The Princeton Friends School Committee is delighted to announce Melissa Carroll as our next Head of School. Melissa’s appointment marks the historic transition from a visionary founders’ era into a bright and robust future. We gratefully acknowledge the vital work of Interim Head of School Angela DeGraff, who has steered our ship to this new horizon with great wisdom, expertise, and heart since coming on board in August 2018. After a months-long period of transitional work, Angela will turn the wheel over to Melissa on July 1, 2020.
Melissa Carroll is a deeply centered, enlightened leader who brings to PFS extensive experience as a Quaker school teacher and administrator. She taught in both the lower and middle schools at Newtown Friends and was Assistant Head of School at Buckingham Friends before taking her current position as Director of Beginning and Lower Schools at the Swain School in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Melissa is a teacher at heart and leads with the eye of a seasoned educator.
Melissa currently lives in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Thomas, who serves as the Director of Technology at Newtown Friends School. Beyond the school day, Melissa and Tom enjoy traveling to Boston to visit their son, Joe, and to Connecticut to spend time with their daughter, Annie. They also enjoy entertaining friends and spending time outdoors. Melissa is very excited to be taking on the headship at Princeton Friends School.
When she visited PFS in October, Melissa made authentic connections with many of you, across all constituencies. A parent noted that Melissa “strongly articulated the power of valuing and nurturing each individual child” to be their own advocate. The faculty remarked on her authenticity and observed that she modeled an egalitarian style of leadership, exemplified by speaking to children the same way she spoke to adults. A School Committee member described Melissa as having “the whole PFS-Quaker-Zen presence,” and members of Princeton Monthly Meeting professed that they could hear the Spirit behind Melissa’s words.
We are excited about Melissa for so many reasons, from her fine strategic acumen and excellent management skills to her nuanced appreciation for the interconnectedness of finance, mission, pedagogy, and enrollment. Her work speaks for itself: She has successfully partnered with Swain School’s senior leadership team to implement equity-minded changes such as cultural competency training, a gender-neutral dress code, and service learning initiatives, and she has fostered ideas for strategic community partnerships with area institutions to attract new enrollment.
Melissa is hailed by her references for her unflagging focus on the best interests of students, and her current supervisor, Dr. Shannan Schuster, points to a critical stylistic trait: “In team meeting every week, Melissa is typically the last to speak. She listens and listens—it’s impressive how long she listens—which is in keeping with the Quaker quality of continuing revelation.”
A common refrain from Melissa’s visit to PFS in October aligns her Quaker educational experience with progressive pedagogy: “When you think you’ve found the answer, return again to the question.” Indeed, throughout the day, Melissa connected with the community through thoughtful questions and deep listening. She is attuned to the moment of transition in which we find ourselves, saying “change is an opportunity,” while also acknowledging the need to celebrate our legacy.
Melissa promises to be a natural champion of PFS’s mission. Her vision for a PK–8 education is to create a joyful learning experience that will develop loving, kind, respectful, self-advocating, and reflective young people who think and work deeply across disciplines to ask questions that matter. In her own words, Melissa articulates the educational balancing act of which she is an advocate:
“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 this and do it well.”
We are inspired by Melissa, and we feel empowered by the clarity and promise of her vision. And yet, at the same time, her appointment feels like a homecoming. Please join us in welcoming Melissa to PFS!
Laura Bond, Clerk of the School Committee
Andrea Bergman, Assistant Clerk of the School Committee
Hilary Sims and Tom Pinneo, Co-Clerks of the Head Search Committee