Dear Founders families,
I am pleased to tell you I have been offered a position at Hillsdale College leading the efforts of the Barney Charter School Initiative and the College’s other programs in K-12 education. I have decided to accept that position, and that means that this will be my last year at Founders Classical Academy. Mr. O’Toole and I will be moving to Hillsdale over the summer—he to work at the College and I to support Founders Classical Academy and the dozens of other classical schools in our network.
I am sure you have many questions, and I hope I have anticipated most of them in the information I will share in this letter. There is a lot to say, but I will begin by telling you about our school’s mission, and how that mission will continue after my departure.
Back in January 2014, I was the first employee at Founders Classical Academy of Leander, and in the years since I have a worked with you teachers, parents, and students to build something of which I am extremely proud. I would not have accepted this new position if I believed that it would do harm to our beloved school. Although it is very difficult place to leave behind, I am heartened by the fact that I will still be working with our parents, students, and staff in service of our mission, just from a different location and in a different capacity. I think of this opportunity as a way to continue to support what we are doing here, and perhaps to be even more effective doing so.
Many of you know how unusual it is to have a public charter school that is also a classical school. It is even more unusual to have a public charter school that seeks to educate students to become responsible American citizens. We provide students with an American classical education—an education that will equip them for happiness in their lives and for citizenship in our country.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the challenge of educating young students. One difficult thing about teaching in a K-12 school is that when our students leave us, they are still very young. An 18 or 19-year-old student is still at the early stages of his or her life. So many decisive things will still happen to them after they graduate. As teachers, we can only hope that the lessons we have taught them will serve them well in their lives, and we can only watch as they go to college, find jobs, and start families. In that way, we are a little bit like parents—there at the beginning planting seeds and hoping they will flourish in the years to come.
As teachers, we don’t know what our students will do for a living, and we don’t know what their college majors will be. We haven’t met their professors, those people who are going to be building upon the academic foundations we have laid. But, we do know at least one thing about them: We know that they are going to be American citizens. And therefore one of the most important things we can do for them while they are young is prepare them for that responsibility. We must teach them about their country and show them how to love it. That, at its core, is our mission, and I am so proud of the work we have done with our first three classes of graduates. I know that our younger students are well on their way to lives of good citizenship and happiness, and I can already see how much they have learned because of their time with us.
There are many other schools like ours across the country, and part of my job next year will be to help them, and, I hope, to help dozens more begin the work that we have already begun in Leander. This progress we have made in 5 years is precious, and it is fragile. It needs the hard work of parents, students, and teachers to exist. But it also needs people protecting it and nurturing it from the outside, helping it flourish and spread across the country. That will be my job when I leave: to protect Founders and to help others like it grow.
It is time for Founders to undergo its first major change in leadership. When we started the school our first Assistant Headmaster Dr. Garrow used to remind me that the school is not run by Kathleen O’Toole, it’s run by a Headmaster, and I am the temporary holder of that office. There will come a day when Kathleen O’Toole is not in charge, he would say, and as the Headmaster I need to prepare the school for that day. That means protecting the office, delegating, and making decisions with the school’s future in mind.
That was hard to think about in our first year, but I knew it was true. Over the last 5 years, I have worked to create a foundation for Founders’ future, and to bring together a group of people who can take care of it together. I am confident in the work that we have done so far, and looking forward to seeing what the future holds for us all and for American classical education in this country.
In the meantime, I’m not going anywhere. I’m looking forward to spending this last quarter with you and your children. See you in the car line!
Dr. Kathleen O’Toole
Founders Classical Academy
P.S. One year, Ms. Johnson made me a set of drawings as a Christmas present. These are going to be hanging on the wall in my new office. Isn’t she talented?