Andover Community Embraces Changing of the Guard

As the Andover community prepares to bid farewell to six important leaders this year, the transition marks one of several changing of the guards in the school’s history. At the end of the academic year, Head of School Barbara Chase will cede her position to John Palfrey. Oscar Tang ’56 will turn over his position as President of the Board of Trustees to Peter Currie ’74. Jane Fried, Dean of Admissions, will leave her position to become Head of the Brearley School. In addition to the departure of these three faculty members, the community will also miss long time faculty member Mark Efinger, Instructor in Theatre and Dance, who will become the Head of The Academy of Charlemont, Timothy Sprattler, School Archivist, and Maureen Nunez, Director of Risk Management and Administrative Services. According to Nicholas Kip ’60, Instructor in Classics for the past 44 years, having a new President of the Board of Trustees and a new Head of School simultaneously is not unprecedented. David Underwood’s arrival as President of the Board of Trustees in 1994 coincided with the departure of Donald McNemar, 13th Head of School and the resignation of the Associate Head of School, John Bachman. Kip cited another example of transition when John Kemper, 11th Head of School, left in 1971, and his assistant, Spike Adriance, retired early the same year. Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, said that although the school will miss the departing faculty members, multiple turnovers in the school is a regular and cyclical occurrence. “Obviously these changes will be significant because the folks who are leaving have had such a huge impact on the school and have had tremendous influence in the direction of the school for a long period of time. That said, I think that their work has really made it possible for us to move into the next phase on really strong footing,” said Sykes. According to Sykes, communication will be crucial in smoothing out the transition. She said that Palfrey has spoken frequently with Chase and will be working to get to know the school in the upcoming months before he becomes Head of School. An Andover graduate and a member of the Board of Trustees, Currie has had many years of affiliation with the school. Sykes said that she will personally miss the departing faculty members. “In addition to working with people at Phillips Academy, we live with one another. When people leave, it’s not simply that they stop working here, but they often move away and, in the case of Mrs. Fried, she’s actually taking a job elsewhere. We’ll miss them, and I suspect there will be times when we’ll try to stay in touch with one another,” said Sykes. Although it is sad to say goodbye to the six faculty members, many faculty members viewed the turnover as the potential beginning of a new chapter in the school’s history. Seth Bardo, Instructor in English, said, “I came from a public school where people who are in charge of various things were there for good. There was no change. I think people get static, no matter how good they are–and we have excellent people–but in 10 years, you can make your mark on the Admissions Office or as Head of School and then, given the nature of these places, I think it’s important to move new people into those positions after a decade.” “I’m not sure what changes are coming by these folks, but because I believe so much in change of personnel, I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen,” he added. Mark Koolen, Instructor in Biology for over 30 years, said, “By rotating [positions] you get fresh ideas in, and you get new energy [and] youth. I think it’s a perfect example with the Head of School. I’ve been teaching here almost as long as [Palfrey] been alive. He’s a very young person to be in such a dynamic position. But he’s got a phenomenal resume, and he’s got energy and he’s got ideas.” Bardo hopes to see more freedom in the school schedule to allow for interdisciplinary courses that would better prepare students for a more global future. “I know that there are a number of faculty who are very interested in doing interdisciplinary courses and are looking for more creative ways that the schedule could support this kind of pedagogy,” said Bardo. “I think that Mr. Palfrey, given his background, the fact that this will be a new job and that he’ll have all kinds of new energy for it, he might engage in this project and help be a person who brings to fruition these discussions.” Koolen said, “I hope we continue on a global pathway, that we don’t stay in a little shell on a hill, that we continue to explore more ways of getting the outside world to come into Phillips Academy, and vice versa, for us to get out. And that’s difficult.” Thomas Hodgson, Instructor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, said that he believes the transition could send the school in a direction that will help students take advantage of new technology. Hodgson said, “[John Palfrey’s] work on the pluses and minuses of the digital age as it affects education is also, I think, very useful. What I understand to be his openness to new ideas and his ability to help us think about what next steps we want to take as an institution I also find very exciting.”