The new school year brought many exciting changes for both students and faculty, the reorganization of the deans of the upper school being one of them. The office of the dean of students of the upper school hitherto consisting of a separate dean of girls and dean of boys has been restructured to have a common dean of students supported by an associate dean. The faculty occupying these new positions are by no means strangers to Westminster. Former bible department chair Ralph Geeza and former class of 2020 boys grade chair Brooks Batcheller assumed their new positions as dean of students and associate dean of students respectively.
The new deans view their assignments as interesting and challenging although not very different from their former positions. Their immediate priority is centered around remaining accessible and building a healthy rapport with students.
“The most important thing is that we want to show people that we are down-to-earth,” said Geeza.
Both deans attribute the success in their earlier positions to the strong connections they built with the student body and hope to extend that throughout the upper school.
“What I’m hoping to do is to take my role as a grade chair which was really making sure that the students knew that they always had an advocate and make sure that students across all grades feel that way as well”said Batcheller.
Every new position brings with it hopes and plans for the future. Since taking over as deans, both Geeza and Batcheller have focused their efforts on building a strong and enduring community of students.
“I’m looking at the whole communal life of the school and focusing on keeping us healthy and well,” Geeza said.
The deans are also keen to provide a holistic support system for the student body through every phase of high school life. For students, this includes having their concerns addressed just as equally as receiving a pat on the back for a job well done.
“My goal is to provide an opportunity to celebrate their success and support them through setbacks.” Batcheller said. “I also want to make sure that all students know that there is somebody out there that knows them and cares about them.”
For many students, the role of the dean of students unfailingly conjures up images of detention. However, for some, the dean’s office provides an opportunity to have meaningful interactions with the administration, aside from teachers and grade chairs.
“I want the deans to be like the beloved Mr. Dimon in the sense of them knowing everyone’s name, greeting people in the morning, and having a personal connection with the students,” said junior Katherine Hennessey.
Both Geeza and Batcheller reiterated that the dean’s office should not be viewed as merely a place to do detention but as a hub for an exchange of ideas that will foster personal growth. While acknowledging that it is necessary to provide the disciplinary support for teachers and students, Geeza and Batcheller also encourage students to seek them out to share ideas and propose initiatives. Geeza added that he intends on taking a pastoral and paternal approach while ensuring that disciplinary needs are met.
“Both Mr. Geeza and I want to make the dean of students’ office much more accessible and not just the place you are sent when you get into trouble,” said Batcheller.
The reorganization does not mean that the girls will not have a dean anymore or that the boys will have two. The deans are confident that they can address the needs of the entire student population effectively.
“Going forward we are trying to balance when is it appropriate to be gender specific and when we need to view the school as a whole and address everybody that falls under the category of a Westminster student,” said Batcheller.
Like most faculty at Westminster, in addition to their new responsibilities, Geeza and Batcheller also continue to teach and hold advisory positions. Furthermore, Geeza is excited about the new discussion group at Westminster called Student Voice and believes it will mobilize and channel many open and healthy discussions among students while inviting ideas to improve student life. According to Geeza, this is an opportunity to create significant and long term impacts on students’ lives by encouraging them to succeed academically while building character.
“We need to make sure that as a Dean Team we are working in the best interest individually and collectively for the 825 students on campus,” said Batcheller.
Even as they outline their individual plans to get to know the student community better, the new deans acknowledge the positive impact that the former deans have had on the student community. Indeed, Tony Souza and Tiffany Boozer have remained an integral part of student life at Westminster for many years and continue to do so .
“Our job is just to continue to make sure that we help the school grow while not losing the things that Mr. Souza and Mrs. Boozer did that made us successful for so long,” Batcheller said.
While the structure of the office of the dean of students may have changed, its pivotal role in advocating student success through core beliefs of integrity and honesty remain unaltered. Students in the upper school can be sure to have their voices heard through the “Dean Team.”