Head of School Blog Page

I look forward to blogging on a regular basis about topics that affect parents and students in today's world.


Post #13: Altruism (October 22, 2020)

In my last post, I shared my biology teacher background and my thoughts about the concept of homeostasis (the state of steady internal, physical, and chemical conditions maintained by living systems) and how it applies to adjusting to the disruptions of schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In this post, I want to examine another biological concept and how it applies to our current school and home partnership.

Altruism is the behavior of an animal that benefits another at its own expense.  A common example of this would be an animal giving a warning cry to others of its kind.  The individual makes a sacrifice in the moment to ensure survival of the herd.  

As I think about what our Governor, the Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control ask of us during the current pandemic, I recognize we are being asked to make individual sacrifices for the good of the whole community--sacrifices regarding personal choices about where we go, who we see, and what we do.  Then I come to school each day and see the joy and hear the laughter of these kids and I see the benefit of such sacrifice.  These children belong in school and with each other learning.

Each week I am on video calls with Heads of schools across the country that are struggling to stay open on campus, in part, because they have communities who cannot unite around such altruism. I have been made aware there are local private schools neighboring counties that are not following the state guidelines and are starting to see drastic programmatic impacts--driven by quarantine requirements from the Department of Public Health.  Such struggles to offer a full in-person program in many cases stem from what happens on weekends and from school communities who do not have such a common sense of altruism.

I am grateful for your continued effort and partnership to keep us open and safe by following the Cavalier COVID Community Commitment in our reopening plan.  I am impressed by the altruism displayed by all our community members.  Again, thank you for your sacrifices which help us continue to serve our entire Cavalier community on campus.  We are thrilled to have been able to serve you for a full quarter of the school year thus far--and we want to remain open to serve your family safely for the remainder of the year.  

Post #12: Homeostasis (August 31, 2020)

Today is the last day of August 2020. I am so thankful for this first full month with faculty and students back on campus.  I am so pleased that our COVID-19 risk reduction protocols are working on campus and that families are cooperating and keeping sick children at home (for any illness)--I believe both factor into this stretch of time without a quarantine situation stemming from the Prep campus.

I am a biologist by training and I am thrilled to be back in the classroom this year teaching college preparatory biology to Prep freshmen. I am currently teaching my students about the concept of homeostasis (the state of steady internal, physical, and chemical conditions maintained by living systems).  It is very common in large systems (like ecosystems) as well as small systems (one living thing) for homeostasis to be disrupted and so, throw them out of balance.  Survival then depends on critical adjustments.  

I think this concept is applicable to our situation during this school year.  Schools are trying to regain that sense of normalcy but new routines may leave community members feeling a bit out of balance.  School in a COVID-19 world requires critical adjustments to achieve balance.  Day by day, I am watching our faculty and families develop more and more comfort with new routines and achieve that new balance.  I am proud so far!

Post #11: The Next (July 10th, 2020)

Last month, as the country was at the height of a historic social justice protest movement after the death of George Floyd and other African-Americans at the hands of police, I wrote a post (#10 below) about “The Now.” In recent weeks, I have had engaging conversations with several alumni of color regarding their experiences at Prep and we look to continue to learn from them as we move forward with the action plan I outlined in the last blog post.

In the previous blog post I also promised to share my thoughts on “The Next” - being that next school year is soon to be this year. The restart of school presents a unique design challenge. In a previous update I wrote that while we cannot predict everything that will unfold this fall, we are doing everything in our power to marshal the talent on campus and in the local community to ensure we open in person and are ready to adjust for any contingency.  To that end we are working every day to research and learn how best to operate school in-person while reducing the risks from COVID-19 still being present in the community.  These efforts include:

  • Monitoring local, state, regional and national rates of infection in various age groups

  • Conversations with the local Department of Public Health regarding their guidelines as well as the State Department of Education and the Centers for Disease control.

  • Conversations with the Chief Medical Officer of Augusta University regarding testing of employees for COVID-19 as well as antibodies to the disease.

  • Conversations with colleagues in a school in Denmark who have been conducting school safely since April 15.

  • Conversations with colleagues in our national, regional, and state independent school associations about best practices for a return to school and sports.

