thanks for a school that instilled in its students the values of a work ethic, integrity, and compassion from such a young age.
     
    My question to you in this room: What have you done in your life that compels a grown man or woman to weep with gratitude? Is there something you created that continues to change lives?
     
    Ms. A’s dream keeps getting bigger and bigger each year. Two years ago, a third party ranked The Lexington School the 2nd best elementary school in the nation. Soon there will be a new Academic Center with a state-of-the-art library and a home for our Learning Center. Yes, Ms. Abercrombie’s dream keeps growing bigger and bigger.
     
    The Lexington School is not the sole philanthropic focus of the Abercrombie Foundation. Her family was instrumental in starting and funding the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, and true to her deep love of animals – equine, canine, and beyond – the Woodford County Humane Society has held a deep place in her heart. She loves any organization that works to protect this land we call the Bluegrass. In short, she is a generous woman who makes a difference.
     
    The students at TLS know her and love her. For Ms. Abercrombie’s 90th birthday, we invited her to school so we could throw her a big birthday party. Why not? Ms. A loves celebrating her birthday and eating cake, and elementary school kids also love a birthday party and cake. It was a match made in heaven! But what struck the faculty the most that day was how many students came up to Ms. A after the assembly to give her hugs, and she hugged them right back. They knew who she was. Josephine Abercrombie wasn’t some name of a disconnected founder. She was everyone’s grandmother that morning, and they weren’t going to let her leave without giving her a hug! Sixty years later, TLS is still her school.
     
    I’ll end with a story about one of the first times I met Ms. A. It was the spring of 2004, before I started at TLS 15 years ago. She asked me to meet her at Pin Oak Stud. She showed me around the office and introduced me to her wonderful team. I even got to meet her prized stallions (heck, I even got to meet the teaser, Little Red), but it wasn’t until she asked if I wanted to meet her babies that I saw that trademark twinkle in her baby blue eyes. I said of course. We piled into her Benz wagon with her trusted Weimaraner, Sterling, a breed, by the way, her father first brought to America from Germany. Then we started bouncing across field after field to see her babies, foals, months or weeks old. She had treats for them and their protective mothers. She told me each horse’s proud lineage three generations back. She had dreams for each of her babies. They were going to be champions one day. It was out there, bouncing around those fields, that I saw a visionary genius in action – Ms. A creating the vision she has shown throughout her incredible life. As we drove back to her office and parked the car, she looked over at me, locked her eyes on me, and said, “I love my babies. I love all my babies. Take good care of them!”
     
    I knew what Ms. A meant.
     
    She demands excellence and delivers excellence in all that she does in life. I was not going to disappoint! I was going to take care of her babies at 1050 Lane Allen Road.
     
    Thank you Josephine Abercrombie for your dreams—big and small, for your legacy of excellence in thoroughbred racing and in education, and for all that you have accomplished in your remarkable life. Tonight, all of us come together to honor you, your legacy, and to say thank you!
     
    Click here to watch the video.
  • December Head's Letter

    December 2018
     
    Dear Families,
     
    When he was offered the job in the summer of 1984, TLS did not have a head of school, a business manager, or an endowment. Betty Jo Palmer was not only acting Head of School but also Chair of the Board. When I spoke to her about what she remembers from that time in the school’s history she said simply, “Chuck, TLS had nothing. I mean nothing to its name. … In addition, Ms. A had given us some tough love and told the Board they needed to fix this problem themselves. Literally, TLS had nothing!”
     
    Bob Thompson remembers receiving his contract in the very office he resides in now. He heard about the opening from Ann Eames, longtime English Teacher at TLS. As Ann Eames remembers, “Years ago, Bob and I sat side by side at a church board meeting. After checking in with one another on the news of our families, I asked Bob how work was. He responded that it was fine, but he was looking for something more, perhaps a little more challenging. …I passed on the contact information to him, Bob followed up, and a part of TLS history was written.”
     
    Finding a new job that was a challenge was an understatement. TLS was not in the financial position it is today. Bob remembers his first summer: “That period of the year after the last tuition payments were due and the deposits for the following year were months away, the school could not meet its payroll obligations. I remember trying to secure lines of credit to get us through the summer.” The school hired an interim just before opening day. The trustees of the school at that time included a lot of familiar names: Young, Kenan, May, Clay, Neuman, Jackson, Robinson, Gaines. When you talk with trustees from that era, to a person they are grateful for the continuity Bob Thompson provided for the school in the early years and beyond.
     
    Anyone who has served on the Finance Committee of the Board or served as treasurer is aware of the magic Bob works with the school’s budget. I can attest to this as well. In my entire 15-year tenure, The Lexington School has always finished the year with a surplus. Some of you may read that and think, “Of course, we all know TLS is in great economic shape.” May I remind you, though, that the school managed to finish each year in the black throughout the entire time the country was in the midst of the Great Recession? It is not hyperbole to say that the reason TLS is in such great economic shape today is because of the parsimonious hand of Bob Thompson.
     
    Marijo Foster remembers fondly:
     
    I should be able to remember the day that Bob Thompson joined us at TLS, but the truth is it feels as if he has always been there.  In the early days, he was in charge of approving all expenditures and all work with the budget.  If a teacher or department needed something extra, they would go to Bob (some even called him Uncle Bob), and he would work his magic and make it happen...almost always.  His ability to guide the physical plant upkeep and changes, including important additions, has always been impressive.  He has kept his finger on the pulse of TLS since he arrived, and it is difficult to imagine the school without him.
     
