A lot of things looked very different when Cindy Trask first visited Westminster’s campus to interview for the role of Head of Upper School in 2016. JanTerm was in its second year, and the Upper School faculty was busy thinking of new ways to engage students through STEAM curriculum, Student Support initiatives, and direct experience with organizations in Atlanta and around the world. The entire school was beginning to dream about what new buildings and spaces could be possible and how they might enhance the student experience. A renovated Campbell Hall and brand new Upper School academic building (Hawkins Hall) were merely ideas.
“The realization of the campus plan, the new and renovated spaces, have transformed the Upper School,” Cindy reflects. “Students felt ownership over these new spaces from their very first day on campus, and the different types of seating incorporated into the hallway designs allow their collaboration to be visible, which is energizing for everyone in the building. The beauty and novelty of these spaces inspire synergy and interdisciplinary coordination for faculty and students alike.”
Cindy’s final two years as Head of Upper School have also been marked by some of the School’s most poignant—and jarring—moments. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced Westminster to shift to virtual learning in the spring of 2020, Cindy and her faculty took on the challenge of keeping Upper School students connected and supported:
“I will be forever changed by the impact of the global pandemic on all of our lives and the experience of successfully opening school during this time. Especially in those early days, I will never forget the unwavering faith of the faculty and staff that we would prevail in delivering academic excellence, and their discipline in confronting each of the ‘unprecedented’ challenges of keeping school open. It was and is truly extraordinary.”
“I am beyond grateful to have been a part of this amazing community. Westminster is able to actively seek out the brightest minds—faculty and students—and gives them the freedom to think creatively and create understanding together. I know other schools say they do this too, but having been at a number of independent schools in two countries over the course of my career, I can say emphatically that Westminster does this. Above all, I will miss the people that make up this special community. I know I will stay in touch with many, but I will mourn the loss of working daily with such genuine, talented, and dedicated people.”
– Cindy Trask, Head of Upper School
Cindy’s dedication to the faculty within her care has been a hallmark of her tenure at Westminster. Cindy developed deep relationships with faculty members, providing them whatever support they needed to best engage students and ignite their curiosity.
“During her time at Westminster, Cindy fostered faculty growth and development through leadership training, training in principles of neuroscience, and in the exploration of how issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion impact life on our campus,” reflects Director of Student Support Dr. Anna Bacon Moore ’89. “Under her leadership, faculty and staff were nourished and celebrated in the same way they show up every day to care for and guide our students. Cindy consistently brought a lens of compassion and kindness with an unwavering focus on what was best for students. She gifted our community with her ability to hear and value multiple perspectives at once, appreciating all the complex facets of the work that takes place in the Upper School, while still keeping the focus on the ultimate goals that best served students. Finally, Cindy brought a deep sense of humanity, compassion, and humility. We are better for her having been here, and St. Catherine's is lucky to gain her leadership. Cindy's gifts to our school will last long beyond her days on our campus.”
Cindy begins her next chapter at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia, this July, serving as their 12th Head of School. For the 2021-22 school year, Westminster's Upper School will be led by a familiar face: Dr. Chanley Small ’87 will transition from her role as Upper School Dean of Academics and act as Interim Head of Upper School.
As for those things that have changed during Cindy’s tenure, President Keith Evans gives much of the credit to Cindy’s leadership;
“So many aspects of the Upper School grew stronger under Cindy's leadership—innovative programs like JanTerm and the Goizueta Center for Innovation flourished, student support expanded and integrated the work of a range of professionals with the efforts of our counselors, and, importantly, we opened some incredible new Upper School facilities that have Cindy's fingerprints all over their design. There is really not an area in the life of the Upper School that was overlooked while she was our division head.”
An Inspiring Legacy of Leadership Beyond Westminster’s Gates
Throughout the School’s history, many Westminster faculty members and administrators have gone on to lead at independent schools and universities across the country. Cindy Trask joins a list of at least 16 other faculty members who have gone on to be heads of school—one measure of a strong school. She is the fourth consecutive Head of Upper School to take on this type of leadership position after serving Westminster.
Several of these heads of school credit Westminster for lessons learned and experience gained, like Bart Griffith, President of Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, since 2019. Bart held a variety of positions at Westminster over 15 years, including as English faculty and English department chair, a dean of students, and coaching positions.
“Westminster pursues excellence and a leadership position in all things, an ethos that no doubt rubbed off on me and continues to drive my commitment to students and schools. More than that, and most importantly, Westminster and its people welcomed and cared for me as a young educator, celebrating and nurturing my gifts, all blessings in my early career that still inform and inspire. Go Cats!”
–Bart Griffith, President, Shady Side Academy
While helping JanTerm develop as an academic program, Cindy Trask also co-taught the “Happiness” course. Here, Cindy and a student admire the works at the glassblowing shop where they practiced creativity as a way to increase happiness.