  • Participation in webinars with Johns Hopkins epidemiologists and pediatricians working on COVID-19 treatment and tracking.

  • Consultations with our physician parents who have been researching and treating the disease.

  • Learning from the relaunch of outdoor athletic practices, the Toddler Twos daycare program, and Camp Cavalier summer camps.

As we plan the return to school, please know that safety and academic excellence remain primary design drivers for us. To that end, our summer goals remain designing a healthy campus through prevention, detection, and response, as well as further strengthening our academic programs by focusing on: time, space, and methodologies. Here are a few key understandings behind our strategy:

  1. Our strategy comes first from our mission, not a checklist of guidelines from the state.  Augusta Prep’s mission includes a commitment to students who embrace personal responsibility, global perspective, and service to others. As we navigate reopening school with COVID-19 circulating in the local community, with faculty and families traveling to areas with higher rates of infection, and with no vaccine available yet, we are asking every member of the Prep community to embrace the personal responsibility to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in order to protect high risk individuals at school and those that live with those individuals when they return home.  

  2. Our strategy also puts safety at the forefront and relies on experts and practitioners and common sense, not fear. We look to 

    • maximize social distancing within our buildings, 

    • increase use of outdoor spaces, 

    • continue increased sanitation efforts, 

    • encourage good hygiene and 

    • when social distancing is not feasible, difficult to maintain, or is developmentally inappropriate, have students and employees wear face coverings

By the end of next week we will issue more detailed updates to families regarding:

  • Requirements for testing for employees and procedures for any symptomatic community members

  • Increased ability to allow for social distancing on our 55 acres and within our 150,000 square feet

  • Modification of programs and events in compliance with crowd size and social distancing guidelines

  • Sanitizing and cleaning processes

  • Use of masks during certain events

  • Changes to visitor and campus access for visitors and parents

  • Continued use of online and virtual platforms in conjunction with in-person learning when necessary

We appreciate the trust and patience parents continue to show to the leadership team here at Prep. We hope you all enjoy these last four weeks of summer, and we look forward to seeing you all on campus again this fall!

Post #10: The Now and The Next (June 5th, 2020)

The Now. This has been a productive, but somber, week for me personally.  I am thrilled by the progress already made by our "sprint teams" (project groups) towards reopening in person this fall, and yet I am crestfallen by the events regarding the deaths of African-American citizens at the hands of law enforcement across the country, culminating in the recent death of George Floyd. And I have been saddened by the feelings of helplessness that have followed...


Then I was awestruck by these words from my pastor in a recent email: 

It is time to refuse to accept our own indifference ("It's not my problem"), claims of innocence ("I'm not a racist"), minimizing the issue ("All lives matter") and willful helplessness ("There's nothing I can do").


Of course, WE as members of a school community are not helpless.  Legendary educator John Dewey stated, "The object of a democratic education is not merely to make an individual an intelligent participant in the life of [their] immediate group, but to bring the various groups into such constant interaction that no individual, no economic group, could presume to live independently of others."  Dewey's words fit nicely alongside our mission statement, which calls us to educate engaged students who embrace personal responsibility, global perspective, and service to others.  We are all one interdependent tribe, with each member personally responsible for the success of all of us as a peaceful and thriving democratic society.  One of our core beliefs states; “We believe that our students should be instilled with the values of interdependency and respect and responsibility for self and others.”


To that end, Prep has much room for growth in the work of diversity, inclusion, and equity--in developing cultural competencies in our faculty, staff and graduates.  I base my opinion on years of work in this area at my previous school and knowing the work being done within the National Association of Independent Schools.  


Effective immediately, I empowered our Global Connections Program Coordinator, Tara Chokshi, to assemble a new cultural competency "sprint team" to start work this summer, and in my mind the work involves:

1. Crafting Prep's web page regarding diversity and inclusion.

2. Developing new programs to support students and families of color (or other affinity groups).

3. Planning faculty training after Mrs. Chokshi attends the online NAIS Diversity Leadership Institute later this month.

4. Planning student attendance (likely online) at the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference this fall and empowering them to lead work with our Middle School kids when they return.