    The role of business manager has changed dramatically during Bob’s tenure for sure. When Bob arrived, he had one maintenance person and a one person in billing. It is not an exaggeration to say that he plowed roads, plunged toilets, changed lightbulbs, waxed floors, relit hot water pilot lights, and built buildings. Built building he did. TLS ended at the middle school crossway when Bob first started at TLS. Basketball hoops were located in the cafeteria, and there was a stage next to the current kitchen. He has overseen construction of the middle school wing, arts wing, library, lower school building, athletic fields, Scarlett Gate, and of course the current academic center. The school has been transformed and expanded under his watchful eye. Enrollment is the largest the school has ever been reaching 600 students in his last year. While the school will take out a construction loan for the Academic Center, the school is currently debt free. Furthermore, under Bob’s tenure, our endowment has grown from nonexistent to $38 million.
     
    While Bob should be remembered for his role in transforming the physical and financial condition of The Lexington School, I will remember him most for his steady hand, excellent advice, fiduciary acumen, his friendship, and kindness. He has a huge heart and wants nothing more than the people who work for this school to have a career they love, excellent benefits, fair wages, and a comfortable retirement. He cares so deeply for the faculty and staff who work for this school. While he is cautious about taking risks and expanding the mission of the school, it is because of Bob that TLS sailed through the recession and The Learning Center met its ten-year financial objectives in five short years. Bob knew better than anyone that what kills dreams is not always a lack of trying or a great idea, but incomplete resources. TLS wouldn’t be the school it is today without resources. TLS is the school it is today because of Bob Thompson.
     
    Bob also loves his family. His wife Sharon, his lifetime partner, was the food writer for the Herald-Leader for years, and to this day, Bob always takes a call from his two daughters. Family comes first. That same love and loyalty have made him a great leader these past 35 years at TLS. Because of his 35 years of caring, foresight, dedication, and sound fiscal management, The Lexington School is eternally grateful for Mr. Robert Thompson’s service.
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
  • November Head's Letter

    Dear TLS Families,
     
    Spin…Spin…Spin…Mr. Duckie are you in there?
                I can still hear the preschool voices followed by the knocking on my door forming a line 20 kids deep.
                As I would stand up and open the door, there would be a jubilant, collective, “YEAH!”
                I would ask the crowd outside my door, “Who wants to go first?”
                It would be followed by, “ME…ME…ME!”
                Who wants to sit behind a desk all day when you can have this much fun at work?
                “OK, form a line,” and like that the first child would climb into my tethered, worn, cloth-bare chair. If he couldn’t climb in, I would pick him up and place him in the chair – his feet barely hanging over the side.
                “ONE…TWO…THREE…FOUR…,” and I would let the chair and the child spin until they came to a stop. With a smile on his face, he would climb out of the chair and wobble out of my office and onto the playground, and the next child would take a spin.
                I knew it would not be long before another gathering would form, and I would hear the cry, “MORE…MORE…MORE!”
               Sure, why not? It was the best part of my day.
               It has been a privilege to sit in my chair.
     
    From where I sit, I see a four-year-old running in a field. From where I sit, I see tricycles cruising around the track. From where I sit, I see two teachers each holding a child’s hand as she marches proudly on top of the tires. From where I sit, I see sand castles being built and destroyed. From where I sit, I see middle schoolers playing with their preschool buddies.
     
    I love my perch here on my office chair. My window perfectly frames the day-to-day lives of our preschool students and teachers. It is a window into the future and into the past. Obviously, the playground is an important part of Preschool. TLS says it teaches courage, and all one needs to do is look out my window on any given day and see courage in action. Our students learn to play well with others and make new friends. Our students hang on for dear life as they ride the zipline. It is such an interesting view out my window. I get to see that smile widen across a child’s face as he or she does something successfully for the first time. The smile comes from accomplishment—hard fought accomplishment in some cases. I also see friendships being formed. Making a new friend can take courage. Being a friend takes courage. A friendship may just start with a “nice shot” or “will you play with me?” From my perch, I know I am present at the formation of lifelong friendships. The reason I know that is because I see middle schoolers playing with their friends on the preschool playground from time to time, and I remember when they were four and played on that same field together. It is a privilege to watch young children grow… It is a privilege to sit in my chair.
     
    From where I sit, I have seen parents beam as they gush about their “pride and joy.” From where I sit, I have seen parents weep as they struggle with life’s most trying moments. From where I sit, I have heard an angry parent chastise the school for allowing their oldest child to be “bullied,” and I have heard that same parent years later beg for leniency and ask for understanding when their youngest mistreated a fellow student. I have been given a front row seat on life. Holding a child’s hand after she lost her father to cancer is a privilege. Being present when a child takes responsibility for a mistake and apologizes to the student he harmed is a privilege. Informing parents that their 5th grade son has won a full scholarship and watching tears of joy trickle down their cheeks is a privilege. Asking a family to consider giving a $1,000,000 gift to a school I love and hearing their “yes” is a privilege. It is a privilege to sit in my chair.
     
    From where I sit, I have seen a teacher change the trajectory of a child’s life forever. From where I sit, I have woefully, inadequately tried to thank a teacher for 34 years of service to The Lexington School. From where I sit, I have made someone’s lifelong dream of being a teacher a reality. Managing and motivating people is a privilege. Listening to a grateful parent say to her son’s teacher, “You are the reason my son loves coming to school every day” is a privilege. Letting a faculty member know that the life lesson she has just taught a child was exactly the right thing even if the disappointed parent doesn’t see it that way is a privilege. Watching a member of the cafeteria staff dish out a hug to a crying child just before dishing out a hot dog is a privilege. Letting someone go who is not doing her job is a privilege. Leading a faculty who understands community is a privilege. It is a privilege to sit in my chair.
     
    November is a month to be grateful and to give thanks. I am filled with gratitude during my last year at TLS. It has been a privilege to literally and figuratively sit in my chair. Literally, because my chair is the only part of my office that was here when I started on my first day fifteen years ago. My chair has survived two decorating efforts and many more attempts to throw it away. I just could not part ways with it. I agree it is ugly and in disrepair, but something needed to stay the same. Figuratively, well that is the point of this letter. BrenéBrown says it best: “What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
  • October Head's Letter

    October 2018

    Dear Families,
     
    Is it possible to be both an innovative and a rigorous school?
     
