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Head of School Transition

Patrick Phillips - HPA Head of School

February 4, 2019 - The Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy board of trustees today announced the appointment of Patrick J. Phillips as the 12th head of school, effective July 1, 2019. 

Phillips comes to HPA most recently from Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a day school just outside Minneapolis for 1,100 students from preschool to grade 12. As assistant head of school for Breck, Phillips oversaw academic departments and the development of innovative curriculum; supervised the school’s five-year strategic plan; and guided the founding of the Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, a center dedicated to bridging research and practice for students, teachers, and parents.

While Phillips' career in education spans many roles and countries, consistent themes are woven throughout his work. These include the joy of helping children become multifaceted adults; the importance of striving toward continual improvement; a belief in the power of shared vision; and a desire to foster community. Adventurous by nature, he has been a restoration ecologist based in Manhattan and also a horse wrangler working in the Colorado Rockies.

Read more about our head of school designate in the menu items below. We are delighted to welcome the Phillips family into the HPA ‘ohana.

Patrick J. Phillips Bio

 

Patrick J. Phillips has been involved in education for his entire life. He spent his childhood on various school campuses around the United States as his parents taught in New Jersey and Colorado before settling in Minnesota. Destined to become an educator himself, Patrick graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in environmental studies and a minor in art history, and started his teaching career as an AP chemistry teacher and soccer and track coach in Fort Myers, Florida. He was awarded a Klingenstein Summer Teaching Fellowship at Columbia University where he met his wife, Ainslie, a Yale graduate and high school math teacher.  

Following the Klingenstein Fellowship, Patrick went on to teach and coach at The Potomac School in Washington, D.C. before deciding to go abroad. He served as dean of students and rugby coach at TASIS Switzerland from 1998 to 2000 while Ainslie taught math and headed the Middle School program. After their oldest child was born, Patrick and Ainslie returned stateside, and Patrick earned his Ed.M. in school leadership at Harvard University. Patrick went on to serve as Upper School head at Westchester Academy (NC), Charlotte Country Day School (NC), Pine Crest School (FL), and TASIS England (UK). Most recently he has worked as assistant head of school at Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota, his own alma mater. At Breck he oversaw the school's strategic plan, Boldly Breck, and guided the founding of the Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, a center dedicated to bridging research and practice for students, teachers, and parents.

While Patrick's career in education spans many roles and countries, consistent themes are woven throughout his work. These include the joy of helping children become multifaceted adults; the importance of striving toward continual improvement; a belief in the power of shared vision; and a desire to foster community. Adventurous by nature, he has been a restoration ecologist based in Manhattan and also a horse wrangler working in the Colorado Rockies.

With a B.A. in environmental studies, Patrick has strengthened environmental education and sustainability efforts at multiple schools. He initiated Outward Bound trips at Canterbury School and Westchester Academy, leading students into the Ten Thousand Islands in southwest Florida and the Linville Gorge of North Carolina. At The Potomac School, he designed three different electives centered on environmental studies and science. He led Charlotte Country Day School to be one of the earliest members of the Green Schools Alliance and a leading proponent of the Green Cup Challenge.

Patrick and Ainslie have four children. Taylor (19) is a first-year student at Middlebury College in Vermont. Grayson (17), Cooper (13), and Riley (9) are looking forward to the upcoming move to Hawai’i, and the entire family is excited about joining the HPA community.  

Board Announcement Letter

 

February 4, 2019

Dear HPA ‘Ohana,

On behalf of the HPA board of trustees, I am delighted to announce that Patrick J. Phillips will become our 12th Head of School beginning July 1, 2019.

Patrick comes to us most recently from his own alma mater, Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota, where he was assistant head of school. The board unanimously agrees that HPA has found an inspired independent school educator whose experience aligns with HPA’s cherished values and future vision. Patrick is a passionate, decisive leader with a proven track record of developing programs and nurturing school community. He embraces HPA’s culture of ‘ohana and understands our opportunities for growth as a K-12 school located on this extraordinary island. We eagerly anticipate the energy he will bring and believe Patrick will help all of us generate positive, transformational change for HPA while preserving the ethos and traditions we deeply value.