5. Doubling down on curriculum review with our Curriculum Oversight Committee to ensure that all our students see themselves in the Prep curriculum.

6. Working with Dr. Kara Deaner on integration of student training in this area into the existing Olweus Bullying Prevention program.

Next month, my communication will focus on The Next, our work to reopen school in August.

Post #9: Living our Mission in Times of Crisis (April 29th, 2020)

The last six weeks since my last blog post (scroll down) have been a blur.  We started our transition to online schooling on March 16th due to the COVID-19 pandemic reaching our area.  The pandemic has challenged our entire community and created much anxiety about the future.  Regardless of the personal impacts to the lives of Prep families, I have been inspired by those who put others first.


Whether in person or remotely, we will always aim to live our mission to develop the intellect, talents, and character of our well-rounded, engaged students who embrace personal responsibility, global perspective, and service to others.  When I think of community service, I think more of developing relationships with partners and working together to improve their situation--I think less of hours, gifts, and money.  


It is almost impossible for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other to serve others or with partners at this moment.  Regardless of this challenge, there are Prep community members who are work daily to serve others:

  • Parent Cat Marley who has sewn hundreds of face masks for others.

  • Teacher Lauren Ivey, who is using the school’s 3D printer and working with The on printing the medical face masks that they have tested and are pending FDA approval. She is also printing "ear savers" and distributing to doctors in the community.  

  • Parent Scott Thorp, Associate Vice President for Research and Chair of the Department of Art and Design at Augusta University, who is helping pull together an interdisciplinary team of scientists and artists to develop 3D-printed face shields for clinical staff at a local hospital.

  • Parent Nadia El Sayed who helped lead a Prep food donation effort to feed local public school children on weekends before the crisis and continues to collect food donations to supply to families impacted by the crisis.

  • Parent Amy Nesbit (alum ‘89) and daugher “E” (Class of ‘22) who have been delivering boxed meals to children who get free lunch and breakfast at school in Richmond County.

  • All our parents, grandparents, alumni and friends who are first responders, nurses, health care workers, and physicians serving on the front lines of this pandemic here and across the nation.


We as a school also continue to look for ways to serve the Prep and greater Augusta communities:

  • We donated science department personal protective equipment (PPE) to a local Augusta University outpatient clinic.

  • We donated the contents of our concession stand and snack lockers to food bank programs and needy families.

  • We set up the Prep Marketplace, and if you own a business and need support in these trying times, you can still fill out this brief questionnaire.  Prep-family-owned business information is displayed on a new web page on our website under Support Prep.

  • We have and will continue to offer parent webinar resources about dealing with the crisis:

    • Parenting in a Time of Crisis (April 2)

    • How Should We Talk About College Now? (April 16)

If you missed these, you may view the recordings and presentation slides on the SAIS site.

  • Middle and Upper School students are now penpals with high-risk elderly residents at Brandon Wilde who are shut in due to the pandemic.


I want us to continue to live up to our mission statement. If you have other inspiring stories from our Prep community or ideas for how we, as a school, can serve the greater Augusta community, please share them with me! 

Post #8: Divided and United (March 16th, 2020)
I had the honor of joining the Leadership County Chamber of Commerce Executive Forum in early March. This program was designed as a two and a half day crash course on the economy, government, military, history, and future of Columbia County and the region. Being new to the area, it was also a great chance for me to meet and network with other civic and business leaders across the CSRA.

I was impressed by the commitment of leaders in the area to market the CSRA as an economic unit.  Augusta is not a large city, and there are no large cities in Columbia County, so it is critical the diverse region is marketed to new businesses as a whole.  Prep serves students from all over the CSRA (scroll down to read post #4) and so we are an asset to this economic unit.

While this regional economic unity is impressive, I have learned of some problematic divisions within the area: 

Natives vs. NFAs (Not From Augusta)

UGA vs. GT

Richmond County vs. Columbia County

Downtown vs. Suburbs

Augusta (GA) vs. North Augusta (SC)

Tradition vs. Innovation

Willie Jewell’s BBQ vs. Sconyers BBQ

So, how might we as a school community overcome such local distinctions that might divide us? First, I hope we remain focused on providing the best education in the region for our students.  Second, I hope we remain focused on the mission (see post #4) as it is unique in the CSRA and it is what unites us. 

