HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM CHRIS LAURICELLA
Dear Albany Academies *Friends,
I am so thrilled! While a few months have passed since my appointment as Head of School-elect of The Albany Academies, I find myself growing increasingly excited as each passing day draws me closer to this new professional adventure. My anticipation will finally become reality in a little less than six months, but until then I would like to further introduce myself, reflect on what draws me to the Academies, and sketch out some principles that will guide my transition.
Who I Am. A formal version of my biography and educational philosophy is available on The Albany Academies’ website, but the short version is that I am, first and foremost, an educator. I believe deeply that this is what I am meant to be and have joyfully spent my professional life in schools helping create cultures that transform children’s lives. I am passionate about this work, fully engaging it with both my head and my heart.
I do this for deeply personal reasons, as a series of unfortunate events in my own childhood and adolescence could have easily derailed me from realizing my full potential. Yet I have the privilege of writing this letter to you because the teachers in my life would not let that happen. Instead they nurtured me both intellectually and emotionally, nudged me along an upward trajectory, and turned my life and my work into a testament to the transformational power of a high-quality education.
This duality is fitting because in many ways heading an independent school is more like a lifestyle than a career, which is particularly true when one’s entire family is intimately involved in the life of the school. As newly-minted Albany Academies’ parents, my wife Kristin and I are very excited about the new adventures that await our daughter, Josephine ’20, and son, Tristan ’22. We are particularly eager to immerse ourselves in campus and community life and fully exploring all that Albany has to offer.
Why The Albany Academies? I was originally attracted to the opportunity to lead the Academies because of the very fine people who represented the School in the independent school sector. This attraction grew stronger as I came to know the Board of Trustees and leadership team. Selecting a new leader is an important process, and the Board, Search Committee, and Search Support Committees did an exceptional job with it. I was, and continue to be, consistently impressed by all of the people who were so thoughtfully and passionately engaged in this search. Their love for The Albany Academies -- The Albany Academy and Albany Academy for Girls -- is obvious and infectious, and as I became more deeply immersed in the search process it became quite clear to me that the Academies were an excellent match for me as a leader.
Fortunately the feeling was mutual, and I now have the opportunity to build upon the strong foundation that Dr. North and his leadership team have developed over the last eight years. Since my appointment I have had some opportunities to get to know Doug and his Cabinet and am continually impressed by their dedicated leadership.
Being New. As I begin to focus on my impending transition, the Board of Trustees is following best practices for headship transitions and have put in place both a transition committee and made available external consultants dedicated to helping me create a smooth and seamless transition. With this support in place, I have begun to build an entry plan guided by four principles that served me very well as a new Head of School a decade ago:
Primum Non Nocere (First, Do No Harm). I borrow the opening sentiment of the Hippocratic Oath in order to honor and acknowledge The Albany Academies’ unique culture and history. I intend to become steeped in this culture and history before attempting to add to it, and I am eager to meet alumnae and alumni, students, teachers, staff, and parents to hear your stories, and see The Albany Academy and Albany Academy for Girls through your eyes.
Put First Things First. In explaining this concept, author Steven Covey draws a distinction between tasks that are important and tasks that are urgent. “Urgent things,” writes Covey, “act on us,” while important things, “contribute to your mission, your values, and your high priority goals.” It is essential for leaders to spend the bulk of their time attending to that which is important, rather than being consumed by that which is urgent. I suspect that my “first things first” at the Academies will include focusing on mission and core values; fundraising, enrollment management, and finances; and, most importantly, ensuring that each of the Academies’ students is well served.
Leadership Through Service. Servant leaders engage the whole community in discerning its core values and needs, craft a vision around these values and needs, and then lead the organization to realize this vision. This type of leadership is intensely relational and relies on strong partnerships with the entire School constituency – partnerships that are grounded in mutual respect, authenticity, integrity, hope, and trust. I will work hard to develop these relationships over time and encourage students, teachers, staff, parents, and alumni/ae to engage me in vigorous, ongoing dialogue about The Albany Academies’ strengths and opportunities for improvement.
Continuous Reflection, Learning, and Improvement. Effective schools often have little incentive to change. This is especially true when many of our outcomes and inputs – such as strong enrollment, students’ acceptance to competitive colleges, and satisfied alumni/ae – underscore the strength of our traditions. However, if we resist change, we may miss improvements that would prove highly beneficial to our students. I feel it is important that we maintain a community that is constantly reflecting upon what we do and is comfortable asking, “How can we do this better or differently?” or, “Is this worth doing at all?” and then takes action on the answers.
Finally, I believe it is vitally important for a Head of School to have a deep and abiding love for the school he or she leads. I believe that The Albany Academies are a place that I could easily fall in love with, and I’m eager to embrace the opportunities and challenges that comes with such a deep investment. With this in mind, I look forward to meeting many of you in the not so distant future. Until then, I can be reached at email@example.com should you wish to get in touch.
Christopher J. Lauricella
*For the last decade I have addressed my head’s letters, “Dear Friends.” I do so because many of the people to whom I write have become just that. I hope to continue this tradition.