A Letter from Mel MacKay, Head of School
June 19, 2020
Hans Peterson, Esq.
Chair, John Bapst Board of Trustees
Bangor, ME 04401
I am writing to let you know of my intention to step down as John Bapst’s head of school at the end of the 2020-21 school year. My hope is that this early notice will give the Board of Trustees the time needed to find a successor and ensure a smooth transition.
A message like this under the best of circumstances is bittersweet, and this spring’s coronavirus disruptions hardly represent the best of circumstances. Fortunately for our school, what we have been confronting are challenges and not a crisis. Our teachers and students have responded admirably, confirming the strength both of the academic program and of our community, and now we are busy planning for the reopening of school in August. Health and safety are our highest priorities, and making sure that the reopening happens after thorough planning and with input from our staff, families, and partners at Northern Light and Work Health is especially important to me this summer. With a strong community effort, we all have the prospect of knowing that 2020-21 will once again see our students flourishing academically, in the arts, and in sports.
For me personally, there have been many satisfactions during my thirteen years here. As strong a school as John Bapst was in 2007, I hope it is even stronger now. Academically, we’ve added Chinese language, revitalized social sciences and technology, broadened visual arts offerings, and doubled the number of AP courses. Students who never before thought of themselves as AP material have taken up the challenge of college-level work in high school. For decades John Bapst has attracted students from as many as 40 Maine towns; since 2011 students have also come to John Bapst from 20 foreign countries. The same school that has enjoyed a stellar reputation in Maine has been able to establish one of the region’s strongest international programs, set to celebrate its tenth year in 2020-21.
In all aspects of the John Bapst experience, however, there is more work to do, and as I reach the traditional retirement age it is time for someone else to help us define anew what it means to prepare young people for the 21st century. Education does not stand still, any more than society does. In recent years we have become less a teacher-centered school and more a student-centered one, and our handbook, once notably full of consequences for poor citizenship, for the past dozen years has begun with a social contract that defines good citizenship in what we call the John Bapst Code. Diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive in communities that are open-minded, curious, and welcoming, and last September a faculty-staff group embarked on a year-long experience designed to bring back to the whole school some of the best thinking available. In these areas and more, new leadership will be instrumental.
Next January, thanks to so many of you, we will cut the ribbon on a new gym and fitness center. As I prepare to step away in June 2021, I want to assure our supporters and partners that I am eager to stay involved in the school’s future successes, particularly in two areas: our Phase 2 plans for a new dining hall and technology center, and in the international program. The hospitality, spirit, and support shown by our supporters in China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere overseas may be impossible to repay, but I will do my best by staying in touch.
Finally, let me say that I owe the Board of Trustees a debt of gratitude. Leading John Bapst has been the greatest opportunity of my career, and I cannot thank the board – and our students, parents, and alumni – enough. I extend that thanks to the surrounding community: there is something pretty special in the fact that regardless of the place they call home, all of our students go forward in life claiming Bangor, Maine, as the city and state in which they attended high school.
With very best wishes for a bright future,
Head of School
A Letter from Hans Peterson, Chair, John Bapst Board of Trustees
June 19, 2020
To: Students, Employees, Families and others in the John Bapst Community
It is with great appreciation and some sadness that we announce the retirement of Mel MacKay as John Bapst Head of School effective June 30, 2021. Mel has served as John Bapst’s Head of School since 2007 and has overseen the successful creation of the John Bapst international program, expansion of the school’s campus through the acquisition of properties for boarding facilities, administrative offices and Head of School residence and, most recently, the commencement of construction on a new practice gym and fitness center. During Mel’s tenure as Head of School, John Bapst has been a leader in educational excellence, including being recognized in five of the last eight years as the Number 1 High School in Northern New England by the Washington Post. Mel has expanded the Advanced Placement courses available at the school, and under his leadership the number of AP courses available to our students has doubled.
Mel has provided important leadership and direction when addressing the enrollment challenges of Maine’s demographics, providing strategic vision as we plan for the future, and addressing novel challenges such as on line teaching amid the current COVID-19 Pandemic. Through all of these challenges and opportunities, he has remembered and encouraged all involved in the administration of the school to never forget that our core mission is the education of our students from across Maine and around the world. Thousands of students
who have passed through the school since 2007 have been the beneficiaries of his leadership and vision.
As a board, we are deeply grateful for Mel’s leadership and guidance to the school over the past 13 years. With his upcoming retirement he will leave our school in good shape, with a long overdue capital project complete, local enrollment at near record levels and an exemplary academic reputation in our community and throughout the world. For this, and all of his efforts on behalf of the school we offer a sincere and heart-felt “Thank You!!” and well-wishes in his retirement.
We also recognize that there is still more to do. John Bapst is in the midst of a capital campaign to fund needed renovations to its building at 100 Broadway, including construction of a cafeteria, kitchen facilities, and a technology innovation center. We need strong leadership and innovation as we strive to remain at the forefront of academic excellence in our educational efforts, particularly in light of the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 Pandemic. We need to ensure that we continue to provide students and families in Maine and around the world with the type of superior educational experience they have come to associate with John Bapst Memorial High School.
Accordingly, the John Bapst Board of Trustees has organized a search committee to lead our effort to locate and hire the next John Bapst Head of School.
Chair, Board of Trustees