Craig Gemmell: A Final Head of School Reflection

Craig Gemmell: A Final Head of School Reflection
Craig Gemmell

My head and heart were both feeling particularly full as I walked to work this stunning late spring morning. I had time blocked out to write a blog and felt like I have so much to process, so much to say that I didn’t quite know where to begin. 

I suppose I should begin with the beginning—with the day of my first walk to my office on my first day of work on July 1, 2015. 

As I walked on the Lamb Green path I wondered how I had gotten here—how it had all happened. I wondered why I was the one picked for this job. I was, I suppose, terrified.

Upon arriving at my office that first day, I reviewed a beautifully thoughtful note from my predecessor, Mike Cooper, who offered some important insights, a cartography of the files he left me, and instructions on winding the old clock in my office. 

So, after reviewing Mike’s note, my first official act was to wind the clock. 

After that initial winding and upon returning from visiting all of the offices and employees who were on campus that first day, I sat and just listened to the clock tick while staring out at the vastness of the lake, unsure about what exactly I should do next. 

Flash forward five years and 347 days, and though the clock now goes unwound for long stretches, times certainly have changed. Most importantly, I’ve come to understand and deeply love the promise of this school, and it is this matter of promise that has come to drive me.

I suppose I use “promise” doubly—the promise we make and the promise we have. 

The promise we make to kids, families, our community, and the broader world is simple in conception and is embedded in our mission statement: Brewster prepares diverse thinkers for lives of purpose. Clean, clear, directive, wildly different than any other independent school mission statement I’ve seen. Part of the reason my office clock has been serially neglected is because delivering on this simple promise—and thus on our mission—requires immense attention even when the sailing is smooth. There is never enough time—so why bother winding the clock? Throw something like COVID-19 in the mix and keeping this promise is an all-hands-on-deck 24/7 endeavor. 

The promise we have has become ever clearer to me and is embedded in our vision statement: an approach to learning that has the exponential power to transform education, communities, and the lives of students in our care. Exponential power—raising a number to another number in turn producing a vastly greater number—seems quite abstract. But it becomes very real gazing into the future and imagining the exponential virtue of having more kids and more communities influenced by the power of a Brewster education. The other reason my office clock has been serially neglected is because we’ve met with surprising success as we’ve sought to scale our influence, and the Madrid campus is slated to open in 26 months. 

Any success we’ve had as a school over this past stretch is due to our wonderful students, their families, our faculty and staff, and the Brewster administration—all of the constituencies for whom I’ve worked. I’ve been particularly blessed to work most closely with a team of people who are extraordinary. 

Kristy Kerin, Brewster’s thirteenth Head of School, is one of those extraordinary people. She believes as mightily in the dual promise of this school as I do and is unquestionably the most talented and well-prepared incoming head of school I’ve ever met. She will, without question,  seamlessly move into her new role in a few weeks, and I will be here to support and help in any way I can. 

As I chart my next few weeks, I’ll not need to leave her copious instructions since she and I are merely switching offices. Instead, I’ll need to just give that aging clock a careful wind. 

And as I chart my next years, I feel unbridled excitement. I get to remain embedded in this wonderful community, watch Kristy soar as Head of School, and work to build out a network of schools that will amplify the effect of Brewster Academy’s mission and render our dear school in Wolfeboro ever stronger for the next 200 years and beyond. What a gift.

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