Inverness Associates
Supporting schools in sustainability, strategic planning, governance, and leadership mentoring.

New Beginnings

HB—New Beginnings, July 2010

This June I retired from the Head-Royce School, an independent School of 800 students in Oakland, California after 26 years as Head of School and after some 40 years in education.  We accomplished much in my years at the School.  And now I am eager to chart a new, “encore” career devoted to helping other schools improve, especially in the area of sustainability.
I was fortunate to join Head-Royce in 1984 and become part of a vibrant educational community that reflected the legacy of its founder, Anna Head, a progressive educator who founded the School in 1887 to provide opportunities for young women.  Over the years the School grew strong, moved to Oakland, and became coeducational.  As the third oldest private school in California, Head-Royce has always been a beacon of educational excellence and innovation.

When I departed in June, people asked me to reflect on the changes at the School.  The secret to our success was simple: we assembled a first class team of students, recruited outstanding teachers who embraced the School’s mission, and earned the support of extraordinary parents and community members.  Early on we shaped a memorable mission statement, describing the School’s core values of scholarship, diversity, and citizenship and later expanded our commitment to include global education and environmental sustainability.  Our educational philosophy was based on the theory of multiple intelligences, that idea that students are smart in many ways, and that our work as educators was to nurture the genius in each student.  We embraced the belief that we could always move our School from “good to great” and developed a culture of continuous improvement.

I am especially proud of the thousands of Head-Royce students I served.  A high achieving group, they exemplified the School’s commitment to academic excellence, respect for diversity, and service to the community.  Over the years our student body grew from 10% to nearly 50% students of color, and throughout the years they enrolled in top-notch colleges and universities around the country.  We also improved access to the School, increasing the financial aid program from approximately $125,000 to over $3M a year, and created the Heads Up program for underserved, middle school students of color in Oakland.

The work we did over the past five years to make Head-Royce a model green school has provided the foundation for my new work.  Recognizing the significant challenges facing the planet today—population growth, widespread poverty, ecosystem destruction and climate destabilization—we fashioned a five-part plan to change the School.  Our mission was bold—use resources efficiently; create a healthy, non-toxic environment; develop an ecological curriculum; offer a healthy, nutritious food program; and instill the belief that sustainability is a community practice.

During the 2010-11 school year, I will devote myself to helping promote environmental sustainability in schools, among other consulting projects.  Fortunate to serve as a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford and UC Berkeley schools of education and Principal in Residence at the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, I will study the environmental movement in schools, visit schools across the country documenting best practices, and support the movement that is helping to grow greener schools.

I am especially grateful to the Head-Royce community for serving as a wonderful home for me over a quarter of a century, and for giving me the opportunity to apply some of the lessons I learned in helping other schools.  Those interested in following my journey can read regular accounts on my web site, Inverness Associates (  I look forward to reporting on our progress.

Paul Chapman