Concord Academy was honored to welcome Jed Lippard, CA’s third Head of School candidate, to campus on September 27 and 28.
Lippard grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Shady Side Academy, a traditional school on the outskirts of the city. His brother, on the other hand, was originally educated at public institutions; however, when public schools finally became desegregated, his parents felt that the quality of education deteriorated. Lippard’s parents pulled his brother out of public school and into the private sector, where Lippard followed suit. This is a part of Lippard’s past that he wants to acknowledge—the racist history of private education and what institutions like CA are doing to combat systemic injustices within schooling.
In high school, Lippard’s understanding of private education expanded when he visited a cousin who went to the Alternative Community School in Upstate New York. He recalled, “At that school students were at the center of their own learning, it was really democratic. […] There was a lot of interdisciplinary learning happening, and I was like Holy Moly, this is amazing!”
The Alternative Community School was modeled based on the educational principles of a professor at Brown University, Ted Sizer, where Lippard had matriculated after high school. Sizer asked Lippard, then an undergraduate student, to become a founding teacher of the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School, a new school that Sizer was starting.
Lippard later served in administrative positions at the Prospect Hill Academy Charter School in Cambridge, during which he received a doctorate in education, and then at Bank Street College in New York City.
Lippard missed working with high-schoolers, so he moved to Buckingham Browne & Nichols School assuming the role of Chief Learning Officer, his current position. He shared, “Because these students are really in the middle of childhood and adulthood. With that comes a testing of boundaries and experimentation of thought and action. […] I believe in the notion of disruptive innovation, and Ted Sizer, back to him, talked a lot about being creatively subversive. And so part of what attracts me to this age group is actually that I am that person. […] I want to be, for this age group of young people, what no one was for me in that period of exploration and experimentation and mistake-making.”
Lippard first heard of CA during his time as an undergraduate. Sizer taught a course aptly nicknamed “Travels with Ted” where he highlighted schools within a three-hour radius from Providence—CA was one of those institutions. Lippard said, “[I have] admired it [CA] from afar for the last 30 years, so when this opportunity emerged, it felt like a calling in some ways.”
Visiting CA, Lippard expressed a deep focus on equity, a word which he feels needs to be defined as a community. He explained, “These institutions were founded on the premise of exclusivity and elitism. When you’ve got a system of public education where every child in this nation has the right to attend a public school for free, and then there are these other schools you have to pay a lot of money to, it creates a class system and a caste system. So when these institutions later in their life start talking about equity—it sounds good, very aspirations—but it’s not actually intuitive to the place. So in a lot of places equity work is an add-on. Whereas the real work and what I would bring here is a desire to fundamentally interrogate the structures, and the systems, and the policies that give rise to the practices. So everything from how we make admissions decisions, to how we administer resources, to how we hire people, to what our discipline system looks like, is it playing out in ways that data suggests that some people are advantaged and others are not? And if it is, we need to figure out how to be better.” He hopes that CA can eventually become a need-blind institution where students are admitted based on their ability, and not on the ability of their family to pay.
As we usher into a new century of CA, Lippard wants to make sure that striving for equity is at the top of our bucket list. Another goal is to revolutionize the scheduling of a school day. Lippard concluded, “You have very specific and discrete subjects that you take, and your brain has to shift every 40 minutes when that bell rings. That’s not how the world works anymore. […] I want to really lift the issue of what school can look like that isn’t tethered to a different era.”