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Monday, July 4, 2022

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Lofty Goals

The start of school always has a special excitement about it – a sense of possibility and optimism that is both powerful and meaningful. As children head back to school, I encourage you to reflect on the partnership between your child’s school and you.

A true partnership requires parents, teachers and administrators to focus on building relationships with each other. These relationships include openness, communication and plenty of listening. When these relationships thrive, your child will benefit greatly.

In partnership with families, your school should:

Balance academics, athletics and fine arts. Balance serves students well. It is a key ingredient to healthy growth.

Insist on first rate preparation in character development. The timeless values of integrity, responsibility, the power of work, and the power of compassion will never go out of style.

Provide opportunities to grow, stretch and be important to the community. The engagement that comes from participation in the community provides critical lessons that will inform a life well-lived.

Focus on learning for the 21st century. Moving from the standardized one-size-fits-all assembly-line model of the past century to a more customized approach will build the skill sets that are demanded today.

Embrace and welcome diversity as a tool to enrich the community and as a canvas for lessons about perspective, creativity, and innovation. Innovation and creativity are stimulated when individuals develop their own particular spheres of expertise and then carry those spheres into meaningful interaction with others and their respective spheres. Instilling in students not only respect for diversity but also the ability to understand others and their differing perspectives amounts to great social and academic preparation.

Build confidence in each student. Schools build confidence through fostering a positive “lift you up” kind of culture, a culture that is clear about expectations and boundaries, that provides both opportunities and support, and that puts your child’s experience at the center of all decision-making. Confidence is truly the greatest gift we can give to our children

Have a great school year!

Mark Heller is head of school at Academy at the Lakes, a PK3 – 12th grade independent school that serves families from Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, and Hernando counties. For more information, visit

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