Fresh Eyes: Packer’s New Leadership
Since January of last year, the announcement of Dr. Dennis’ retirement has been a conversation running throughout the halls. Packer students were intrigued when an email was sent out in October, announcing the new head of school, Dr. Jennifer Weyburn.
Through experiencing the communities of ten different schools, Dr. Weyburn has gained valuable teaching and administrative skills which she carried with her over the course of her 25 years working in education. Dr. Weyburn has been living internationally with her husband and kids for four years, and before the next school year, she will be moving from Copenhagen, Denmark to Brooklyn. After growing up and attending school in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester and New York, Dr. Weyburn went to college at Yale University. During her first two years out of college, Dr. Weyburn taught in the Lower School at Packer’s rival, Saint Ann’s, where she fostered her love for teaching.
After discovering her passion for the practice, Dr. Weyburn decided she wanted her “world to be bigger than New York and Connecticut” for a little while. In 1996, she moved to Hong Kong, China to gain global experiences, and later to mainland China. After four years, Dr. Weyburn brought her family back to the United States, and used her international background to drive her journey as an educator and get her Masters Degree in teaching at Columbia University in 2000. She worked at New Rochelle High School, and then at international schools in Atlanta — where she became an administrator, — Shanghai, and Copenhagen. Along her journey, she gained a breadth of experience both abroad and domestically, but recently decided that it was time to bring her family back to the U.S.
When Dr. Weyburn heard that Packer was looking for a new Head of School, she jumped at the opportunity, remembering Packer’s reputation from when she worked at Saint Ann’s. Clearly having ample experience in teaching environments, Dr. Weyburn has made it full circle back to Brooklyn, and is excited to finally become a Pelican.
“I get the feeling that at Packer, no matter what you’re excited about, you can get involved [in it],” said Dr. Weyburn. She is thrilled that her own children will be attending the school and will be apart of a close knit community filled with passionate students. For example, her son was ecstatic to find out that Packer, unlike his school in Copenhagen, offers ultimate frisbee.
While Dr. Weyburn was applying for her position and acquainting herself with the Packer community, she was impressed by “what an excellent education everyone was getting, how strong the teachers are [and] how strong the classes are.” She is honored to be a part of this environment and to introduce her children to such an inclusive learning model.
Though she is already impressed by the tightly-knit community at Packer, Dr. Weyburn is focused on continuing to cultivate a school environment that both embodies her values of global citizenship, and incorporates the ideas of students Dr. Weyburn is looking forward to interacting with students in hopes that they will feel respected and acknowledged by the administration. She believes that even though “students are younger than adults,…[they] have so many amazing ideas about how we could change things in society.”
Allison Bishop, Dean of Student Life, commented on the common misconception that heads of schools are removed from students’ everyday lives, and emphasized that, in actuality, it is possible for students to have a strong, open relationship with their principal. Ms. Bishop anticipates that Dr. Weyburn will be keen on including students in her decision making processes.
Dr. Bruce Dennis, Packer’s current Head of School, is confident that Dr. Weyburn’s global experiences will only continue to enrich Packer both academically and otherwise after he leaves.
“Over the past several years Packer has become more global in its approach,” Dr. Dennis said. “Somebody who devotes a portion of her life to working outside of the United States has to have a really deep commitment to the value of what it means to be a global citizen.”
Despite the limited time he has spent with Dr. Weyburn, it is clear to Dr. Dennis that “the kinds of values that she [holds] about what matters to her and her leadership [are] very consistent with the things that Packer wants to see.”
Ronan Harty, trustee and chair of the search committee for the new Head of School, decided to be open with the Packer community throughout the process of selecting a new Head of School, and believes that the choice to hire Dr. Weyburn will benefit all members of the Packer community in the years to come.
“It would not have been a good idea to have people waiting, uncertain, and worried,” Mr. Harty said. The ways in which students, parents, and teachers interacted with candidates and how the candidates experienced the atmosphere of Packer were significant factors of the search committee’s decision making process.
According to Dr. Weyburn, who is eagerly anticipating next September, being hired at Packer was “like a dream come true.”