Head of School Day Provides Campus with Winter Respite

Acting Head of School Rebecca Sykes wielded her field hockey stick in Commons last Thursday evening to symbolize the cancellation of classes and extra-curricular activities on Friday. Screaming, hugging, and dancing students soon spread all across campus after the announcement of the impromptu annual event. The unexpected long weekend was welcomed after a week of midterms and eager speculation on when Head of School Day would arrive. This year’s Head of School Day came at midterm, after teachers handed in their grades to the Registrar on Friday morning. Mrs. Sykes chose the date due to its lack of serious conflict. “In choosing a day we always have to consider the many possible implications. Friday the seventh was the least problematic,” she remarked. Intended as a day of rest, Head of School Day allowed students to catch up on sleep and take time out from Andover’s hectic pace of life. Abhinay Eswarappa ’04 commented on the pressures of Winter Term, saying, “By the end of the week I felt miserable, sick, and tired of the college process, which I haven’t really started yet. I happened to be in Commons when Ms. Sykes showed up, and it was funny to see everyone envelop her in sheer happiness.” Nicole Crocker ’05 agreed, stating, “It was a well-needed break.” To insure that students took the time to rest, the administration and faculty treated Thursday night as any other school night by enforcing regular sign-in for all students, room restriction after 11:00 pm for lowers, and “lights out” at 11:00 pm for juniors. On Friday, though no day excuses to Boston were granted, students were allowed to go to the Lawrence Cinema. Most students used the day off to sleep in or have fun with friends. “I slept in, went sledding, and then decided to go to the movies,” said Elia Herrera ’05. David Morse ’04 commented that he took the time to “play some squash and get in time at the gym.” Others decided to use Head of School day as an opportunity to be productive and complete some work. Ryan Chapoteau ’04 observed, “It gave me time to work on my campaign for school president.” Todd Kwao-vovo ’06 commended the timing of Head of School Day, saying, “I believe that the day picked was a good choice because it not only gave [students] a day off, but it also gave us a long weekend. We got a chance to rest and spend time with our peers without any thoughts of classes.” However, not all students liked the choice. Chris Lanterman ’03 felt that the snowy weather on Friday marred Head of School Day. “I personally wish that Head of School day had been on a day when it wasn’t snowing so hard,” he said. Mrs. Sykes’s husband, Instructor in English Elwin Sykes, added to this year’s anticipation of Head of School Day by showing up in the Lower Left dining hall Monday evening. He was greeted by cheers and shouts from students eating dinner, who thought that he would announce the holiday. A wave of disappointment swept over the students once they learned that Mr. Sykes did not bring the good news. “Since [Mr. Sykes] only returned to teaching at PA last fall, he was surprised that everyone knew who he was…Although I offered to let him in on the date, he chose not to know so that he could honestly deny knowing,” said Mrs. Sykes. The tradition of Head of School Day started approximately 20 years ago, when former Headmaster Theodore Sizer would arbitrarily give students a day off during fall term, depending on the outcome of the Andover-Exeter contests. The years when the teams swept the series or performed well, Sizer would declare a school holiday. Former Headmaster Donald McNemar, Head of School Barbara Landis Chase’s predecessor, officially conceived the holiday in 1991 when a flu epidemic swept across campus. Taking the number of students in Isham Health Center into consideration, he declared February 2, 1991, to be a “Health Day.” Since then, the holiday has been included in every Winter Term schedule, though no one knows the exact date it will fall on until the night before. The concept of raising the hockey stick was brought to PA by Ms. Chase, who used it to signify a day off at her previous school.