Letter from the Board of Trustees Chair
I admit I get emotional when I think of how McLean School has improved the life of my daughter Caroline ’21. And I’m hardly alone in this! Many times in my conversations with other parents, I have seen the beginnings of tears in their eyes and heard the quaver in their voices as they describe what McLean School has done for their kids.
We are fond of saying that McLean School is “Transformative.” What do we mean by that? That word captures a feeling that many of our students have experienced at key points in their McLean School lives. For some, a typical day at their previous school was filled with boredom, embarrassment, or frustration. Yet, once at McLean School, they find themselves in a place where students are stimulated, engaged, and challenged – all in a safe and nurturing environment that brings out their best selves.
McLean School provides an ideal learning environment for a wide range of learners, from students with mild to moderate learning differences to traditional learners who benefit from small class sizes.
Many of our students and their parents have been delighted to discover that they are stronger learners than they had ever before imagined. The experience of going from “I don’t get it” (and its variants, such as “I hate math”) to looking forward to each school day is an extraordinary, life-changing relief.
McLean School is a college-preparatory school that doesn’t hesitate to challenge its students. We highly value creativity and intellectual curiosity. A key attribute that distinguishes McLean School is that each student is encouraged to become aware of and appreciate his or her own learning style. With that self-awareness, and having gained an ability to advocate for oneself, the student can optimize his or her education at McLean School and in college and beyond. In a school that has a deep sense of community, each student can approach learning with a sense of competence. That competence – and confidence – can only lead to a willingness to take risks and to stretch for higher and higher goals.
What ingredients does a school need to achieve all this? One key is to have a highly professional faculty made up of teachers who love teaching, who are committed to continually improving their professional skills, and who devote themselves to the well-being of every student. Another factor is having a strong and wise administration; we are grateful for the farsighted and caring leadership of our Head of School, Michael Saxenian, and his team. An important ingredient, as well, is a body of parents who are supportive of their children, enthusiastic about the school, and willing to get involved. Last, but certainly not least, it’s important to have a student body that is filled with a diverse collection of bright, energetic students, eager to participate in a caring school community. McLean has all the ingredients of a great institution, and it shows every day here.
Our curriculum is state-of-the-art, challenging, and enriching. McLean has long been devoted to STEM education. You can’t help but notice this as you get to know the school – especially if you find yourself one morning surrounded by robots that are the products of our robotics and coding program. We have a wide range of offerings in honors and AP classes, as well as robust programs in physical education, visual arts, and music. In an era where one hears about countless schools cutting back in art and music offerings, McLean School is pleased to have resisted that tide. We also have a terrific menu of after-school activities such as interscholastic sports, drama, activities, and clubs.
Just about everything we do is captured by our slogan, “Transformative.” One example is our annual Cecily’s Advocacy Workshop, a day-long program in which leading experts on learning and development – nationally celebrated individuals as well as professionals from the local community – conduct a symposium highlighting new research and best practices in fostering growth for K-12 students. Named in memory of a McLean parent, Cecily Kodis Kaufman, this symposium has cemented McLean School as a leader in cutting-edge educational techniques.
It’s all part of being the best school we can possibly be for students who benefit from small class sizes and individualized learning. The concept of mindfulness is embedded in the curriculum in the Lower, Middle, and Upper schools, and our Student & Community Wellness Program likewise incorporates mindfulness as part of an effort to empower our students to be motivated, engaged, healthy, and challenged. You may have heard about mindfulness programs in media reports about the nation’s top companies and institutions, but we like to say we were into mindfulness before it was cool.
Word has been getting out about how great McLean School is. Educational specialists all over the region know it, and Bethesda Magazine named us the “Best Private School for Grades 9-12.” But when I think about how well we are doing, I keep coming back to three indicators: the 45 graduates in the last two years who were admitted to leading colleges (Brandeis, Johns Hopkins, and Vassar, to name a few); the 87 percent of our parents who reported that their child’s self-esteem increased when they joined the school; and the faces of the happy, confident learners who I see whenever I visit the school.
We’re on a roll. McLean continues to be a thriving school with a clear sense of purpose.
Stephen P. Anthony
Chair, Board of Trustees