Adieu Arnold

Assistant Principal Rupani fills in as Interim


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

The air Thursday afternoon was buzzing as students packed up textbooks and empty water bottles from their lockers, groggily attended final winter sports practices, and eagerly anticipated the final Friday leading up to February Break. 

At 5:12 p.m. Thursday, February 16, Principal Dan Frank sent an email to the Upper School “to inform you that Parker’s Head of Upper School Chris Arnold has resigned from Parker and that he will not be returning to school.” Effective immediately after Arnold’s departure was announced, Assistant Principal Rupani began to serve as Interim Head of the Upper School for the rest of the school year. 

“The timeline is pretty much what was in the email,” Rupani said. “Mr. Arnold sent in his resignation and the email went out shortly. From there it was established that I would step in this interim which has always been the past practice.” According to Rupani, this practice of the Assistant Principal filling the role of Head of Upper School has been triggered at least two times in the past. The Friday following, Rupani stepped into the role of Head of Upper School and could already be found in his office on the third floor. 

Since 2016, Arnold will be the third head of the Upper School to resign. Peter Neissa worked as the head for one year before announcing his decision to leave on May 6, 2016, in order to move back to Vermont with his family. Former Assistant Principal Ruth Jurgensen stepped in to act as an interim until a permanent replacement was found the following year. 

His replacement was Justin Brandon. Brandon was Head until July 1, 2021, after announcing his departure on December 15, 2020, accepting the position of Assistant Head of Academic Affairs at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Before his departure, Brandon began weekly meetings with Chris Arnold who had already accepted the role.

While the details of Arnold’s resignation are to be kept private, The Upper School leadership team, alongside Frank, will begin coordinating the search for a new Head of Upper School for next year shortly.

In the meantime, Rupani will balance her assistant principal duties and those of the Upper School Head. “I’m still getting settled, I think it’ll be an evolving balance,” Rupani said. “Dr. Frank has been really supportive in helping to figure out what pieces of my assistant principal role can be put either on pause or what he can take. So that my focus can be in supporting y’all the students and Upper School faculty and family.” 

Throughout the year, junior Senate heads Harry Lowitz, Sarah Mathews, Naomi Gross, and Arjun Kalra and senior Student Government President Samantha Graines met with Arnold at a recurring Friday lunch spot alongside senior president Samantha Graines. Due to the abrupt timing of Arnold’s resignation, the usual Friday meeting was skipped for one week but will resume on March 10. “We go over our notes from Senate each week,” Matthews said. “It was a nice time for him to run stuff by us and vice versa. We could tell him what the students wanted and acted as liaisons. Originally we thought maybe we should email if it was canceled, but then we realized we just didn’t have a meeting.”

Rupani recognizes the feeling of confusion students may feel about his departure and held space for questions and reflection the morning following the email announcing his resignation. From 7:50 – 8:05 a.m. Thursday, February 16, students and faculty were able to come in and share their thoughts in the auditorium. 

“All students, regardless of whether or not there was a close important relationship with Mr. Arnold, should have a space to move into if they want to share whatever feelings they have about the situation,” Rupani said. “I would like to have a magic wand and shift the experience, but I can commit to holding space.”

Senior Henry Weil recalls a more distant relationship with Arnold, but still wonders about what will happen as the year comes to an end. “He was my principal, essentially,” Weil said. “He stood in the hall and said ‘hi.’He passed out Sour Patch kids. I heard that the vice principal typically steps up to take the role and that this is a sort of past precedent, so that makes sense.”

As Rupani adjusts to her new role, she welcomes feedback with open arms. “I feel like I’m someone who can learn relatively quickly, but I do need a bit of time to figure stuff out,” Rupani said. To the extent possible that folks are willing to be like, ‘Hey, this is something that we loved and benefited from working with.’ I’m not the same person, but I’ll do my best.”