Joining an Incredible Community – Q&A with Jennifer Ciccarelli

Joining an Incredible Community – Q&A with Jennifer Ciccarelli

With nearly two and a half months of school under her belt, we caught up with Ms. Jennifer Ciccarelli to see how the year is going, hear about her vision for the future of the school, and–of course–find out about her favorite Marlborough snacks.

Quarter 1 is officially done! How have these past couple months been for you?
Jennifer M. Ciccarelli (JMC): In a word: Fantastic! The Marlborough community has been incredibly welcoming. I have been meeting with as many members of our community as I can fit into my schedule, and I have learned so much from each of them. Much of it has confirmed what I already believed to be true coming out of the search process. Certainly the warmth and supportiveness of the community has been confirmed. So, too, has the exceptional professionalism of every member of the staff and faculty: every person with whom I interact day-to-day demonstrates their commitment to Marlborough and their commitment to excellence. From our amazing facilities and security staff, to Café M, our faculty, and administrators: every person aims to do their very best work on behalf of our students every day. And, of course, Marlborough students truly are as extraordinary as I imagined. They are thoughtful, smart, joyful, and engaged. I learn from them every day and really enjoy talking with them.

What are some areas you plan to focus on at Marlborough?
JMC: I feel that it is a bit early to answer that question definitively: when I think of “areas of focus” in my role, I think of changes that need to be made. Before I make any changes or pass judgment, it is critical for me to understand Marlborough’s community, culture, and programs deeply so that I will know–as much as one can–what will be gained and what will be lost if a change were to be made. That means my area of focus for the immediate future is to get to know this community really well. I am doing that by meeting with everyone I can, by asking a lot of questions, observing, and testing assumptions. Once I get to a place where I start to hear a lot of similar answers and repeated ideas, I will be in a place to shift my focus and decide where we have opportunities for growth.

You are in a unique position: not only are you our 9th Head of School but you are also a new parent! Can you give us your perspective as a parent in the Marlborough journey?
JMC: I have been so impressed as a parent–and proud as a Head of School–to witness the ways that my daughter, Perry, has been supported, challenged, and nurtured in her transition to Marlborough. When I noted the personalized, thoughtful admission process that clearly had the dual goals of getting to know Perry as a person and seeking to understand her as a learner, I was thrilled. As a parent, I was happy that the school cares about knowing my child. As an educator, I noted the innovative and careful methods Marlborough used to assess Perry’s strengths. Marlborough’s orientation process and specific programming for new students–Violets 101, MAPS, Flex, and Community Time, to name a few–has been intentional, age-appropriate, and inspiring. Viewing each aspect of Perry’s transition through the parent and educator lenses has continued to remind me of what an incredible community my family and I have the good fortune to have joined. 

The Senior Leadership Team selected one of our seven core values to highlight for the year. Can you tell us why “Stand with Others” rose to the top as an important theme for this year?
JMC: I always appreciate framing our year together in some way. “Stand with Others” seemed like a perfect choice. All of us have had a tough few years, and I think collectively we have become a bit rusty when it comes to being together in community. Highlighting an element of Marlborough’s strategic plan–and one of our core values–seemed like an optimistic way to frame our year and to demonstrate the strength of the Marlborough community. When we stand together, we can do anything!

What advice would you give to your younger self, that you would also tell our Marlborough students?
JMC: I would tell my younger self that her habits of self-reflection, curiosity, and continuous learning are wonderful traits to have. I would also remind her that a strong, effective leader can “look” a lot of different ways. I used to think that a leader had to be an extrovert and had to have a complete poker face at all times, never expressing any true emotions. None of those traits describe me. What I came to realize, though, was that my authenticity, my ability to be exactly who I am–and to be comfortable in my own skin–has served me well as a leader. Ultimately, that is what I would share with my younger self and with our students: knowing yourself and being exactly who you are is your greatest strength and will lead to success in whatever path you choose.

What’s something we might be surprised to learn about you? 
JMC: I really am an open book so there isn’t much that isn’t in my bio! One thing that is new for me that I am excited about is I have started to learn how to play the drums. I am not any good yet, but I love working on it! There is a vulnerability in not being “good” at something, and I like tapping into my love of music, my determination to conquer something that is really hard, and to challenge my brain to figure it out. 

What is your favorite place on campus?
JMC: That is a tough question! The Marlborough campus has so many beautiful, thoughtfully appointed spaces that it is difficult to choose only one. If pressed, though, I would have to say, my favorite “place” is being in the hallway in between classes. As a native of the East Coast, I am still thrilled to be in a hallway that is actually open to the sunshine and the fresh air. Plus, getting to be among friendly, joyful students and staculty as they go about their days reminds me of all that I love about my role: spending each day in a place of curiosity, learning, and joy is truly a gift!
Best thing from Café M?
JMC: An omelet filled with veggies–delicious!

What is the Marlborough tradition you are most looking forward to or have enjoyed thus far?
I love traditions: they are a big part of what makes excellent schools like Marlborough so special. They connect current students to the generations of alumnae who walked our halls before them–that history is magical to me. With that in mind, I am excited to be a part of the traditions that are unique to Marlborough. I loved Pumpkin Day: I don’t know of any other school that celebrates it as we do. I am also excited to experience Pin Ceremony and Ring Ceremony–both of which are traditions I haven’t experienced at other schools. 

Purple or white? 
JMC: Violet, obviously! 

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