Meet our Fourth (and final) Head of School Candidate

Hillary Sims and Tom Pinneo
Our fourth and final candidate for the Head of School role will be on campus in just one week, on Thursday, October 10. Get ready to meet Melissa Carroll! Melissa’s biography, video introduction, and statement of educational philosophy are below.

We are thrilled for you to meet Melissa, who will be on campus for a full day, starting with greeting families at morning drop-off.

In joyful anticipation,
Tom Pinneo and Hilary Sims
Co-Clerks of the PFS Head of School Search Committee


Melissa Carroll

Melissa Carroll has 23 years of experience teaching and leading in Quaker and independent schools in the Philadelphia region. Having served as a classroom teacher, Division Director, Interim Director of Admissions, and Assistant Head of School, Melissa has led strategic planning initiatives, curriculum development, auxiliary programs, and day-to-day operations. Currently, as the Director of Beginning and Lower Schools at the Swain School, Melissa serves on the senior leadership team and supervises 25 faculty. Additionally, she leads the Equity Committee for Diversity and Inclusion and serves on the Finance Committee. Personal successes have included instituting annual conferences on innovation and early childhood education, serving on accreditation teams for the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools, and volunteering for a nonprofit board of trustees. Highlights have been participating in the Friends Council Institute for Engaging Leadership, and leading the Intergenerational Program at Pennswood Village.

A proponent of constructivism, Melissa believes students learn best when they make sense of the world through inquiry, reflection, and authenticity. She is a leader who inspires others by holding true to this process while maintaining a sense of purpose and a healthy dose of humor.

Melissa and her husband, Thomas, enjoy traveling to visit their grown children, entertaining friends, and spending time outdoors.


For a video introduction to Melissa Carroll, click here.
Statement of Leadership Philosophy


“I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.” —Kurt Hahn

This is my story. From the moment my sister and five subsequent siblings arrived, I knew I was destined to teach and lead. Thrust into leadership, I began as the first. Now, I am one of many.

I am a partner, parent, colleague, teacher and leader.

I am passionate, creative, hard working, tenacious and resilient.

These I believe.

Curiosity and Creativity

Nurturing curiosity is essential to leading with passion. I believe in an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning; whether it’s encouraging teachers to implement project based learning, or guiding a design thinking process. If I do not model a passionate pursuit of knowledge, how can I expect this from my faculty? Recently, I was challenged by an appropriately curious faculty member about the need to review curriculum. She asked, “Why here, why now?” My response was, “Why not?” Together we engaged in thoughtful discussion about seeking research, visiting other schools, looking for gaps and redundancies, and better utilizing campus resources. This conversation led to the curious pursuit of possibility and followed with the development of program. First grade students are now learning about the physical properties of snow and testing team built sleds on mountains of homegrown snow on the playground. It has been elevated to an annual unit of study and celebrated throughout the community. I am inspired and energized and proud.

Collaboration and Authenticity

One of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, writes, “Solitude is a human presumption.” How funny it is that we, as educators, often hold tight to curricular ideas and our students, as if in a singular existence. I believe everything we do is interconnected, whether in the bustling space of the classroom, or in the quiet whisper afterschool. Schools are interdependent microcosms of society. We must be collaborative and authentic in our work together. Several years ago, while mentoring a group of lower school faculty, I challenged them to observe each other teaching, set goals, share resources, and meet each day for lunch. The outcome far exceeded my expectations. Each member of the team emerged a leader in an area of expertise. They verbally expressed gratitude and appreciation. They created multi- age interdisciplinary groups for instruction. Ultimately, they invested in an authentic process to take risks and learn together. I believe these opportunities, coupled with self-reflection, provided critical professional development.

Courage and Resilience

I believe having courage requires integrity and a willingness to stand tall in the face of adversity. Many times in my professional career I’ve felt moved to challenge an idea or take a risk. Each time I’ve taken a risk, I have grown and found success, regardless of outcome. For me, it is reframing the risk as an opportunity. Take for example, the challenge of introducing a digital calendar to a community resistant to using technology as a communication tool. I took on this challenge. Although faced with resistance and fear, the initiative created a more sustainable, streamlined, productive administration and faculty. After this first step, I was able to follow it with digital release of report cards, a new school web design, Google Apps for Education, and on-line registration for conferences. These initiatives took courage and resilience and time. Often, along the way, I needed to rethink process and approach. As educators, I believe we need to inspire risk taking and model the grit and resilience we expect from our students.

Compassion and Vigor

We can have both. As independent school educators and leaders, we are good at developing compassionate and lasting relationships. We are known for growing students with strong moral character, and graduating young people who are assertive in communicating ideas. Yet, we have quietly rested on a common understanding that we provide a strong academic foundation. I have heard many times, “We are doing a great job. Look at our success at getting students into high schools and colleges.” Although I agree that this is one measure of success, I don’t believe it is a compelling argument. I believe we can no longer be complacent. The world is poised to receive young adults who are compassionate, as well as, tenacious in their pursuit of lifelong academic success. As independent school leaders we need to encourage the exploration of social justice issues, mindfulness practices, compassionate leadership and relationships, while simultaneously creating vigorous, relevant, collaborative academic programs. In order for independent schools to be sustainable, I feel a sense of urgency to do both and do them well.

These I believe.

