Brick and Mortar, Life and Spirit

It’s a bit of a paradox.

We yearn for the past and relish retro things, but we love our new things. A lot. New clothes, new technology, new houses. We fall in love quickly with our new things, especially so when it has that “new” smell. We inhale deeply and our pleased by our new carpet or our new car. Our love affair with new things, though, is superficial for the most part. For example, as exciting as a new phone is or a new jacket, there is no emotional weight to them. But a new school? Well, that is different.

New schools check all the boxes for us: they offer something different, they are shiny and sleek, they are clean, and they even have that new smell that we so crave. But new schools elicit a deeper emotional response than phones, cars, or carpets from us. As much as we might love the latter, the former occupies a more significant place because we ascribe so much more to it. While we might enjoy a new distraction or something different or fresh, a new school is so much more: it represents hope, a new beginning to some, an opportunity to create a legacy for others. It embodies all the best that we wish for our students—and for ourselves. And what other new things lack in depth, a new school is rich with it. But when all is said and done, a new school is ultimately just bricks and mortar, just like a phone is just chips and processors; what makes a new school different from those things then is the life and spirit that we breathe into it. And that is the allure of a new school: the spirit surrounding it and the spirit that will be infused with it.

And so when I have been asked why I left John Champe High School to open Independence, that is what I talk about: the spirit and bubbling enthusiasm surrounding a new school. The excitement of a new school is infectious and right now, the Brambleton community has caught it! It is excited because it has a neighborhood school in its backyard again. It is an anchor and touchstone for the entire community. And when coupled with the successful opening of Brambleton Middle School, with which it shares the site, why wouldn’t there be excitement for Independence?

And excitement is high not just in the community overall, but also among students. I hear from and talk with students daily, and they regularly share how they can’t wait to get to Independence! They understand that they are about to be part of something special, something that is bigger than them. They will be the authors of Independence’s history, setting it on the path towards being the high-bar standard for the county. Even those students who have attended three or four schools over just as many years understand that Independence is home: it is their final stop in Loudoun County. As a result, they have the privilege of being able to help shape its traditions and climate as it blazes a path forward.

And it’s not just the students: our staff is excited as well! We have assembled an incredible charter staff that is just as enthusiastic about helping students start traditions and lead the way forward. I have already been struck by their talent, their credentials, and their willingness to help from now to make Independence an amazing school—while simultaneously working in their current schools. And so I am extremely appreciative of all that they have already done to help make Independence a place where students will want to be and not just have to go.


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