New Head of School

After a robust and well-organized search, following the best practice of the National Association of Independent Schools, we have a new Head of School who will take over from Amy Francisco in the summer of 2021.  We were blessed by the excellent support of Carney Sandoe & Associate, the oldest and largest education search firm in the country, and our lead consultant, Bob Vitalo.  Bob has been, quite simply, exceptional in his support for our search and we are so grateful for the highly professional, thoroughly organized, and encouraging way that he has supported the search committee.  As you know, the search committee was comprised of three members of the Vestry, the Interim Head of School, the Director of Music, two current parents of choristers, one of the House Mothers of the school, the chair of the Alumni Association, and an external advisor who was a recently retired Episcopal boarding school head.  Over the past few months we have considered a large number of applications, and interviewed a number of fine candidates.  We have been thrilled by the exceptional field of finalists who were interviewed recently, but the search committee was unanimous in calling our new Head of School.

Mr. Christopher Seeley is currently Assistant Head of School and Director of Academics of Church Farm School in Pennsylvania – a boarding school for boys in the Episcopal tradition that, by happy coincidence, has also recently celebrated its centennial and, like our own beloved school, is a place for children to be nurtured regardless of ability to pay.

A Bronx, New York native and lifelong Episcopalian, Chris graduated from Groton School in 1990. His selection as a scholar in the Fieldston Enrichment and A Better Chance programs, and his lifelong faith, led him to Groton’s mission where he enrolled in the II Form. He earned the O’Brien Prize, the Jeremiah Gadsden Prize, and the Finke Memorial Medal, and was a three-sport varsity captain and Choir prefect. Chris is a 1994 graduate of Bowdoin College, where he earned an AB. At Bowdoin he majored in both Religion and Spanish, earned the Curtis E. Chase Award and the Francis S. Dane Trophy, directed the men’s a capella group, served as a residential advisor for freshmen and sophomores, captained the varsity baseball team, and played varsity football. He is a 2007 graduate of Teachers College, Klingenstein Institute, where he earned a master’s degree in education with a concentration in private school leadership. Throughout his year of study, Chris shadowed a Harlem Children’s Zone elementary school principal.

Chris’s varied experiences across boarding and day schools have deepened his belief in the power of residential learning communities, which value relationships between children and educators in students’ most formative years. From 1994-2007, Chris served Groton School as a Religion and Ethics faculty member, varsity coach, dormitory head, and Dean of Faculty. He and a team of colleagues developed new courses to focus on sacred texts within the context of ancient history in Religion, and social justice movements in Ethics. At Trevor Day School from 2007-2013, Chris held a number of leadership positions, including Director of 6-12 Admissions, Head of the Upper School, and Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives.

Chris comes to Saint Thomas Choir School from Church Farm School, an Episcopal boarding school for boys of promise and not of means, that transforms the lives of its students in meaningful ways. Chris has been Assistant Head of School and Director of Academics since 2013. A new school schedule, increased efficacy of college-bound initiatives, professional development for faculty, and campus improvements have been hallmarks of Chris’s tenure. Knowledgeable and well-regarded in independent school networks nationally, Chris is a member of the Executive Committee of The Association of Boarding Schools, a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference Steering Committee of The National Association of Episcopal Schools, and a recipient of the NAIS Aspiring Heads Fellowship. While in New York from 2006-2013, Chris was a Vestry Member at St. Michael’s Church and led its Buildings and Grounds Committee. He also served on the Advisory Committee of The Episcopal Charities of New York. An avid New York Yankees fan, Chris regales family and friends with vivid, but arcane tidbits of the club’s past and present.

Mr. Seeley with his family

Chris’s wife, Staci Williams Seeley, and their children, Camille and Crawford, have shared the stage as Chris has experienced personal fulfillment alongside his professional career. A consultant and volunteer, Staci is a former teacher and administrator who served a number of schools and nonprofits, embracing adventure within every opportunity. A Bowdoin graduate and recipient of a master of arts in teaching from Brown University, Staci currently works at Storbeck Search with education clients on executive leadership searches and diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting. She chairs the Board of Trustees at Montgomery School (PA), a PreK-8 school in Chester Springs, and is a trustee of St. Andrew’s School (DE). Camille is a senior at Pomona College, majoring in linguistics and minoring in Classics, and is a 2017 graduate of St. Andrew’s. Crawford is a junior at St. Andrew’s, hoping to major in science and to play intercollegiate soccer. The Seeleys enjoy their time together and with extended family: traveling, canoeing and kayaking, beach-going, playing and watching sports, reading and engaging in lively debates, laughing, watching films, listening to music, and cooking elaborate family meals and hosting groups of friends. They look forward to including the Saint Thomas Choir School family among their own.

The Rector writes:

I am so much looking forward to welcoming Chris to join our highly talented and motivated school community.  I am equally looking forward to working closely with him and with the other members of the senior staff of the church as we work together to promote the Choir School and reach one of the main goals of our strategic plan – the flourishing of the school for the next 100 years.  Our new Office of Institutional Advancement will be charged in working closely with church community, school community, Friends of Music, and the Alumni Association over the coming years and I know that Chris will play his part in telling the story of our remarkable institution.  I hope that Chris and Staci will join us for one of our coffee hours in the coming weeks so that you can meet them.

Chris writes:

I am thrilled to be joining the Saint Thomas community and humbled by the opportunity to lead the remarkable Choir School.  My unwavering belief in the transformational experience that a boarding school offers, coupled with my confidence in the benefits of living, learning, and growing in the Episcopal tradition, makes this an exciting new chapter for me and for my family. The Choir School is widely known for its distinctive music and academic programs, and I am eager to build upon that historical strength, and to work in these early days of our next one hundred years with members of the community as we envision a bold future for Choir School.

Amy Francisco, Interim Head of School, writes:

Having known Chris Seeley in a variety of educational contexts over the years, I am thrilled that he will be joining the Saint Thomas Choir School family as its new Head of School. A product of boarding school himself, Chris is an exemplary educator who brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience gleaned from working in many roles in a variety of different school contexts, including boarding schools, all-boys schools, New York City schools, Episcopal schools, and schools dedicated to providing educational access to traditionally underserved communities. Throughout the interview process, Chris’s selflessness, humility, and deep sense of vocational calling shone through. I am confident that, through Chris’s stewardship, the Choir School will both embrace a spirit of educational innovation and maintain its unique identity and sense of tradition. I know great things are in store for the school as it enters into its next hundred years with Chris at the helm.

Kazie Metzger Harvey, Warden and Chair of the Search Committee writes:

I, along with our Search Committee, am thrilled to welcome Chris Seeley to the Saint Thomas family.  Chris was the unanimous choice of our committee that represented parents, alumni, outside educators, school staff and vestry.  We are in good hands at the start of our second hundred years.

Dr. Jeremy Filsell, Director of Music, writes:

 I am personally delighted by the appointment of Mr. Chris Seeley to be our next Head of School. He is a remarkable individual who brings not only a wealth of educational experience to our wonderful school, but also an intrinsic understanding of the Episcopal Church and an appreciation of its music. I know that the cultural and educational breadth he brings will inspire our Choir School in myriad ways, but personally I am particularly gratified to be able to welcome another squash player into our midst! I look forward to at least some of our ‘business’ meetings being on the squash court ‘ere long.

 

This Pandemic brings challenges, but it has also brought opportunities and, together, we are stronger as we keep our mission and vision aligned to God’s plan.

Affectionately,

Your priest and Pastor,

Carl