    This has been a question that I have pursued during my 15-year tenure at The Lexington School. I have come to believe that a connection between innovation and rigor is not only possible, but that innovation produces productive, constructive rigor. Research plays a critical role in every field, and during the last sixty years significant research has been conducted regarding child development, the brain, motivation, memorization, understanding, reading, mathematics, writing, and the list goes on and on. Simply put, we have learned so much about the brain and about how children learn, but there is a natural tension to innovation… change.
     
    Humans have an interesting relationship with change. On one hand, we love it. Every day is different, and with that comes curiosity. On the other hand, we are skeptical of change. We are proud of the way we did something, and we want those traditions to remain. This is true of the way adults view education for their children as well. We remember the way we learned. We value those lessons and the traditions that created the opportunity for those lessons to be remembered. As a result, we want our children to have that same experience. It is exactly why alumni love their schools so fiercely. Their school represents memories of a common challenge that all of those who attended shared. Having overcome that obstacle creates a bond among generations. We see this with summer camps and excursions as well. I want my child to attend TLS because it shaped my study habits. I want my daughter to attend Camp Wadda Wadda because I learned independence and made friends from all over the country. I want my child to live in Spain for the semester so he can learn a new culture and become fluent in another language like I did.
     
    The reality though is that experience evolves over the years. To stay relevant, organizations must evolve to survive and get stronger. The other reality is that we as adults do not always remember what we experienced accurately. We remember BIG moments, and in retrospect, we attribute meaning to those events in our life. For example, I remember my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Madigan. I remember that she was demanding, but I don’t remember the grade I received in her class, nor do I remember any day-to-day details. To give another example of an institution evolving in my life, I went to an all-male high school, and the fact that it was all-male certainly shaped me as a person and made me who I am today. It was part of the fabric of the school. That being said, my high school today is coed, and I think by all measurable statistics it is a better school now because it chose to accept girls. Some of you will read about that change and say, “Of course, it is a better school. The world is a coed world and men need to work and learn alongside woman.” But to be clear, there are a significant number of alumni who vehemently disagree with that statement. They feel the school does not have the same quality that it used to. As an alum, I understand why they may feel that way, but I don’t agree with them. This is where experience can outweigh facts. It does not matter to some that the school is more selective, more rigorous, stronger financially; going coed was too much change for them.
     
    A common refrain from heads of schools is, “Your most traditional alumnus is the one who graduated last May.” One would think the 50-year alumnus would be the most traditional, but if you think about it, it makes sense. Those who have just completed the challenge desire most deeply that it have the same value as past generations. Those newly minted alumni studied hard, stayed up late doing homework, completed this project, and returned from that trip; don’t tell them it wasn’t hard enough, late enough, completed to the same standards, or lacked this “old-school” adventure.
     
    I give you these examples to lay out the tension all good schools have. How do we innovate and evolve with what we are learning about teaching while at the same time maintain our traditions in order to keep the institutional experience the same?
     
    When I look back on my time at TLS, I remember the changes we made that marked a departure from some traditions of the past. Here are the ones that stick out:
     
    Putting the word “failure” in the Philosophy Statement:
    It was 2005 when the school’s philosophy statement was written by faculty, administration, and trustees. While Wendy Mogel’s Blessing of a Skinned Knee was published in 2001 and gave credence to the idea that making mistakes was a good thing, schools were still adapting to the age of “helicopter parenting.” TLS took a strong stand and actually used the word “failure” in its philosophy statement. The school wanted to take a stand in this era of parents protecting their children from making any mistakes or suffering any consequences. Of course, TLS is not about “failure”; we are about success, but the only way to achieve success is to make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself back up, and try, try again. Since then, the Philosophy Statement has become TLS’s “North Star.” It has defined us as a school and is cited by many parents as the “reason we chose TLS.”
     
    Adding Mission Skills to the curriculum:
    In 2008, The Lexington School sat with 18 other schools in a conference room in Chicago and dreamed of a test that measured non-cognitive skills such as Creativity, Curiosity, Ethics, Resilience, Teamwork, and Time Management. These were called mission skills because at least one of these skills was mentioned in 100% of the participating 18 schools’ mission statements, and all six were represented in 80% of the schools’ collective mission statements. We heads of schools wanted the test because parents and trustees were saying, “You say you teach ____________ (Curiosity), but can you really prove it?” Data was king, and parents wanted to see the data. The Mission Skills Assessment was able to quantify to a reliable degree how well schools taught each skill. TLS and other independent schools knew these six traits were critical to the education our graduates received and wanted to give these skills the same emphasis as a specific academic skill. Mission Skills are the differentiator between TLS and other schools. Teamwork and Ethics are the foundations of a strong leader in the community. Curiosity and Creativity spark the inventor. Time Management and Resilience are the engine that keeps one working to find a solution when others get disorganized and quit. That is why Mission Skills have been an essential part of a TLS education long before Carol Dweck (Mindset), Angela Duckworth (Grit), and Paul Tough (How Children Succeed) became best sellers and declared these skills critical to an excellent education.
     
    Starting The Learning Center:
    Almost a decade ago The Lexington School took the bold step of starting a school within a school for students with Language Based Learning Differences like dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. At the time, Lexington did not have a school to serve those types of learners. When it became clear that TLS could no longer serve the student with dyslexia, the difficult part was informing the family that 1) TLS could no longer serve their child; and 2) there wasn’t a school in Lexington that could serve their child. Looking back nine years later on that decision, starting The Learning Center seems like a “no-brainer.” The Learning Center now serves 63 students. Having grown beyond our wildest dreams, it has garnered a national reputation for TLS because it serves as a model for other traditional independent schools, and it has enhanced our teaching of reading schoolwide. It is not only changing the lives of students in The Learning Center but of every student at The Lexington School.
     