Led by Co-Chairs Sam Pratt ’84 and David Zierk P’26, P’28, the head of school search committee selected Patrick from 85 candidates after a national and international search that was advised by Carney Sandoe & Associates. Hundreds of alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and students participated in this process that began in July 2018. Please join me in thanking Sam and David, along with Cathy Grant P’03, principal of the Lower School; Laura Jim ’91, P’16, P’19, Middle School faculty member; Greg McKenna, Upper School faculty member and dorm parent; and Hannah Springer, community leader and former HPA trustee. Their service to our ‘ohana has been irreplaceable.

Patrick has described himself as “born to be a teacher,” having grown up on various school campuses around the United States where his parents taught. He graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in environmental studies and a minor in art history, and started his teaching career as an AP chemistry teacher and soccer and track coach in Fort Myers, Florida. He was awarded a Klingenstein Summer Teaching Fellowship at Columbia University where he met his wife, Ainslie, a Yale graduate and high school math teacher. 

His career spans many roles and countries, including the Potomac School in Washington, D.C. and TASIS Switzerland where he served as dean of students from 1998 to 2000. After returning stateside to earn his Ed.M. in school leadership at Harvard University, Patrick went on to serve as Upper School head at Westchester Academy (NC), Charlotte Country Day School (NC), Pine Crest School (FL), and TASIS England (UK). 

Most recently at the Breck School, he oversaw the school’s strategic plan, Boldly Breck, and guided the founding of the Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, a center dedicated to bridging research and practice for students, teachers, and parents. With our sustainability plan process well underway, we are especially excited that Patrick has been a believer in environmental education since the beginning of his career.

I invite you to read more about Patrick’s background and experiences in his bio and in a Q & A series available on HPA’s website.

This is an exciting moment for HPA, rooted in our history, shaped by our strategic plan, and fueled by our emerging vision for sustainability. We anticipate a great future under Patrick’s leadership. Please join me in welcoming Patrick, Ainslie, and their four children, Taylor, Grayson, Cooper, and Riley into the HPA ‘ohana.

Sincerely,
Laurie T. Ainslie P’12, P’15
chair, HPA board of trustees

Q & A with Incoming Head of School Patrick J. Phillips

 

You were raised by two teachers and became an educator yourself. What lessons did you take from your parents and school life?

Until the age of 10, I lived on an independent school campus, immersed in the rhythms of the academic year, surrounded by other faculty children. Education was a daily topic in our home. My whole world was filled with school events—soccer games and art shows, alumni gatherings and school plays. My life was closely aligned with the life of the school, and I loved every moment.

With so many educators around me, the first thing I discovered about the best teachers is that they never rest on their laurels. I saw teachers constantly striving to be better at their craft, to reach more of their students and to make the material more accessible for everyone. I watched my own mother teach a full day in the classroom before heading off for graduate classes each night, earning her master’s degree in gifted and talented education. The best teachers I ever had were also the ones who knew that their classrooms had to evolve—that modeling continuous improvement was the best way to ensure that their students developed a habit of lifelong learning.

In addition, the great teachers that I met established a personal connection with their students. They came to the sporting events and the plays at school, they went to the bar mitzvahs and the Eagle Scout ceremonies off campus, and they knew when a student had gotten a new puppy or welcomed a baby sister into their home. Time and time again I have seen students light up when their teacher knew enough to ask how their dance competition had gone, how their grandmother was recovering, or how their article was coming along for the school paper. These teachers understand that students learn best when they are emotionally invested in the classroom.

 

Did your ideas about teaching shift when you became a parent yourself?

My perspective expanded early on when it became apparent to me that every moment as a parent is a teaching opportunity. Walking with our children through the grocery store, we had lessons on the price of carrots and the waste of bottled water; going to a museum we discussed what constitutes “art” and who gets to decide; road trips led to conversations about geography through license plate games. I also realized how quickly our children internalized our interactions with other people. Even something as simple as respectfully making eye contact with waiters influenced the way that our children played with each other and with their friends. It took me back to Ted and Nancy Sizer’s well-known book, The Students Are Watching, and I realized that children are constantly absorbing lessons from the people around them. If we wanted to raise our children to demonstrate kindness, resilience, and integrity, then we had to be very intentional about what we said and how we behaved in our daily lives.

