Looking Back and Looking Ahead
March 21, 2017
A number of RSS faculty and parents have been curious and kind enough to ask me what I’ll be doing next year. At the end of June, my wife, Marti, and I will be moving back to our home in Newton, MA. We’ll be on vacation on Cape Cod with our grandchildren for a week in July. Other than that, I’ve got lots of possibilities, but no plans.
Those of you who know me well can appreciate that this is highly unusual for me. I’m certainly not going to retire. I’m interested in executive coaching, leadership training, board work, and maybe writing. I’m beginning to have conversations about a wide range of creative ways to stay engaged in the Boston area and, perhaps, back here in New York. What I’m starting to reflect on is that 2016-17 will almost surely be my final year as a head of school.
By all measures, I’ve had a great run over the course of my thirty-six years as a school leader. I’ve spent twelve years as a public school principal and twenty-four years as an independent school head. I often tell friends that I have had one of the greatest jobs around. I’ve interacted daily with exceptionally bright, highly motivated colleagues, I’ve faced an endless variety of interesting challenges, I’ve done work that is important, and I’ve had the satisfaction of knowing that I have made a difference.
Best of all, I’ve had the opportunity to be surrounded daily by children, whose development I’ve been able to follow over time. Their energy, humor, and hopefulness truly has been good for my soul.
It’s remarkably sobering to discover how one’s professional life is understood by six-year-olds. After interviewing me, a first grade class at my former school in Boston brilliantly summed up my job as head of school:
- He solves mysteries.
- He helps people calm down in his office.
- He works to make the school a better place.
While it would probably suffice to just share this with Danny Karpf, I also find a good deal of wisdom for others in the 1980 musings of Walter Ebmeyer, then head of the Hill School in Virginia, when he wrote the following description of the “Perfect Headmaster” (unedited for gender balance):
The Perfect Headmaster always has the right thing to say to everyone, and says it without hurting anyone’s feelings. He works from 7:30 a.m. to midnight, wears good clothes, is 29 years old, and has 40 years of experience. The Perfect Headmaster has a burning desire to work with pre-schoolers, but spends all his time with middle school students. He visits 15 classrooms per day, and is always in his office to be available for instant parent conferences. The Perfect Headmaster always has time for meetings, and he spends lots of time reading professionally to keep up with what’s new. The Perfect Headmaster smiles constantly, but with a straight face, because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to the mission of his school.
I’ve still got a few good months ahead of me at RSS, and I’m a guy who believes in the importance of “finishing strong.” Nonetheless, I want to take this opportunity to thank the RSS board, faculty, staff, and community for the privilege of being here these past four years and for all of your continuing confidence and support.
Yes, the hours are long, and there is a lot of responsibility to bear, but even if you see your head of school looking stressed every once in awhile, just remember that he couldn’t be doing more rewarding work and couldn’t be doing it in a better place than RSS. This article was written by Jerrold I. Katz, Head of School, and published in RSS Connect Volume 3, Issue 3.