Select Page

Dear Members of the Milton Community,

I am thrilled that Dr. Alixe Callen has begun her tenure as Milton’s 13th head of school!

As the Board of Trustees, we seek to align with the head of school on her priorities and also to perform our primary role—which is to partner with her as the leader of the institution—by offering guidance and support as we ultimately hold her accountable for achieving the school’s goals. During a leadership change, it is considered a best practice for a governing board to communicate its “charge” to a new head, setting expectations on both sides for the start of her tenure.

In the interest of transparency—and recognizing that an excellent school is the product of collaboration and effort by all members of the faculty and staff, students, families, and alumni—included below is our letter to Dr. Callen as well as her response.  

Alixe has exceptional qualifications as an educator and school leader and I hope you will join me and the Board in the warmest of welcomes as we continue to make Milton Academy the best possible community for our students.


Claire Hughes Johnson ’90
President, Milton Academy Board of Trustees 

Charge to Milton Academy Head of School Dr. Alixe Callen from the Board of Trustees

Dear Dr. Callen,

On behalf of the Board and our broader Milton community, it is my pleasure to formally welcome you as the 13th head of Milton Academy. 

Milton Academy is an institution wholly committed to its students, from kindergarten through Class I, and our top priority is the children in our care. Our students’ development—as critical thinkers and enthusiastic learners, as good citizens confident in their abilities and identities, supported by an outstanding faculty and staff—is at the heart of everything we do. Milton’s academic excellence at all grade levels and the unique student experiences we provide are critical to the fulfillment of our mission. Our world-class faculty, academic and physical resources, innovative curriculum, and co-curricular offerings are vital components that support our students’ growth, happiness, and well-being as we prepare children for success in the world beyond campus. Our decision to appoint you as head, and our enthusiasm for what you will do as the leader for our community, reflects this commitment. 

The Board has full confidence in you as Milton’s new leader; you’ve impressed us with your passion for the craft of teaching, your deep knowledge of the practice of education, and your consistent embrace of innovation. As a graduate and former boarding student, your affinity and love for Milton and its transformative place in your own learning is obvious. We look forward to supporting you as you lead our community, and share this message as a charge for your first year as head of school. 

Enhance effectiveness and advance the school’s mission.
As head of school, please build upon the strong foundation already in place and, through strategic and regular evaluation, develop a refreshed strategy for the future. We ask that you:

  • Surround yourself with effective and trustworthy leaders.
  • Be decisive and encourage decisiveness in others.
  • Recruit and retain talented and diverse faculty, staff, and administrators.
  • Continue your own professional development and support professional development among the Administrative Council and other employees.
  • Promote prudent and thoughtful financial practices and support the school’s financial sustainability, while ensuring that spending reflects the school’s mission and vision.
  • Champion a culture of philanthropy throughout the broader Milton community, partnering with the Board of Trustees on key development initiatives. 
  • Develop your leadership vision, evolve and affirm the school’s mission, and work with the Board of Trustees to develop and articulate our strategy for the coming decade.

Trust your instincts.
In your first opportunity to address the employees of Milton Academy, you shared that, despite your long-established relationship with the school, your leadership approach is forward-thinking and not rooted in nostalgia. We applaud that you started your first week with a request for feedback and ideas from every member of the faculty and staff as part of your re-introduction to the school. You know Milton, and yet you are meeting Milton in an entirely new capacity, and we support your commitment to listening and learning. Both the Board and the community recognize that Milton is a complex organization and we appreciate that achieving a true understanding of the institution will take time. We expect that you will:

  • Make yourself visible on campus; attend student and employee events and visit the many workspaces across the school.
  • Be accessible and approachable; continue to solicit and consider ideas and comments from a wide range of people, from staff and faculty to students, parents, alumni, and others.
  • Be an enthusiastic champion for Milton Academy within and outside of the community.
  • Observe classes across the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. 
  • Learn in detail about the student experience, including the day and boarding programs in the Upper School, residential life, athletics, clubs, and student activities.
  • Familiarize yourself with the school’s budget; engage regularly with the school’s business and operations managers to understand current needs and anticipate future expenses.
  • Learn about Milton’s reputation and external perception, and its position among peer schools, leaders in greater Boston, and the community at large.
  • Engage proactively with campus neighbors and Town of Milton officials to assess the school’s standing within the local community.

