Aditi Deokar ’21, shares the genesis of the following interview with Incoming Head of School Chris Kolovos:
I met Mr. Kolovos at Fall Festival during his October visit, and I wanted the school to get to know our incoming head of school better. As head of school, Mr. Kolovos will represent the school, and we at the Scarlet Letter, BUA’s student-run blog, thought an interview with him would be beneficial to the BUA community. Below is the conversation that resulted.
How did you get to where you are now? More specifically, how was your high school experience? Did your time at Roxbury Latin influence your decision to become an educator and/or an administrator?
I feel so lucky because I am one of those people who is doing exactly what I dreamed of doing when I was a kid. My parents are immigrants from Greece; they never went to college, but really value education. With their support and guidance, I found my way to Roxbury Latin from 7-12th grade. That’s where I found my people! I was surrounded by friends who loved to read, loved talking about big ideas, loved the arts — just like I did. Plus, it’s where I made some of my best friends, who are still close to me to this day. I had incredible teachers and mentors: my headmaster, Mr. Jarvis; my chemistry teacher and newspaper advisor, Mr. Pojman; my history teacher, Mr. Ward; my art teacher and soccer coach, Mr. Buckley; my English teacher, Mr. Kerner; my theater director, Mr. Frank; my Latin teacher, Mr. Brennan; my college counselor, Mrs. Melvoin; and so many others. I loved school and wanted more than anything to devote my career to doing the kind of work I watched them do. It took me a while to do that, though. I studied history at Harvard, but rather than go right into teaching, I spent some time as a management consultant. Like a lot of kids who are in that first generation, I felt some pressure to find a career that is more lucrative and, according to some, has more social status. Then I headed back to Harvard for law school, clerked for a wonderful judge, and was all set to work at one of the big law firms in Boston. That’s when, with the help of one of my best childhood friends, I decided to take a chance. I took a job at Belmont Hill School teaching history, coaching soccer, coaching debate, and directing musicals. And I loved every minute of it! Just like I suspected when I was a teenager, teaching was for me. That was not an easy decision, but I am so glad I made it. I worked at Belmont Hill for nine wonderful years, before moving on to Greens Farms Academy in Connecticut, where I’ve been for the past seven years. Ever since I started working in schools, I have loved going to work every day. And all those experiences have made me a better teacher and leader, ready to join the community at BUA and help lead the school in this next generation.
How would you connect to the students?
I’m a teacher. The reason I started working in schools is that I love spending time with young people. At Belmont Hill, I connected with students as a history teacher, advisor, coach, director, and mentor — I still stay in touch with many of the alums I taught there. At Greens Farms Academy, I still teach and coach, in addition to my other work. It’s so important to me to stay connected to students, for two reasons. One is that it helps me lead. How can I know how to lead a community if I’m not connecting with students every day? Students are the ones who live the experience and are the experts in the culture. Another reason? Spending time with students is where the joy comes from! My best days are ones when I get to spend most of my time with students. Ask any of your teachers — they will tell you the same thing.
On my visit to BUA this October, students were my priority. That’s why I greeted every student on the way into the all-school meeting, why I sat with the juniors during their class meeting, why I visited a dozen classes, why I had lunch with students both days, and why I hung out at Fall Fest and the soccer games (way to go to both teams on their big wins!). Students will be my priority throughout my time at BUA, which I hope is a very long time!
What do you think is the most important job of a head of school?
When I have a hard decision to make, the first question I ask myself (and my colleagues) is “What’s in the best interest of the students?” My most important job is making sure that we keep students at the center of our conversations so that we move the school forward in a direction that best serves the students who are here and preserves a wonderful student experience for generations to come. That means making sure we have the resources to support the tremendous teachers at BUA. That means making financial aid a priority so that we can open the doors of BUA as widely as we can to the best students from around the Boston area. That means ensuring that the curriculum and the extracurricular program gives students the skills they will need to navigate their courses at BU, to succeed in college, and much more importantly, to live happy, successful, and purpose-driven lives as citizens of their communities. That means celebrating those core parts of BUA’s culture that make it distinctive and that we all love. And that means unifying the whole community around a vision for the future that embraces the school’s history and gets everybody excited for how we change and move forward together.
What changes would you make to BUA, and specifically to the BUA curriculum?
My first job at BUA is to learn. Like I did during my visit to campus in October, I plan to do a lot more listening than talking; fitting that we have two ears and one mouth! I have already learned so much about this beautiful community where students love learning, where young people form life-long friendships with one another, where there is such a close, mentoring relationship between teachers and students, and where students have access to the incredible opportunities at Boston University. Those are things that will not change. That is who we are. They are part of BUA and part of why I have fallen in love with the place. As I listen and learn, I also want to pay particular attention to the ways we can all make this community better. I want your ideas.
What is something you do for fun, and why do you enjoy it?
Can I offer a few things? I love to do the New York Times crossword puzzles, especially on Sundays. There’s something so relaxing and fulfilling about matching wits with the puzzle creator and discovering the puns and tricks embedded in a puzzle. My wife and I like to do them together sometimes, which makes them even more fun. I also love taking my dog Circe for long hikes. She’s a 45-pound rescue dog who loves to run through the woods and chase after unsuspecting squirrels! She has never caught one and probably never will, but I admire her determination! Cooking has been a hobby of mine for a long time. I grew up cooking Greek food with my mom, and we still cook together sometimes, but I’ll cook pretty much anything these days — it’s a nice way to be creative and a great way for me to relax. And I’ve been playing guitar and singing since I was little. My father was a professional musician, so I grew up around music. He and I still play Greek music together, which I love. Maybe we’ll play at BUA sometime. What do you think?
What are three adjectives that you would use to describe yourself?
Kind, Curious, Motivated. If I say humble, is that ironic?