Our diversity is a strength (much has been written recently on the value of diversity in business organizations)--I hope we can all stay focused on what unites us in an era that has seen our nation become more and more divided.  WE ARE CAVALIERS!

Addendum: Yet another force has attempted to divide us since I first had the idea and drafted this blog post: the COVID-19 global pandemic.  While we are temporarily physically separate, I hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe!

Post #7: Changing the College Conversation (February 25th, 2020)

Regardless of the current division your oldest child is enrolled, you know the end of the journey at Prep means a transition to college for your child. If you have not yet been through a college search with your child(ren), you may find it a crazy and confusing process--in some ways simpler than the search process we went through, in some ways more complex.  A few weeks ago I wrote this letter to our current eighth grade (rising ninth grade) parents and I want to share it with you: 

6 February 2020

Dear Eighth Grade Parents,

I hope this finds you well. Monica Messner and Andy Gyves, Upper School Head, have been sharing stories with me from recent high school transition meetings, and it has me excited for you knowing you will soon be watching your child start the final leg of his or her journey here at Prep. Having just recently lived this journey and placed my own two very different children in two very different universities, I am empathetic that this new stage of life brings new stress for you and your child.

Having worked in schools for twenty-five years, I know there is some sense that “now it really counts” with this transition to high school. If this is your oldest child you will feel the pressure to help them build a flawless resume. This pressure is the unintended impact of what has become a crazy college process--one much different than we went through. There is value in stumbling and falling: that is how we all learned to walk. Yet, it is so hard to be patient with watching teenagers manage new challenges and learn from them when we, as parents, already see four years down the road. Have you or your child already plotted the one path to one choice? There are hundreds of incredible four-year schools out there, and likely more than one is a great fit for your child’s temperament, work ethic, outside interests, and future dreams.  

To better prepare you for this four-year journey ahead, we are trying a few new things with this eighth grade class. First, if you have had your transition meeting already then you have seen the Prep Forward four-year planning tool developed by our Upper School College Guidance and Advising Team. We want to encourage you and your child to look at the next four years from a strategic perspective and not simply live it one year at a time during course registration. Second, enclosed in this package you will find the book Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, by Frank Bruni. The author does a good job explaining today’s “admissions mania” and how you as a parent might avoid its pitfalls. I encourage you to read sooner than later and prepare yourself on how to ease anxieties your student(s) will face as they try to find a best fit. By best fit, I mean the two or three places they and you think they will thrive. 

Augusta Prep continues to be the finest college preparatory school in the CSRA. Our emphasis on your students' academic, personal and social development prepares them not just for college admission, but college success. Each year, every senior is able to choose their best-fit option from a number of college offers of admission.  We have loved having your childI hope we have the honor of walking the next leg of this journey with you.

Best Regards,
Derrick D. Willard
Head of School

So, I shared this letter with you now--hopefully well in advance of the college journey so you can read, research, and have a plan. At Prep, we continue to plan to start this conversation with you around seventh grade, but know our skilled College Guidance professional, Jonathan Stroud, is glad to connect with you any time at

Note: Our Head of School Book Club is discussing this book this week and next (sign up here)!

Post #6: Reflections and Resolutions (January 17th)
In my last blog post (scroll down to #5 below) I expressed joy for being able to serve as the Head of School and gratitude for all the people who have made this first six months on the job so special.  After having a few weeks over the break to reflect further on the fall semester, I thought I would celebrate some achievements in this post.

Since taking the job on July 1, 2019, I have worked with the senior leadership team to focus on
adding value, adding students, and adding accolades to this great school community. We celebrate:

And we resolve to make 2020 an even better year at Prep!

Post #5: Joy and Gratitude (December 20th)
I was sitting in the office writing this blog post on the last day of school of the 2019 calendar year and was trying to reflect on my first six months on the job…seemed a good time for reflection as soon it will be 2020 and a “new” year.

Struggling to organize my thoughts, I clicked on my @augustaprephead Instagram account and what I saw brought me great joy and gratitude for...

