Meet the New Upper School Deans


Antonia Smithmeyer, Contributing Writer

In the fall of 2022, Poly Prep brought in three new Upper School deans: Perri Meeks, Alex Carter, and Francesca Walker.
Walker started at NYU for English and Literature. According to a short summary on the Poly Prep website, she then decided to go on a path of higher education. During her studies, Walker noticed that mental health was a recurring challenge in the classroom. She then decided to focus her studies on mental health concerns. With her combined experience with mental health and education, she is now supporting her own cohort of Poly upper school students this school year.

“I felt like this would be a good place for me to nurture students outside of the classroom and speak to some of those social-emotional learning pieces. With this, not only bringing in my clinical background but also my coaching background,” Walker said. Explaining the nuanced perspective she will bring to the Poly community, Walker stated that she will focus on her student’s well-being as well as the academic experience.

Walker said she is enjoying the welcoming, warm greeting from the Poly community. “I distinctly remember this is one particular student. When he first came into my office, I did my typical ‘how can I support you?’ And his response was, Oh, no, I just wanted to check in and see how you’re adjusting to Poly. Here I am, ready to support this student who I didn’t know, and he’s ready just to ask me how I’m doing.” Walker said, “I love it when my students come to visit me and also students who aren’t my students come to visit.”

Alex Carter is another new dean. He has a Ph.D. in African-American history and has been a teacher at Poly for the past four years. “My Ph.D. – Black Studies – is not only an academic study but a connection to its roots and its community by really developing people as learners.” Carter says, “It’s rooted in the teaching and facilitation of learning black history and culture.”
Carter has experienced this as a dean so far in the school year and says he enjoys the “frenetic aspect of it” and its “fast-paced, rapid qualities.” Although Carter misses teaching history, he says he gets this same rush of excitement and enjoyment in both positions. “You might not be talking about Mansa Musa or Malcolm X, but you get that same feeling that students are learning when you talk about college applications or strategies for approaches to doing well in classes,” Carter says.

Carter plans on incorporating his teaching history into his position as a dean. Along with this, his office reflects his years of teaching history and his connection to Black Studies, with posters featuring artists like OutKast, Prince, and Nina Simone hanging on his walls next to a variety of African artworks. “It wasn’t so much switching entirely out of history since you’re able to teach history in many ways,” Carter says.
Perri Meeks, the most recent addition to the Upper School Dean team, worked at Barnard’s office of undergraduate admissions and then in the admissions office at Columbia prior to starting this new role. Her work in admissions “set off a deep interest in education” that she is excited to continue at Poly.
Meeks says she enjoys the school’s energy and the welcoming environment she’s experienced. “It’s a lot of fun to be in a place where people are bubbling with excitement about all the different things they’re doing, especially when that kind of energy comes from young students. Adding on, students greeting me in the hallways, it’s so nice to see them around and say hi.”

Sophmore Madison Shepherd shares this sentiment about Meeks, “It’s helpful, seeing that even outside of her office, she was still working as a dean giving good advice and supporting her students.” Sophomore Mykah Lieberthal also states that “Meeks is really experienced in what she does, and I’m really excited to see what the new deans can do for us in this new school year.”