 

You have described yourself as "a hockey-playing, opera-going science teacher who loves to read." How did that array of interests evolve in one person? 

Growing up in schools, I saw some incredibly multi-dimensional people—the football coach who was also an award-winning poet, the school nurse who ran a non-profit in her free time, the maintenance man who was a successful artist. My own father was an outstanding teacher and coach who often acted and sang in the school musicals. I learned that you can embrace many disparate interests without letting go of who you are.  

I started reading early on and still love to lose myself in a good book. Historical biographies, social psychology research, or just a great story—there is nothing more rewarding than spending an afternoon with a compelling book. As I grew older I discovered the joy of team sports, and hockey was the perfect one for me. I love the fluid motion, the quick changes from offense to defense, and the multiple options present in each moment.  

As an adult beginning my career in education, I knew that I wanted to teach science because of my own experiences as a student and because science lends itself to hands-on learning, or “learning by doing.” Later, I stumbled upon opera when arranging community outreach for our school. While I enjoyed the performances and the storylines, I was most struck when our oldest children (ages 9 and 7 at the time) were able to eloquently argue over the relative merits of The Marriage of Figaro as compared to Turandot. By allowing myself to be open to a new interest, I had opened a door for my children to investigate as well.  

Rather than discarding one interest to pursue another, I found that each of these activities layered upon the previous ones to create a new perspective for me. My early experiences in schools taught me that having many different passions allows us to be more complete, engaged human beings.

 

Does that influence your thinking about education in general? 

Absolutely. If we can nurture children who are equally interested in visiting an art gallery and attending an athletic event, then we have done our job. If these students also know the value of honesty, the importance of self-reflection, and the benefit of making the most of their education, then we have excelled. 

Similarly, successful schools provide a balanced sense of community across all divisions, departments, and disciplines. When the kindergarten teachers are excited about the Upper School soccer team’s success and the Middle School science teacher helps run the Lower School organic garden, everyone wins—and the school is stronger because of it. The most effective schools are ones where students and faculty are encouraged to try new things and find success, where academics, athletics, and the arts are equally valued, and where a fostered sense of community pervades the day-to-day life of the school. 

 

What have you enjoyed most about teaching and working in different countries?

Getting to immerse myself and my family in a new culture has been incredibly rewarding. I have learned about cultures different from my own and developed perspectives and had experiences that are broader and more informed than I ever could have hoped for. The world is filled with wonderful places to see, people to meet, and things to do. Being able to watch the sunrise on a beach in south Florida, stand in front of the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum in London, lead student trips through the mountains of North Carolina, and paint alongside students on a watercolor immersion trip to Venice has made my teaching career more varied and rewarding than I ever imagined would be possible.

 

Did you ever imagine you'd one day be leading a school in Hawai‘i?

I feel so fortunate to have found a school that is so aligned with my professional goals and priorities in such an amazing location. The fact that HPA talks about “honoring the traditions of Hawai’i” in the mission statement is important to me, because it makes it clear that the school understands and values its connection to the land, the landscape, and the culture.  

When we arrived on campus, the first person we met was Auntie Jo at the front gate. After a few minutes with her, my entire family was grinning from ear to ear. She positively radiated warmth and welcome to each one of us. Moments later, I saw the day students turning up for classes as the boarding students made their way down the hill. I could see from the way people greeted each other that this is a true community—a place where people know and value each other, where the feeling of belonging is palpable. It seems as if my entire career has been building to this moment, and I am glad that we will soon be “coming home” to HPA.

 

How do you plan to get to know HPA, Waimea, and Hawai‘i Island?

