Interview with Mr. Schneider
Luke Hogan, Ben Gliklich
1.) How has the start of school been for you and your family?
“The start of school has been amazing. I feel like the school has gone out of their way to welcome me and my family. And I just have been so impressed to observe the dedication of the students and of the teachers, and really the entire community. And there were great parts of the move that made it quite easy and fun. For example, both my parents and Amy’s dad live in the area, so this is kind of coming back to where we grew up. And we have friends and other social structures around us that we did not have in Maine.
But I think that any time you leave a place that you have been for 11 years, that is emotional, too.
So I would say the transition, though it was challenging in certain ways, it feels like we’ve been here a lot longer.”
2.) How has Belmont Hill been different than Berwick Academy (Mr. Schneider’s previous school)?
“The big difference is the all boys and that it’s only grades 7 through 12 as opposed to Berwick Academy which was a pre K through 12 day school. Also, the campus here is actually smaller and more compact. The culture is very different here as well. One thing that stands out is the commitment to character education as part of the mission which really comes through in kind of everything that Belmont Hill does. Another thing I should mention is that Berwick Academy was around 225 years old when I was there, so in comparison, this school is quite young, and yet Belmont Hill’s sense of tradition is much stronger than the school I’m coming from. Also Berwick had a lower, middle, and upper school, which made that there were almost three schools within one. Whereas Belmont Hill is more focused and streamlined.”
3.) What plans do you have for this school year and the years down the road?
“I think the main plan for this year is just listening and understanding. One of the things that was interesting was that Dr. Melvoin and the board finished a strategic vision during his final years of the things the school would like to accomplish in the near future. For instance, in 2023 we will have the Centennial Celebration. Those kind of initiatives are things that people are really excited about. However, I think one of my refrains that I keep repeating is that I really am committed to making sure we have a school culture that’s forward-thinking and innovative. We need to be thinking about the future of education, but doing that while always honoring and adhering to the great sense of tradition at this place. This year, the big things are the relationships, trying to get to know all of you guys, getting to know the teachers. I set a goal of having a sit-down meeting with every employee, faculty and staff, by Thanksgiving. I’m probably about 80% of the way there, so that I know what makes the school special from their perspective. And now that I’m teaching in the third form, advising, and doing lunches and getting around more, I feel like I’m starting to get to know all of you although it’s been a lot of names to try to digest.
When we look out over a couple of years, I think one of the things the school is hoping to be able to do is expand the size of the chapel at some point. I know that the school’s growing a little bit and it might grow a tiny bit more, so something important is increasing the school’s endowment over time so that it can sustain financial aid and access for students. Definitely continuing to work on diversity and inclusion to make sure that this place is as welcoming and inclusive to boys from all kinds of backgrounds. Hiring the next generation of iconic Belmont Hill teachers. As you know, there are some teachers that have been here for a long time and some of them will be retiring in the next 5 years. So figuring out how we can attract that next group of amazing teachers will be very important. I also want to be a good model for what Belmont Hill cares about. For me, that’s obviously the character piece, but hopefully it’s also showing that you can be both serious about your academics, be excited about your athletics, but also be a musician, an artist, or an actor. And I want to break some of those boundaries, and that’s something that I’ve always really prided myself on. So, I hope to be able to model that for the students and the adults that are here.”
4.) What advice would you give to a new or returning student?
“To a new student, my advice would be dive in. This is a place that strikes me as having kids who are proactive and self-advocates do really well. I also am a big believer in start strong. I’ve tried to model that myself coming into the community. It’s definitely a lot easier to get off to a good start and then pull back than to find yourself behind and trying to catch up. Another piece of advice to new students I would give is to be yourself. I really want to always be sure that Belmont Hill students feel like they can be their authentic complete selves when they come on the campus.
In terms of returning students, I think maybe for them I would challenge them more to think about leadership; after you’ve been here a while I think it’s more natural to find yourself in those roles. And to always be thinking about growth and improvement over time. I think setting goals and reflecting on the journey are really important, and I would also say make sure to have fun.”
5.) What do you think are your strengths?
“I’ve always thought that I’m more of a generalist than a specialist and that has been a strength for me in this type of role. Also, I love to write and I’m a fairly fast writer. I’m not a procrastinator. I hope I’m viewed as approachable and easy to talk to, and I think I have a sense of humor.”
6.) What is the difference between Belmont Hill and Nobles and Greenough (Mr. Schneider’s high school)?
“Well, let’s just say that people love to keep bringing this up, and, it was a big hurdle in the search process. One thing I can say is that I did meet my wife in 9th grade at Nobles. So it’s hard to criticize. One veteran faculty member here, who knew me then, said something like ‘he was Belmont Hill boy then, he just didn’t know it at the time.’ ”