Leading by Example

Every weekday morning, Fran Lukens greets the students of St. Anne's Day School at the front door. As the head of the school, she wants every child to feel as if it "mattered that he or she came every day." She welcomes each of the 350 students by name, not an easy task for those of us who have difficulty remembering names. In this close-knit community, Lukens strives to "change the world, one child at a time," her dream for the school.

St. Anne's Day School, an independent, co-educational Episcopal school, educates students from preschool through 8th grade. The school's mission states that the students develop "courage, will, spirit and knowledge," a favorite excerpt of Lukens from the Episcopal prayer book. Since she became the director in 1988, Lukens has made significant contributions to the evolution of the school, including the addition of grades and the creation of the school building on Arundel on the Bay Road in Annapolis. Ellen Kelly, the middle school head, describes Lukens as a "wonderful role model for our community" and especially admires her "plethora of creative ideas."

Lukens' interest in education began during her childhood growing up in the Philadelphia area. She remembers, "I was one of those kids who played school all of the time. In fact, in elementary school, I used to live in a neighborhood that was heavily populated with baby boomer kids like me. And, when I came home from school, I would have an after-school preschool on my front porch. All of the little toddlers would come follow me, and I thought that was really fun." Lukens was most intrigued by her own fifth grade class, where her vision for St. Anne's began to take shape. Her teacher developed a curriculum that allowed students to become active members of the learning process, rather than recipients of knowledge handed down from the teacher. As she grew up, Lukens wouldn't forget thinking, "this is the way school should be."

While teaching was always in the back of her mind, Lukens pursued other interests in college. At Connecticut College for Women (now Connecticut College), a small liberal arts institution in New London, Lukens majored in French with a minor in government. Lukens adds, "But, by the end of college, I knew that teaching was what I wanted to do." In 1971, Lukens married her husband Bill and began a new life with him in Annapolis. After obtaining her master's in education from Goucher College, she worked at various elementary schools in Anne Arundel County until her first child was born.

St. Anne's Day School was originally established in 1960 as a preschool and kindergarten at St. Luke's Episcopal Chapel in Eastport. In 1980, when the school outgrew its space, it moved to St. Anne's Church downtown, where Lukens was a parishioner. After enrolling her eldest son in 1979, Lukens aided the school in its move. While her children were growing up, she taught part-time at several local schools and eventually began teaching at St. Anne's. When the position of director opened, Lukens says, "I threw in my hat...and became the director in 1988."

Lukens' vision for the school took shape soon after. From time to time, parents would ask her, "Why do [our children] have to leave after kindergarten?" Lukens shared their desire for adding to the number of grades and began creating a feasibility study for the growth of the school. Jim Reinig, a former parent and founding chair of St. Anne's Day School, remembers his initial meeting with Lukens. Reinig says, "I was completely blown away. She was describing just the type of school that I would envision for my children, one that I wish I could have gone to." With the help of Reinig and other supportive individuals, Lukens expanded the school in 1992 to offer first grade and continued to add a grade each year.

While the student body was increasing with the addition of grades, the space at St. Anne's Church was becoming too small for the school. Something had to change. Lukens developed the solution-the creation of a school building. With her team in tow, she established the school as a separately incorporated institution in 1994. Lukens thought, "We can devise the kind of curriculum that we think works best."

In September 1996, the students and staff of St. Anne's moved into a new school building on a 10-acre property at Arundel on the Bay Road. The second phase of building, which added a middle school wing, music and arts classrooms, and a multipurpose room, was completed in 1997. Lukens exclaims, "I remember when one of our first advertisements was in the newspaper. I thought, 'My gosh, this is really astounding because one minute we're not there, and the next minute there's a school.'"

Now, Lukens' day may start with greeting students, but her busy schedule includes numerous responsibilities to both her student body and 60-member staff. As the self-proclaimed "captain of the ship," she oversees the administrative team and manages the budget and also makes time to "pop in and out of the classrooms."

Although Lukens has worked hard to make the school a success, she is quick to acknowledge her helpful staff from over the years. She says, "I really credit it to the original people who came together. There was just so much dedication, so much intelligence, so much vision."

When she's not at St. Anne's, Lukens serves as a member of the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal School Association Board and the Association of Independent Schools of Maryland Accreditation Committee. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, walking, reading and working in her garden. When asked about the future of St. Anne's Day School, Lukens shares that "a good school is always evolving and growing. We've developed a culture of lifelong learning, not only for our students but also for the staff and faculty. I see us continuing to evolve, grow and refine."

For more information on St. Anne's Day School, visit www.saintannes.org.

Annie Peroutka, a recent graduate of Loyola College in Maryland, lives in Annapolis and works as a full-time writer.


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