    Differentiated Instruction:
    One of the highest compliments we get about TLS is its ability to serve a wide range of students. A parent just recently noted, “What I am most amazed at and appreciative of regarding TLS is its ability to serve all of my children well.” This idea of Differentiated Instruction has been pioneered and championed by Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education. In the good old days, teachers gave each student the same math test, spelling test, writing assignment, or book to read. Students were graded along a bell curve, and most instruction was geared to the middle student. The Lexington School classroom is run very differently today. Teachers know their students well and adjust their instruction to meet the strengths and challenges of each one of them. For example, in Lower School we have adopted the Lucy Calkins writing methodology. It formalizes what has been a trademark of a Lexington School education. If Suzie is a strong writer who uses descriptive adjectives well and is beginning to form a focused thesis statement, our teachers can set individualized expectations for Suzie’s writing. Her teacher can expect that Suzie use more descriptive adjectives and write a tighter thesis statement in her next essay, and she will receive feedback from the teacher that stretches her to write more coherently. If Chuckie on the other hand is an average writer who struggles with descriptive language and hasn’t quite mastered the idea of a topic sentence, our teachers set individualized expectations for Chuckie’s writing. The next essay will demand the use of descriptive adjectives and a topic sentence. The beauty of Differentiated Instruction is that satisfaction is never met. One can always write a better essay, use more descriptive language, and give more insightful commentary. More is expected of every student. In the good old days, that wasn’t the case. Differentiated Instruction is not limited to writing. I watched a fourth grade math class in which technology was used to gather student answers on a given math problem. Immediately the teacher had real-time information about each student's understanding of the topic being taught. The teacher could see who understood the concept and was answering the question correctly and who struggled to find the answer. During one-on-one time, those students received direct instruction to buttress their understanding of the math concept allowing for that individualized instruction that builds confidence and understanding. Again, more is being expected of every student.
     
    Some trends TLS did not follow:
    TLS is very thoughtful about its approach to education. Like everything in life, education can be trendy. A school can easily become distracted by the latest idea. Parents can as well. I think TLS’s approach to Mandarin is a good example of this. Mandarin has become popular in the last ten years due to China’s prominence as a major economy. There was a great deal of buzz to add Mandarin. While the buzz was in the community, when it came to choosing Mandarin over Spanish, parents overwhelmingly chose Spanish. People liked the concept of Mandarin, but in reality, Spanish seemed more practical. There wasn’t enough demand to warrant a full-time instructor, so the school took a hybrid approach and offered Mandarin as an after-school class. While not ideal for those who are passionate about Mandarin, our program gives the opportunity for exposure for some and for those truly dedicated few, an opportunity to learn the language.
     
    The subject of homework falls into this category as well. Several years ago, with the gaining popularity of Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth (2006), a significant number of parents raised concern about the level of homework given at TLS. This awareness created an opportunity for the administration and faculty to study and analyze TLS’s philosophy on homework. After reviewing our policy, TLS took a via media approach. We asked teachers to assign homework that was relevant to the next day’s class instruction but eschew homework that would better be defined as “busy work.” On the other hand, among TLS’s alumni a consistent trait that is valued is “work ethic.” They say that TLS teaches its students a strong work ethic. We did not want to lose that important trait among our graduates and felt some of that work ethic could be attributed to homework and our students’ ability to organize their time and daily work load. As a result, homework is still an important expectation of our students. TLS feels it has an important role to play in teaching responsibility, time management, and work ethic.
     
    TLS takes great pride in its long-standing reputation as a rigorous academic institution that builds a strong foundation for a lifelong love of learning. It also takes pride in being known as a national leader of independent schools. With an entrepreneurial spirit, The Lexington School is willing to live its philosophy statement as it takes risks, innovates, makes mistakes, learns from them, and strives to build on its reputation for academic excellence.
     
    As a result, TLS can honestly say it is a better school today than it was yesterday, ten, twenty-five, or fifty years ago.
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
     
    Reading List (Articles, Books, Research, and Authors Mentioned in this Letter)
  • September Head's Letter

    September 2018
     
    Dear Families,
     
    I have spent the summer thinking about whether there is a difference between a child jumping off a pier into the water for the first time and giving your teenager keys to a car.
     
    I can argue both sides.
     
    I remember when they were babies. I remember that first step. I remember their first day of school. I remember teaching them how to swim … how to ride a bike … I could go on and on.
     
    Each milestone gave each child more confidence, more independence. Over my fifteen years as Head of School, my letters have told stories and discussed the issues of growth and independence—risk and failure – the benefits of making mistakes and overcoming life’s many obstacles. This summer I have been struck by the difference between raising a teenager and raising a child. When I see young families playing with their six year old it brings a smile to my face. I pulled out one of my old Head’s letters from September of 2007. I call it the Cowabunga Letter. It was the letter I wrote about teaching Alex to swim when he was still two. Teaching a child to swim is such a critical skill. Sure, swimming is a fun activity, and I hope your children enjoyed swimming all summer long. But that’s not why I taught my child to swim. I taught him because I didn’t want him to drown. I know that sounds morbid, but it’s true. I hint at that fear in the letter written 11 years ago.
     
    Fast forward to the summer of 2018, and I find myself teaching Alex again. It all started with a request last April: “Dad, can I get my boater’s license?” In the state of Maryland you are allowed to drive a boat alone at the ripe age of 13. Alex realized that this was the summer! I grew up on the water and I love the water. If you were born before 1972, you actually were never required to take a test in order to get a license to drive a boat. I don’t remember my first time taking a boat out solo, but I was young, about Alex’s age. I never took a test. I had to get my parent’s permission, but not a test.
     
