Ex-St. Paul’s rector Michael Hirschfeld to become head of Connecticut prep school

  • Former rector Michael Hirschfeld talks about the independent investigation into past sexual misconduct of teachers at St. Paul’s School in Concord on May 22, 2017. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 10/22/2019 11:27:51 AM

Former St. Paul’s School rector Michael Hirschfeld will soon assume leadership of a private boarding school in Connecticut where he previously worked as a faculty member.

The Board of Trustees of the Kent School announced in a letter Friday that Hirschfeld will serve as the institution’s sixth head of school, beginning on July 1, 2020, and will succeed Richardson Schell, who led the school for nearly four decades.

“The Board is grateful for Fr. Schell’s legacy of service. Fr. Schell, who will conclude his tenure on June 30, 2020, will be working with Mike and the Administrative Team to ensure a seamless transition,” the board wrote in a letter shared on the school’s website.

Hirschfeld served as the 13th rector of St. Paul’s for nearly eight years before stepping down on June 30, 2018. He had been scheduled to retire this year but moved his departure up 12 months early, citing personal reasons.

“This has been an unusually painful time for the entire school community and also for my family,” Hirschfeld wrote in a letter to St. Paul’s Board of Trustees in May 2018. “It is for this reason that I hope you will allow me to step down earlier than I had originally planned.”

Hirschfeld’s announcement came as alumni filed new civil lawsuits against St. Paul’s, accusing top officials of failing to protect students from sexual abuse. Those cases have since been settled out of court or dismissed.

Archibald Cox Jr., the president of the board of trustees, told the Monitor at the time that Hirschfeld’s departure had nothing to do with the litigation filed against the school or the department of justice’s criminal investigation into the school’s handling sexual misconduct and assault allegations. Rather, Cox said, the timing was “simply coincidental” and that it was time for new leadership.

That department of justice investigation ultimately found evidence to support charges of child endangerment against St. Paul’s. But instead of moving forward with prosecution, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald signed an agreement with the school that calls for three to five years of government oversight. An independent overseer has worked on the Concord prep school’s campus since February ensuring the school’s compliance with mandatory reporting laws.

Hirschfeld left St. Paul’s before the conclusion of the attorney general’s investigation in September 2018. He is succeeded by Kathleen Giles, who previously served as head of Middlesex School in Massachusetts.

Hirschfeld, a 1985 graduate of St. Paul’s, is no stranger to Kent. He began his career there as a history teacher and assistant director of admissions after graduating from Princeton in 1990, the school’s board of trustees said. Additionally, his wife, Liesbeth, is a former faculty member at Kent.

As Hirschfeld prepares for his transition, he is studying at the University of Cambridge in England, where he is pursuing a Master of Philosophy in educational leadership and school improvement. He previously earned his Master of Arts from Dartmouth College.

Kent’s board of trustees said Friday it’s looking forward to welcoming Hirschfeld back to campus next summer as head of school.

“We are fully confident that Mike is the right person to carry out the school’s mission while lifting the institution to new heights,” the board said.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

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