When I began my journey as head of school last November, I contemplated many possible challenges that I, and the school, might face in my first year. I thought about how I might build meaningful connections as an outsider. I wanted to connect with parents, faculty, students, alumni, and staff early and often. I knew that getting to know school culture would be a long process, and one that could only be undertaken from the inside out.

I wrote down a list of aspects of school life I wanted to understand, and I’ve kept that list handy. But I kept another list that has become far more important. It contains all the critical skills, community values, and characteristics I could think of that a Prep graduate should have in order to live an engaged, balanced, and responsible life. This list—which includes creativity, flexibility, gratitude, and the ability to listen, hear, and respond meaningfully and with care—has been the one I’ve returned to time and again to remind myself of my responsibilities to the community that has now become home to Susie, Anna, and me.

There is no other way to be. In times of peace and prosperity, and in times of challenge and stress, there is no other way to be. We must preach what we practice, as Angela Duckworth has famously said.

The best planning could not prepare anyone for 2020, and this time on the job has been a crash course in Prep culture and community values. As we all know, institutions show their true strength when tested, and while I’m thrilled that Prep has passed the test, how we’ve shown our strength is far more compelling.

I have several priorities this year. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic so that we may reopen the school safely is our number one priority. To do that, I’m working to build our leadership team capacity to rise to this challenge, and I feel honored to have such an experienced team by my side. And, as we respond to the call to action in diversity, equity, and inclusion work, we aim to engage the full community in this multiyear program and process. Finally, I will engage with and learn about the Flintridge Prep community—students, parents, faculty and staff, Board members, alumni—through frequent interaction and shared communication.

The leadership team at Prep is exceptional in every way. They preach what they practice every day, inviting critical input and engaging with some of the most complex questions any of us have faced in our careers as educators. I cannot express enough gratitude to all of them as we grapple with the challenges of educating our students safely through the pandemic, putting forward a plan to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community, and more.

I also cannot express enough gratitude to the faculty, students, parents, staff, and trustees, who have welcomed my family and me even as they rewrite curriculum, spend more time online, care for their own families and loved ones, and take on tasks that they’ve never dealt with before. The academic rigor of this institution remains strong. The social lives of our students have transformed because many creative minds and compassionate souls have embraced challenge instead of backing away.

This is the stuff, the indelible stuff, that makes people speak of Prep for Life.


Jim Pickett
Head of School

November 2, 2020