    Can I state the obvious here? A boat is a very dangerous machine to drive. You can be the best captain on the water and that doesn’t protect you from some moron who sold his business yesterday and bought a yacht today. If he or she was born before 1972, he can take the boat out the day of purchase. In fact there was an article in the newspaper about that very disturbing fact. There has been an increased number of deaths on the Chesapeake Bay this spring and summer, and the author speculated it was due to the roaring economy and people buying a yacht and operating it with very little experience. I don’t know if it is true, but you can see where that overprotective parent voice in my head was going.
     
    But like that little boy who ran off the dock with great exuberance and jumped into the deep end, Alex diligently studied for his boater’s test and had his license in hand by the time the summer began. He was chomping at the bit.
     
    We have a 15-foot 1984 Boston Whaler. It isn’t fancy, but it is a workhorse, and with the throttle floored it can top 29 MPH – too fast for a 13 year old in my mind.
     
    Caution and fear aside, I totally understood Alex’s enthusiasm. Going out on the water is great fun. It is freedom. After thinking about it for a while, it occurred to me that there was a similarity to learning how to drive a boat and learning how to swim. Just like I had the opportunity to teach him how to swim and respect the water, I did, once again, have that opportunity to teach him respect for the water and a machine. In fact, I had an obligation to put my stamp on that experience.
     
    I came up with a plan. “Yes, you may in fact have a boater’s license, but you cannot take the boat out on your own until you pass a series of Dad’s tests.” And test we did. Every free moment he had, he begged me to take him out on the water: docking the boat multiple times—when it was calm and when it was blowing; docking in narrow confines; and docking without a single boat around. Driving up and down the river without a soul, and driving up and down the river on a Saturday afternoon with every yahoo around on the river. Honestly, if I could get him to dedicate his time to academics like he did to that boat, I have no question Harvard would be an option. As an educator, it showed how much a motivator passion and desire can be. He wanted to pass my test. As a father, I have to admit this: I loved every minute of it. No cellphone. No Fortnight. No distractions. Just the two of us, the boat, the water, and his full attention. A boy and his dad.
     
    The irony was not lost on me. This time together was precious and special, and at the end my son would gain more independence, more freedom … from me! I milked it for all it was worth. He was ready about two weeks before I agreed that he could take the final test. And honestly what touched my heart the most was the fact that he loved every minute with me. What was the final test you may ask? Take his mother into downtown Annapolis alone, dock the boat, and bring her back. If Mom didn’t feel scared, if her knuckles weren’t white from gripping the railing too tight, if she felt comfortable being out there with him on the boat herself and with his friends alone— Alex would pass!
     
    He passed with flying colors. And then came the question I dreaded all summer long. “Can I take my friends out on the boat?” It is one thing to worry about your own child’s life, and it is a completely different worry when you realize your child has someone else’s child’s life in his hands. It is terrifying in fact.
     
    The answer was yes, but every parent had to contact us, understand that Alex was taking the boat out alone, and give us permission. Those parents had to understand completely what their child was doing and who was driving the boat.
     
    You have to let your children jump off the deep end and swim on their own. That “Cowabunga!” moment comes in many different shapes and sizes. It is an ongoing cycle called parenthood. I have heard it never ends as long as you are alive. All one can do is teach them, coach them, respect their independence, let go a little more each time, and pray (lots of praying).
     
    By the way, my daughter turns 16 in October…
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
  • May Head's Letter

    May 2018
     
    Dear TLS Families:
     
    The beauty of The ONE School Campaign is that there is something in it for every student at The Lexington School.
     
    When I think about the ONE School Campaign I am reminded of the warm feeling I have as a parent and a Head of School when our students sing “One Candle” at the end of the Holiday Concert. There is a glow that enlightens the heart as the entire student body comes together to sing a song about peace and unity. Lexington School students, parents, teachers, and friends are united by a sense of family that brings us all together. As trustees and administrators were discussing a name for this capital campaign, lots of ideas were put forth, but none seemed to capture the essence of the project until someone suggested the idea of ONE School. It “clicked” because it captured that sense of community that we value so tremendously as a school family.
     
    The overarching intent of this ambitious project is to unite our students, enhancing that feeling of family in every corner of The Lexington School. The projects are too many to describe completely here in a Head’s Letter, but following is a list of highlights.
     
    New Spaces
    • The cornerstone of this bold new project is the Academic Center. A two-story building replacing the current glass connector, the Academic Center entrance will become the school’s ONE clear, central, and secure front door.

    • Inside that front door, our new library will inspire new generations to learn to love reading and will feature child-friendly reading nooks, mini-conference rooms for project work, and an enclosed “junior library” specially designed for our youngest friends.

    • The Academic Center will also house a new Spanish classroom, science lab, and a “clean makerspace” with 3D printing, a green screen, and other tools for imagining, inventing, and creating.

    • After nine years of being in the basement next to the gym with cubicles instead of walls, The Learning Center at The Lexington School will finally share a hallway with their Lower School peers and have classrooms befitting the nationally recognized education they receive.
     
    New Renovations
    • The old library will become home to our Development and Admission Offices, allowing easy access to visitors through our new front door.

    • At “the T”, Middle School will assert its presence with a complete remodel plus the addition of three classrooms previously occupied by The Learning Center. This renovation will provide a much-needed transformation to our middle school rooms and will allow for smaller class sizes in Middle School as well.

    • Behind the new library a beautiful new quad will incorporate the middle school playground, outdoor classrooms, and grassy free play area. Our middle school students worked with our architects to design this functional outdoor space.

    • Improvements to the Kitchen and Dining Hall will provide a more efficient area for serving food, better workspace and storage for our incredible kitchen staff, and increased seating capacity in each session of lunch, which means we can stop serving “brunch,” by eliminating the 10:45 A.M. session.

