Dear Friends,

It is the convention for independent schools to request that the Head of School provide a two-year notice of their intention to move on so that there will be plenty of time to arrange for an orderly succession. This note is to say that last July, I informed our board that I would be retiring following the 2019-2020 school year.

Being part of the Sandy Spring Friends School community was my dream, one that I have had since I was in my teens.

It began when I was a camper, then a counselor at Catoctin Quaker Camp where SSFS faculty and students ran the place. When I went off to college, my interest in community, education, and social justice converged, and I started to think about starting a school that kids would love as much as they loved camp. My senior thesis was entitled "Dissent and Experimentation in American Schools; 1960-1975." It turns out that starting a school is not as easy as it sounds, so my first job was as a community organizer.

From there, other things happened. But I never forgot. When Tina and I returned from Hong Kong and we found ourselves back in Washington, DC, it didn't take me long to ask the Sandy Spring Meeting to appoint me to the SSFS board. That was in 1997. Eight years later, I rotated off the board, but I knew that Sandy Spring Friends School was special. Not just a little special. World-shaking special. It has the power to transform lives.

The Quakers have an expression, "Proceed as the Way Opens." In 2009, Ken Smith shared with me his plans to retire and asked me to clerk the search committee for his replacement. After our committee completed the job description, I spent that summer wondering if the universe was trying to tell me something. In the fall, I resigned from the committee (prompting the resignations from the board of my sister and sister-in-law!) in order to apply for the job.

When I was offered the opportunity to be Head of Sandy Spring Friends School, my heart soared. For the past nine years, I feel like I have been on the honeymoon that just never ended. For me, Sandy Spring Friends School is both a place and a state of mind. I love the place and, even more so, I love the idea of Sandy Spring; that children can love learning, discovering, inventing, achieving, stumbling, achieving some more while growing up in a beloved community that is also their SCHOOL! I wouldn't be able to say it if I didn't know it to be true.

At the start, I hoped that I would be the right person for the job and, if I was, I would stay 10 years. My thinking was that if I was the right person for the next ten years, it would be impossible for me to be the right person for the ten years after that. Not if I had done an OK job. Plus, I knew I would have a lot more things I would want to do. But all those other things can wait one more year; I don't finish this assignment, and my tenth year as Head of School at SSFS, until June 2020.

I figure that you can leave too early or you can leave too late. No one leaves at the perfect time. So I pray that I am leaving too early. One thing I am certain of is that the School is on a rocket ship and that its next head of school will have a whale of a time. After all, she will be with all of you. What could be better than that?

Tom Gibian
Head of School
Sandy Spring Friends School

Please watch your inboxes in the coming days for a note from Kip Imlay '71, Clerk of SSFS's Board of Trustees, who will share information about succession plans and opportunities for community involvement in the Head of School search process. 

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