A fabulous group of faculty and staff...

Successful alumni who come back to campus...


A super supportive Booster Club...

And a super supportive Parent League...
parent league

A successful accreditation visit...

An incredible Giving Tuesday (and beating Westminster)...
Giving Tuesday

And all the wonderful students with whom I get to see work and at play everyday!

I hope you have a Happy Holiday Season and I look forward to seeing you and your children back at Prep in 2020!

Post #4: Mission Driven (November 15th)

One of the things that drew me to Prep is the mission: Augusta Preparatory Day School develops the intellect, talents, and character of each student in a diverse, college-preparatory, non-sectarian, and welcoming community of life-long learners. We are committed to educating well-rounded, engaged students who embrace personal responsibility, global perspective, and service to others. In this month’s blog post, I would love to break down the mission and provide some thoughts about how we might better live up to it.

The first sentence, to me, is more about the what and how we do what we do.  What do we do? We develop intellect, talents, and character--a whole child approach.  While the sign on Flowing Wells Road touts “A Tradition of Academic Excellence,” know that talents and character also matter.  In fact, during our recent survey of our parents, we received feedback that confirms the importance of developing talents and character!

parent answeres

How do we do it? We have a caring, talented faculty who work with students in small classes within a diverse and inclusive community.  We are the only non-sectarian (so not affiliated with a particular church or religion) in the Augusta area. Our school attracts curious and creative students from all across the CSRA! In addition to this geographic diversity (see map below), we have a diversity of socioeconomic status, ethnic groups, religious affiliations and ability groups.



The second sentence is why we exist.  We look to graduate students who embrace personal responsibility, global perspective, and service to others.  I have been most impressed by the “freedom with responsibility” that is granted to our students.  One example of students developing personal responsibility is the freedom granted to Upper School students during study hall.  You will find students spread out across campus diligently working away on school work.  

How do you teach someone to embrace a global perspective?  One way to impart a global perspective is to send students out into the world and we have added summer travel offerings.  Another means to accomplish this part of the mission is to bring the world to Prep--look for us to bring exchange students to the school in the coming year from Australia, China, and Denmark.  Yet another way to impart a global perspective is through who we hire. Did you know about 10% of our faculty was born outside the USA? We have faculty members born in England, Germany, Peru, Uruguay, India, Japan and Hong Kong!  Next week, which is International Education Week, we will add the flags of all those faculty native countries to the American flags around the “teardrop.”

born outside of U.S.

Additionally, about 30% of our faculty have been stationed or lived abroad for a least a year.

stationed outside of U.S.  

Furthermore, almost 80% of our faculty have traveled outside the USA.  The list of locations is impressive: France, Spain, Italy, England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Japan, Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Israel, India, China, Switzerland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Morocco, Uruguay…and that is not even half the list!

travel outside of U.S.

The final piece of our why, is providing service to others. I have seen students in every division engaged in community service.  Regardless of what we are currently doing, I noted this is also an area of improvement as identified by you parents in our recent survey.


So, we are currently compiling a list of all service activities and beneficiaries to have a better sense of how well we are living up to this part of the mission.  I would love to see Prep be the school with the “big heart” and use our many hands to make an even bigger impact in the CSRA!

Post #3: It’s About Relationships (Oct. 16)

In my first blog post, I discussed the partnership that exists between the school and parents.  In this blog post, I would like to drill down into an essential part of that partnership: the relationship between teacher and student.  There is an old saying in education, “they don’t care what you know until they know you care.” School is a relational business at its core.  When a teacher really gets to know a student, then they can get them to stretch that much further and that is when growth occurs.

I know each School Division Head has been exploring teacher-student relationships with faculty during monthly meetings this fall.  After reading a recent compilation of Upper School teacher reflections about how teachers know students feel connected to them, I felt compelled to share some of those quotes…

“I know by how comfortable they are just “hanging out” in my room.  Often times we will laugh and chat together, but also the student will simply find their “place” in here, and they know that I am totally fine with it and love that they are here.  I make sure they know that above all...they are loved, accepted for who they are, and that I enjoy their company.”

“If they offer up an unsolicited personal story of their day/week/etc. I’d say they see me as more than just someone that grades their tests.”