Melissa Carroll

March 10, 2019
Dear Friend,

Our fourth and final candidate for the Head of School role will be on campus in just one week, on Thursday, October 10. Get ready to meet Melissa Carroll! Melissa’s biography, video introduction, and statement of educational philosophy are below.

We are thrilled for you to meet Melissa, who will be on campus for a full day, starting with greeting families at morning drop-off.

In joyful anticipation,
Tom Pinneo and Hilary Sims
Co-Clerks of the PFS Head of School Search Committee


Melissa Carroll

Melissa Carroll has 23 years of experience teaching and leading in Quaker and independent schools in the Philadelphia region. Having served as a classroom teacher, Division Director, Interim Director of Admissions, and Assistant Head of School, Melissa has led strategic planning initiatives, curriculum development, auxiliary programs, and day-to-day operations. Currently, as the Director of Beginning and Lower Schools at the Swain School, Melissa serves on the senior leadership team and supervises 25 faculty. Additionally, she leads the Equity Committee for Diversity and Inclusion and serves on the Finance Committee. Personal successes have included instituting annual conferences on innovation and early childhood education, serving on accreditation teams for the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools, and volunteering for a nonprofit board of trustees. Highlights have been participating in the Friends Council Institute for Engaging Leadership, and leading the Intergenerational Program at Pennswood Village.

A proponent of constructivism, Melissa believes students learn best when they make sense of the world through inquiry, reflection, and authenticity. She is a leader who inspires others by holding true to this process while maintaining a sense of purpose and a healthy dose of humor.

Melissa and her husband, Thomas, enjoy traveling to visit their grown children, entertaining friends, and spending time outdoors.


For a video introduction to Melissa Carroll, click here.
Statement of Leadership Philosophy


“I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.” —Kurt Hahn

This is my story. From the moment my sister and five subsequent siblings arrived, I knew I was destined to teach and lead. Thrust into leadership, I began as the first. Now, I am one of many.

I am a partner, parent, colleague, teacher and leader.

I am passionate, creative, hard working, tenacious and resilient.

These I believe.

Curiosity and Creativity

Nurturing curiosity is essential to leading with passion. I believe in an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning; whether it’s encouraging teachers to implement project based learning, or guiding a design thinking process. If I do not model a passionate pursuit of knowledge, how can I expect this from my faculty? Recently, I was challenged by an appropriately curious faculty member about the need to review curriculum. She asked, “Why here, why now?” My response was, “Why not?” Together we engaged in thoughtful discussion about seeking research, visiting other schools, looking for gaps and redundancies, and better utilizing campus resources. This conversation led to the curious pursuit of possibility and followed with the development of program. First grade students are now learning about the physical properties of snow and testing team built sleds on mountains of homegrown snow on the playground. It has been elevated to an annual unit of study and celebrated throughout the community. I am inspired and energized and proud.

Collaboration and Authenticity

One of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, writes, “Solitude is a human presumption.” How funny it is that we, as educators, often hold tight to curricular ideas and our students, as if in a singular existence. I believe everything we do is interconnected, whether in the bustling space of the classroom, or in the quiet whisper afterschool. Schools are interdependent microcosms of society. We must be collaborative and authentic in our work together. Several years ago, while mentoring a group of lower school faculty, I challenged them to observe each other teaching, set goals, share resources, and meet each day for lunch. The outcome far exceeded my expectations. Each member of the team emerged a leader in an area of expertise. They verbally expressed gratitude and appreciation. They created multi- age interdisciplinary groups for instruction. Ultimately, they invested in an authentic process to take risks and learn together. I believe these opportunities, coupled with self-reflection, provided critical professional development.

Courage and Resilience

I believe having courage requires integrity and a willingness to stand tall in the face of adversity. Many times in my professional career I’ve felt moved to challenge an idea or take a risk. Each time I’ve taken a risk, I have grown and found success, regardless of outcome. For me, it is reframing the risk as an opportunity. Take for example, the challenge of introducing a digital calendar to a community resistant to using technology as a communication tool. I took on this challenge. Although faced with resistance and fear, the initiative created a more sustainable, streamlined, productive administration and faculty. After this first step, I was able to follow it with digital release of report cards, a new school web design, Google Apps for Education, and on-line registration for conferences. These initiatives took courage and resilience and time. Often, along the way, I needed to rethink process and approach. As educators, I believe we need to inspire risk taking and model the grit and resilience we expect from our students.

Compassion and Vigor

We can have both. As independent school educators and leaders, we are good at developing compassionate and lasting relationships. We are known for growing students with strong moral character, and graduating young people who are assertive in communicating ideas. Yet, we have quietly rested on a common understanding that we provide a strong academic foundation. I have heard many times, “We are doing a great job. Look at our success at getting students into high schools and colleges.” Although I agree that this is one measure of success, I don’t believe it is a compelling argument. I believe we can no longer be complacent. The world is poised to receive young adults who are compassionate, as well as, tenacious in their pursuit of lifelong academic success. As independent school leaders we need to encourage the exploration of social justice issues, mindfulness practices, compassionate leadership and relationships, while simultaneously creating vigorous, relevant, collaborative academic programs. In order for independent schools to be sustainable, I feel a sense of urgency to do both and do them well.

These I believe.

Melissa Carroll

March 10, 2019
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