“I'm not one to throw around the term ‘heroic’ lightly,” said CCES Head of School David Padilla, “but Dr. Angela Allen has been absolutely critical in helping us open on time, in person and remain so since August.
“She has all the qualities which one could count as ‘heroic.’"
This year would have been challenging enough as Padilla settles into his first year as Head of School. But navigating the school through the pandemic while the country is challenged by political and civic divisions has only added to the challenges.
Allen’s service as a member of the CCES leadership team has helped the school meet the challenges. As Assistant Head of Academics, Allen has been instrumental in coordinating the various moving parts: operations, cross-divisional coordination, health care policies, schedules and calendars, and professional development.
“Because she carries the heaviest weight in terms of coordination, which affects some 1,140 students and 100+ teaching faculty, I have leaned on her to provide me all the information I need to make school-wide decisions,” Padilla said.
“Her title as Assistant Head for Academics actually doesn't fully capture all that Angela has done.”
Navigating CCES through the Pandemic
The Senior Leadership Team began working on a “return to campus plan” in the late spring of 2020. The team outlined how CCES students could return to campus for full-time, in-person learning in the fall. The Senior Leadership Team worked every day – via phone, Zoom, email, and text.
“As we worked throughout the summer, Angela consistently demonstrated incredible compassion for every student and family as we mapped out the details of the coming school year,” said Jamie Inman, Assistant Head for Advancement for CCES.
“Beyond her care and attention to the academic experience for students, she prioritized the social, emotional, and physical health of students, faculty, and staff -- understanding early on that this would be key in navigating such a challenging time in our world.”
Keeping Lower School Students Engaged
“Dr. Allen’s biggest contribution (as Assistant Head for Academics) has been in making sure that the Division Directors who run the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools are on the same page and rowing in the same direction,” Padilla said.
Allen helps coach, guide, and support Lower School Director David Johnstone’s decision-making, strategies, and execution in opening and ensuring a safe, productive, and engaging day with Lower School students.
“Angela is a hero because she has managed to take this incredibly complex and ever-changing turbulent waters of ‘what's safe and works’ and has smoothed the seas to something that is doable and calming,” Johnstone said.
“She has the ability to be firm, direct, and clear while simultaneously being empathetic and supportive. She is confident enough to listen, process, and then clarify.
“I walk out with a better understanding of why things need to be done and how that supports safety and the CCES community. I walk out a better leader and it helps me support my students, families, and staff in the Lower School.”
Maintaining High Academic Standards in the Middle School
Allen leads the school's team of directors to ensure the school community works in a cohesive manner that is conducive to the varying developmentally appropriate needs of five- to 18-year-old students.
Throughout the pandemic, Allen has made certain that CCES never compromised its high standard of academic excellence or ethos while implementing mitigation measures to ensure student and faculty safety.
“The preservation of these two things has been an essential piece to the success of this unprecedented school year,” said Middle School Director Kate Fagan.
“Angela has a keen ability to understand what is needed for the overall institution and leads our directors and teachers in a way that continually builds our trust and confidence in the many decisions that are made.
“I don't know how she has enough hours in her day to be such an educator rock star, mother, and avid runner. She is certainly an inspiring educator, and I am thankful for all she does for our CCES community.”
“Above-and-Beyond Efforts” at the Upper School
Like Padilla, Upper School Director Wes Clarke says that Allen has been vital during the school’s change of headship as well as during the pandemic.
“She is the single person most responsible for convening and coordinating the many relevant parties and key players in order to produce the teamwork to sustain confidence, health and safety, and operational integrity to make this happen, from senior leadership, to faculty, to academic administrators and also non-academic offices of the school, to school nurses and medical practitioners in the community, to students and parents,” Clarke said.
According to Clarke, Allen researches the optimal practices, asks questions, builds consensus, documents the decisions, leans into the sometimes challenging follow-up conversations in which those involved are not getting the decision or news they prefer, and helps the Senior Leadership Team forge a path forward.
“Each of our families should be grateful for her above-and-beyond efforts to keep us healthy and safe, coming to school, learning, seeing their friends, and actively engaged,” Clarke said.
“I don't believe I've ever worked with a leader who can so simultaneously and deftly hold in mind and connect both the big picture, the whole of a situation, and the parts, or the small details.”
“No One Works Harder”
The Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, Senior Chaplain at CCES, has also worked with Allen every week during Senior Leadership Team meetings. He also collaborates with Allen individually and with other groups.
Adams-Riley and Allen recently have been working together to lead a team of CCES staff to develop and offer a set of virtual workshops for CCES parents.
"Angela is a caring, deeply conscientious professional with a work ethic that is very high," Adams-Riley said.
"She helps everyone around her keep the bar high and she is dogged in her determination to make sure that we are doing what needs doing and no one is working harder than she is. Her part in the work of the Senior Leadership Team and in our collective navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic has been invaluable.”
Thank you, Angela. And congratulations on becoming our first CCES Hero!