What It’s Like Being the (Interim) Leader of Leaders: An Interview with Mr. Bill Kennedy

By: Vicky Liu ‘20, Staff Writer                                                                                                                                 3-4-18

Since the start of September 2017, Mr. Kennedy has served as the Interim Upper School Principal of Friends’ Central. While he’s only been at the helm of the upper school for six months, this school year marked his return to the position, as he previously served as Co-Principal, Dean of Faculty, from 1996 to 2011. Before that, he served as Co-Principal, Dean of Students for two years.

Mr. Kennedy initially decided to vacate the post of principal in 2011 to allow himself to devote more time to his true passion: teaching English. He explains, “Being a principal reduces the chances I might otherwise have to get to know students.” He doesn’t wish to get acquainted with students by disciplining them; instead, he prefers getting to know students by teaching them! Teaching enables him to develop relationships over time with both new students and students he has known for years.

Mr. Kennedy came back to the role of principal, at least temporarily, because when our former principal announced his departure late last school year, the senior administration wanted to ensure the upper school would be in good, experienced hands while they searched for a permanent replacement. They turned to Mr. Kennedy, as he had years of experience in the role. He agreed to pitch in. Mr. Kennedy adds, “I decided to return to the position because it would be helpful [for the school]. It is better to have someone who knew what [being a principal] is like to do this job.”

Recently, though, the senior administration has appointed Ms. Beth Davis Johnson ‘77 as new Upper School Principal, a decision about which Mr. Kennedy is excited. Ms. Johnson will also be returning to the role, as she too served as co-principal, alongside Mr. Kennedy! Mr. Kennedy shares, “It’s good for her to come back. [It’s] good for the school, and good for me.”

As one would imagine, the life of a principal is extraordinarily busy. Mr. Kennedy states, “I get to school early to answer emails from parents mostly. I also get emails from teachers and students.” Many faculty meetings are necessary for him to attend. However, in the midst of tending to pressing affairs, there are indeed fun parts. He admits, “My favorite part of the job is to work with teachers. I hope to help teachers make a great experience for all students in the classrooms.” Mr. Kennedy visits classes of all subjects, such as math, science, and foreign languages. He tries to observe every upper school teacher once per year. As of now, he has already observed a class taught by every new teacher at least three times. He emphasizes that observing classes is the most interesting part of his daily job.

In the future, Mr. Kennedy expects to keep working with students and teachers to keep making the Upper School great, and to fulfill the Quaker mission in any way he can. He concludes by observing, “One of the most wonderful things to witness has been the arrival of Chinese students in my last four or five years.”

Mr. Kennedy in his office.

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