Catlin Administrators Discuss Major Changes on Campus

by Lauren Fogelstrom '15

Catlin Gabel faculty and staff look forward to developing the curriculum and culture. (Photo: Catlin Gabel)

Catlin Gabel faculty and staff look forward to developing the curriculum and culture. (Photo: Catlin Gabel)

Over the past few years, transformations in our community including the schedule change, new faculty members, Winterim leadership, and others, have influenced everyone on the Catlin Gabel campus. How are these revisions affecting our school positively, and what do the next few years at Catlin Gabel look like with these changes in place? Head of School Lark Palma and head of Upper School Dan Griffiths told CatlinSpeak their thoughts on several of these innovations and what their hopes are regarding these programs in the next few years.

One of the most noticeable new transitions on campus has been the replacement of several faculty and staff members. As prominent members of the Catlin community leave campus, such as Ron Sobel, new faces have arrived to contribute fresh ideas to our school. “New teachers bring training in diversity work, technology, and teaching methodology with them. They are ‘outside of the box’ thinkers,” said Palma.

Furthermore, “Schools benefit from the blending of experience and institutional memory with new ideas from other places,” Griffiths commented. “I think our teachers now have a great mix of this, and we are seeing some cool things develop as a result of the interaction between long-serving faculty and our new teachers.”

While many faculty and staff changes have occurred within established positions in the past few years, two completely new ones have also been created more recently. The idea of a director of education innovation arose because, as Griffiths said, “These days, there are so many more people who are using technology expertly and innovatively in the classroom that it makes sense to hire someone who can focus on innovative teaching and help us all improve our practice in the classroom.” Although the director of information services has already been a position for twenty years at Catlin Gabel, the new role of director of educational innovation will work closely with the director of information services, but with a slightly different focus.

The director of innovation will be both “a teacher and an administrator who is comfortable with technology, can support our technology-based courses, try new things themselves, stay on top of what is available to our community, and direct us to quality products,” said Palma. In addition, another support position is still being discussed and developed by Griffiths and faculty members, with the title of academic technology integration specialist. If fully established, all three of these positions will be working together.

As the Catlin Gabel community and the rest of the world depends more on technology than ever before, the importance of staying informed about technology has grown. “When I first became a teacher, there were no computers. When I came here [to Catlin Gabel], we had a huge Tektronix mega computer and no network” says Palma, “As you look at your classes now, you’ll see how much you and your teachers utilize technology now.”

Besides the technology changes, the campus has experienced lots of other transformations of new and previously established programs as well. Physically, the new Creative Arts Center has been completed, as well as less tangible changes like the schedule change. Looking back at the past few years, Palma says that overall, “I am most proud of curricular changes that are helping our students think about the bigger important questions so pertinent to their futures.”

She also said Catlin owes a lot of this positive progression to Griffiths’s hard work and energy. “Interdisciplinary courses, PLACE [Planning and Leadership Across City Environments], GOA [Global Online Academy], all the diversity work, Palma seminar, Startup Camp, and the hiring of our dynamic teachers are all Dan’s handiwork,” she commented. In general, Palma hopes that when she leaves all of this progress will continue and that she has, “inspired our teachers to be bold, take risks, and ask for the appropriate resources they need to make their dreams happen.”

Griffiths plans to initiate several new ideas for the next couple years soon, and modifications for already existing programs. He wants to work more with the student body to encourage a bigger sense of engagement with the new community service system, build further involvement and excitement surrounding Winterim, and make sure the recent changes to both of these programs help them to stay positive and meaningful.

More generally, says Griffiths, “I love the idea of more collaboration and interdisciplinary classes, and I hope to see the development of curriculars that don’t solely follow how things are traditionally done in the classroom.” He says, “Instead focus on what is needed to be successful now – problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, digital literacy, and top-notch communication skills.”