By now every Upper School student knows Assistant Head of School J.P. Watson, whether it be through his role as Interim Head of Upper School last year, his presence around campus, or from his faculty speech given in an Upper School assembly on Monday, October 31st. However, many may not know about the new role he is currently serving at Collegiate.
Watson was new to Collegiate for the 2015-16 school year and was asked to serve as the Interim Head of Upper School. In his short tenure at this position, Watson immediately integrated himself into the Collegiate community, almost seamlessly. Right away he made an effort to connect with students, teachers, and parents in an extraordinarily welcoming way. This has rewarded him with the respect of those who surround him. Watson’s interim role is how we best know him, but now as Assistant Head of School he serves a much larger role in the community and beyond. When speaking with Watson about his new role at the school and about how he is serving the Collegiate community as well as the Richmond community, he stated, “For me this isn’t a new role; it’s really the fulfillment of a lifetime of work.”
Being the Assistant Head of School for a private institution like Collegiate opens up opportunities that have virtually no limits. Watson stated, “Assistant Head of School or Associate Head of School at independent schools can mean anything. Some places it is a business operations role, some places it’s an academic operations type of role, sometimes its all external, and sometimes it’s all internal.” However, in working with the current Head of School Steve Hickman, Watson has put together a list of around ten objectives that they believe to be crucial to the success of Collegiate. They plan to both initiate and expand upon this list over the course of the next few years.
One of Watson’s major roles is in the Lower and Middle School admissions programs. While Watson isn’t directly involved in the logistical side of planning and leading tours on campus, he serves as a key part of the staff that works to extend community outreach and to strategize how to best gather a diverse group of students from around the Richmond area. Watson pointed out specific areas in and around the South Side that have lower numbers of applicants, so he is in charge of figuring out reasons why there may be fewer applicants, and also coming up with a strategy to raise the number of applications from areas in the Richmond region traditionally less represented in our applicant pool.
Another one of Watson’s goals for the year is to work with Kathy Wrenn, the coordinator of JK-12 wellness and chair of the Virginia Independent School Association’s (VISA) wellness program, to implement new strategies for creating well-rounded students physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. Wrenn and Watson will be working closely with faculty and staff in order to receive helpful input on the JK-12 programs, helping to inspire the most valuable and thoughtful changes. Watson said, “We’re really excited about the opportunity to expand and develop comprehensive programming,” referring to creating a more well-rounded and healthier student body. Watson and Wrenn also hope to continue and grow retreat day activities that can reach farther than they currently do and can have a more profound impact on students and the choices that they make for their overall health.
Watson also touched on the motivation for his speech that he gave during the Upper School assembly in October. Watson was inspired by Charlie Blair, the Head of the Middle School, who gave the opening speech to Middle Schoolers about his life through stories. Watson decided that a spin off of this speech would be intriguing, and he also added his own element of music into the mix. Watson also offered some words of wisdom that go along with the speech that he gave and share the same common theme, that high school is the best time in our lives and is the best time to grow. He stated, “How many times are you doing to have to press pause, how many times are you going to have to press rewind, but whatever you do I hope you don’t press fast forward. Live in the moment, enjoy the moment, and be happy and content with where you are because where you are right now [high school] is the best place you’ll ever be.” That quote was really the take-away from the speech, and Watson did a tremendous job of encouraging us all to take a step back, remember the good, and not to rush into the future.