On Being an Interim

Coming to KUA as an Interim Head has been one of the major highpoints in my career. I’m delighted to be a newbie in ISANNE and appreciate the good wishes from my new colleagues; I certainly learned a lot at the fall conference.

I have been the long-term Head at four schools for a total of 28 years, so this is year 29 as Head of something. Being an Interim is different than being a “real” head; I feel more like a grand consultant, albeit with some authority. I am, of course, the oldest person on campus; this is not an unmitigated advantage because some people may think I’m too old to be current. Most, however, are interested to know how other schools do something or how they did it “in the olden days.” Students often offer to carry my backpack, and they all open doors and offer me a hand on the icy paths of this NH hillside. I’m learning to accept this help and give up the façade of “I’m not old enough to be helped.”

So, what do we old people know? I think we have learned to listen, to let the younger teachers or administrators work out something for themselves – not too often to say “I’ve seen it all, and this will or won’t work.”  I try to wait to be asked for an opinion. When a faculty debates semesters or trimesters, for example, I have seen three schools change from one to another- if there were a perfect segmenting of the year, we’d all do it the same. I keep my mouth shut for as long as I can!

The mission of the school is what is important, not the dividing of weeks or the changing of the grading system or even the decisions to stop playing football or to start teaching coding. What matters is the passion with which we ask young people to think and to analyze and to create and occasionally to re-consider their own choices. We all want the same things; we all want our young people to be positive, to make a difference, to appreciate each other, to respect all people. Older people can offer perspective, can temper anxiety, and can always encourage and praise and lead the cheers.

Joining KUA for a year has been a profound privilege and a marvelous gift. I have connected with a supremely dedicated faculty, completely engaged adults and wonderfully curious kids – incidentally the happiest teenagers I have ever known. I believe I have started at the TOP of the interim world, and I’ll always be grateful. Thanks, KUA and thanks ISANNE.

About The Author

Pam Clarke

Interim Head of School, Kimball Union Academy

Pam’s boarding school experience extends from her own schooling to that of a boarding school parent, faculty member (first female faculty member at Groton School), and into administration. In each of Pam’s four Head of School roles (with successful tenures at The Masters School, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, Trevor Day School, and most recently Doane Stuart), she has strengthened academic programs, increased enrollment, led strategic plans, and supported relationships between and among faculty, current families, and alumni.

Pam recognizes that an Interim Head of School “wants both to preserve the best of the school’s culture and to improve those areas that need attention,” and is committed to supporting a school culture of respect, student safety, and that all members of the community feel accepted and welcomed. We look forward to Pam’s oversight of the day-to-day operations of Kimball Union, where the academic and social curricula merge to support the growth of every student. The Academy continues to advance its programming with the introduction of a STEM Scholar Program, adding to the robust Global and Art Scholar programs. Leadership training for all students and extensive extracurricular options in the arts and athletics round out a thorough 21st Century education.