Changing of the Guard

Mr. Whipple assumes the new Dean position

Lear Eicher, Copy

This year, a new face has entered Seabury’s administrative wing: Dean of Students Will Whipple (also known as D.J. Whipp Nasty). Before Whipple, however, faculty member Sonja Czarnecki held the position of Dean for 11 years.

There were a number of reasons that Czarnecki felt a need to step down from the position. Nearing the end of her 11-year term as Dean, she began to work on her Master’s degree in United States History and Government through a fellowship funded by the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation. “I knew that, per the requirements of my fellowship, I was going to have to give it up at some point,” Czarnecki says. “I have to teach full time, not be an administrator, for the whole period of time it was funded, which was at least two years . . . . when Mr. Gollier decided to retire, it seemed like it would be a good time to make that transition.”

Passing along the position also gave Czarnecki much-needed time for her classes. “[Now] I can just focus on my teaching, and I can go work out in the afternoon when school is over and I still have time to, you know, go home, make dinner and prep for the next day,” she says. 

Czarnecki compares this new daily rhythm to that of her prior position at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. “After the last hour . . . we all went down and did sports and stuff. I really liked that. Having that balance in my life again is kind of nice,” she says.

While the decision was necessary for her, Czarnecki describes some aspects of the role which made stepping down bittersweet. “I miss knowing the new kids really well,” she says. “I feel like I don’t know the 6th and 7th graders much at all yet.” Czarnecki has also expressed discontent over losing consistent contact with Student Senate.

Whipple seems excited to take on his new responsibilities but also aware of the challenge that lies ahead. “Mrs. Czarnecki did a really good job of doing a lot of little things and somehow staying organized,” says Whipple. “I’m just trying to pick up all of those things as best I can and in a way that works for me as well . . . . I’m learning as we go, which is great.”

This will not, however, be Whipple’s first position as a Dean. “Back when I was in Memphis, I was Dean of Students for a middle school,” he says. “We were a bigger school, so it was really just my role to deal with attendance and disciplinary issues.” Whipple appreciates his additional involvement within the Seabury community. “Now, I do other things like help with Student Senate and help with social events, and I’m the connecting piece between the parent association and administrators.” 

In addition to his duties as Dean of Students, Whipple has also taken on coaching high school Soccer and teaching geometry. He sees it as a positive thing that he assumes multiple roles at Seabury. “It allows students to see me in different [ways] that aren’t just a disciplinarian,” he says. “It’s interesting too when I have people in both situations, where I coach them and teach them . . . sometimes they slip into thinking Coach Whipple is the same as Mr. Whipple, and then they realize quickly that that’s not the case, and that I hold somewhat different expectations.”

One new system Whipple has already implemented is the referral process. “I took it from my last job. It’s something that I created with some help with some other deans across the country at a conference I attended,” he says. “It’s something that I wanted to do so there would be a clear escalatory process for discipline, as well as something that made sense and was an immediate response to someone making the wrong choice . . . but it isn’t so serious that it’s super punishing . . . so we can figure out what we can do differently and then move on.”

While former Dean Czarnecki and new Dean Whipple have different styles, the transition from one to the other seems to have been seamless, because both have been able to harmonize with existing Seabury culture in unique and positive ways.