head of School’s Message

A Welcoming Community

As new Head of School–only the third educator to be granted the tremendous privilege of serving as Head in our forty-one year history–I’ve been asked, “What brought you to North Park?” And, even more pointedly (I truly appreciated the existential clarity of this one), “So John…why are you here?”

That’s a fair question if I ever saw one, especially as I only began as Head on July 7.

The warm and generous welcome I received during the transition that began in January from the entire Board of Trustees, our outstanding administrative team, faculty and staff, and North Park families, confirmed for me what I had experienced through every step of the search process: this is a unique and special community. It was experiencing the school’s values first-hand, learning about the exciting re-envisioning and remaking of the campus, and the rare opportunity to help determine “what’s next” for such an authentic, vibrant, and grounded yet aspirational and entrepreneurial school that drew me in.

NPES Values

North Park’s story struck me almost immediately as a simple but powerful one (and isn’t it often the case that the most uncomplicated and fundamentally human stories are the ones we find most meaningful?). The roots of the school’s climate and culture today can be found in the values present at its founding: a school inspired by love and hope for children, with the courage to do what Eric Liu calls “imagining better,” and the determination and generosity required to give that vision life, to create a purposeful community from the ground up dedicated to the well being, growth, and self-fulfillment of every student. NPES is a place where students know that their school loves them. I felt that when I visited, even with the pandemic protocols. And it strikes me as a place where we lift one another up, where we find mutual purpose and pride in creating and regenerating together, with our students joining in at every turn, all with remarkable energy, commitment, and faith in our collective success. I find that energy powerful. 

Today North Park has the highest enrollment in its history at 245 students, students who are proud of their school and who bring energy, curiosity, and creativity to campus every day, and talented faculty and staff who care deeply about their practice and the well-being, growth, and citizenship of every student. Our families are grateful for North Park, feel ownership of the community, and support the school generously–not through tuition alone, which could not sustain our program, but also through charitable giving, service, and high levels of participation in activities–so that North Park can evolve to meet the emergent needs of children in unprecedented times.

Project North Park

I was also excited to learn about Project North Park, the latest expression of this community’s love for children, courage to imagine better, and determination to create. As a result of the generosity of many families–and of the thoughtful, responsible, and aspirational leadership of our Board–this September, we will celebrate together an all-new completely-reimagined and contemporary campus interior. Project North Park will stand as testament to the fact that our mission is thriving, as families and educators partner with authenticity, good will, and joy to instill in students a sense of curiosity, a passion for learning, and a commitment to impacting their communities in positive ways, today and in the future. This exciting project, funded through the generosity of our community, will enable us to invest further in our educational programs in the near future, including social-emotional learning, cultural competency, and an array of other 21st Century skills that will benefit every child as they move toward high school and beyond.

What’s Next?

The NPES Story is an important one that should be lived with purpose and celebrated everyday. It’s a story that deserves to be shared across Chicago, nurtured, and sustained. It’s a live story, or it couldn’t continue to meet the needs of students in an increasingly unpredictable, complex, diverse, rapidly-changing, and digital global community. This presents us all with incredible opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of children. As both beneficiaries and stewards of NPES, we should ask, “What do our children need today? What skills will they need to fulfill their potential as individuals and to contribute positively to their communities (since we know that meaning, purpose, and self-worth come from contributing to something larger than ourselves)? In what ways is our society today unhealthy for children? How might we teach and empower students to stay healthy and to work for more inclusive, equitable, and just communities as they grow toward high school and beyond? How might the North Park program evolve to integrate further the foundational academic and life skills children will need to thrive in the most multicultural, mobile, uncertain, and changing landscape in history? And how can we empower children to discover and sustain the best version of themselves over an unprecedented life span?

These questions matter because another way a school expresses its love for children is by staying attuned to their needs and working with care to meet them as they change, thinking not only of the buzzing present but of what might lie ahead for them. At NPES, exploring these questions and others, together as a community–including our students in our wonderings and inquiries, too–is an important part of our culture. Since its founding in 1980, we have valued thoughtfulness and creativity, stewardship and aspiration, the unique value of each individual, and the transformative power and joy of community. I am humbled and honored by this opportunity to serve as Head of School at North Park Elementary School, and I look forward to meeting you all soon.

John Novick, Jr.
Head of School

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