“I would say the biggest sign to me is that they seek interactions outside of normal class time.  I have students come in the morning and after school to chat with me. Some of them do not even have a class with me this year.  The fact that they (seek me out) just to chat with me indicates that they must feel some connection with me. I also have students, past and present, emailing me comments and articles they think may interest me.  That goes above and beyond any classroom obligation. I think that when they want to spend time with you, they are demonstrating that they feel they have a connection with you.”

“You get an invitation to their wedding.”

As someone who has spent two and a half decades in education and as someone just joining this community, I feel buoyed by such reflections of what relationships are like in our Upper School.  I imagine I can find similar stories from the other two Divisions too. I have heard so many parents talk about how they value the quality academic program at Prep. I know that these types of teacher-student relationships are the bedrock on which such a tradition of excellence is built.

Post #2: Known Water, New Water (Sept. 9)

Preface: I was recently asked to write a piece about my transition to a new position at a new school for a website called Well Schooled: The site for educator storytelling. This is that piece of writing.

Known Water, New Water


Canadian statesman and author John Buchan penned the only quote displayed on my office wall: “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” My love affair with both fishing and education started with and continues to be driven by this idea. Every new cast I make holds the hope of a great fish; every new class I teach holds the hope of continued growth for each child; every new year I lead holds the hope of something new and exciting in the life of my school.


Educator from the Start

I was raised by two career public school educators. Much as I imagine a fish cannot remember a time without water, I cannot remember a time without school. In my small North Carolina town, I was known as “Coach Willard’s son” or “Ma Willard’s kid.” Both of my parents were beloved teachers at our one and only county high school. 


My life in education began by listening to discussions of school politics at the dinner table, helping my football coach dad put stickers on football helmets, and running up and down the long halls of Scotland High School. I could never get away from connections to my parents or to school life. My pediatrician knew my dad, who taught and coached his two boys. When I totaled my dad’s car, the policeman chuckled a bit because, as a former student of my dad’s, he anticipated the reaction my dad would have once he knew I was not hurt. 


For a time, I escaped my small town for college and military service and broke free from the lure of academic life. But just when I thought I was headed for something other than education as a career after my first year of teaching, the former Dean of Students at Davidson College invited me to his house, cooked me a meal, and explained why I should stick with it. And I did. 


Learning to Read the River

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I took up fly fishing at the same time I started teaching high school. I instantly took to fly fishing because it requires following an intricate set of problem-solving steps involving selecting the right fly for the moment, reading the ever-changing river current, and delivering a precise cast to present the fly to the fish without spooking the fish. Fly fishing is also the one thing I can do and lose all track of time. If you are familiar with the concept of “flow,” then it is on a river that I am in that zone. 


Not unlike fly fishing, working with others to solve complex problems has always fascinated and satisfied me. I have been fortunate to have had wonderful mentors in the education field who helped me to “read the river” — selecting the right fly, making the next cast in my career. Over the last 25 years, each of these sponsors and mentors has helped shape my leadership style. In every phase of my life, a teacher or mentor recognized my potential and encouraged me to pursue “the next step” even when I did not see the opportunity in front of me. Not long after I started teaching in a private school, the Head of School asked me to be the Honor Council Chair. A few years later, that same leader encouraged me to earn a Master Degree in Educational Leadership at nearby Winthrop University. Another Head of School sponsored and mentored me on my most recent journey to become a Head of School myself.


Casting for Promise, Catching Hope

While all my mentors imparted sound advice on leadership, I do not recall any of them saying “make sure you have a hobby.” But it is great advice, and I give it to anyone I mentor: Find an activity you can lose yourself in periodically. The work in schools can be emotionally draining, and the ability to lose myself in another activity has strengthened my own well-being. 


I am often struck by the insights that come after being “lost” in my hobby. On a recent fishing trip, I reflected on spending 22 years at the same school and anticipating my first headship this year. My fishing buddies and I had chosen to float a stretch of “known” water in the morning — water we had fished many times over the years. The fishing was fabulous. 


