Phillips and Andover High Maintain Distant Relations

The following comes from an investigative report written for the English Department’s Journalism elective. Phillips Academy students visited Andover High School for a day and polled students and faculty. With its manicured lawns, quaint New England shops and an average home price of over $400,000, Andover fits the image of a perfect upper-class suburb. Teenagers from both Phillips Academy (PA) and Andover High School (AHS) reside in the town, creating a unique relationship between two highly-regarded academic institutions. On a whole, adults in the Andover community, including faculty at both PA and AHS, shopkeepers, policemen and town officials, see the relationship between AHS and PA students as peaceful and accepting. However, PA and AHS students described the relationship between the two schools in one of two ways; nonexistent or tense and resentful. Out of seventy one students polled (from both PA and AHS), thirty nine percent believe that a relationship between the two schools is virtually nonexistent. However, in the same group of students, thirty four percent described the relationship between the two schools with words such as “tense,” “animosity” or “rivalry.” Angela Monaco ’03, who attended both AHS and PA, said, “I think Andover High students care more about the relationship or rivalry between the two schools. PA students may respond to AHS students’ actions, but PA kids really don’t care that much.” Some believe that tension between AHS and PA results from the highly selective admissions process for day students to gain admission to Phillips Academy. When asked whether she leaves her house after decision letters are sent, Phillips Academy’s Dean of Admissions Jane Fried replied with a laugh. “I don’t go to the grocery store, that’s for sure,” she said. Phillips Academy receives approximately 320 to 350 day-student applications each year, but only accepts fifty incoming freshmen, a number which constitutes about twenty-five percent of the incoming class. “The three [middle] schools in town that we get the most students from are Doherty, Pike, and West, in that order,” said Fried. Of the three, Doherty and West send most of their students to Andover High, while Pike, a private school, tends to send many students who do not move on to PA to other New England boarding schools. Despite the fact that many of the day students who are denied admission at PA will attend Andover High, both Fried and AHS Guidance Counselor Mike Wartman agree that there is no animosity between the two schools. “A lot of kids have sort of lost touch [with friends at PA], but they have good feelings about their former classmates who went to PA,” said Wartman. Fried also noted that the PA admissions office strongly encourages denied freshmen to reapply to become tenth graders the following year. Although PA accepts approximately twenty new sophomore day students, Fried says that most are not second time applicants. “I think it’s because they really like it [at AHS],” explained Fried. “If they were really unhappy, we would have a lot more kids reapplying… I think they are staying because they get into the system and they feel like they have good classes and they like it.” Some PA students believe that PA’s selective admissions standards may spawn pranks and resentment from AHS students. “I think that pranks done by Andover High students, such as yelling and water ballooning, have something to do with PA admissions. Naturally, if someone was denied admission he or she would hold a grudge against the school,” said PA student Justin Ng ’03. Pranks between AHS and PA have long been a part of Andover town tradition. Forty one percent of forty four AHS students polled claimed to have “water ballooned,” “yelled” or pulled other pranks on PA students. However, Andover High School Principal Peter Anderson has never heard of any recent “pranking” and does not believe that pranks from AHS students are prevalent on the PA campus. Nevertheless, according to faculty members and old issues of The Phillipian, pranks of this nature have occurred since the 1970s. Hale Sturges, a Phillips Academy French teacher who has been at PA since 1965, remembers hearing of confirmed confrontations between PA and AHS students during the 1970s, which became commonly known as the “townie attacks.” Mr. Sturges recalled that AHS students would walk up along Main Street and “literally attack PA kids” sitting on the Great Lawn. Although he deemed these incidents “little fights,” Mr. Sturges did state that various exchanges of words between the two groups occurred prior to the fights. Joseph Wennick, an Andover resident and former PA German professor, described the 1970s “townie attacks” in a 1972 issue of The Phillipian. He said, “For many, PA seems to look down on the [Andover] high school, and students at the high school think of the students at PA as a group of rich snobs. And for many, the so-called ‘townie attacks’ have created an atmosphere of confusion and mistrust between the students of AHS and PA.” In 1971, the Armillary Sphere that rests on PA’s Great Lawn was severely damaged and was subsequently removed for repairs. It was returned to the Great Lawn in the spring of 1971 with a chip in the pedestal as the only permanent damage. According to The Phillipian, the perpetrators of the crime were believed to be local Andover High students. 1972 also was a year in which Phillips Academy Public Safety bolstered its ranks from one officer to a nine member patrol team. This action was a result of an increase in both vandalism and the so-called “townie attacks” of the’70s. According to Sturges and AHS students, the Phillips Academy community has inadvertently taken away the town’s identity. Phillips Academy math teacher, Nat Smith, who has also been at PA since 1965, agreed with Sturges. He said, “AHS students take the exchanges of words between themselves and PA students personally. To them, the town of Andover belongs to them.” Mr. Smith also noted that AHS students sometimes harbor jealousy toward PA kids as a result of the misconception that every student is either “rich, snobby, or simply too good for public school.” When asked to explain why there’s bitterness between the two groups, Mr. Sturges acknowledged that town residents may resent the name “Andover” being co-opted by PA. He pointed out, “to us, we are known as PA. To the students of Andover High [we are] Phillips, yet to everyone else we are Andover.” However, both Mr. Sturges and Mr. Smith feel as though the vast majority of PA and AHS students are accepting of one another. An Andover resident himself, Mr. Smith has had the opportunity to talk with AHS students, who have claimed that the so-called “bad kids” are the ones who choose to stir up conflict with PA kids. Smith also said, “there has been no single time when everything between the two schools came to a head. There are no big issues now, for inherent animosity seems to be declining.”