Thirty-Second Head of School Day Announced to Andover Community

Raynard Kington poses with group of students for a photo

On Sunday, Head of School Dr. Raynard Kington walked into Paresky Commons announcing the annual Head of School Day (HOSD) for the following Monday. Students and faculty were also informed of HOSD by an email sent by Kington to the Andover community.

Head of School Day, an annual tradition, is a surprise day off for the Andover community each Winter Term. Kington’s style of announcement on Sunday was a nod to the traditions celebrated by previous Heads of School, but a new phenomenon for most students — the announcements for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years were disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the 2021-2022 school year, HOSD was announced a week in advance via email instead of in person, which received mixed responses from the community. Kington described how his announcement marked a return to the surprise notification the night before the planned off day. 

“We went back to the original tradition, which is the day before, as it [has] always been the day before. Because of the pandemic, we sort of changed that practice, but we decided to go back to the original practice of the day before for it to be more fun for the community,” said Kington in an interview with The Phillipian

Donning a blue top hat embroidered with the Andover “A,” Kington also hoped to continue the tradition of including a symbolic prop in the HOSD announcement.

“Historically, the Heads have used something that they were associated with in a sport. So field hockey for Barbara Chase and a squash racket for John Palfrey… I didn’t really have a sport like [those] that had an instrument, so we decided to go with a top hat, purely to give it a try,” said Kington. 

Interim Deputy Head of School Rajesh Mundra spoke on the origins of the day-off, which was created under the tenure of Barbara Chase, former Head of School from 1994 to 2012. Mundra continued by discussing why the day was created.

“I think it was right around [1996] when [former Head of School Barbara Chase] started the tradition [of HOSD day]. I think [it was created in the spirit of] community joy in the middle of a term that is a little bit colder and a little bit darker. The unexpected joy and the whole community celebrating [allows for the community to take] a deep breath in the middle of the term,” said Mundra. 

According to Kington’s email, titled “Hats off to you! HOS Day Tomorrow!,” all classes and interscholastic activities scheduled for Monday were canceled. In addition, instructors were asked to adjust their syllabi to avoid “doubling-up” on assignments for the missed time. 

However, the email also outlined expectations for commitments that could not be changed or canceled. Medical appointments, music lessons, music rehearsals, and community engagement still took place as normal. 

Melissa Chang ’23, a four-year Senior, compared this year’s HOSD announcement to previous ones she has experienced. She felt that both the timing and notification of HOSD this year were significantly better than that of recent years. 

“I feel like this year’s [HOSD is] really good because [of] its great timing. While [some were] expecting it, I’m hearing some of the other [newer students] saying, ‘What’s happening on Monday?’ So this is actually quite a surprise.” said Chang. 

Having experienced HOSD for the first time, Michael Williamson ’25 enjoyed the excited atmosphere of the student population after hearing the news. In particular, Williamson found that the surprise of the announcement only exemplified the relief and joy of students. 

“This is my first Head of School Day. I am a new Lower. I [was] very hyped as soon as [Dr. Kington] came in with his top hat. I bet that most students know this, but HOSD creates a different environment. The Andover community is clearly very strong, and it’s great for me now that they’re going back to tradition [of surprise HOSD days],” said Williamson.