Fryeburg Academy principal and Lincoln Academy Head of School candidate David Sturdevant told Lincoln Academy parents he would live on campus, as he has done for most of his career, if he was hired by the Newcastle private school.
“Being a presence and visible is part of building community,” he said. “It’s a resource.”
Sturdevant began the March 8 meeting at the school by taking a seat and introducing the group of approximately 20 community members to his wife, Beth. He told the assembly his wife has been involved with activities at Fryeburg Academy, serving as director of alumni relations and in other roles, before pursuing her own career as a registered nurse.
“She gets the whole town academy-community thing,” Sturdevant said. “We are strong believers in the mission of a town academy.”
Sturdevant’s appearance in Newcastle was the second of three planned public appearances by potential administrators. The school’s board of trustees had winnowed the list of potential hires down to two candidates before reopening the search process. Current Head of School Jay Pinkerton is scheduled to step down at the end of the current school year.
Sturdevant said he and his wife moved to Fryeburg in 1985, following graduation from Wheaton College and stints teaching at Wheaton and at high schools in Vermont. At Fryeburg, Sturdevant began by helping to create an alternative high school for students who had not earned enough credits to graduate after four years. He later served as director of curriculum and assistant headmaster.
Four years ago, Fryeburg Academy altered its administrative structure and Sturdevant’s title became school principal. He said that role is similar to the head of school at Lincoln, running the school on a day-to-day basis.
Sturdevant talked about the future of Lincoln as a school that attracts boarders, both from the U.S. and abroad. He said international students enrich the school and the wider community financially and culturally.
Fryeburg has had boarding students since the 1800s and began attracting international students in the 1960s. The total student population is 630, with approximately 150 of those living on campus and 20 coming from nearby communities that do not have contracts with the academy.
He said almost half of Fryeburg’s faculty live in dormitories or on-campus housing.
Sturdevant said he was also interested in Lincoln’s plans for a technical center.
“I can’t see why any student anywhere wouldn’t want to come to Lincoln Academy,” he said. He said Lincoln has an excellent educational model, location and physical relationship to nearby towns.
He then responded to questions from the audience.
Sturdevant said he decided to look for a position outside of Fryeburg Academy after being one of two finalists for the head position there.
“They decided to go outside of the school,” he said. “It seemed to be a sign.”
He said he wants to be head of a town academy.
Sturdevant said developing an international program, which he prefers to think of as a boarding program, requires programs that allow foreign students to develop their English language skills.
“They want to get a good taste of American culture,” he said. Sturdevant said parents in other countries who send their children to U.S. high schools often want them to continue their education at universities here and want geographic diversity in the student body.
“I know you need a really good ESL [English as a Second Language] program,” he said. “I know why the students are coming.” He said it is important to have a counselor dedicated to meeting boarding students’ needs.
When asked if he knew why he was not chosen as head of school at Fryeburg, Sturdevant said he could only speculate.
“I can assure you that I didn’t do anything horrible,” he said.
Sturdevant said he was most proud of starting the alternative school. He said he now sees students graduating from Fryeburg whose parents were alternative school students decades before. Those recent graduates often began their time at Fryeburg in the nursery that was provided as part of the alternative school, he said.
He said he felt much of his most important work was in the day-to-day responses to programming and curriculum needs.
“I think, over the years, we’ve been able to come up with creative solutions,” he said. One of those ideas was a global studies certificate program that includes a study abroad component.
“Fryeburg’s ways can’t be dropped on Lincoln,” he said. Sturdevant said he has learned a lot about what will not work and wants to meet with as many Lincoln Academy parents as possible to learn what their goals are.