16th Head of School Search Narrows to 20 Finalists

Following the departure of Former Head of School John Palfrey this July, the search committee for the 16th Head of School, chaired by Amy Falls ’82, P’19, ’21, has worked into a “finalist phase,” according to

The search committee for the 16th Head of School works in conjunction with leadership and executive consulting firm Spencer Stuart, which nominated around 300 potential candidates for the position. This number was independent from the roughly 80 candidates nominated through Andover alumni, parents, and connections. In a letter to faculty, staff, and administrators, Falls communicated her awe with both the character and diversity of candidates they have been reviewing.

“I believe I speak for the committee that we are deeply impressed by the caliber of the candidates advancing toward our final round, as well as the depth of their interest in Andover. They represent both rising talent and established leadership; the pool is diverse in terms of gender, race, life experiences, and professional pathways,” wrote Falls.

Falls continued, “Andover’s values, vision, and reputation for excellence have resonated with a broad and powerful group of educators…. The committee remains focused on presenting to the Board of Trustees those finalists who are best positioned to lead Andover effectively at this moment in its history.”

According to the “Position and Candidate Specification” document from Spencer Stuart, Andover is “seeking an inspiring leader who is both an educator at heart and an innovative and strategic thinker to serve as its 16th Head of School.” The 16th Head of School would inherit many of Palfrey’s old initiatives and ideals for the school, such as Palfrey’s emphasis on Equity & Inclusion; Creativity & Innovation, and Empathy & Balance, according to the document. These themes were exemplified in the currently running 400 million dollar Knowledge and Goodness Campaign, started and spearheaded by Palfrey.

“The next Head of School has a singular opportunity to advance these themes and further enrich the Academy through academic excellence, a shared commitment to equity and inclusion and the enlightened education of the whole child. The 16th Head of School will inherit an institution in tremendous shape—deeply rooted in its core values and extraordinarily ambitious for its future,” stated the document.

While the committee continues to look for potential replacements for Palfrey, Jim Ventre ’79 has stepped up in leading the school as Interim Head. Linda Carter-Griffith, Associate Head of School for Equity, Inclusion, and Wellness, has worked closely with Ventre for the duration of their time at Andover and expressed her confidence in Ventre’s ability to lead the school for the 2019-2020 school year.

Carter-Griffith said, “Mr. Ventre is a kind, generous, and thoughtful man, and he leads in that manner. He has also made it very clear that Mr. Palfrey’s leadership was outstanding as a visionary, especially given his ability to do and see so much. Mr. Ventre is coming in to hold the ship steady for this year while we look for a new head of school. I am very much enjoying working closely with him.”

Carter-Griffith noted that Ventre has displayed initiative within the first few months of school, especially by creating a weekly meeting for the Office of the Head of School.

“He has implemented a weekly staff meeting for the entire office, and that gives each of us here, five of us total, an opportunity to assist each other with the biggest challenges for the upcoming week,” said Carter-Griffith.

One major difference in Palfrey and Ventre’s leadership styles is how they interact with the student body. Carter-Griffith explained how, unlike Palfrey’s leadership during All-School Meeting (ASM) in past years, Ventre has delegated that job to Carter-Griffith in anticipation of his potential conflicts with traveling.

“Another shift in leadership is that Mr. Palfrey led All-School Meeting: he was always there. Mr. Ventre has asked me to take on that role for this year because he is traveling extensively on behalf of the Academy. This helps in creating visibility and clarity about what my role is in the school and representing him when he is on the road so much this given year,” said Carter-Griffith.

Additionally, many other members of the faculty, such as Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, feel comfortable talking to him about concerns they might have from the trust and history they share.

“I admire Mr. Ventre’s level of commitment to this place. I think his service right now as Interim chair is tremendously generous, and he is infectiously positive and really optimistic, and I’m grateful for those qualities, particularly in a time of transition. He’s served to reassure everyone that Andover is in an excellent place, so I’m grateful for his stewardship and leadership,” said Elliott.