As Sarah Yeh’s interim leadership of Concord Academy comes to an end, the focus of Concord Academy is shifting to welcoming our new Head of School, Henry Fairfax. While Fairfax’s new presence in the community is sure to create a lot of positive change in the upcoming years, one that the school is already considering is the new location of his office.
Fairfax has requested that his new office be in the Main School Building, rather than using the typical Head of School office in Aloian. This request not only has complexities pertaining to shifting classroom and office spaces in the Main School Building in order to create such a space, but it is sure to shift the energy of the CA community as a whole, including the relationship between CA students and faculty and the Head of School.
It is possible that the interactive disconnect between CA students and former Heads of School has merely been due to the power dynamic that comes with most leadership positions and those that they are guiding, but, regardless, students have reported feeling a difference in their relationship with other faculty members and the past Heads of School. Claire Carson ’23 emphasized this feeling, stating, “I haven’t really gotten to know the previous Heads of Schools because they weren’t really interacting with the students. I feel like the deans have more connection with the students because they manage the day to day affairs and make decisions that affect our lives as students. I feel like the Head of School Position has become pretty isolated, especially during COVID-19.” While Claire did not specifically make note of this, it is typical for all deans to have offices in the Main School Building, unlike the Head of School. This raises the question that Fairfax seems to have recognized the answer to by making his request: does any of this disconnect have to do with the location of the Head of School office?
Answering this question, graduating Student Head of School, Hannah Wixom ’22, spoke on how her relationship with the Head of School has felt this year. She explained that having worked closely with Sarah Yeh this year, “I honestly wish that [this change of office space] this happened sooner because leaders like Sarah Yeh are very important to our community, and I think that they could do a lot of great work if they were closer to a lot of students, faculty, and staff in the main school building.” Hannah compared her distance from Yeh to her proximity to different deans—an idea that Claire alluded to—clarifying, “I worked very closely with Zachary [Tung ’22, Vice Head of School] and Sally [Zimmerli, Dean of Students] this year, and whenever Zachary and I had a question or wanted some guidance, it was very nice to have Sally and Renee [Coburn, Coordinator of the Student Life Office and Initiatives] nearby. To be able to also have Sarah close would have really helped, I think. Also just to help us communicate with her about what is going on in the student body, I think it would have been helpful to have her know what was going on, and it is harder when [the HOS is] not in the same building as the students.”
The movement of the Head of School’s office into the heart of the community would ensure that the person who leads us in these upcoming years can guide us closely each step of the way. Like Hannah said, “the Head of School has a responsibility for setting the tone and setting the vibes in the school and also setting the direction of the school—especially in the next 100 years—so [him] having a vision that is not only very direct and clear, but [us] having him close to the student body, faculty and staff, will ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward. Having a clear vision altogether with every member of the community will help moving forward, I think, because you can’t add on to the community we already have without creating that sense of trust, and that is what Henry is doing by moving into the main school building.” As CA takes on its second century of operation, it is crucial that we as a community set the right tone for the years to come.