Bexley News

Columbus School for Girls welcomes new year, new leader


Celebrating more than 100 years of tradition, faculty, students and guests of the Columbus School for Girls formally welcomed new Head of School Jennifer Ciccarelli Tuesday, Aug. 26, during an installation service and ceremony.

Following a lengthy processional of faculty and staff, attendees joined in singing the school hymn, set to music dating back to 1562 with words penned in the early 1900s.

Lavea Brachman, chairwoman of the board of trustees and search committee co-chairwoman, drew on the words of her alma mater as she made her introductions.

"This indeed is a day crowned with joy as we mark the installation of our 13th Head of School, Jennifer Ciccarelli, and celebrate the institution she now leads."

Ciccarelli was named to her new post a little less than a year ago, following the announced retirement of Elizabeth Lee. Lee's retirement was effective in July.

"The expectations are large although the shoes may actually be small," said Ciccarelli as she addressed a full house in the Agnes Jeffrey Shedd Theater, being used for the first time since its completion this summer.

Ciccarelli has spent her entire professional career in all-girls institutions, although she attended co-ed public schools in her youth. It wasn't until she attended an all-women's college that she truly began to flourish, she said, paving the way for becoming an advocate for same-sex schools.

"I am resolute in my opinion on this fact," she said. "Experience in an all-girls school is foundational to the success of young women."

She noted both research and current culture that supports her beliefs that young girls prosper in same-sex settings.

"Girls and young women need tools to combat the prevailing, toxic winds of popular culture," she said. "There needs to be another message out there for them -- a message that makes clear that their voices matter; that they should be valued for that which they achieve; that they can be anything they want to.

"All-girls schools offer this antidote."

She said she was drawn from the Winsor School, serving girls in grades 5-12 in Boston, to Columbus because of the warmth of the CSG community.

Ciccarelli admires the attention the school gives to both tradition and innovation, she said, while balancing academically rigorous standards and progressive thinking and teaching. Rather than viewing these as a dichotomy, she said she feels it is an infusion of both that makes CSG a great place to teach and learn.

"I am thrilled to be leading the Columbus School for Girls at this exciting time. A time full of challenges and opportunities for the girls fortunate enough to come to school at 56 South Columbia Avenue every day."

While Ciccarelli was at the Winsor School, she served as both the assistant director and acting director, and headed up the lower school for 10 years. Prior to her tenure there, she served as the academic dean of the Girls' Middle School in the San Francisco area and spent the first 10 years of her career as a lower and middle school teacher at Greenwich Academy in the New York metropolitan area.

Ciccarelli holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Wheaton College; a master's degree in teaching with a concentration in elementary education from Manhattanville College; and a master's in education with a concentration in educational leadership from Columbia University's Teachers College.

She and her husband, Chad, have a daughter, Perry.

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