    • Kindergarten classrooms will flip across the hall where new classrooms will provide more space, giving some of our busiest learners more freedom to move, play, and learn. The Acorns classroom will switch sides of the hallway as well, and gain access to water in their classroom – a necessity for care of our smallest friends. Preschool students will also enjoy a significant playground renovation.
     
    Athletics and Outdoor Improvements
    • We will renovate our back fields to accommodate two high school-sized soccer fields going one direction and a regulation football/ lacrosse field going in the opposite direction.

    • In addition, we will build an Athletics Pavilion that will welcome visitors and families for fall and spring sports, while housing concessions, a multi-purpose room for team meetings and other gatherings, an athletic training office, storage, and restrooms.
     
    Aptly named, this comprehensive construction project will bring our campus and community together! The ONE School Project has been years in the making. It represents hours of planning to efficiently capture the needs of our students while using our physical space to enhance the feeling of family that our community already enjoys.
     
    Enthusiasm for this project is contagious, as has been evident in the philanthropic response to this campaign. Having secured $7 million of the $10 million required to begin this project, we were able to share our plans with the entire Lexington School family almost a full year sooner than anticipated! We’re not done yet. We still need everyone’s help to meet the full ONE School goal. With the broad support of The Lexington School, we intend to break ground this summer with a completion date of August 2019. It is amazing what we can do when we come together as ONE School!
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
     
    Visit the ONE School Campaign website to learn more about the ways you can help make this project successful. We look forward to talking with you!
     
     
  • February Head’s Letter

    February 2018
     
    Dear Families,
     
    “The Way to Survive It was to make A’s.”
     
    This New York Times Magazine article from September 7, 2017, was the most compelling and inspiring article regarding Independent Schools I have read in a long while. The author of the article, Mosi Secret, did an incredible amount of research regarding the work of the Stouffer Foundation, which single-handedly integrated the elite prep schools of the South in the fall of 1967. The Stouffer Foundation was the brainchild of Ann Forsyth, heir to the Reynolds (tobacco) and Cannon (textiles) families of North Carolina. Her son had a wonderful boarding school experience up North where he made meaningful relationships with students of all races, creeds, and cultures, and she wanted to make sure prep schools in the South promoted that same experience. She formed the Stouffer Foundation to identify students of color throughout the Southeast and paid tuition for those students. I was already well aware of the Stouffer Foundation through my work at The Asheville School in North Carolina—one of the schools to benefit from the Stouffer Foundation’s work. This article focused on the story of the first students to integrate Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg, Virginia, better known as VES.
     
    In the article we meet Marvin Barnard, an African American male raised by his aunt and uncle and living in the poorest section of Richmond, Virginia. We also meet his roommate, Bill Alexander, the son of a black minister who hailed from a middle-class family in Nashville, Tennessee At fourteen years of age, each of these young men felt the responsibility and weight not only of proving his academic prowess and character at VES but also of representing an entire race. As the article states,
     
    Marvin and Bill each came to V.E.S. with a belief that the civil rights movement was his to bear, and that the way to bear it was by proving himself in the classroom… “We recognized that being the black kids, everything we did was going to be under scrutiny,” Marvin said. That meant no sneaking off campus, stealing away with girls or missing class. “It would go beyond us as individuals, and they would say: ‘This is what all black kids do. This is what the black race would do.’ Representing yourself as an individual and then being a representative of your people — as I went through school, that became a struggle.”
     
    What an incredible weight of pressure and responsibility to accept as a fourteen-year-old boy. As a freshman at boarding school myself, it was all I could do to handle the responsibility of being away from my friends and family much less overcoming the incredibly high academic expectations of me in the classroom. Meet and exceed those expectations, Bill and Marvin did with grit and determination:
     
    With uncanny speed, Bill and Marvin did just what they set out to do, rushing to the head of the class while shaking up racial allegiances, seldom losing their footing, the path they raced along hewing so closely to the one they’d imagined. A few more weeks into the school year, faculty members posted student rankings on a bulletin board, as they did at the end of every grading period. When the freshman boys pressed up against the bulletin board in their jackets and ties, they saw Bill and Marvin at the top of their class, ahead of all 40-some white boys. “I wanted to get their badges,” Marvin told me. “That became one of my mottos. I want to get what you say is good, so that you have to say I’m good.”
     
    And maintain them Bill and Marvin did. Both boys remained at the top of the class for all four years at VES. They also became leaders on the athletic field and within the community.
     
    As one can imagine, the experience brought with it difficult moments where the boys had to take a stand and not cower to blatant racism or bigotry. One of the most riveting and courageous stories occurred the night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in the spring of 1968 during Bill and Marvin’s freshman year. I will let them tell the story:
     
    On the evening of April 4, 1968, Bill and Marvin were in their dorm room when news came over the radio that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed. The movement’s leader was dead, and they were away from home. “I’m standing in the room,” Marvin recalled. “Bill is in the room. And then we hear nothing but — I mean, it’s like the whole doggone dorm was celebrating and laughing and whooping. And I looked at Bill, and I’m just like, ‘No, this is not gonna happen this way.’ I went out into the hallway, and I looked up and down the hallway, and I yelled out that if anybody thinks that this is funny, then come out of your rooms now and tell me. I wasn’t the biggest guy around or nothing like that. But they could feel I wasn’t taking no mess. And there was quiet.”
     
