A letter to the Heronfield Community from Betsy Kelly
Dear Heronfield Family, January, 2018
I am so excited to join the Heronfield community in July, and I thank the search committee for the honor to serve as your next Head of School. Martha Shepardson-Killam and I are collaborating closely, and I look forward to working with her further this spring.
Heronfield is a rare educational gem. During my visits to campus, I met kindred spirits on the Heronfield board, faculty and staff who spoke warmly of their commitment to 11 to 14 year olds and their belief that these important years deserve special traditions, attention and celebration. We agreed that a strong, loving community makes all the difference to a child during this special time. In most school configurations, grades 6-8 are tacked onto the end of elementary school or combined with a high school where the drive toward college diminishes the unique mission of middle school. Not so with Heronfield!
Last summer when the position was announced, my husband and I rode our bicycles through the stunning towns of Exeter, Hampton Falls and Kingston in order to understand where Heronfield fit in the local landscape. We noted the institution’s central location and the ease of attracting families from nearby towns, and as we pedaled up the school’s driveway on a late summer afternoon, I was captivated by the idea of students sharing a farmhouse as a close-knit community of learners. Chris and I had a wonderful time exploring the area; we stopped for a cold drink at Me & Ollie’s Bakery in Exeter, had ice cream at Applecrest Farm, and bought treats at Sanborn’s Candies in Hampton. To us, the school is nestled in an ideal world with proximity to both cities and open land. It is a stable, steady place, where children can grow at their own pace.
Later, on my first formal visit, I saw the excellent faculty in action. I witnessed strong math instruction focused on the growth of the individual learner and visited an English classroom bursting with books and the expectation that students read widely. I observed respectful discourse in a Humanities class with students gathered around a large Harkness table, I spoke with a science teacher about inquiry based curriculum, and I visited a lively Spanish class during an intense grammar study. I popped into an active music class that was both serious and joyful. Best of all, I listened to Heronfield students describe their school community with pride. I asked if they were glad it was Friday and almost time to go home, and one boy responded, “actually, we love Fridays here!” Heronfield is a place where children feel safe, yet they are also challenged to be their best selves. At the end of my visit, I counted all the schools I know well as either a parent or as an educator– upward of 50 – and I realized that Heronfield is the singular place I would choose for my own children. Alas, they are grown!
In November, after my headship was announced, a personal tragedy struck my family and both my parents passed away. The Heronfield community – people who have yet to know me – reached out in support with cards, letters, notes, and flowers, and they followed up with an invitation to attend the marvelous Festival of Light concert at the First Congregational Church in Hampton. I will begin my work already filled with a strong sense of gratitude to a community that reached out so warmly, and a personal commitment to contribute all my energies to this remarkable school.
Dear Heronfield Community,
Heronfield Academy is pleased to announce that Betsy Kelly of Belmont, MA has accepted the invitation from the Board of Trustees to succeed Martha Shepardson-Killam as the Heronfield Academy Head of School, effective July 1, 2018.
Beginning in June of 2017, the Search Committee reviewed the credentials of more than twenty candidates from all parts of the country. Nine of these applicants were then invited to visit the school as semifinalists. Along with one other candidate, Betsy was then invited to return, with her spouse, Chris for a longer visit. Following this second visit, the Search Committee, voted unanimously to recommend the appointment of Betsy Kelly as our next Head of School. At a meeting on October 30 the Trustees unanimously accepted the recommendation of the Search Committee.
Betsy has spent eighteen years in independent education serving in leadership roles at Winsor School in Boston and Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland. Betsy holds a Master’s degree in Education from Harvard University, a Master’s degree in Art from American University, and a BA in Art from the University of Maryland.
We will be working to ensure a smooth transition, which will include an opportunity for Betsy to be introduced to the community.
The selection of the Head of School is one of the greatest responsibilities of Trusteeship. All of us in the Heronfield family can be proud not only that Betsy has accepted the appointment, but also that the scope of the search was so extensive and the qualities of the interested candidates so outstanding. We are delighted with the outcome and look forward to welcoming Betsy and her husband Chris to the school and community. We are also confident that each of you will, in your own way, extend a warm welcome to our new Head of School.
Chair, Board of Trustees