By Piper Moore (Reporter ‘23)
With the school year drawing to a close, it's time to remember those who won’t be joining us next year as they go their separate ways towards new, exciting opportunities. Mr. Sellers, the current head of the school, is leaving FCS next year. (Ms. Beth is set to become the interim head of school). Before Sellers’ departure, I had a chance to interview him about his experiences as a member of the FCS community. During our conversation, I asked him a series of questions revolving around his most valuable memories at FCS, the pandemic, his plans for the future, and what he is most proud to have added to FCS. As a final goodbye, here are Mr. Sellers’ parting remarks as the head of FCS.
Opening our discussion, I asked him about our school’s land acknowledgment, and what as a community we are doing to actively participate in social justice for native peoples: “I’m still new to this topic, though I have tried to reach out to Lenni Lenape leaders and ask them what we can do better. One of the main things I got out of that was that we need to admit more Lenni Lenape kids into our school and how, surprisingly, they disagreed with the land acknowledgment because it only portrays them as victims,” Sellers informed me. Sellers noted that he is still trying to learn and work on ways to educate himself on the situation. Wondering if the goals of self-improvement and learning were on his mind moving forward, I asked Sellers about his plans for the future: “On August 1st, I’m headed up to Spain to walk El Camino de Santiago, and as someone who loves walking, I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be one heck of a journey, but I’m glad I’ll be able to go.” In some ways, I was right, as El Camino de Santiago is a spiritual pilgrimage through Northwestern Spain.
I inquired about any past mistakes that Mr. Sellers believes he may have made and what he learned from them. Thinking relatively recently, he mentioned how, when the pandemic first reached the U.S., he didn’t take it as seriously as he should have: “When the pandemic first started I didn’t want to cause unnecessary panic or an overreaction so I pushed off doing stuff for a long time. It wasn’t until I went to a conference and it became the first major American conference to shut down that I really understood how much of a threat it posed.” Moving toward positivity, my next question brought him back nine years as I asked about a time he had to creatively solve a problem at FCS. He recounted a story from when he was still pretty new to the job and a massive storm swept through the area, closing the school for two or three days and destroying a beautiful, beloved tree on campus: “I remember Doug Linton coming into my office in tears saying we needed to take the tree down, and I knew that we had to do it if Doug Linton was for cutting down a tree. But it didn’t feel right letting it die like that so we repurposed the wood to make the Adirondack chairs that are now on campus.” Circling back to the pandemic, I asked him how the past year has affected his outlook on the FCS community, and he responded that it didn’t really change anything but rather affirmed just how strong FCS is: “I wouldn’t say that the pandemic necessarily made me change about how I saw this community, but it did reaffirm my beliefs about what this community already was, which is resilient, creative, and community-oriented.” In line with this, Sellers replied to a question about how he has tried to make FCS a more welcoming and accepting community by again emphasized the work of others: “In trying to make FCS more inclusive, I have worked in sort of two steps: the first being surrounding myself with brilliant, empathic, big-hearted people and listening to them as well as doing the suggestions they ask for. And, second, focusing on populations of kids at school who are historically marginalized and wanting a leader to guide us as a community towards equity.” One leader he’s referring to is Ms. Erica Snowden.
To close the interview, I asked Mr. Sellers one final question about what struggles he has seen students endure and most closely related to. He touched on his childhood and how his experience made him relate to kids who often feel that they don’t belong because of their financial situation: “I grew up with a single mom and we were relatively poor…. And when I got older I went to this boarding school with kids who were so wealthy that they didn’t know they were wealthy. And because sometimes I wouldn’t have enough money for a school trip or a uniform I felt like didn’t belong. So now I can relate to kids who feel like they don’t belong or are less important because they are on tuition assistance.” He also ended by remarking that he hopes that, in the future, the school will continue to improve by making students feel wanted and cared for notwithstanding their socioeconomic status.
In all, I asked him seven questions to summarize his time here at FCS and to get a look at his experience leading this school for several years. I hope these final words do a good job of capturing his time at Friends’ Central. FCS wishes him luck in all of his future endeavors. Goodbye, Mr. Sellers!