May 2009

Hilton Head Prep Heralds the Arrival of a New Vision and Dr. Anthony Kandel

Author: Paula Magrini | Photographer: John Brackett

It’s a snow day for area schools in Philadelphia, and Haverford Upper School Head, Dr. Anthony Kandel, has visions of sunshine and Sea Pines dancing in his head. There is no dreaming going on here. Kandel takes the reins as Hilton Head Preparatory’s new head of school in July, when he relocates his wife, Annie, and their three children to the island and begins the next era of leadership on Prep’s campus in Sea Pines Resort. As he shares his vision for Prep during his blustery day off, Kandel speaks as though he’s already made the transition to Fox Grape Road.

Kandel steps in following a year of interim direction by Peter Cooper, who is headed for his next post as interim headmaster at the Awty International School in Houston, Texas. Kandel’s term begins amidst the stormy economy, when private school tuition would appear to be a luxury for most. But Kandel says not necessarily. “Yes, people are in a pinch, but of all the sacrifices we make to endure the tough times, a true quality education for our children should be the last sacrifice,” he said, while pointing out that he will review every aspect of Prep’s operating budget to identify ways the school can reduce costs.

How does Kandel rate the quality level of education at Hilton Head Prep? “We are the value-added school of choice,” he said. “At Prep, you’ll find the most up-to-date curriculum, an exceptional faculty, smaller classes, a strong family support system and plenty of offerings to augment the curriculum.”

This fall, the school launches its new full-day junior kindergarten program for four- and five-year-olds. The program will focus on the whole child through an integrated learning approach that addresses social, emotional, physical, moral and cognitive development. Also debuting this fall is a new after school program for students through sixth grade. This program offers a combination of child care, homework support and variety of enrichment classes, such as art, music, chess or Chinese.
“This is evidence that already Dr. Kandel is elevating our curriculum to a new level,” said Hilton Head Prep board of trustees member and lower school parent, Kathleen Speer. Speer served on the search committee for Prep’s new head of school and sees Kandel’s role as a complement to past administrations. “We’ve recently seen a lot of emphasis on capital improvements around campus, and of course we’re thrilled about the new Field House and other additions; but there is now a need to place a bigger focus on curriculum issues,” she said.

Among Kandel’s other priorities is sustaining a top-notch faculty. Kandel says he’ll strive to make Prep the community’s employer of choice, offering teachers and other faculty continued opportunities in professional development, competitive salaries and benefits plus the support of fundamental, yet critical courtesies. “Every person who comes prepared to guide and elevate our students’ daily learning will be respected, honored and valued for what they do,” he said.

Previously, the upper school head of one of the country’s most prestigious private schools, the Haverford School in Philadelphia, Kandel is also committed to setting up today’s kids for success. “We’re not certain what the prime job skills of the 21st century will be, so we need to be sure our students are prepared on every level,” he said. Kandel believes in both character and experiential education. The former requires a balanced partnership with families, their morals and ethical inclinations,” he explained. The latter, for Prep, could mean an extended look at today’s society, on regional, national and international levels. “For instance, the scope of class trips may change in the next few years, propelling students into cultures well beyond the familiar boundaries of the Lowcountry,” Kandel said.

Newly elected Upper School Student Body President, Jarrett Nixon, has his eye on that possibility. “Every year, each of our classes takes a fall trip, usually to an attraction within driving distance,” he said. “It’s good to get off campus to explore another part of South Carolina or neighboring states, but what would be really cool would be to actually check out another culture as part of our studies,” he suggested. “I can’t think of a better way to put our own reality here on Hilton Head in perspective!”Middle and upper school parents applaud Kandel’s open mind and open-door policy. Understanding that the teenage years can be impressionable ones, they anticipate a leader who will roll up his sleeves and actively participate in curriculum issues as well as day-to-day activities. “I get the impression he really wants to know our kids,” said Sally Cardamone, parent of two upper school students, search committee member and avid Prep volunteer. “And I think because he has three Prep children of his own (Abby, 5th grade; Matthew, 3rd; Allison, Kindergarten), the kids and our community will get to know him,” she added. “He has the ability to be a wonderful ambassador for Prep.”

Kandel admits it was the sense of community at Prep that appealed to him perhaps more than any other characteristic of this private island school. “It extends from the board of trustees, to the faculty, to hands-on parents and their kids,” he said. Kandel saw the opportunity at Prep more than the chance to help shape the educational goals of this unique, tight-knit group. His past experience at the Haverford School, and earlier at the Alexander Dawson School in Lafayette, Colorado, seem to be a good match for Prep’s “big picture” plans. At both schools he was a pivotal part of major facility update projects, guiding faculty, parents and students through the challenges of growth and renovation.

“Do I expect the Prep campus to expand significantly under my tenure?” Kandel asked, offering a hint of things to come. “The master plan is certainly well thought out and will happen over a period of time. I’m committed to a slow but steady upgrading of the school’s facilities and infrastructure.” he said. “However, before I start elaborating on the next building project, I’d like to get well-acquainted with the heart and soul of Hilton Head Prep—the people.”

For more information about Hilton Head Preparatory School, please visit hhprep.org or call (843) 671-2286, ext. 315.

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