    I cannot imagine the courage it took Marvin to stand out in that hallway and demand respect for the man who led his people through the Civil Rights Movement. How alone those two must have felt that night miles away from family – the only two African Americans in a sea of white classmates. But they weren’t alone that night. The school’s Headmaster, Mr. Montgomery, demanded that the students be called to the chapel the night of King’s assassination:
     
    Late that night, Montgomery, having heard the uproar himself, as had other faculty members who lived in the dorms, assembled the pajama-clad boys in the chapel to admonish them. “This is not who we are,” he told them, invoking the school’s motto, “Toward Full Stature,” which was on a crest above the chapel door. If this seems an obvious response, it was not in the South at that time. To Bill and Marvin, two among hundreds, Montgomery was a hero at that hour. But that night was a turning point for them. It was as if they’d been picked up off their feet and set down in another place, and from their new vantage point, light didn’t shine as brightly toward harmony. “We had made some miscalculations about how people felt in their hearts,” Marvin said. “That took some of the smile off of my face.”
     
    The Headmaster’s contract would not be renewed the following fall. To many members of the Board of Trustees and parents, Headmaster Montgomery had moved too quickly by integrating VES. Bill and Marvin remained at VES and were joined by five more brave black students over the course of their four years at the school. In addition to VES, seven other prep schools around the South integrated with the assistance of the Stouffer Foundation in the fall of 1967. The following year many of the school’s that resisted the invitation in 1967 felt compelled to join the others in 1968. Fifty years later many of those trailblazing students have gone on to succeed in business, medicine, law, and education; they also became Trustees and loyal alumni.
     
    I want to make this clear. In my opinion, what these students and alumni have given their institutions far outweighs what their Alma Mater gave them. Sacrificing a normal childhood and education in order to change and diversify any institution is a sacrifice I would struggle to ask of my own child or myself. That being said, I will forever be indebted to those students who took part in the Stouffer Foundation’s program to integrate the South’s most elite prep schools. Bill and Marvin’s bold move inspired The Lexington School to follow suit and become integrated. We all have benefited greatly, and thankfully The Lexington School is focused today less on percentages of students of color and more on inclusivity. We are forever focused on the goal of allowing every student to feel comfortable in his or her own skin and making every family feel ownership of The Lexington School.
     
    With a deep gratitude both for a job I love and for the brave students and parents of color who blazed an inclusive trail for all our students,
     
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
     
    P.S. If you would like to read the full New York Times Magazine article, you can read it at this link. “This American Life” also ran an episode on this story; here is the link.
  • November/December 2017 Head's Letter

    November 2017
     
     
    Dear Families,
     
    I often think about the sacrifices my ancestors made so I could be here today. I think about the courage it took them to leave their homeland and sail to the New World. I am 50% Italian, 25% German, and 25% English. Sir William Morton and Lady Anne Smyth arrived in the early 1600s in Virginia. Peter and Elizabeth Schmidt arrived in Baltimore harbor, as did many Germans, in the late 1800s. Guido and Veronica Baldecchi arrived on Ellis Island in 1905, like so many Italian immigrants in that day. Whether they journeyed by sail or steam, acknowledging the risk each family took to leave behind what he or she knew as a way of life is a bit overwhelming. What fate brought them together?
     
    Earlier this fall I was reading about the elective class opportunities our middle school teachers were offering our students. Debbie Arbaugh sent out an email about her genealogy elective, and with it there was a link to Ancestry.com’s educational website. It peaked my interest, and one Saturday I got on Ancestry’s website and didn’t come up for air for four hours. I was totally hooked. Within the first hour I was looking at copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses, passenger lists, census data, war papers, death certificates, grave sites – you name it – fascinating documents confirming bits and pieces of family lore. Once I interviewed my great uncle on my father’s side about his family’s years working in the Pennsylvania coal mines, like so many Italian immigrants new to America. I learned that the family moved back to the New York area after one son lost all of his fingers in a mining accident. My on-line search yielded the birth certificate of my grandfather in the town of Snowdon in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. Years later, from the 1930s, there is a census report that has my grandfather living in Paterson, New Jersey, working as a dyer in a textile mill. Did he know in just three short years he would have his first child, my father, and discover how to dye acetate fabric and start his own company? With both the German and Italian lines, the paper trail ended abruptly once the families immigrated to America, but with my grandfather’s family from Virginia, it just kept going and going. Clearly some researcher had made the genealogical jump back to England. The last known connection was to the birth of my 12th generation great grandparent born in 1545. It was so fascinating. I kept thinking about the myriad decisions, choices, and chances that led to my being alive today in Kentucky. Along with this research, I started watching Henry Lewis Gates’s show on PBS entitled Finding your Roots. In this show Henry Gates takes famous individuals and traces their genealogy and their DNA. There is always some surprising revelation. For example, Carly Simon discovered that she was descended from freed slaves in Cuba. If you haven’t watched an episode, I encourage you to give it a try. This show and the Ancestry website have fueled my fascination with my people from the past.
     
    In a long and winding way, this brings me to one of TLS’s themes during November: Gratitude. I am grateful to those ancestors who boarded boats, whether a hundred years ago or four hundred years ago. That first step took courage. But that was just the beginning, because life wasn’t easy once they arrived. I am grateful for this “imperfect union” that is The United States of America because of the opportunities it provided my ancestors. I also have deep gratitude for education. It gave my ancestors the freedom to pursue opportunities and have options. Because of education, I could pursue my passion for teaching instead of being limited to textiles, baking, or farming. The bottom line is I am lucky to be here alive and happy and free.
     
    This Thanksgiving all of the Baldecchis will break bread around the same table. There will be dishes that have their roots in our diverse family genealogy. Sauerkraut next to the Smithfield ham, next to the oysters and Italian Ripieno, next to the Bourbon sweet potatoes and Boston creamed onions. It would be considered heresy not to have one of those side dishes around the table, both America’s and my family’s “melting pot” represented on a plate. For this and for many other reasons, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
  • September 2017 Head's Letter

    September 2017
     
    Dear Families:
     
    From where I sit, I see courage.
    From where I sit, I see compassion.
    From where I sit, I see friendship.
     

     
    I had a front seat to it all. On graduation day on the dais behind the podium, I experienced one of my proudest moments as a Head of School. The events that unfolded before my eyes were captured in the photograph above by Jo-Ellen Fischbach.
     
