Changes to the Dean Structure

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Liat Weinstein

Upper School Dean Emily Gardiner consults with Maggie Perlman ’17.

Maddie Winter and Lily Ray Darling

Next year, there will be a dramatic change in the dean system at Poly. Last year, two deans oversaw 120 students in one grade for only one year. In the new system, there will only be five deans, who will each oversee 25 students from each grade. These deans will advise their cohort of students for all four years of their high school career. The five upper school deans will not teach any classes so that they can be solely focused on their students.

The upper school deans will be former Freshman Dean Sarah Bates, former Senior Dean Emily Gardiner, former Dean of Student Life Jamie Nestor, former Director of College Counseling Nat Smitobol and newly hired Ed Yao.

According to the communications office, deans’ duties will include meeting individually with students and families, helping students in course selection, supporting students in extracurricular activities, monitoring student progress throughout the year, communicating with parents and faculty, guiding students and families through the college counseling process and serving as the student’s main adviser and family contact. The new dean system provides students individualized guidance and support.

The advisory system will still take attendance three times a week and serve as a forum for discussion. However, the upper school dean, not the adviser, will monitor students’ progress and growth, offer advice, and will be the primary contact for students and families. When attendance is not taken in advisory, it will be taken in grade level groups by the upper school deans.

“Our focus in this new model is for every student on campus to have a dean who knows their story, what motivates them, and can help map out a four-year plan for taking advantage of all the opportunities available at Poly. Building meaningful relationships of this kind takes time. You don’t ask strangers off the street for important financial advice or to weigh in on a sensitive personal issue, you ask people you trust. We want students and families at Poly to have an ally every step of the way along their journey through the Upper School as they face difficult questions, ponder their future, or simply want to connect with someone who is willing to listen,” said Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Student Outcomes Kyle Graham.

Students will not be allowed to change deans once they are assigned. Each dean’s group of advisees will be a well-rounded representation of Poly.

A separate college counseling department will no longer exist as the deans are now primarily responsible for college counseling. The deans will serve as the primary college counselor for each student and will write letters of recommendation for each of their advisees. This system enables the college counseling process to start during freshman year, much earlier than the current system, which usually starts at the beginning of junior year.

Director of College Counseling Nat Smitobol ensures that the pressures of college will not be directly placed upon freshmen. “This new structure allows us to start thinking about [the college process] in a way that supports students earlier, as well as enable us to have conversations with parents who often want to start talking about college before students do,” he said.

While each student has their assigned dean as their official college counselor, the deans will meet together throughout the week to review, strategize and collaborate, allowing students to benefit from the connections and expertise of each respective dean.

Many juniors last year had to change college counselors for their senior year. Former college counselor John Rearick is returning to the English department for this school year.

This system has been designed to make the transition from the old dean structure as seamless as possible.