Message from the Head of School

We’ve experienced and learned so much in this time of pandemic, racial reckoning, ascendant climate threats and political upheaval. At this moment, I find myself reflecting on the themes that have been emerging over the past year for us as a school community rooted in Quaker spiritual faith and practice. This spiritual dimension provides an essential and valuable lens for making meaning at times of challenge and opportunity.

Again and again this past year, I am reminded that the story of the human spirit, of indeed creation itself, is one of continual, resurgent renewal living intimately alongside the fragility and vulnerability of all life. This is a paradox we live every day as human beings. True hardship and suffering are always possible and often arrive without warning, and yet we witness over and over, in our daily lives and across history, the ability to find sturdy footing in faith, inner strength and resolve to not only survive but live abundantly and vibrantly. To know that living with risk is unavoidable is to come to know and embrace the reality of resilience and spiritual strength that are always available to us in any circumstance. What an important life lesson and such a central teaching of a Quaker education. 

With the rest of the world, the AFS community lived through a tremendously challenging time period over the past school year and final months of the previous year — a sustained period of uncertainty, isolation, losses and a sense of personal and collective dislocation unprecedented in our lifetime. And yet, we as a community accomplished so much in support of each other and in seeking to create the best possible conditions for learning, growth, community, joy and resilience for our students. 

In my 38 years in Friends education, I have never seen a community tested so profoundly over such a sustained period of time. The hardship and fear that were ever present certainly strained relationships and the fabric of community as trust that is normally a given was questioned at a profound level at times. But true commitment to the health and well-being of students who so needed the connection, normalcy and nourishment of school, commitment to each other as professionals and to the long-term vitality of the AFS community, led teachers and staff forward to a level of collaboration, hard work, creativity and innovation that has been truly inspiring.

In our closing meetings after Commencement, we had opportunities to connect and reflect on our experiences of the year. What I observe is that most of us, and I’m sure this is true for parents and students as well, often felt deeply inadequate during much of the pandemic. Deprived of so many of the resources we rely on to rise to our usual standards of personal excellence and depleted by the loss of open connection to each other, it was hard to be our full selves at all times. And yet, we collectively accomplished so much. There is a great, larger lesson in this. None of us are perfect beings and none of us is sufficient to do all the work that is needed in the world. But when we each do our part, with the distinct gifts each offers, brilliantly at times, less so at others, the full orchestra of our efforts can be magnificent. In the day to day, we fill in each other’s gaps, inspire one another, lift each other up, and in doing so become so much more than the sum of our parts. 

In the pages that follow, you will see beautiful examples of the abundance and vitality at the heart of the AFS community and hear of our deep gratitude to all those who so generously support the daily experience of teachers and their students. 

And so we have begun a new school year with full hearts, ever-present hope on the horizon and renewed faith in the spirit of our mission-led community. I look forward to all that we will accomplish together this school year, our 325th year as a Friends school, itself a testament to resilience in all seasons.

Rich Nourie
Head of School

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