    At graduation, all of our student leaders played a very important role. They worked with faculty sponsors to create a metaphor upon which individuals constructed a part of their TLS story. This year’s metaphor was a puzzle. Easton Morton, president, started the speech off and set the first piece of the puzzle in place. He was followed by fellow students: Hannah Qazi talked about Preschool; Nathan Vittitoe remembered first through third grades; Jackson Cornet harkened back to fourth and fifth grades; Sanaa Kahloon, Middle School; Emma Samuel represented The Learning Center; and Reid Noonan brought it all together to complete the puzzle.
     
    When Emma Samuel stepped forward, one assumed she would continue the puzzle metaphor, but, instead, the audience heard a deep breath followed by these brave words, “Am I smart?” All eyes were riveted on the podium. Emma’s words were followed by a slight crack in her voice and then silence … poignant silence.
     
    From where I sit, I see courage.
     
    Emma proceeded to speak about her transition in fourth grade into The Lexington School and The Learning Center. She shared her fears and vulnerabilities about switching to a new school and making new friends. She also talked about her battle with dyslexia. With tears streaming down her face, Emma worked to regain her composure as she spoke about the first time she met her dear friend, Smith Brewer. “She showed me I could just be myself and not worry what other people think.” Emma added, “Plus, The Learning Center helped me not get frustrated with my work.
     
    By this time the audience was enraptured by Emma’s story and, by offering understanding through their silence, allowed her to gather her thoughts and swallow her tears. She continued, Now, noticing that this is my last day of being a TLS student, I would like to thank all my friends for a relationship of love and courage and my parents for their support and sticking with me through it all.” Tears came again, but Emma persevered and talked about the impact of her teachers—the ones who changed her life:
     
    But right now I would definitely like to thank my teachers for my education because I remember in third grade I most positively did not know what I was going to be when I grew up, but now I want to be a teacher because [my teachers] taught me I can do anything in life I put my mind to.
     
    Her voice broke again and I wasn’t quite sure she would be able to finish her speech.
     
    From where I sit, I see compassion.
     
    I looked out into the audience and saw their tears stream in solidarity with Emma’s. I looked back and saw her classmates on the edges of their seats, ready to leap out of their chairs to grab Emma and hold her tight. Time stopped for a brief moment suspended by a flood of Middle School memories – a collective reverie as we all remembered our insecurities. The magic that Emma pulled off that morning was her making Middle School real for all of us in attendance. We were not only living Emma’s experience of overcoming dyslexia and reading a speech in front of hundreds of people or the social pain of leaving friends behind in third grade and starting anew at a school where we knew no one, but, magically, Emma’s words helped the members of the audience remember and feel again their own pain and awkwardness of their own middle school years and, more importantly, the triumph of seeing the other side. Emma reminded us that we each made it through middle school and discovered who we were – experienced the success on the court, field, stage, or classroom. Emma was living proof. We weren’t just amazed by her story, we were amazed that we got to see a child turn into a young adult right before our very eyes. We watched her meet her fears and overcome them.
     
    But wait, was this going to end in triumph or humiliating defeat? I could see Emma sobbing, and I watched her turn to run from stage. Immediately, I saw two hands, firm but comforting, grip her shoulders to turn her back toward the podium, and I heard a voice whisper, “You can do this.” I saw Emma take one last deep breath, and then her eyes looked up toward the audience, and she confidently concluded her speech:
     
    “And I finally understand ‘I am Smart,’ with my puzzle piece of TLS completing it.”
     
    From where I sit, I see Friendship.
     
    What the audience could not see was just as remarkable as what they heard from Emma. Reid Noonan, Emma’s fellow eighth grade student who was waiting his turn to speak, was standing directly behind her throughout her entire speech. He instinctively grabbed her hand the first time her voice cracked and tears streamed down her cheek. He stood there silently with his head down, staring at her hand in his. Sometimes he squeezed hers; other times she squeezed his back. But the end was the most remarkable part, when Emma wanted to leave after making it so far. We all have been there, convinced we needed to give up even though the finish line was right there. Reid wasn’t going to let that happen.  Reid was present not only for Emma, but for all of us. The audience needed to hear those final words, “I am SMART,” just as much as Emma needed to say them.
     
    After Emma finished her piece of the puzzle, it was Reid’s turn. He summarized his important learning points in Preschool and Lower School, and then he ended with these beautiful words:
     
    These past three years were where I learned that I mattered, I had a job, no matter how small the community was like TLS. Middle School classes called for critical thinking. They called for an attention to detail; everything mattered. In Middle School, I also found that you made the strongest relationships, whether it was being with teachers or your classmates. This was where I found my piece, my spot in society, my calling. Student Council called my name with responsibilities, and it was an amazing decision. Tasks made me feel like I mattered, which was great. Three years have passed, and I have made many new friends, some I didn’t expect, and I grew stronger with others. Teachers such as Mr. Conley, Mr. Hurst, Mrs. Staley, Mrs. Meredith, and others were my support system. When I was down or feeling out of place, these people brought me back stronger, which I’m extremely thankful for. “It takes a village,” they say, and these people were mine; these people completed me. Thank you.
     
    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Reid. We don’t do it alone, and we cannot forget that.
     
    Here is to Community – One School!
    Here is to TLS!
    And here is to a great school year filled with Courage, Compassion, and Friendship!
     
    With gratitude for a job I love,
     
    Charles D. Baldecchi
    Head of School
The mission of The Lexington School is to provide an education of the highest quality to students in preschool through middle school. In a structured, nurturing environment, The Lexington School seeks to instill integrity, a life-long enthusiasm for learning, and a strong work ethic.
1050 Lane Allen Road
Lexington, KY 40504
Phone:
 859.278.0501
Fax:
 859.278.8604
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