Ms. Bishop: A Vital Piece of The Upper School Puzzle
By Ben Schneier and Tom Story
In a Target parking lot in Texas, someone tried to attack and rob a woman Christmas shopping with her baby. Unfortunately for the would-be mugger, that woman was Ms. Bishop, who physically fought off the attacker and snatched her money back– all while safely holding her infant daughter in the other arm.
Such exemplifies the nature of Dean of Student Life and Leadership Allison Bishop. Ms. Bishop’s outsized impact at Packer in just over a year can be attributed to both her strong-willed leadership and personal touch. Ms. Bishop inhabits roles as a formidable leader and organizer of administrative inner workings while simultaneously developing strong relationships with faculty and students alike.
Ms. Bishop’s current job is the only administrative position she has ever held, and when she moved to New York from Texas two years ago, it was the only job she applied for that went beyond teaching English.
“When I read the Packer description of this job, I was like ‘these are the areas that I love,” said Ms. Bishop. “My hiring agency wouldn’t let me apply for this job because they said I wasn’t qualified for it. So I went ahead and applied on my own, and here we are.”
“[Ms. Bishop] is quite a force,” said tenth grade dean Amy Montemerlo. “She is incredibly intelligent, she is incredibly organized, and she is able to keep track of dozens of room schedules, student schedules, and teacher schedules, and it takes a very special person to wrap her brain around some of those really detailed planning and organizational structures.”
Student Council President Jordan Tayeh (‘17), who works closely with Ms. Bishop in her role as faculty advisor to Student Council, lauded her connections with students.
“She is universally loved, and she makes all of the Student Council members a lot more at ease and a lot more ready to work,” said Jordan. “A lot of people don’t know that she is actually really funny; she is always looking for ways to make the school more fun. She cares about the happiness of kids; she’s not just an organizational machine. She is very good at that, but she is very good at the empathetic side.”
Ms. Bishop is the first Dean of Student Life at Packer, a position created just over a year ago. At first, it was unclear what form that job would take and what aspects of student life it would entail.
“Most of my year last year was figuring out what my role was,” said Ms. Bishop. “Since there was nobody in this position before, it was almost like a void.”
Ms. Bishop’s role encompasses redesigning the advisory program, overseeing student leadership (including all clubs) and independent study, and coordinating and rethinking Symposium. But despite the scope of Ms. Bishop’s job, some students remain hazy on exactly what she does, because much of her work is behind-the-scenes.
“She is the Dean of the 10th Grade,” said Nico Candido (‘19) incorrectly.
“I think she is an English teacher and she sends out the weekly emails with our daily schedules,” said Chaz Saferstein (‘20).
Although consciousness of Ms.Bishop’s role has heightened since the incipient stages of Ms. Bishop’s tenure, many still know her as “the email lady” due to her weekly (formerly daily) emails highlighting the Upper School schedule. While some students find it difficult to pin down the specifics of Ms. Bishop’s role, her maternity leave and subsequent return were felt by all, even as she maintained a presence during her absence.
“[Ms. Bishop’s absence] impacted me greatly,” said Andrew Douglas (‘17). “I’ve actually never met her, not personally. But I know who she is and I’m happy she’s back.”
While Ms. Bishop may have been absent for much of the first couple months of school, she kept busy — welcoming her second child into the world while somehow constantly corresponding via email and frequent in-person check-ins.
“The break was not a break,” said Ms. Bishop. “[I] have two children and I admittedly worked just about every day that I was on break. I love being at Packer. I love the students and I love the community, so to be here is not work for me.”
Senior Dean Loryn Evanoff, a new mother herself, expressed solidarity gleaned from her shared experiences with Ms. Bishop.
“We try to set examples for our girls about what it means to be a working mom,” said Ms. Evanoff. “It’s difficult when you are torn in two directions because you care so much about your family, but you also care so much about your job, and you want to be fully present in both aspects of your life. But I think she does a great job.”
During Ms. Bishop’s maternity leave, physical education teacher and multi-sport coach Russell Tombline took on many aspects of her role, including advising Student Council and sending out weekly emails. Multiple faculty members and students voiced admiration for his work, while still appreciating Ms. Bishop’s unique skillset.
“Russell did an excellent job,” said Jordan. “Ms. Bishop is one of those people where you don’t really feel her loss until she is gone, so it’s little things like all the organizational aspects. Like when we go to chapel, what are we doing during community time? What are we doing in homeroom today? That was all done by Ms. Bishop.”