Utilize the talent and resources available to you and don’t be afraid to take informed action.
The Board considered your extensive history of school leadership in your appointment, and we are confident in your ability to make informed decisions to move the school forward when needed in the coming year. We expect you to:

  • Take a collaborative but decisive approach to leadership. Rely on the experience and advice of your Administrative Council and others to gather information that will support your decisions.
  • Leverage the resources available through the Board as a whole and the various Board committees established to support the school’s goals, incorporating the best practices of governance as laid out by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).
  • Summarize the feedback you receive and follow up to help people understand how their input did or did not result in new decisions or actions. 
  • Delegate tasks to the Administrative Council and other school managers as any leader would with their team. 
  • Work with the Administrative Council, Faculty Council, and Staff Council to improve and optimize communication and decision-making.  

Build community.
As head of school, you set the tone for the school’s environment. One word you used extensively in the hiring process was “community” and we celebrate your focus on that element of strong schools. We are here to support you as you:

  • Continue to build a welcoming community for all students, employees, and families.
  • Develop relationships and build trust among all members of the community.
  • Show enthusiasm and appreciation for the things Milton does well, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Demonstrate inclusion by listening to understand a wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives. 
  • Show empathy and compassion in moments of disagreement or conflict yet be unafraid to move forward with decisions.
  • Foster joy in the day-to-day activities of the school.
  • Work to dismantle silos and divisions where they exist.
  • Champion the school’s vision for academic excellence and a warm and supportive environment for students.
  • Celebrate the many backgrounds, abilities, traditions, and identities people bring to Milton as strengths that benefit all members of the community. 

Create clarity.
Milton requires clear and timely communication to function at its best. As Board members, we have been impressed with your ability to both listen and communicate complex concepts and timely opinions. We ask that you:

  • Continue to focus on clear and effective communication.
  • When you are ready, clearly articulate your vision and strategy and help every member of Milton’s community elucidate how their role connects to both. 
  • Evaluate existing methods of communication and explore solutions to streamline and enhance communication with all members of the school community.
  • Be concise but thorough, providing necessary information to the relevant stakeholders for each situation. 
  • Prioritize transparency with all of the school’s constituents by articulating your decision-making process and clarifying the roles and responsibilities of other members of the community. 
  • Endeavor to keep the Board appropriately informed about core programs critical to the school’s mission and relevant issues and activities to facilitate effective oversight.

It is a tall order to show compassion yet be unafraid to move forward, to take a collaborative but decisive approach to leadership, and to be concise while being thorough, but we have full faith in your ability to do so. We are committed and honored to champion your leadership and partner with you as we build upon Milton’s excellence and reach for new heights. You will set the example and the pace for Milton as our leader and we are confident and thrilled to follow and support you as you develop a vision for the next era for Milton Academy. 


Claire Hughes Johnson ’90
President, Milton Academy Board of Trustees

Response from Milton Academy Head of School Dr. Alixe Callen to the Board of Trustees’ Charge

To the Board of Trustees,

Thank you for entrusting me with the leadership of my beloved alma mater. The opportunity to lead Milton Academy over the coming years is both humbling and exciting, and to do so in partnership with a skilled and forward-thinking Board of Trustees is particularly compelling. I have appreciated the many opportunities to talk with the Board about my approach to this important first year, and I’m inspired by the charge and expectations you have set forth. As someone who embraces both clarity and transparency, I appreciate the Board’s efforts to define priorities not only for me as the new head, but for everyone involved in moving Milton forward. 

As a Milton graduate and lifelong educator, this role feels both like a homecoming and a thrilling opportunity to give back to a community that has had a profound impact on me. While I bring 30 years of experience as a teacher and leader in independent and public schools to this role, in order to be successful, I must take time to understand the Milton of today. Accordingly, I appreciate the Board’s support of my intended approach. Decisive action must flow from a position of deep understanding. The input and feedback I receive this year will serve as a critical foundation for the important work we will undertake together. 

As we discussed during the search process (and you indicate in the charge), I believe that the most important intellectual work of a school is to teach students to be strong, thoughtful, and contributing community members. To accomplish that goal, we must cultivate and model a community that resonates with purpose, respect, pride, and joy. I am committed to building those connections both here on Centre Street and within our larger alumni network.

The Board’s charge reflects Milton’s ambitions both for today and for the future. Work has already begun on many of the initiatives outlined in the charge. I look forward to sharing the insights I glean and engaging in thoughtful dialogue about our progress as we collectively set the course for Milton’s future.


Alixe Callen ‘88
Head of School