5 Questions with Joe Algrant, Incoming Head of School

20 Oct 2021
ByLauren Coulston, Director of Communications

The Board of Trustees recently appointed Joe Algrant as Ethical Culture Fieldston School’s new Head of School, effective July 1, 2022. Kyle Wilkie-Glass will continue to serve as Interim Head of School and will ensure a seamless transition over the next year. Joe launched his academic career at ECFS in 1985. In the announcement shared with the school community following his appointment, Joe said, “What I learned at ECFS has served as the foundation for the ways I have approached my work ever since. It has been my north star, and this moment feels like a homecoming.”

Over his 17-year career at ECFS, Joe went from faculty to administrator and ultimately rose to Assistant Principal of the Upper School. Joe left ECFS in 2002 to join the Hawken School as Upper School Director. He then joined the Dwight Englewood School in 2006, where he currently serves as Upper School Principal and Assistant Head of School for Program. After leaving ECFS, Joe remained a mentor to countless alumni, faculty, and staff. Here, we get to know Joe better.

What are you looking forward to as you return to ECFS?

I look forward to learning about how ECFS has changed in the 20 years I have been away and how progressive education lives in the School now. I look forward to visiting classes at every level and seeing ECFS in action. I look forward to getting to know Fieldston Upper students and learning about their interests and activities, as well as their hopes and dreams for the future. I look forward to spending time with students in Fieldston Middle, Fieldston Lower, and Ethical Culture, something that will be new to me. I loved meeting with them during the search and hearing about what they think is important in the School. They were serious and smart, they had valuable ideas to share, and they asked great questions. And as I discussed with the 5th Graders at Ethical Culture, I look forward to discussing their petitions about recess and their desire for chocolate milk at lunch.

What do you see as a challenge or an opportunity?

There are many, but to choose one, I see real opportunity to engage alumni and learn about how their experiences as students have impacted their lives, and to use those conversations to help the School move forward. In the dark early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, one bright spot was hearing from alumni who were in the course that Bob Montera and I co-taught, "Science and History," who were reaching out with their thoughts, responses, and questions as they compared this pandemic to what we had discussed about AIDS 20 years ago. Their memories of the course demonstrated the value of relevant course material. I think there’s an opportunity to work with alumni to help them connect with ECFS faculty and classmates for meaningful, rich discussion and analysis. What drew you to ECFS?

I was drawn to ECFS the first time by the positive energy I felt in the halls and in the classrooms, as well as the importance that the School placed on ethics. I loved the students I met during my sample lesson teaching what was then called AP Biology. I am returning to ECFS for the same reasons, plus several more, including my wonderful memories of my first stint there. The way that ECFS approaches education is, to me, essential and effective. It prepares students for lives of value, participation in civic affairs, and service to others.

What are three things you want the community to know about you before you start?

I want folks to know that I am optimistic about the future as we come out of the pandemic (which I hope we are) — that we'll be able to take the lessons we have learned and use them to great effect. I grew up a New York Giants and New York Mets fan, and that has defined my love of sports. Repeat "optimistic."

I hope I get to teach at some point when I return. I miss it.

What’s your psych-up song before something anxiety-inducing?

I will date myself terribly, but ever since I was in high school, I have been listening to a song called “Blue Sky” by The Allman Brothers Band to psych myself up for something — be it a stressful meeting or a swim meet. It works every time. More recently, I have also used other songs that my daughters have taught me, like “Wildflower” by 5 Seconds of Summer and “I'm Okay” by Honest Men, both of which I find energizing and positive.