Incoming Head of School says he plans to listen to those in the community before making any alterations to campus life, establishing continuity from this year to the next.
Incoming Head of School Fr. Donald Reilly O.S.A. has no laundry list of changes for the school next year. Instead, he wants to get settled into life at Malvern first.
“I have not made any plans for changes,” Reilly said. “What I would like to do is to arrive on campus and just participate in the Augustinian community life there, not only with my brother Augustinians but with the whole campus community.”
Reilly plans to take his first couple of months to get to know people on campus, and for them to get to know him.
Changes will be made, but not right away according to Reilly.
“They would be a result of conversations and consultations with people,” Reilly said. “I do not have a list of things that I think should be done right away.”
However, Reilly has already made a foundational change to the leadership of the school. Reilly announced in an email on March 21 that Head of the Middle School Mr. Patrick Sillup and Head of the Upper School Mr. Ron Algeo would each become an Assistant Head of School, according to previous reporting.
“Given that we need to invest even more in the organizational structure and support for this continued evolution, I felt it important to solidify academic leadership before my arrival in July,” Reilly wrote in a letter to the school community. “The new organizational structure supports our evolution and also unites the Middle and Upper School divisions.”
Junior Phil Kramer has enjoyed his time at Malvern, but he would like to see changes to the school with Reilly coming in. He thinks the academics could definitely be stronger.
“Consistency of difficulty across classes needs to get better,” Kramer said.
Kramer also wants communication between students and administrators to improve.
“Our opinion does get included on some decisions like the change to the dress code last year. But I think [Malvern] doesn’t do that as much as they should,” Kramer said.
Reilly explained that he will listen to students on how they feel about what needs to be changed. He is going to meet with the senior class at the end of the year to hear their reflections on Malvern.
“I’m looking forward to it because their time is finished, they’re moving on, and they have a certain objectivity about their reflections. It will be very helpful to me,” Reilly said.
At St. Augustine Prep, where Reilly has been President for five years, students are often called upon to be leaders on campus.
“Students have never disappointed me when they are called to leadership and to consultation,” Reilly said. “They are very frank, very honest, and they are invested in the institution.”
St. Augustine Prep senior Matthew Fisher is the Vice President of Student Government and runs track. He agreed with Reilly that students are called to step up in leadership roles on campus.
“They really try to make most of the school events like Open Houses or orientation student-centered and make the students run them. I think that’s also something that gives us a taste of what leadership should be,” Fisher said.
Fellow St. Augustine Prep senior Kyle Abo is a member of the Student Government Executive Committee. He said that Reilly and the rest of the administrators are easy to connect with, as Reilly has an “open door” policy where students can feel free to come to his office or email him when they have an issue with something.
However, Abo thinks that communication between students and administrators could be better at his school.
“I feel like we are doing a decent job right now, but I feel like there could definitely be a better channel of communication between the student body and the higher-ups in the school, more free-flowing dialogue,” Abo said.
Abo mentioned one issue the student body faced this year. Last year’s seniors could wear quarter zips under their blazers during their winter dress. This year, the school took away that privilege and had them wear sweaters instead. Many students had an issue with the change in policy.
However, Fisher said that Reilly took the student body’s opinion into consideration when dealing with this issue.
“I reached out to Fr. Reilly and he was all ears. Obviously, it did not go directly to him but eventually it did,” Fisher said. “He was absolutely on board with us because you can really tell that he really values the student opinion over anyone else, with some regards. Obviously it’s important in some regards and not so much others.”
Fisher told a story about another issue that came up this year which he felt Reilly and the administration handled well.
“There was an issue very recently about a student who was caught cheating and was consequently expelled for it,” Fisher said. “There was a huge outrage over it because people argued, ‘It wasn’t that bad, everyone cheats every once in awhile,’ stupid arguments like that.”
In response, Father Reilly gathered students together and explained the school’s decision on consequences.
“Once they sat down and explained it to us, there was no more complaining since everyone fully understood and more or less agreed with their decision,” Fisher said. “Father Reilly really likes to make sure that everyone is on the same page. He values what we had to say, and he responded to what we had to say. Frankly, it was the right decision to remove the student even though he was one of my best friends.”
Fisher said that going to St. Augustine Prep was the best choice he has made. He explained that Reilly’s leadership and relationship with the students has helped have such a great time there.
“He walks around and exudes this sort of wisdom,” Fisher said. “I know he’s the type of guy that you can go to and he will know you by name, even though you are one of around 800 students.”
Reilly recognizes that Malvern Prep and St. Augustine Prep have two different cultures despite their similarities. Next year, he explained that wants to get a feel for that new atmosphere before making any huge changes.
“There is a lot of culture there that I respect, want to learn, and be a part of,” Reilly said. “But I also want to listen to the members of the community to see how we can do things better or differently to reflect our desire for excellence.”