Headmaster’s Thoughts – October 2006

Children do not like change. Not a very deep thought, I will agree, but worth remembering at schools.

It would seem there are a lot of changes at other schools nowadays. The average life of a headmaster is about six years. Changes are made so that “new dimensions with new matrices accompanied by new…” You get the picture. There is always fanfare about new directions and new leaders. So it is worth repeating that children do not like, or do well, with change. Schools are not the windows at Bloomingdale’s. I understand the need to change the display in their windows; seasons change, fashions change. But schools are different. A school is like a home. Administrators are like uncles or aunts. No child likes to change his or her home (my children complained if we changed a carpet), and we don’t change aunts and uncles.

You may have noticed that, at York, we don’t change. In fact, I think parents are getting worried about me. I am scared to cough in their presence lest they think I am too decrepit to do the job. This is my thirty-eighth year (don’t do the math; it is really depressing). Jayme was three when we started the school. I was twenty-five married to a three-year-old. A year later, Robert Reese and Robin Stark joined us. He taught science, and she taught art. He is still the head of the Science Department (as well as the school psychologist), and Robin is still head of the Art Department (as well as Upper School Dean). A few years later, Neal Neuhaus joined us to teach math (and, of course, is head of the Math Department). In fact, all of our administrators (Chris Durnford, Joyce Perley, Robin, Robert, Jayme and myself) are the only administration known to every student currently at York. We haven’t changed since we moved to our present site in 1997.

I notice at Orientation the sense of comfort our students have at being re-introduced to their teachers. We have very little turnover of faculty (less than ten percent), and what turnover we have is due to life changes (pregnancy being the chief one). Teachers don’t leave us to teach somewhere else in New York. The students rightfully rejoice in seeing the same people, whether it is Carl, the friendly guard, or the department heads, who are all the same as last year.

Jayme has told me never to talk negatively about the future. These three-year-old brides are rarely practical. She wants me to assure you that we will all be the same, doing our magic, with same magician faculty, for the life of your child at York and any other younger siblings you have. We may need the help of our totally unpredictable elevator more (it goes up when you think it should be going down). I already need Chris to introduce by name our 62 faculty members to our 322 students, though Carl is still calling me “general” and not yet “field marshal.” One day, I will have to break it to him that I never was a general. In other words, for many, many years, York Prep will be the same glorious group of uncles and aunts, led by child brides and doting ethics teachers. If you have grandchildren, we could stay a little longer.

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

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