Mrs. Chase Among Highest-Paid Prep School Heads; Greater Demands for Leadership Spur Changing Role

As a result of the increasingly demanding job of running the nation’s elite prep schools, headmasters now command higher pay and enjoy more financial benefits than in the past. An article in the December 4th issue of The Boston Globe examined the 2003-2004 federal tax records of the 11 largest prep schools in Massachusetts. Phillips Academy’s Head of School Barbara L. Chase was found to have the highest salary of heads of school in Massachusetts, receiving $414,008 in compensation packages. She is followed by Milton’s Robin Robertson who earned roughly around $340,000. In 2003-2004 the Head of School at Hotchkiss received more than $480,000 in pay and benefits. Massachusetts headmasters’ salary in 2003-2004 ranged from $174,000 at the Bancroft School to more than $400,000 at Andover. In 2001-02, pay ranged from about $137,000 at Worcester Academy to almost $330,000 at PA. The recent compensation controversy at St. Paul’s School put the salaries of prep school headmasters under high scrutiny. According to The Globe, Peter W. Schandorff ’64 supports the rising pay for the leaders. ‘’You want to get some top people to come in to head the school,” said Schandorfft to The Globe reporter. ‘’They’re not just making widgets. They’re producing presidents.” To compete with the school’s counterparts, Andover’s Board of Trustees compares salaries of headmasters across the nation in determining the pay. The easy accessibility of available data on the web has facilitated the process. The trustees insisted on raising Mrs. Chase’s salary after observing that her pay lagged behind that of her counterparts at other schools. The Globe reported this pay raise among headmasters as a reflection of how the job of running an elite prep school has become increasingly challenging over the years. In the article, President of Independent Schools Association Patrick Basset described the job of head of school as “the job of a CEO.” In contrast, years ago, headmasters served as lead teachers who focused more on the studies and internal affairs of the school than anything else. Theodore Sizer, who was the Head of School at Phillips Academy from 1972 to 1983, is a prime example. The main issues on Sizer’s agenda were to fulfill Andover’s charter: to be “ever equally open to youth of requisite qualifications from every quarter,” and to create a co-education program by combining Abbot and Phillips in to one school. Sizer set up Short Term Institutes, which brought some 95 high school students a year to Andover for intensive seminars, and founded the MS2 summer program. During Mr. Sizer’s tenure, the need for money was not critical, so his campaign for funds could be scheduled in a way that it would not cut in to his school duties. He was able to teach during all three terms and have occasional afternoons off. According to him, some of the obligations of a headmaster are contingent upon the priorities the Board of Trustees sets for the school. “If I had been on the road most of the time, the Trustees would have been angry with me,” said Mr. Sizer, “The duty of a [Headmaster] depends on what the Trustees are asking the Head of School to do, and the ability of the Board to set [its] priorities.” Mrs. Chase said of the current Board of Trustees, “It’s still true that the Board of Trustees is very much involved in [assigning the duties of a Head of School], but the Board is very much in tune with the ethos of the institution, which it cares deeply about. ” Over the years, demands have grown more intense for headmasters as many external forces have come into play, such as federal regulations, crisis planning, litigations, and communications. “These are becoming increasingly major issues for many institutions. Dealing with the press, for example, was completely different in 1980,” said Mrs. Chase. With the advent of technology, pressure on schools to raise more funds to build and update science wings, computer labs, and student dormitories has increased. At Phillips Academy, the effort to fulfill its charter of “Youth from every quarter” puts the Head of School on the road to attend various alumni events across the country and even abroad, in an effort to create a tight-knit but global Andover community and to yield donations from parents and alumni. “In a sense it is like running a business, but it is not, because the place is about students and faculty,” said Mrs. Chase. The job of Head of School is demanding, as she must keep in partnership with many constituencies of the school on a day-to-day basis, from working with the deans to planning for Trustee events. “It is a great job for someone with a short attention span,” said Mrs. Chase. Despite many administrative functions and alumni gatherings, Mrs. Chase focuses on the internal affairs of the school as well, integrating with the student body as often as she can. “I do everything I can to be visible. I go down to Commons and have great conversations over meals with the students. I try not to travel during Wednesdays when there are All-School Meetings scheduled, and every moment I can, I get down to Senior tea and try to be with the kids,” said Mrs. Chase. She continued, “The heart of this job is working with students and faculty, and if it weren’t for this, I wouldn’t be Head of School. I’m loving my job.”