Learning Leadership

Among Friends   Spring 2015

A Message from the Head of School

Learning Leadership

MFS, like most independent schools, is accredited on a regular cycle by a regional educational association. In our case, the accrediting body is the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA). MFS has qualified for a special MSA accreditation program called Sustaining Excellence, a new protocol available to a small number of schools that in the opinion of MSA are unusually healthy. Schools in this protocol skip most of the checklists and committee work involved in a regular accreditation process, and they work directly on one or two educational initiatives that will enable them to build on their already exemplary programs.

We decided to focus on a core priority: developing graduates who will be successful, ethical, and service-oriented leaders. MSA agreed to base its accreditation solely on our execution of this program.

We chose leadership because we know that our students learn invaluable lessons at MFS in teamwork, respect, and equity. Many of these skills are related to the school’s commitment to Quaker values like integrity, equality, and community. But, we also know that we can be more intentional in enhancing our students’ natural leadership abilities.

We have therefore instituted two new courses designed to enhance the leadership skills of our students. A course I co-taught in the fall semester with Kathryn Park Cook, Leadership: Style and Skills, offered ninth and tenth graders an opportunity to understand the connection between Quaker values and a range of leadership styles. It also gave students an opportunity to bolster their skills in making persuasive speeches and leading teams (by role-playing thorny situations). They met with a number of business leaders, including Len Shapiro ’60 and Mindy Holman, an MFS parent and School Committee member. Ultimately, each student identified his or her own “authentic” leadership style and developed ideas for furthering personal leadership development.

Another new offering is a year-long Peer Leadership class led by Upper School Director Justin Brandon, Director of College Guidance Meredith Hanamirian, and Chester Reagan Chair Priscilla Taylor-Williams. In this course, a group of 16 carefully selected seniors received leadership training and then worked confidentially with groups of 8-10 freshmen to help them navigate the sometimes difficult transition from middle school to high school. No subject is off-limits as our youngest Upper School students receive caring and wise counsel from our oldest.

A visiting team from MSA came to campus in March and heard very favorable reviews from student participants in this year’s inaugural offerings. Both courses will be offered again next year.

The underlying idea is based on the importance we place on thoughtful and humane leadership in organizations and businesses, large and small, and the benefits our students receive through their MFS education to be successful, ethical, and service-oriented leaders.

Sincerely,

Larry Van Meter

Larry Van Meter ’68
Head of School
 

Continue to the article: “Can Leadership Be Taught?”