One of the most important things for a new head of school to do is to begin establishing relationships within the community. That means talking with students to learn about their interests; visiting classrooms to see teaching and learning in action; meeting individually with faculty, staff, and parents; connecting with alumni and with people in the local community. Much of my first few months will be spent meeting HPA people, listening to their stories and perspectives, and absorbing the culture, history, and traditions of the school and of the island. There will also be time spent exploring the beauty of the island itself—taking my own family as well as students to Papakolea to see the green sand beach, hiking Mauna Loa, and exploring Waipi’o Valley, of course, but also discovering some of the more out-of-the way gems such as kayaking the Kohala Ditch. For instance, we’ve already fallen in love with the amazing smoothies at What’s Shakin’, made with fruit grown right there on the property. That’s pretty hard to beat!

 

You've talked about the need for schools to be forward-thinking. What are the pressing challenges you see ahead for HPA and for independent schools in general?

It’s true that good schools need to be forward-thinking and continue to evolve. As Will Rogers said, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Independent schools across the country are focusing on their vision for the future and ways to clearly communicate the direction in which they wish to move. Without a shared plan for growth, schools run the risk of treading water rather than getting better. For HPA specifically, there is an opportunity to have community clarity around sustainability and to identify ways to be known as the independent school leader in this category. The upcoming sustainability plan will be vital in this regard and will help coalesce several different perspectives into actionable steps to move forward.  

In addition, great independent schools have to keep an eye on the evolution of teaching and learning. The recent developments in neuroscience and psychology have led to some amazing progress in the area of pedagogy and student empowerment. For example, the process of helping students understand themselves as learners and use that knowledge in approaching their studies has led to measurable gains in standardized test scores. When you consider the current work being done to rethink classroom practice, to reinvigorate professional development for faculty, and to reimagine the high school transcript, it becomes evident that education is in a moment of profound discovery and change that has the potential to lead to an even more powerful experience for our students. I find that exciting, challenging, and incredibly energizing.

 

Is it true you once fell off a cliffwhile on a horseand lived to tell the tale?

Yes, it’s true! During college, I was working as a wrangler leading horse packing trips in the Rocky Mountains when one group of riders became hopelessly lost. I led a small group on a rescue ride. As we got deeper into the forest it became clear that recent rain had washed out part of the trail and made for treacherous footing. My horse got spooked by a fallen tree and slipped on some pine needles, falling off the cliff backward into a rocky river bed—I can still recall the faces of the other riders as we disappeared from sight. Luckily both my horse and I were miraculously fine, and after he ran off downriver and I climbed back up the cliff—with a broken arm, no less—we made our way back to civilization and lived to tell the tale.

 

Patrick J. Phillips and his family will join the HPA ‘ohana in July 2019. We look forward to more conversations (and adventures!) in the months and years ahead.

Head of School press release

 

February 4, 2019 - The Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy board of trustees today announced the appointment of Patrick J. Phillips as the 12th head of school, effective July 1, 2019. 

Phillips comes to HPA most recently from Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a day school just outside Minneapolis for 1,100 students from preschool to grade 12. As assistant head of school for Breck, Phillips oversaw academic departments and the development of innovative curriculum; supervised the school’s five-year strategic plan; and guided the founding of the Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, a center dedicated to bridging research and practice for students, teachers, and parents.

“I am honored by the appointment and committed to serving HPA with the same spirit of creativity and warmth of ‘ohana that have sustained the school for 70 years. From the first moment I set foot on campus, it was evident that this is a special and unique community with a true sense of belonging. It was also clear that HPA is an excellent school with the potential to become even stronger in the years ahead. With dedicated faculty and staff, supportive parents, an engaged alumni body, and a thoughtful board, HPA students are destined to reap the rewards as we live up to our mission to ‘provide exceptional learning opportunities in a diverse community honoring the traditions of Hawai‘i.’”

“The board unanimously agrees that HPA has found an inspired independent school educator whose experience aligns with HPA’s cherished values and future vision,”  Board Chair Laurie T. Ainslie announced in her letter to the HPA community. “Patrick is a passionate, decisive leader with a proven track record of developing programs and nurturing school community. He embraces HPA’s culture of ‘ohana and understands our opportunities for growth as a K-12 school located on this extraordinary island. We eagerly anticipate the energy he will bring and believe Patrick will help all of us generate positive, transformational change for HPA while preserving the ethos and traditions we deeply value.”

