From Form Sponsors to Form Deans

Form Deans have replaced Head Form Sponsors and are now given more responsibilities to lead their assigned grade throughout the year

Administrative role of Head Form Sponsor has been renamed Form Dean, and its job description modified with the hope that the new structure will provide better support for each grade.

Previously, Head Form Sponsors were assigned to and remained with a specific class as it progressed throughout Upper School, overseeing the academic, extracurricular and social aspects associated with each year, including form retreats and mixers.

Tentative conversations about increasing Form Sponsor responsibilities began a couple of years ago between Head of Upper School John Ashton, Eugene McDermott Headmistress Kim Wargo and Dean of Student Life Meshea Matthews.

These discussions intensified under the pretense that starting this year, Matthews (formerly Dean of Student Affairs) would also oversee residence affairs in addition to her previous duties to bridge the gap between day and residence students.

“Basically, I’ve taken on another full-time job,” Matthews said. “One of the problems I had last spring in transitioning into this [Dean of Student Life] role was how to still be present in everything I needed to be present in.”

Ashton and Matthews considered other schools’ Form Dean models where a teacher would commit to a specific Form level rather than a class, and plans to execute these ideas solidified last fall when they finalized the job description of the Form Dean in the winter.

Matthews convenes every other week with the four Form Deans to discuss Upper School events and other concerns. Additionally, Matthews meets weekly with each Form Dean individually.

“One dean that knows a Form’s needs and who is consistent and stays throughout that year can shepherd that class better than one dean who oversees all students,” Matthews said.

In addition to Matthews, Form Deans work closely with Ashton and all the advisors of their form. Each Form Dean meets monthly with their respective Form’s advisors and the Upper School Student Council to discuss students, events and concerns. Form Deans are now responsible for reviewing attendance records and minor student infractions, tasks that Matthews was in charge of last year.

“There was only one of me, and now there can be five of us in total picking up activities that we want to expand,” Matthews said. Because the Form Dean role is so much more demanding and extensive than the Form Sponsor role, Form Deans are only required to teach four classes, rather than five for all other teachers.

Ashton introduced the new structure during a faculty meeting last spring, calling for all teachers interested in the position to self-nominate themselves.

“Faculty support was great,” Ashton said. “People see the benefit of having a person become an expert and experienced at bringing a class through their year.”

After an application process, Ashton appointed the following faculty as Form Deans:

-Form I: Upper School history teacher Joni Palmer

-Form II: Upper School math teacher Andrew Brown

-Form III: Upper School science teacher Brandi Finazzo

-Form IV: Director of Health Curriculum Rebekah Calhoun

A major advantage of the Form Dean over the Form Sponsor is its ability for one teacher to become well-acquainted with the special needs and events for each Form level.

“I know the first time I was a Form IV Sponsor, I had no idea about what goes into everything,” Calhoun said. “The second time I did it, I had a much better handle on what to expect. Having the continuity of the same person overseeing the same activities year after year is a huge benefit.”

Although Form Deans will not continue to move with each class throughout the years, advisors will remain with each class of girls throughout their four years in Upper School.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for faculty members to have another leadership opportunity on campus,” Matthews said, “and it’s a huge asset to our community. It gives us a greater reach into our greater needs.”

-Amy Tao