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St. Paul’s names first-ever woman rector to serve as school’s 14th leader

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  • Kathleen Carroll Giles will serve as St. Paul's School's 14th rector. She will assume leadership of the school on July 1, 2019. —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 7/30/2018 3:42:27 PM

St. Paul’s School has chosen a new rector, the first-ever woman to lead the Concord boarding school since its founding in 1856.

Kathleen Carroll Giles, a native of Portland, Maine, has held leadership roles at other boarding schools in Massachusetts, but this is the first time she’ll join the St. Paul’s community. Giles will continue as head of school at Middlesex School in Concord, Mass., during the 2018-19 academic year before assuming her new position as the 14th rector of St. Paul’s on July 1, 2019.

The school’s announcement Monday afternoon welcoming Giles came just days after St. Paul’s named an interim rector to lead the institution during the upcoming academic year. Amy Richards, a Concord High School and University of New Hampshire graduate, will assume the temporary leadership role on Wednesday, and she will serve until June 30, 2019.

The school’s search for a new rector began in January after Michael Hirschfeld announced he would be stepping down. His departure was initially planned for June 2019; however, he announced in May that he would be moving up his retirement to June 30 of this year.

A search committee composed of St. Paul’s leaders working in partnership with Spencer Stuart, a leadership consulting firm, has screened 250 candidates in recent months for the top position, Archibald Cox Jr., president of the board of trustees, told the Monitor. He noted that about half of the top candidates for the job were women.

St. Paul’s board members said Giles was quickly identified as a top candidate in the search, and that she embodies key qualities the community hoped to find in its next rector.

“Important among them were someone who will serve as an effective steward of the school, an education leader who honors our past and embraces innovation, and a sophisticated, strategic thinker,” Janice Lee, a St. Paul’s board member and search committee co-chairman, said in a statement. “Kathy meets all of these criteria and more. Her empathetic, intelligent leadership and valuable experience and perspective will be enormously important as St. Paul’s looks to its future.”

In addition to serving as head of school at Middlesex School since 2003, Giles worked at Groton School in a range of administrative and educational roles, including as dean of academic affairs, college adviser, English teacher and coach. She earned her doctoral degree in law, her master’s degree in education, and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University.

Giles will join the St. Paul’s community next summer with her husband, Ralph, who most recently served as head of the mathematics department at the Fenn School, a private all-boys day school in Concord, Mass.

Members of the St. Paul’s board of trustees said they unanimously chose Giles to be the 14th rector of the institution.

“She has the skills and experience to continue developing our educational model, with a focus on building an inclusive, strong living and learning community for everyone,” Cox wrote Monday in a letter to the St. Paul’s community.

Giles was unavailable for an interview Monday, but in a statement she said schools like St. Paul’s provide unique learning opportunities for young students to receive their education and grow up surrounded by people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. She said there is no better time to grow up learning to value and respect those differences.

“The healthy-culture work we are doing throughout our society is long overdue; it is both difficult and critically important work to do well,” she said. “I look forward to being part of the ongoing effort to create and sustain a safe, stimulating environment in which superb teaching, learning, and growing thrive at St. Paul’s.”

Giles will take the helm at St. Paul’s at a time when the school is grappling with decades of sexual abuse and misconduct allegations.

This year, new civil lawsuits were filed against St. Paul’s, alleging top officials failed to protect students from sexual abuse by faculty and staff, as well as other students.

An independent investigation commissioned by the school detailed claims of sexual misconduct against more than a dozen former teachers and staff members, dating back to 1948 and as recent as 2009.

The state attorney general’s office is reviewing that report as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the school’s handling of those claims, including whether St. Paul’s endangered the welfare of children or broke a law that prohibits the obstruction of criminal investigations.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)
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