Head of School Raynard Kington’s First Head of School Day Deviates from Tradition and Expectations Given Challenging Circumstances

While Head of School Day is traditionally announced the night before, Head of School Dr. Raynard Kington notified students three days in advance.

Head of School Raynard Kington sent a video to the Andover community on the evening of Friday, April 9 announcing his first Head of School Day (HOSD) at Andover. The video featured Kington unboxing a giant blue banner with “Head of School Day” printed in big white letters. The video revealed that Andover’s 30th HOSD would be on Monday, April 12, canceling all classes and most extracurricular commitments. 

Followed by the HOSD announcement was another email from Kington, detailing the schedule and logistics of the week. Included was a new four-day schedule, with shifted meeting times for academic classes, All-School Meeting, Advising, and Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion classes (EBI). The four-day schedule maintained the two class meetings for the week—however, with no faculty meeting, department meeting, or third homework deadlines. 

The extraordinary circumstances given the pandemic made it necessary for Kington to make changes and create new legacies rather than follow previous years’ traditions of HOSD. One significant shift from past years was postponing HOSD until Spring Term, as the tradition is usually celebrated in the winter. 

“So [Head of School Day] is usually apparently called in the winter. And only Seniors were here, so that didn’t seem fair. And I relied on the senior leadership since I don’t know the system well, to lay out a few days where it would work, and so I had to rely on others’ advice. I know that wasn’t perfect—I understand that normally everything stops. But for a number of reasons, this is a weird year, some things got pushed away, and so it wasn’t a perfect Head of School Day. Next year, I’ll do better,” said Kington. 

Another shift was Kington’s use of the big blue banner to announce HOSD. 14th Head of School Barbara Chase raised her blue field hockey stick for 18 years, followed by 15th Head of School John Palfrey who waved his squash racket for seven years. Last year, Interim Head of School Jim Ventre ’79 decided to wear his Andover varsity sweater as a way of announcing HOSD. 

“Well, I don’t play squash. I actually do have two squash rackets, because I did take lessons years ago, and I’ve kept them ever since. But that wasn’t a possibility. And I didn’t have any sports equipment—so there weren’t a lot of options. And so we decided to do something different. Someone suggested a flag, and that may become a tradition of just putting a flag up on Head of School Day. But I may become more creative and something may come and inspire me to have a different way,” said Kington. 

Kington continued, “I also couldn’t walk through Paresky Commons; no one’s there. I mean, it’s not the same… this may be a once-in-a-tenure way of doing it. So it seemed like a reasonable thing to do.”

Despite the “gift of time” HOSD gave to students on Monday, some students, such as Frank Zhou ’22, found that because the new four-day schedule kept the usual two meetings per class in a shorter four-day span, the schedule of the week felt tighter. 

“While my personal academic workload was manageable despite the denser school week, I’ve heard extensive accounts from friends, peers, and faculty members who I’ve been close to overwhelmed with the scheduling difficulties of this whirlwind four-day schedule. Faculty members have had to change grading schedules for much of the term to redistribute workloads; students find themselves with numerous major assignments in ever-shorter time frames,” said Zhou.

Zhou continued, “Whereas HOSD [last year] seemed to slow the pace of campus life, HOSD [this year] may have done the opposite. This week, as our EBI groups demand focus-group evaluations the institution’s anti-racist efforts, I find my capacity for those conversations dwindling as assignments mount; HOSD scheduling may have compressed both our workload and the conversations that ought to remain at the center of our campus discourse.”

Alice Fan ’23 shared a similar sentiment with Zhou in terms of the compressed schedule, but she’s glad that the announcement came earlier so she could plan her schedule.

“While I definitely enjoyed Head of School Day and the time off, the next four days after were a little hectic. I appreciated that he sent out the memo on Friday instead of Sunday night so I had time to move around commitments and plan my week a little better,” said Fan.

Shreya Bajaj ’23 also appreciated the idea of Head of School Day but believed that the denser four-day week schedule did not help much.

“I think it was nice that they were willing to give us a Head of School day, but I don’t think it actually helped. If anything, it made the rest of the week more hectic—it wasn’t like previous years since class wasn’t canceled, which lowers the homework load, so I’m not entirely sure there was any point. And if we were to have a more conventional HOSD which we don’t have classes on, then I would have liked it later in the term,” said Bajaj.

According to Kington, the whole schedule was more tightly managed this Spring Term because everything had to be done—this caused everything, including the schedule, to be different. 

“I asked a number of senior faculty who are involved in scheduling to choose a couple of days that would make sense, and then we knew it wasn’t going to be ideal. But I decided that I would rely on their advice rather than just do it. Might have caused all sorts of problems that I didn’t even know the implications of. So it was sort of a complicated decision. Nothing is easy this year. It’s like everything has 1,000 implications this year. And so we decided that we just tried to do the best we could and then we’ll try to make up for it,” said Kington.