In the aftermath of Head of School Barbara Wagner’s announcement that she will leave her position at the end of this year, Marlborough has been scrambling to find her replacement. Out of all of the candidates, surely one must be suitable for our small, fairytale-like school. This person must be eager, organized, qualified, but mostly willing to come to school every morning with a smile on his or her face despite being surrounded by a sea of zombie-like, coffee-bearing girls trudging out of carpool line or off of the bus. But does this person have to be female? While some may argue that being female is an important quality for our next Head of School, I most respectfully disagree.
I acknowledge that Marlborough wants to encourage female empowerment, and what better way to do so than to put a strong female role model for us to look up to? However, I think we are equally capable of finding good role models in other genders, not just in our Head of School. We can also find female role models in our present staff. In my hazy memories of Middle School, I seem to remember looking up to Director of the Middle School Robert Bryan as he supported me through my painfully awkward phase. And during my time at Marlborough, I’ve never felt that my confidence was affected by the mere biological fact that one of my teachers is male or female.
I also feel that being female shouldn’t automatically make certain candidates seem better than others. Marlborough has had male Heads of School, and Marlborough is still standing now, isn’t it? Not only is focusing on only female candidates unfair to other people worthy of the position, we may be eliminating the possibility of finding the right person for the job.
I think as long as the next Head of School is suited to the job and can grow to love Marlborough, that person will be capable of filling the gap Wagner’s departure will create. And while I will be free (at last) from this place I’ve called home for the last six years before I can meet the new Head of School, I will be anxiously watching to see who is selected—mainly, because I’ll want to know what the School will be like for my sister, who may be in the Class of 2027.
I believe that the Board of Trustees and the Search Committee should look for a female Head of School. Although the best candidate should be selected regardless of gender, a female Head of School would be the best decision for Marlborough right now. Though it may seem superficial to care about the gender of the future Head of School, a female Head of School should serve as a role model for the hundreds of young women enrolled here now and in years to come.
As the School’s core values state, Marlborough prides itself on offering “an environment in which students are encouraged to discover their potential, increase their competence, develop leadership skills, and expand their self-reliance.” The best way to facilitate such an environment would be to have women embodying these traits in positions of power. If Marlborough is to endorse this ideal as a core value, then the School should put this into practice by appointing a female Head of School. Just as it is effective for young girls to see female scientists to encourage them to pursue STEM careers, it will be powerful for girls to identify with a female Head of School.
I believe that the best course of action for the Board of Trustees and for the Search Committee is to appoint an interim Head of School for the next school year. This would give the School time to re-evaluate what they would like to see in a Head of School and would ensure that no decisions are made in the shadow of Ms. Wagner’s 26 years as Head of School. However, the Board and the Search Committee should both consider the gender of the applicants when making their decision because of the impact a female Head of School could have on an all-female student body.
Marlborough’s responsibility is first and foremost to its students, who would all benefit from the leadership and examples provided by a female Head of School.