Two former rectors’ names removed from buildings on St. Paul’s campus

  • St. Paul's School in Concord, Monday, May 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • St. Paul's School Rector Kathleen Giles during her interview at the school on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. Giles is the 14th rector in the history of the school. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 10/1/2019 3:55:47 PM

The performing arts and hockey centers at St. Paul’s School will no longer be named for two of the institution’s former leaders who are accused of ignoring reports of sexual misconduct and student rape while at the helm.

Former rector Bill Matthews’s name will be stripped from the Concord prep school’s hockey center and Bill Oates’s name will be removed from the performing arts venue, according to a letter sent Saturday to the school community from Archibald Cox Jr., the president of St. Paul’s board of trustees. Matthews was St. Paul’s rector from 2005 to 2011 and Oates preceded him decades earlier, serving from 1970 to 1982.

“For many people, the removal of these names might feel like a betrayal of friendship or disrespect for service and leadership,” Cox wrote. “At the same time, these sentiments cannot stand in the way of our greater obligation to uphold the values of our school. As compelling as these personal feelings can be, there is no alternative context for the trustees, in our fiduciary duties to the present and future school, as well as to the past, in which we can examine the instances of the rectors’ failures to protect and safeguard children.”

Exactly when the names of Matthews and Oates will be taken off the two buildings on campus is unclear. Current Rector Kathleen Giles said by phone that it will take the school some time to physically remove the names – one of which is etched in glass – and update maps around campus. There are no immediate plans to formally rename either building, she said.

“You can change names and not change a culture," Giles said. “I believe that we are earnestly working at changing culture with the byproduct being that, as hard as it is for some members of our community, this kind of work at the board level has to demonstrate that the board is living by its values and priorities.”

In his letter to the community, Cox said Matthews and Oates, who died four years ago, “are beloved figures in our community, and their contributions and personal commitment to the school have been and are extraordinary.” 

However, he continued, the board must act when it learns of past decisions that are at odds with the school’s core responsibility of ensuring student safety. While Cox did not cite any specific allegations against Matthews or Oates, he said the board chose to re-examine its past naming decisions and adopt a policy on renaming in light of what it learned “through our own and through external investigations.”

Part of that process included the formation of "a fact-finding committee” composed of former trustees, a faculty member and an attorney to receive community input and review relevant documents. He said there were “strong opinions” on both sides.

“This decision, while wrenching for many, aligns with the School’s values and priority placed on honesty, integrity, and student safety and well-being,” Cox wrote.

Matthews was rector when he gave a favorable job recommendation to David O. Pook, a now-former St. Paul’s humanities teacher who authorities said had a sexual relationship with a student.

Pook taught at St. Paul’s from 2000 to 2008 before he left under what authorities said were “questionable circumstances,” and yet he was recommended for employment at Derryfield School, a private day school in Manchester.

In a March 2018 letter, Cox apologized to Derryfield School for Matthews’s actions, calling Pook’s departure from St. Paul’s “overdue and badly handled.” St. Paul’s had never disclosed to Derryfield that it had fired Pook after he violated school rules governing boundaries between faculty and students.

Pook was hired as a teacher at Derryfield in 2009 and worked there until early last year. Derryfield officials fired Pook after the state attorney general’s office charged him with conspiracy to witness tampering and conspiracy to commit perjury as part of their broader criminal investigation of St. Paul’s. Pook ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served a brief stint in jail.

Pook, a resident of Warner, is now working under the name “D. Olson Pook” as an editor for individuals and businesses, according to his website.

Late last year, St. Paul’s agreed to operate under government oversight for the next three to five years. The attorney general’s office found evidence to support child endangerment charges against the school after a 14-month-long investigation but chose not to prosecute. Rather, both sides reached a settlement agreement that legal experts say will hold the school accountable and facilitate long-term change.

Since February, an independent compliance overseer, who answers to the state attorney general, has been on school grounds.

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


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