Head of School
Mountain View 2017
I am concerned about our technology-driven world and its impact on our children and grandchildren - whether it is close to home or halfway around the world. I will explain.
We are in an App-centered, social media-driven world, almost devoted to connectivity. Closer to the point, some kids - and many adults - are apparently addicted to the connectivity found on their phones and other devices. Depending on their day, their moods, and their "friends," their lives are fueled by their interactions with social media. The term "friend" no longer refers to someone you truly know or have even "laid eyes on." Perhaps as frightening as those strangers who seek out our children as "friends" is the fact that our kids are seeking out "friends" on social media who can be whoever or whatever they want our kids to think they are. Alarmingly, sometimes kids don't find out who their "friends" really are until it is too late.
Speaking with our Director of Technology Matt Goggans, he notes, "Interconnectivity with the entire world via the internet can be a "threat.'” We need to be aware that there are people all over the world who can "contact, manipulate, and harm" our children. The frightening part, he notes, is that the cyber world is constantly changing, and it is virtually impossible to keep up with the latest platforms of connectivity. We must continually educate ourselves and our children - both at home and at school - about these threats. He wisely explains, "We can’t control the flood, but we can teach our children to swim."
He offers the following general recommendations related to the concerns related to social media and connectivity:
1.Be careful who you trust.
2. Assume it is untrue until proven true.This goes for phone calls, text messages, emails, television, books, movies, newspapers, and magazines as well.
3. Be careful who you trust.
4. Never post anything (pictures, articles, blogs, paragraphs, videos) that you wouldn’t want your father/mother/future employer/clergy to see because once it is online, it is viewable by everyone forever.
5. Be careful who you trust.
6. Even if it is marked “private” or gets “deleted” after your post it, know that it is not gone. Servers keep backlogs of everything forever.
7. Be careful who you trust.
With the extraordinarily swift introduction of new medium each hour, it is impossible to keep up with them all. Rather than focusing on a particular medium, teach children to be aware and to beware! They must learn to be responsible citizens in cyberspace, as well as on the planet. Before you know it, they will be on their own. Are you guiding them so they will be prepared to protect themselves when they are on their own? Or will they become a victim of the interconnectivity that continues to envelope our world?
As Matt points out, "Stranger danger extends to the whole of the Internet and indeed the whole of the world, not just on Instagram or whatever medium is hot at the moment."
The world of educators and parents and the responsibilities of each are far-reaching and certainly not what they used to be. I will end with the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future."
There is no more important task. I pray we are prepared and do it well.
As we concluded the final week before Thanksgiving Break, we were blessed with a bountiful Feast Day and the blessing of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and special friends visiting us for Grandparents' Day. I want to sincerely thank the faculty, staff, administration, students, and many parent volunteers for once again making these traditions on the Mountain so special and memorable.
I would like to share my comments during our Grandparents' Day program providing insight into why Oak Mountain Academy is indeed a special place and a blessing for which I am sincerely grateful.
Location – We have 88 beautiful acres, where our school is nestled in a lovely setting, complete with athletic venues, our Warrior Pavilion, and the added joy of our neighbor’s rodeo bulls who occasionally find their way onto our campus!
Safety – we go to great lengths to ensure the safety of our children, and with our Honor Code, we provide an atmosphere of honesty, mutual respect, and responsibility for all.
Faculty, staff, and administration – we are blessed to have with us educators who are passionate about what they do as they provide a caring, nurturing environment where we are a family, and we take care of each other.
Students – Our Warriors are extraordinary. Not a day goes by that they don’t make us proud. They work hard, care for each other, and achieve great goals as they continue their journey toward college and beyond. Just last year, our senior class – joined each class since 1962 in accomplishing 100% college acceptance. Last year’s 10 seniors earned more than $1.7m in scholarships, not including Hope and athletic scholarships!
With the outstanding guidance of our college counselor, Jay Louttit, the 12 seniors making up the Class of 2018 are currently on track to submit approximately 75 applications to approximately 43 different colleges and universities in approximately 19 different states and one foreign country. Hang on – this is going to be huge!
Our SAT and ACT scores exceed local, state, and national averages – even our lowest scores exceed these averages. As one current parent shared at his daughter’s graduation a couple of years ago – with my daughter’s preparation at OMA and ultimate scholarships, we have already paid for college while at Oak Mountain Academy. And now with her outstanding work, she has earned scholarships for graduate work! This is not a rare instance among OMA graduates.
Our students excel in the classroom, on the stage, on the fields and in academic, literary, and athletic competitions far beyond what they ever thought they could do. Just this year, we have already achieved the Middle School Cross Country State Championship, Boys’ Varsity Soccer State Championship, an undefeated Junior Varsity Girls’ volleyball team for the third year in a row, Varsity Girls’ Volleyball runner-up in the State Championship, our Academic Teams recently placed FIRST in the 2017 GATA Fall South Junior Varsity Tournament and FIRST in the Fall 2017 Junior Varsity Providence Brain Storm tournament, and our One-Act Play ensemble just returned from the state One-Act Play championship in Vidalia, Georgia, and we have only completed one quarter of the year!
