KUA Welcomes First Female Head of School
As KUA searches for its permanent head, Pamela Clarke becomes temporarily takes the reigns.
In the fall of 2019, Kimball Union celebrates 15 years of Mike Schafer as the Head of School and welcomes the first female interim Head of School. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, yet she moved around a lot until she was fifteen. Ms. Pam Clarke has worked in the field of boarding schools for many decades. After graduating from Shipley, a K-12 boarding school in Pennsylvania, Ms.Clarke attended Vassar College. With advanced degrees from Harvard and Yale, Ms. Clarke has also raised two children who eventually attended boarding school at Exeter. The staff of The Claw had a chance to sit down with Ms. Clarke to talk about her process of coming to KUA and her goals for the upcoming year.
Ms. Clarke was originally working in Albany, New York before her job here. Mr. Burns, the head of the search committee, called in late May asking about her interest in this new position. Interestingly, Exeter was also searching for a new interim Head of School, and Ms. Clarke was one of the two finalists. But we all know the result. Ms. Clarke came to the campus in early July and, as she shared excitedly, was put in The Hanover Inn for the night. She spent half a day on campus the next day for the campus tour and job interview. Afterwards, she sent in forms that she described as “a whole application process.”
“It’s the people, it is always the people,” Clarke responded with a smile when asked her biggest reason for choosing KUA. For Ms. Clarke, being an interim head is “sort of fun”; it is a case of “just go and be new.” Additionally, Ms. Clarke has always appreciated the culture and beauty of New England, especially in the fall. To better understand KUA’s school spirit and culture, Ms. Clarke watched many episodes of All School Meeting on the internet. While she did watch a lot of the livestreamed community meetings, it was probably not as much as Mr. Copeland, Ms. Clarke laughed and acknowledged, who finished two years of All School Meeting album before he came.
Ms. Clarke is extremely familiar with the boarding school system; having been the head of multiple boarding schools over the years. She was the first female teacher at Groton School in Massachusetts, as well as at Trevor Day School in New York. However, she did not know that she was the first fe
male head of school at KUA until she watched the KUA documentary with all the new students.
“I’m used to being a woman, so it’s not any different for me, but I think it’s about time for the school….It’s about time,” Ms. Clarke commented. “It’s good for boys and girls to see women in leadership.” With less than five current female administrators, KUA perhaps needs to pay more attention to balancing gender in its leaders. Ms. Clarke mentioned that her head of school in high school, whom she saw as a role model, had a huge influence on her: “If all my principals had been men, I wouldn’t have seen her being in charge and strong.” Furthermore, Ms. Clarke also stressed the importance of racial diversity on leadership position: “It’s good to see people of all races and all nationalities being in the top jobs, in places of power. Otherwise, you don’t see yourself [there either].”
The Global Alliance for Innovative Learning (GAIL), one of KUA’s landmark programs, has proven to be a kismet connection between Ms. Clarke and KUA. She is acquainted with the head of Prestige College in Hammanskraal, South Africa; Ms. Clarke went to Prestige twice, and the head also visited her while she was still working for a school in Minnesota. While Ms. Clarke was not aware of GAIL before her interview at KUA, the fact that she had spent time at one of the GAIL schools shows that she has a global view that aligns with KUA’s. Ms. Clarke did not know much about K-Term either, but she knew similar programs at other colleges and high schools. She praised the opportunity KUA provides its students, saying, “The chance to do experiential learning is really important. I actually wish [K-Term projects] were a little longer!”
For her upcoming year, Ms. Clarke did not propose any big plans. On the contrary, she shared that she wants to improve some small things
on campus, but also to promote huge issues like racial diversity. She also might be involved the search for the new permanent head of school. It is very possible that she would know one of the candidates, based on her experience in the field. Nevertheless, she will not apply for the position herself because her current position precludes her from entering the search as a candidate.
Even though Ms. Clarke’s term will only last for a year, she is already enjoying the school atmosphere and ready to explore every aspect of the KUA community. We wish her the best of luck in exploring our school, and we look forward to working with her in the future.