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Senior Leadership Roles Announced

Senior Leadership Roles Announced
Anica Diaz '24

This morning was the Junior Moving Up Ceremony! The entire Wooster community and many parents of the 2025 class gathered in the Forever Year Gym as senior leadership roles were announced for next year. This long standing Wooster tradition is always highly anticipated and  comes with mixed emotions ranging between nerves, jubilation, and disappointment. 

Typically, during the Junior Moving Up Ceremony, a few juniors will receive their prefect roles for the coming school year. These rising seniors will then begin their work in various positions including but not limited to outdoors prefect, chapel prefect, science building prefect, or social impact prefect. However, a big change to the senior leadership program will be coming during the 2024-2025 school year. Along with the addition of new prefect positions such as middle school buddies prefect or academic support prefect comes the announcement that every senior will be a prefect at some point or another. This means that there will be some 50 odd prefects throughout next year as opposed to the 14 prefects during the 2023-2024 school year.

You may be asking yourself, how is it possible for there to be that many prefects? While there are some new positions as mentioned above, in total there are now only 20 prefect roles. The new system will incorporate three ten-week leadership rotations over the course of the year that will result in every senior engaging in learning experiences. Seniors will be assigned positions and organized into teams of three for each prefect position and rotate through in the fall, spring, and winter. Essentially, each prefect role will be multiplied by three. Instead of one communication prefect, you will have three spearheading at different times. In the case of roles such as senior prefect or dining room prefect, there will be six students in this position in total during the year. 

In Mr. Byrnes’ own words, “The existing Senior Leadership program includes an annual process to select a limited number of students for leadership positions, but lacks intentional curricula and programming to support these leaders (prefects) in their learning about leadership and teamwork.  Additionally, the design of the process and program effectively eliminates 80% of students from having an assured, authentic, intentional leadership experience during their senior year at Wooster School.  Neither of these two program elements are in line with our goal of challenging students, through opportunity and intentionally designed learning experiences, to develop skills and dispositions – and build confidence – in areas like leadership and followership that will be of great use in school, and in life.

To help manage the program and support our leaders, we are also establishing the position of Coordinator of Student Leadership, a person who will act as a leadership coach for seniors as they engage in their work.  We are also working on plans to better incorporate leadership and management learning into the Junior Seminar program, as well as redesigning the roles for juniors in the jobs program so as to better prepare them for their responsibilities as seniors.
While the human development and real-world benefits of these leadership learning experiences are plainly evident, an added benefit is that colleges and universities have made clear that authentic leadership and management experiences are highly sought after in their applicants.”

As with any drastic and sudden change, people will have varying opinions and feelings. A very popular rumbling in the student body is concerns about the college application process (for example, what if all six senior prefects apply to the same school?) An additional worry is that the length of prefect responsibility is too short, as in by the time a prefect grasps the role someone else will be moving in. However, a positive brought up by the student body is that this will create a more equitable environment. With these future adjustments in mind, I decided to anonymously interview members of the Wooster School community to see how they are feeling. Their unedited responses are listed below.

How do you feel about the senior leadership program changes?

“I don’t think the changes are a great idea. It kind of defeats the purpose of having prefects. When you are in soccer as a little kid, everyone gets a participation trophy. When you are thinking about college, they are going to see that everyone has prefect role, so students have nothing to set them apart. I also don’t think that everyone is fit to be a prefect. I guess a positive thing is that everyone has a chance to participate in leadership now.” - Anonymous Senior, non-prefect 

“I don’t believe the changes to senior leadership are beneficial. Last year, many current seniors were upset with the roles assigned, but that does not mean that completely uprooting the system is a necessary adjustment. In my opinion, it feels like the faculty making these decisions are out of touch with the student body. Instead of making an effort to actually connect better with students, these changes are an easy work-around.” - Anonymous Senior, prefect 

“I think the changes are absolutely not a good idea. The seniors this year had to go through so much while the rising seniors are getting their roles handed to them. I don't understand the desire to keep everyone in the nest and the fear of hurting people’s feelings.” - Anonymous Senior, non-prefect

“Honestly, it almost feels like everyone is getting a participation award. However, I do like that they have done away with students voting for prefects because sometimes that just feels like a popularity contest.” - Anonymous Senior, non-prefect

