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Friends Academy starting a new year of self evaluation

Ben Kennedy, Friends Academy Head of School (Dartmouth Week)

Article by Mary Macedo | Dartmouth Week | Sept. 4, 2017

When Benjamin Kennedy was searching for a new school to lead, Friends Academy stuck out to him the most.

A year and half ago, he visited 24 private schools all over the country to view their programs. He left the grounds of Friends Academy with fond memories of it – especially the enthusiasm of students and the school’s culture.

“The day I spent here really stuck with me,” Kennedy said. “I remember driving off campus thinking this is really a place I would like to be.”

Kennedy officially began his tenure as the new Head of School on July 1. He most recently wrapped up an orientation program on August 31, where he met with students and families before the start of the new academic year.

“It was great to see new families, and a lot of returning families,” Kennedy said. “Their enthusiasm says a lot about the community… being that excited to be back together. Those are things you can’t quantify. The positive energy and warmth of the families, students, and teachers…. it’s a rare and special thing.”

With Friends Academy in a year of self-study this year, there are not many big changes. Every 10 years, the school goes through an accreditation where educators come in and perform evaluations.

“It is my first year with the school and it’s a very exciting time to join,” Kennedy said referring to the year of self-study for the school. “I am mindful that there is so much I don’t know.”

This year is the last year before Friends Academy will go through the accreditation, and is going through self-study beforehand to prepare for it.

“We will look into our programs and practices throughout the year, and self-evaluate,” he said. “Over this year, we will look at where we were then, where we are now, and where we want to go. The school is interested in pursuing new things.”

Although the school is always looking to make changes to better the education for the children, the self-study year must occur before any big changes are made.

“The self-study year is the time to ask the hard questions and come up with a strategic plan,” he said. “Change has to happen with structure to do thoughtful change work.”

There are, however, some minor changes students will notice this year. Over the summer, work was done on the front of the farmhouse, and a new gym floor was built. The middle school also received a facelift.

Kennedy explained that this year is all about getting to know the school, the families, and the community.

“I have a strong administration team that will help me figure things out over time,” Kennedy said. “I am excited to learn as I go.”

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