Head Master Announcement
In February of 1996, with my wife Sheila and our six-month-old baby, I visited St. Andrew’s School as one of three finalists applying for Head Master. It was cold and snow was everywhere, not unlike today. I still remember walking around the campus, having lunch with students who were not sure about me, watching a very depressing varsity basketball game, and meeting the faculty and staff — many of them are still working at St. Andrew’s. After returning home to Pennsylvania, I was pleasantly surprised when I received word that I was hired for the position among such qualified candidates. I truly thought that this opportunity would be a short posting of five years and we would then move on to the next school. I remember running down a nearby road and reflecting upon the challenges I faced. Yet there is a spirit on this campus that is attractive―rooted in the notion that given the right place, kids can learn and improve. It was a spark that just had to be encouraged to ignite. There was a magical presence here.
In the 1970 movie Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman accompanies the old Native American leader who goes up to the Burial Ground to die. After a long ceremonial dance, he lies down on the funeral pyre to die and there is a long pause. Soon afterwards, it starts to rain and his eyes flutter open and he sits up. Dustin Hoffman asks, “What happened?” The old man says, “Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t.” That being said, well the magic works here at St. Andrew’s in so many ways because of what we all do to make it work.
And so here we are, 18 Februaries later, with a great campus, a wonderful faculty and staff and a student body whose spirit and joy at being a Saint is palpable. It has not been much of a secret that two years ago, I told key members of the Board that 2015 would be my last year. There was no sudden reason for this decision except that, with Sheila’s agreement, we felt that it was time. I believe you have to listen to yourself and to God (and your wife), and if you listen closely, there is no whirlwind answer, but a still small voice that says it is time.
Now schools are strange places, and one of those peculiarities is the timing of employment. We hire faculty midyear and they have to wait six months to begin work for the upcoming school year; we decide not to rehire some and they remain for six months to finish working the school year. Head of School positions are even worse because of the timing of searches and the demand for qualified individuals. The National Association of Independent School (NAIS) estimates that one third of Heads of Schools will step down in the next five years, and thus a search has to be started more than a year in advance. Today, I am formally announcing that Sheila and I will be leaving St. Andrew’s in June of 2015. This announcement has been mailed will be received by all our friends and families. A search committee chaired by Trustee David Brown ‘52 has begun the process by contracting with Storbeck/Pimental & Associates. They will conduct the search, attract candidates, and assist in the screening process. The tentative plan is to continue the process through the summer with a finalist named before Christmas.
In the meantime, I am not gone yet! There is much to be done including the construction of Bill’s House dormitory, the completion of the Building Our Community Capital Campaign, and lots and lots of other things. I truly look forward to the next 18 months of working with the St. Andrew’s community to continue making the school the very best it can be. A fellow colleague I know recently reminded me that as a Head of School, we control very little. But one thing we do get to do is to select our students, staff, and faculty alike. We have chosen well here at St. Andrew’s and I am very proud to say that I never go to work ― I always go to school.
John D. Martin