“My opinion is that everyone shouldn’t automatically be a prefect. With these changes, everyone's responsibilities are the same even though some people have much stronger work ethic and deserve to be prefects more. I think it will be interesting to see people working together as a team next year, though.” - Anonymous Senior, prefect

“I think there are some flaws to the changes. I do not think that some people are cut out for that amount of independence given to prefects. Personally, the changes gave me a better opportunity to have a more interesting leadership opportunity, but at the end of the day we won’t be having our prefect roles for that long. I also think that some people have worked really hard to be a prefect, but if everyone gets a trophy, their work doesn’t really matter.” - Anonymous Junior 

“Honestly, the changes don’t bother me that much. However, the prefect roles were meant to give some people leadership opportunities, so I think that making everyone a prefect contradicts the ideology of the Wooster jobs program which already gives all students the chance to step up as leaders.” - Anonymous Junior 

“I don’t like the adjustments. I think the prefect positions were something that you earned and were a big responsibility. Now, it seems like everyone gets a piece of it. I prefer the way it was before.” - Anonymous Sophomore 

“There are definitely going to be many changes around the school. I’m a bit unsure on how it will play out, but I am looking forward to seeing.” - Anonymous Sophomore

“I’m really interested in seeing how this works out next year. I think it’s good that everyone will have a chance to be a prefect.” - Anonymous Sophomore 

“I feel like the role of being a leader is going to be not as important anymore and there won’t be any distinction between people who have been trying really hard for the past four years and those who haven’t.” - Anonymous Sophomore

“I feel like the changes help to level the playing field and make it so that everyone feels equal and included.” - Anonymous Freshman 

“I feel like it is a better opportunity for people to be included and voice their ideas. Also, it helps everyone to take charge in different areas.” - Anonymous Freshman 

“I think it is a good change because everyone will have the chance to have a prefect experience. I believe that is a good way to help develop leadership skills.” - Anonymous Freshman

I also wanted to gather an alternative perspective from a faculty member. I decided to interview Ms. Lucic to learn the decision-process and thinking behind these changes.

What was the decision-making process behind the new senior leadership program changes? How did the changes come about?

We met as a team - some of the administrators, faculty, and people on campus - to talk about a way to structure the leadership process so that it was more equitable. As a school, we are here to create good citizens and leaders for the future. What we realized is that giving everyone an opportunity to lead during different times of the year will give people the real-life experience that is needed to create a strong leader. 

What positives do you see coming from these adjustments?

I think so many students in the past have gotten caught up in titles. It’s the negative idea of “I didn’t get this title so I’m not going to do this” or “I did get this title, so now I don’t need to work hard.” These changes will allow students to see that leadership is actually way beyond a title. I think it will be a very positive change. 

Do you see these changes continuing in the long term?

Yes, I do. With all new change comes questions and things to be tweaked, but I see this as definitely a long-term way of creating leaders for the future.

Some students have expressed that they do not desire a senior leadership role. How do you feel about this? 

That’s a really good question. I think that in learning, people have to be uncomfortable. This is not a year-long leadership role, this is really only three months. If you force yourself to be in that leadership role, you will get something out of it, something positive. You might not like it, you might not enjoy taking on a leadership role, but you will learn something from it and I think that is our job as educators. I love seeing kids who don’t see themselves in a certain light grow into roles and see what many adults in their lives have seen in them. Even though some people will be anxious about this, I think it will lead to a lot of good learning. 
How do you respond to the idea that perfect roles are changing to become a “participation award?”
I’m not surprised that people are saying that, we expected that. You are all so young that you have not had a chance to lead. I think I would ask these people, “well what was the prefect role to begin with? An award?” Because it wasn’t. It was a job to step up and to be a leader on campus. To be honest, we want all people to step up and be a leader on campus. I hear what these people are saying and expected that.

A big-thank you to every student interviewed and also to Mr. Byrnes and Ms. Lucic for their insight! This scenario makes me wonder if it is possible to appease everyone. Moreover, amidst efforts to accommodate everyone, will anyone truly be satisfied? At the end of the day, only time will tell how these changes play out. To the rising seniors, congratulations and good luck! I know you will accomplish great things in your new leadership positions. 

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