Head of School Search Continues

The 16th Head of School will ideally be announced towards the end of fall term of the 2019-2020 school year, according to Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students.

Led by Amy Falls ’82, President-elect of the Board of Trustees, a search committee composed of eight board members and five community members are already weeks into a months-long process to find the next Head of School after current Head of School John Palfrey’s departure this June, according to Tracy Sweet, Director of Academy Communications.

“Much of the work this summer that the search committee will do is doing outreach to those potential candidates, going out and meeting with them, traveling to go meet and really try to identify if there is a good match between those candidates and what the school is hoping for,” said Elliott.

Elliott continued, “I think Andover has an opportunity right now to really clarify what it’s shorter term and longer term goals are as we are pushing to make ourselves better and really live out our values.”

The committee will first meet in June to begin an intensive process of finding, meeting, and vetting candidates, especially during the summer. Falls, in an email addressed to the Andover community, encouraged students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni to contribute input and nominations towards the search.

Jim Ventre, Interim Head of School for the 2019-2020 school year, plans to follow the initiatives Palfrey already has set in place.

“As always, my mission, my goals, and my values are aligned with the mission of [Andover] to nurture an intentionally diverse and inclusive community. I am loyal to the values Andover embodies—Non Sibi, youth from every quarter and knowledge and goodness—and I remain purposeful yet humble about thinking for the long-term, and not sacrifice our long-term values for short-term results,” Ventre wrote in an email to The Phillipian.

Falls arranged both Alumni Counsel and faculty discussions to identify what the Andover community wishes to see in the next Head of School, as well as ways that Andover can evolve in this new level of education, according to Sweet.

“These conversations have yielded an ever-growing set of essential characteristics for the next head. To lead Andover requires intellectual rigor and ‘pedagogical chops,’ as one person said; diplomacy and decisiveness; the ability to communicate with conviction; equal measures of confidence and humility; and a deep understanding of the pressures facing adolescents. Above all, meeting Andover’s high standards must be authentically rooted in a personal value system that aligns with the school’s mission,” wrote Falls in the email released last Friday.

Elliott said that being a student-centered leader is an important a character trait needed in a Head of School, as Palfrey often was even when making difficult decisions.

“[Palfrey’s] first question is, ‘What’s the best thing for our students?’ I really hope that we will have a Head of School who will always be asking those questions, too… [We need] someone who, when things are hard, when there are crises, when there are really challenging circumstances, to have a leader whose own ethics and moral compass are so clear. I think it’s what the school really needs,” said Elliott.

The executive search firm Spencer Stuart is working in partnership with the search committee to find the next Head of School. The firm was also a part of Palfrey’s selection seven years ago. According to Sweet, the search process for Head of School has been similar so far but has the potential to change.

“Andover’s incredibly different than it was seven years [ago]. A job of the Head of School is incredibly different than it was seven years ago when John arrived, so much has changed in education, innovation, and technology that as much as I say the process is similar at this moment, the idea of what we are looking for is still to be seen,” said Sweet.

According to Sweet, Palfrey has shown the Andover community what it takes to truly lead Andover.

Sweet said, “To lead an enterprise as complex and dynamic as Andover requires intellectual heft of the seasoned educator and the business acumen of a C.E.O. Those are two really important characteristics, it’s really a remarkable combination of those two sets of skills deeply embedded and a set of personal values that aligns with Andover. When we find that, Andover will be in extraordinary shape for the future.”