I love poetry. Iambic pentameter refers to the rhythm of certain poems, which is measured in small groups of syllables. The word "iambic" refers the type of foot that is used...an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The word "pentameter" indicates that a line has five of these "feet" [from Wikipedia].
We've been back in full rhythm for only a week, but it has been a full week. The pentameter is our core values of respect, integrity, faith, character, and discipline. This is the second year of embracing these as our foundation. The foundation of any organization must be its values. Without a solid foundation, nothing can stand for long. MAJ James Benson, our Chaplain, presented respect and integrity at our first chapel services...basing each in Scripture.
It is reassuring to know that our young men learn the importance of these values...and even more important that our examples help cadets form habits around these key traits. Fork Union Military Academy is no ordinary school.
This year our stressed syllables are:
- The morning matters
- Character is essential to leadership development
- Improvement must be continuous and constant
Our Commandant of Cadets and Academic Departments are focusing on the 0600 to 0900 time-frame...ensuring that cadets start each day with a sharp military appearance, healthy breakfast, fully prepared for class, each class day beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance and a morning devotional. We believe if everyone can start the day well, they will finish well...
Too many leaders today are derailed by flaws in their character. We are all works in progress, but character is an essential quality of leadership. This year our Director of Character and Leadership Development, LTC Houston Eldridge, is working directly with our cadet leaders, coaches, teachers, and staff to keep our focus on character and leadership. As one of my mentors said once: "It is important to keep the main thing the main thing."
Continual improvement, and the capacity for change, is also a hallmark of successful organizations. I've been impressed this year by our willingness to be open to feedback, responsive to parents, and to accept constructive criticism while staying true to our values, mission, and vision.
We started this year with 440 cadets. Twenty-five more than last year, and our returning retention rate was 82%. This is all very healthy and encouraging. Our 10th and 11th grades are nearly filled to capacity. We anticipate a fairly large number of cadets enrolling in October to begin our second term.
Tomorrow at 1015 the cadets will gather at Commandant's Call and learn about the various activities at Fork Union. If parents want to encourage their sons in a certain direction, the activities list (not including athletics) is posted here: Activities and Clubs. The Commandant's Department also puts out a monthly Activities Newsletter, which is available here: Upper School Activities Newsletter - September 2014.
Some are saying this is one of the smoothest starts in our history. We are encouraged by the example set by our cadet leaders. One of our company commanders asked our Director of Technology to ensure that no officers or NCO's in that company receive their laptops until each cadet [Private] in that company had received theirs. And I'm told that the officers in another company make it a point to eat only after their entire company has been through the line.
These two examples reflect the best leadership I observed while on active duty, and signal the end of a "rank has its privileges" culture. We prefer to see that "rank has its responsibilities" to strengthen, support, and remove obstacles for those entrusted to their care.
We will find more ways this year to have cadets lead various activities. A small step today involved two cadets leading the Corps in song before the chapel service, and a brand new 9th grader has volunteered to sing the National Anthem before this weekend's postgraduate football game. This will be worth seeing and hearing. The game begins at 1500 (3:00pm).
Our sports season is in full swing, and Betsy and I will begin attending many events, beginning with the prep football game against Goochland High tomorrow night (in Goochland). We host our Fork Union Cross Country Invitational on Saturday, anticipating over a thousand runners at our world-class cross country course on Academy Drive...a mile walk (or run) from our main campus.
It is terrific to have the campus full, and to be back in poetic rhythm once again. We may not fully rhyme until a little later this month...certainly by Parents' Weekend. We hope that all our parents are making plans to attend. There is much left to do...not the least of which is to make final preparations for our decennial reaccreditation visit later this school year.
I better get back to finalizing our faculty promotion list, preparing for our Board of Trustees meetings, finalizing The Campaign, reviewing our draft campus master plan, approving final plans for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Certification, answering parents, resolving uniform issues centered around obsolete items, and discerning the stressed from the unstressed syllables...
Next week I've asked COL Todd Giszack to be a "guest blogger" for a variety of reasons, many of which will be evident after you read his blog.
Go School's Beginning! Go Blue Devils! Go FUMA!