About Alixe Callen
Meet the 12th Head of St. George’s School
The St. George’s Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Alexandra “Alixe” Callen as the 12th Head of St. George’s School on Dec. 9, 2016. She became St. George’s the first female Head of School when she assumed her responsibilities on July 1, 2017.
Alixe, formerly the upper school director at Lakeside School in Seattle, has distinguished herself throughout her career as a highly regarded intellectual, as well as a warm and caring leader and colleague. She brings with her not only a personal record of academic excellence, but also a rich and impressive background in both public- and private-school leadership. Alixe, a graduate of Milton Academy, holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brown University, where she was mentored by education visionary Ted Sizer. She also earned a master’s degree and a doctorate from Harvard, where she assisted with graduate level courses in secondary school design, school reform and school leadership.
Prior to her move to Lakeside, Alixe served as the principal at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Massachusetts, from 2008-2013 and as an assistant principal of Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, from 2004-2008. During those years, she lived on the campus of Middlesex School with her husband, James “Ace” Bailey, then Middlesex’s assistant director of admission, and their sons Zander, 18, and Miles, 15.
Q&A with Ms. Callen
What are the greatest challenges a school leader faces in today’s world? And what are the greatest opportunities?
Oh goodness. There is so much to say. We are living in a time of such change and evolution. In fact, in many ways the only constant for our kids is change. In their short lifetimes, smart phones, social media and Wi-Fi have gone from practically non-existent to ubiquitous. There is no doubt that rate of change will continue. As a result, our students need to be well situated to embrace change, learn new skills, and assimilate knowledge. And it is no exaggeration to say that they will need to do this daily. There is an oft-cited statistic that something like 50 percent of the jobs our students will inhabit haven’t even been invented yet. It is our job as educators to prepare students for that world. In addition to teaching kids a body of knowledge, we need to teach them how to approach new situations, how to adapt to change, how to access information – in short, how to think. To do this well, teachers need to put their students at the center of the classroom. No longer is it important for students to spit back facts and figures. Instead, they need to know how to approach a problem, how to manipulate data, how to construct an argument, and how to collaborate.
As someone who has spent her professional life in the presence of adolescents, I also feel a deep commitment to helping them develop into good people. I am excited to join the St. George’s community because I think a boarding school provides a unique opportunity to help students learn to be contributing citizens. We can be an incubator of sorts, a place where amazing faculty model what it means to be a good community member, and then inspire (and occasionally compel) similar behavior in their students.
I want parents to know that I approach the work of educating and caring for adolescents with the expertise of a professional educator and the spirit of a mom. In each of those capacities, I have come to understand that no two teenagers are alike. What it takes to inspire one kiddo isn’t always what it takes to inspire the next. It is our job as educators to figure out how to inspire each one – and then to do it!
As for alumni, I want them to know that I am working hard to understand the school’s history – both the many parts that make people proud, as well as the painful revelations of the past year. I am impressed by St. George's commitment to transparency and to supporting the survivors. I share that commitment and am looking forward to meeting all alumni - it's important to me that all feel welcome to reach out or to visit me on campus.
This will be a bit of a homecoming for you. Tell us about your experiences in New England and what you’re looking forward to in relocating here.
To say that the Callen-Baileys are looking forward to returning to New England would be an understatement. While we have happily served as an outpost of Red Sox/Patriots/Bruins/Celtics Nation in the Pacific Northwest, we will be happy to be amongst people who understand our rabid fandom!
We are also looking forward to being close to family once again. Living across the country, far from the majority of our extended family, has been a wonderful adventure, but we are ready to return to the fold.
You get to take one book, listen to one artist’s music, sit next to one famous/influential person and pack one snack for a long plane ride. What and who are they?
So many things I could say… Here are a few…
• Don’t hold it against me, but I lived on campus at Middlesex for 10 years.
• I’m a little bit obsessed with Harry Potter – though only the books, not the movies.
• I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world (seriously).