Faith – our faith guides us in all we do, and here at Oak Mountain Academy we are free to express that faith openly as we work, play, and pray together each day. Praise be!
Families – Ultimately, our students are who they are because of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and special friends and the support and foundation they have given them, coupled with the opportunities available here at Oak Mountain Academy for our students to actively participate in whatever they want to do in an atmosphere of love, compassion, and great expectations.
I could not be more blessed than to conclude 45 years in education right here on the Mountain with these amazing students and the faculty, staff, administration, and our families guiding them each day! THANK YOU!
Best wishes to all for a blessed Thanksgiving!
As an “Army Brat” I spent my growing up years among those in the military. My step-father served in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, and I grew up on Army posts all over the United States and Germany. Attending 13 different schools from K-12, making new friends yearly, watching the evening news with footage of the Viet Nam War and wondering where my step-father was, and later saying good-bye to friends who were drafted into the Viet Nam War were all a part of my early years.
As a teenager, I remember driving on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, knowing that when the American flags were lowered each afternoon, we were to stop on the side of the road out of respect. The distant sound of “Taps” would give me goose bumps then, and I still get teary-eyed during the National Anthem.
Stationed in Germany, I also remember as a senior in high school visiting West Berlin, located in East Germany, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. On a dreary Saturday morning, a group of us decided to take a “tour” into East Berlin behind “the Wall.” Guided by East German Army soldiers on the tour bus, the longer we were in East Berlin, the more we began to question the decision and our safe return. I still remember arriving back at “Checkpoint Charlie,” the East German Army soldier departing the bus, and the United States Army soldier boarding the bus. Seeing the American flag in the now glistening afternoon sun represented the gift of American freedom and liberty in a way I never imagined and awakened a new respect for those who dedicated their lives to preserving it.
Living a “military life” was not easy for families then or now. It is a life of sacrifices, unknowns, and prayers for safe returns from far-away places. As we honor our Veterans on the Mountain, it is my hope that they will know in a small way how much they are appreciated and how much we honor their service to our country.
M. Grundler notes, “It is easy to take liberty for granted when you have never had it taken from you.” Let us not take our liberty for granted, and let us take time to personally thank the Veterans who have served our country and us so that liberty is ours.
Happy Halloween from the Mountain!
Halloween is in the air and evident on the Mountain today. From our youngest Warriors to the Class of 2018, they are excited about today!
I must admit that Halloween is not my favorite holiday. I look forward to family times at Thanksgiving, and my grandchildren have given a whole new dimension to my love of Christmas. As for Halloween, I prefer the "good old days." I guess that officially makes me an old timer. Ouch!
I do remember fondly celebrating Halloween in my West Texas hometown of Abilene. We donned our costumes, hopped on our bicycles, and headed from one neighborhood to the next. Parking our bikes against a random tree, we scoured the neighborhood, trick or treating in hopes of the ultimate prize - homemade popcorn balls! We ate them instantly - unaware that someday candy would have to be searched before it could be eaten. We would finish up, head back to our bikes - still in place where we left them - and travel to the next neighborhood - no fears, expected or unexpected. Indeed we were a bit naive, but it was a different, much safer time. I guess there is something to be said for the "good old days."
As you go about this evening, please be mindful of a different time now - one where we must be extremely watchful and careful. Best wishes for a safe and fun Halloween!
And We Are On Our Way...
We have had a fantastic start to the 2017-2018 school year! THANK YOU, ALL! As I begin my final year as Head of School at Oak Mountain Academy, I am blessed to anticipate the onset of my retirement and to bring my 45 years of education to a close right here on the Mountain - a place I love, care for, and will soon miss. BUT, I still have one year left, and it is my hope that it will be a great one!
Last Friday, we culminated the beginning of the school year with the annual Honor Assembly. Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility are hallmarks of the Oak Mountain Academy experience. These essential values guide us in all we do as we fulfill the Mission of the school and strive to guide our students to be leaders inspired to serve. Thank you to the OMA Student Government Association for making this year's Honor Assembly one to remember!
In the coming weeks, we will welcome several annual OMA events - the OMA Golf Tournament, Athletic Booster Bash, Warrior Challenge 5K Run (formerly Man vs. Mountain), the Fall Festival and many more. Please join us at these events, and so much more that makes OMA such an extraordinary place. Indeed, we are on our way!
A life-time educator, Paula Gillispie taught in the public schools for twenty-five years in Arkansas, Louisiana, Virginia, and Georgia, beginning her independent school journey at Hampton Roads Academy in Virginia in 1998. Earning her graduate degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, she transitioned while in Virginia from the classroom to administration as Dean of Students and then Head of School. In 2010, she returned home to Georgia and to Oak Mountain Academy as Head of School. Additionally, Paula chairs school accreditation teams for the Southern Association of Independent School and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Independent Schools Association. She is a member of the Carrollton Kiwanis Club and the Carrollton Dawnbreakers Rotary Club. She is a member of the Douglas and Carroll County Chambers of Commerce, serving on the Carroll County Chamber’s Workforce Education Committee and Board of Trustees. Paula resides in Carrollton with her husband Dan. They have one son who lives in Peachtree City with his lovely wife and their two precious children.