In the afternoon, we decided to push into “new” water — water we had not rowed and fished before. Within the first half mile we came upon a gorgeous waterfall we had never seen (see photo above)! We landed a few big fish and soaked up the scenery. As the afternoon heat set in, however, we caught fewer and fewer fish. Soon we realized the lower end of our journey was through a lake that dropped 30 feet due to a leak in the dam — the shores were littered with weeds and decaying docks. Worse, we had a really tough hour and a half rowing out to the boat ramp in 90-degree heat. Regardless of the hardships of the afternoon, we happily pulled the boat on the trailer and drove back to the cabin for a relaxing night on the back porch grilling steaks and telling stories.


After the trip, it occurred to me that, although I like the comfort of known water, I am excited by the unknown of new water. Unknown water may bring harsh trials and hard work, but it also brings hope. What could be more invigorating as a new Head of School than embracing daily all these “occasions for hope”? I am so thankful that my hobby and profession satisfy a passion to pursue what is “elusive but attainable” both in a stream and in a school.

Post #1:  A Fresh Start  

Well, it is the eve of a new school year. Excitement is building at school as faculty are back preparing their spaces and lessons, coaches preparing their fields and strategies, support staff preparing their plans and purchases--all we need is the students.  

This is a fresh start for me as the new Head of School at Augusta Prep. This is a fresh start for your student(s). We will all face new challenges which are opportunities for growth. I am very mindful you parents will also face new challenges as your children move up a grade or division and into new stages of development. 

In the spirit of the Augusta Prep core belief that “That a quality education involves a partnership between home and school,” I thought I would offer some parental “homework.” After 24 years in education, I have found some wonderful reads that have informed my practice as a professional and as a parent (of two independent school graduates). Wait? Did I just write parental homework? Yes. Let me explain...

We all come to this parenting journey with a range of skills and a variety of mentors. How does one get this right? It is hard. Each stage of life brings different challenges you must face. We want to be good partners with you in this journey. That is part of what we mean by “Prep for Life.”

Lower School parents: I recommend a few titles for you to consider this fall. First, consider the The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Timeless Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children, by Dr. Wendy Mogel. This is a classic by the well-published clinical psychologist leaning on wisdom of Jewish teachings, but is wonderful advice for folks from any ethnic or religious persuasion (I promise as I have heard her speak twice). If that title does not pique your interest, then consider Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv. While I am not sure I subscribe to his hypothesis of “nature-deficit disorder,” I do admire his analysis of the factors of modern life that tend to keep our kids indoors and the potential impacts that has on children.

Middle School parents: This may seem a stretch, but I recommend you read How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid For Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims. A former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University, she draws on her experiences with students and parents as well as research to caution against “overparenting.” I have heard her speak and she presents simple advice to prepare your child to self-advocate and learn sufficiency long before you send them off to college. If that title does not appeal to you as it seems too far away, then try Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills MATTER MORE Than Grades, Trophies, or “Fat Envelopes", by Dr. Madeline Levine. I have seen Dr. Levine speak, and she brings thirty years of clinical experience to the table along with the latest research.

Upper School parents: Well, you are in the thick of the college match journey. I really feel your angst as I have just recently travelled this road with my two college students. Please consider Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges, by Loren Pope. Have you or your child already plotted the one path to one choice? If so, I challenge you to read this book and investigate options you may not have ever considered. After reading this book, my wife and I encouraged our son to look at a few in person and he found a perfect fit. Or, consider the newer title Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, by Frank Bruni. While I have not read this book yet, I am intrigued by it given good reviews and having watched the process change (and become corrupted) over the last two decades. Having just survived two college searches, I encourage you to prepare yourself to ease anxieties your student(s) will face as they try to find a best fit. By best fit, I mean the two or three places they and you think they will thrive.

So, again I challenge you to take on some homework yourself this year. You will model the life-long learning we promote in the Prep mission statement and you may find something to help develop or reinforce your parenting strategy. I would love to partner with our Parent League on a book group for each division this year - I would love to read along and participate in small group discussions with you around any of the challenges for each stage. In that spirit, please click here to select the title you would be most interested in reading along with me and discussing over coffee. We look to announce the results in the coming weeks and get started in October.

Hey, we are in this together!



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