Here’s the down low on the new school year at St. Paul’s, from Rector Bill Matthews:
Is there anything new or different, physically, at the school this fall?
The most significant new improvement to the campus is the work just completed on Hargate dam to control water at one of the points that brought such tremendous damage to the school during the Mothers Day flood of 2006. This is the first of a multiphase engineering project designed to head off such events. The heavy rainfall this past April was a good test of those renovations. Without that work on the dam’s spillway, along with some other precautions, we could have seen a repeat of the previous year’s forced school closing.
Anything new or different educationally that’s particularly interesting or important?
First of all, to celebrate the 50th year of our summer Advanced Studies Program was a tremendous event for us. This year we welcomed 260 academically talented young men and women from New Hampshire schools for six weeks of intensive study. We don’t make money on this program; it’s one of the ways we try to meet our responsibility as a member of the greater New Hampshire community.
We also took a huge step forward this year toward enhancing the diversity of our faculty. Our new strategic plan puts diversity forward as one of our highest priorities, but our faculty hasn’t reflected the ethnic mix we’ve seen within our student body. With new hiring conducted during the spring, that profile will change significantly with nine new faculty of color joining us, along with someone in a new position: director of multicultural education.
What’s the biggest challenge you faced at school this summer?
Work on the strategic plan didn’t stop with the end of the school year, and building on the framework of the plan will continue into the fall – establishing specific goals in the areas of academic excellence, living in community, environmental sustainability, diversity and service. We’re not trying to redefine ourselves as a school, but we are taking a step back to talk very intensively about how we can best meet our promise to transform students both intellectually and in the ways they live their lives.
What’s your biggest first-day fear?
Although it’s only my third year as rector, I’ve lived and worked at St. Paul’s for most of my life. I know that unexpected things happen, and I’ve seen my share. But I don’t wake up in a cold sweat about the opening of school. We’ve got a tremendously talented new group of students arriving in September, a faculty who can’t wait to teach them and a staff that really does anticipate most of the challenges that lie in wait. That’s not to say there won’t be some surprises.
What did you do for fun this summer?
I tried to improve my golf game. I failed, but still had great fun. My wife Marcia and I took great pleasure working together in our yard and garden in Kennebunkport, where I also got in some ocean kayaking. Most of all it’s fun to have our grandchildren visit.
Did you read the final Harry Potter?
See the Transformers?
Sleep late one morning, then eat cookies for breakfast?
For me, sleeping late is 7 o’clock. And I’m not a cookie guy for breakfast, but I do love pancakes and waffles.