Deans prioritize authenticity in new positions

Anderson takes on role of Academic Dean while Thornberry heads Dean of Students


Mimi Geller

This year, instead of one Dean of Students, there are two new roles headed by Academic Dean Tom Anderson and Dean of Students Chantal Thornberry,

Mimi Geller, Director of RubicOnline

As Upper School Principal Max Delgado announced on the first day of school, Aug. 27, this school year largely concerns the word “new.” The Schilling Center most visibly embodies St. Paul Academy and Summit School’s alterations; however, the administrative restructure with two dean positions — Dean of Students and Academic Dean — is another layer of new.

Academic Dean Tom Anderson moved with his family to Minnesota from North Carolina where he was Head Teacher at Carolina Friends School. He teaches a section of World History II to sophomores, in addition to his administrative role.

“We were surprised at how good Minnesota looked for the things we need. We made the choice to look closely at SPA when we knew we would move here. I had the chance to meet Principal Delgado and a number of people here and got more excited as time went on,” Anderson said.

Dean of Students Chantal Thornberry has a background in Education and English and has worked at Breck and Cincinnati Country Day School. Just like Anderson, Thornberry has been in the building for the past months preparing for the school year; however, she now mostly looks forward to building relationships with students:

The summer month “…was kind of lonely,” she said. “I am excited to shape the social programs. I take the students part of the Dean of Students pretty seriously. I work for the students and on behalf of the students to shape their community and their high school experience, that’s my priority.”

I work for the students and on behalf of the students to shape their high school experience

— Dean of Students Chantal Thornberry

Delgado, former Dean of Students, explained that the division of the dean’s responsibilities recognizes that students are both scholars and members of the community. 

“A lot of schools like SPA have a more robust administrative structure. Now, I think we served our students and faculty under the old model really well, but there was an acknowledgment that we could deepen that work if we had more hands on deck [with the new model],” Delgado said.

Unsurprisingly, Anderson describes his academic life in high school as a place where he learned to be “good at the game of school.” Still, he urges students to steer away from viewing school as a means of competition and award.

“As a teacher, one of the things I’ve been trying to do is make school seem less like a game and more like an authentic growing experience.”

Thornberry describes her high school self as a “pain.”

“I was a good student. At that time it was very competitive for students in the honors and AP tracks, down to the point where they included your ranking in your grade reports. I was academically minded, but I also got into a little bit of trouble with the dress code,” she said.

Although located in the old chemistry room, an area of the building currently under construction, both Anderson and Thornberry affirm that their doors are always open for students seeking help.

“If it’s an emergency, you can always knock,” Thornberry said. “The office looks pretty scary right now, but students are always welcome to come in. It might not be something I can help you with, but I certainly find the person who can. We [Anderson and I] will be working together to make sure that students’ experience here socially and emotionally and academically are aligning well.”