David Zierk, who co-chaired the search committee with alumnus Sam Pratt ’84 said that the committee felt fortunate to find a life-long educator whose parents were also educators. “Among his long list of attributes, his degree in environmental studies provides solid footing as HPA pursues its sustainability plan,” Zierk said. “Patrick has taught AP chemistry, managed budgets and strategic planning, and has run day and boarding high schools with children from fifty countries. He has a complete background and will be a great head of school.”

The search committee selected Phillips from 85 candidates after a national and international search that was advised by Carney Sandoe & Associates. Hundreds of alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and students participated in this process that began in July 2018. In addition to Laurie Ainslie, Zierk, and Pratt, the committee included a representative group from across the HPA community: Cathy Grant P’03, principal of the Lower School; Laura Jim ’91, P’16, P’19, Middle School faculty member; Greg McKenna, Upper School faculty member and dorm parent; and Hannah Springer, community leader and former HPA trustee. “Their service to our ‘ohana has been irreplaceable,” said Laurie Ainslie in her letter.

Phillips graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in environmental studies and a minor in art history, and started his teaching career as an AP chemistry teacher and soccer and track coach in Fort Myers, Florida. He was awarded a Klingenstein Summer Teaching Fellowship at Columbia University where he met his wife, Ainslie Phillips, a Yale graduate and high school math teacher. 

His career spans many roles and countries, including the Potomac School in Washington, D.C. and TASIS Switzerland where he served as dean of students from 1998 to 2000. After returning stateside to earn his Ed.M. in school leadership at Harvard University, Phillips went on to serve as Upper School head at Westchester Academy (NC), Charlotte Country Day School (NC), Pine Crest School (FL), and TASIS England (UK).

More information about Phillips can be found on the HPA website.

Robert McKendry continues as head through the remainder of the current school year.

Patrick and Ainslie Phillips will move to HPA in late June with their four children, Taylor, Grayson, Cooper, and Riley. His term as HPA’s 12th head of school will begin officially on July 1, 2019.

Head-of-School Transition Process

 

In July of 2018, the HPA Board of Trustees officially began a search for the 12th Head of School at Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy. This individual will succeed the current Head of School Robert McKendry on July 1, 2019.

The board has formed a search committee comprised of nine members of the HPA ‘ohana. (See full committee list below.) The job of the search committee will be to oversee a transparent, inclusive process and to evaluate candidates against criteria that the entire HPA ‘ohana will help to create.

The Head of School search will last through early 2019. To help navigate this process, HPA has retained the services of Carney, Sandoe & Associates (CSA), a leading independent school search firm. Karen Neitzel and Skip Kotkins from CSA will serve as lead consultants and guide a national and international outreach effort to actively recruit top candidates.

CSA will screen applicants with the goal of presenting a list of the most qualified individuals to the search committee sometime in the late fall. The committee will further screen and narrow this group. Finalist candidates will be brought to campus in January 2019. At this point, the HPA ‘ohana will play another important role, asking questions of the finalists and giving feedback to the committee. These impressions will be critical as the search committee deliberates on which new leader to recommend to the Board. The successful candidate will officially take the helm on July 1, 2019.

Throughout this process, HPA will be guided by the best practices outlined by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). We look forward to keeping you informed and involved as HPA moves through the search.

Head-of-School Search Committee

 

The search committee is charged with hiring the search consultant, inviting and reviewing community feedback, developing a position description, interviewing and assessing candidates, and, ultimately, recommending a final candidate to the board.

HPA Head of School Search Committee

  • Laurie Ainslie P’12, P’15, chair, board of trustees
  • Cathy Grant P’03, principal of the Lower School
  • Laura Jim ’91; P’16, P’19, Middle School faculty member 
  • Greg McKenna, Upper School faculty member and dorm parent
  • Sam Pratt ’84, search committee co-chair and trustee
  • Hannah Springer, community leader and former trustee
  • David Zierk P’26, P’28, search committee co-chair and trustee

To contact a member of the committee, please email headsearch@hpa.edu

Head of School Position Description

More Information