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Welcome to the 2015-2016 School Year

Merry Sorrells
Welcome back to school!  It's the first memo of the 2015-16 year. Those of you who are new to St. Martin's will soon learn that I enjoy writing.  I started writing memos when I first arrived at St. Martin's three years ago.  The memos are my vehicle for helping you get to know me, and what I believe in.  As you read them you will learn about my educational philosophy, my observations, my family, and especially my hopes and dreams for our students.  They will sometimes come on Mondays, but not every Monday.  I will write as often as I can, when I have a message I feel to be worthy of your time.
Some readers have suggested that these memos be a little shorter, or that they should showcase individual students or school accomplishments.  My hope is that our new website, our social media pages, and good press coverage will serve those purposes.  That is our aim.  At times, my thoughts will co-mingle with those events, but for the most part, my writing will continue to reflect my thinking about education, and life in general.  Sorry in advance for the length. I find a certain comfort in knowing that the recipient's delete button is always handy.  And there will not be a test!
 
A few facts about me, for those of you who are new to my memos:
  • I grew up in a western suburb of Chicago, the village of Riverside, and I left the North when I graduated from college.
  • Riverside is a small, idyllic, picturesque town reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting.
  • My mother had a parenting style that I often share in these memos.
  • I met, fell in love with, and married my husband Kim 36 years ago, in college, in southern Illinois.
  • We have lived in New Orleans since 1982.  The South is my chosen home.
  • Together we raised four children who were all born by the time I was 29.
  • I enjoyed the privilege of staying at home for 18 years to raise our children.
  • Three of our children live nearby: Jeanie (husband Rodney and son Curtis), Nikki (husband Carson and son Hayden) and Curtis (wife Ashley).  Little Curtis and Hayden are both in the Cottage and I get to see them every day!  Nikki is expecting our third grandson at Christmastime.  As do most parents and grandparents, we dote shamelessly on our children and grandchildren. I give you their names because they are frequent visitors in these memos.
  • Our oldest daughter, Jenn, passed away nine years ago, from cancer.  We carry her in our hearts every day and I often write about her, and all of our other children and grandchildren, and the events of our lives.
  • I love everything about school, from the day I became a student to forever.
  • I am currently pursuing a doctorate of education through Our Lady of Holy Cross College.
  • My goal at St. Martin's is to not simply have our students prepared for college, but to also have them prepared for an ever-changing, undefined, and tech-challenging future in which they will need to be ready spiritually, academically, and physically.
This school year is off to an exciting start!   We just announced our new Gibbs Family Center for Innovation and Design, and the groundbreaking will take place this fall. As a result of the emphasis on design thinking, all of our students will be able to learn more deeply and problem-solve more fluidly. 
 
Nine new international students joined our Upper School this month.  Our whole community will benefit from learning about new cultures, being exposed to world languages, and hearing new perspectives.  
 
Our new website and information management system offer our community, and those interested in learning about us, a deeper, more functional, and more professional look at our school.  
 
As we move forward in these exciting new directions, let's be generous and gracious with each other, and watch the good unfold.
 
Each year I try to have a theme to share with the community.  This year I am emphasizing the qualities of Grace and Gratitude.  For me, these two qualities walk hand-in-hand.  In the recent Opening of School Chapel, I illustrated my thoughts on these qualities by re-telling the story of the prodigal son.  
 
As you know, it is the story of a son asking for his portion of his father's riches, which he quickly spent on "riotous living" in another village. He found himself living as a servant and eating the leftover food that the swine didn't eat.  He returned to his home and family, ashamed and humbled, hoping to become a servant there.  When he saw his son coming, the father didn't reject or admonish him, but rather, "fell on his neck and kissed him," threw a lavish party for him, and celebrated the fact that he was alive. It sounds like a happy ending with lots of lessons learned, but there is more to it. 
 
There was another brother who lived and worked alongside his father throughout the prodigal's riotous days. When he saw his father's joy in receiving his brother back into the fold, he was angry and jealous. His father reminded him that his love and riches had been his all along, without interruption. There was no need for jealousy and anger because his father's love for him had been constant and rich.
 
There is a lot of grace, and gratitude, in this story.
  • The prodigal son reminds us that we all make mistakes and we owe a lot to divine grace.
  • The father reminds us that divine grace and goodness are without limit.
  • The older brother is a reminder to be grateful for what we already have and not to be grabbing for more.
  • Grace is virtue, moral strength, honor and compassion.
  • Gratitude means to be thankful for our many gifts, and to glorify God through our expression of them.
 As we enter this new school year, I look forward to grace and gratitude lining our paths.  Our greatest strength is our sense of community.  In between our successes and celebrations (the school, students, and parents alike) there will be mistakes and failures.  That's how we all learn and grow. And, if we approach each day by pausing, praying, thinking, and centering ourselves before we act, and if we treat each other with the utmost kindness, love, and grace, we will find that our Father's love for all of us, and our love for each other, will be constant and rich. 
 
I look forward to another wonderful school year filled to the brim with grace and gratitude.
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