A new Head of School: the Tennyson Era

Bika Gupta, Shylee Saladi, & Anusha Srivasta, Managing Editor of Global, Editor-in-Chief, & Asst. Managing Editor of Production

After a diligent search managed by the Head of School Search Committee, the next Head of School was found right here at Lake Forest Academy – Chris Tennyson, the current Dean of Students and Calculus teacher. He is set to take over José De Jesús’ duties as he will depart Lake Forest Academy after three years for the Dalton School in New York City, on July 1st, 2022.
At the Morning Meeting following the announcement of the new Head of School, Tennyson performed a skit for the LFA community to the excited crowd. He darted around the theater switching his character from Chris ‘Tenny’ Dean of Students to Christopher O. Tennyson Head of School, highlighting the difficulties of making the transition. The skit ended with the latter character granting him a Head of School Day, a most treasured tradition amongst the LFA student body.
Tennyson was first exposed to boarding school life at The Peddie School in New Jersey as a student, where his mother was a teacher. His early experiences with the boarding school community drew him to LFA. He began his LFA journey as math teacher in 1999. After living on campus for twenty years, he commented on how he’s “grown up here on this campus (LFA)” as well.

It was at LFA that he met his wife, Maggie Tennyson, a fellow math teacher and a current dorm parent in Ferry Hall. Together they have raised three children on campus. As Tennyson assumes the Head of School position, he will not only become more involved as the head, but so will his spouse who will help manage these new responsibilities of speaking at fundraisers and other events on and off campus.
Throughout his time at LFA, Tennyson has seen the campus grow first-hand and stated that, “the beauty of The Academy is that it is a campus that has completely transformed itself physically.” Yet, despite the changes to campus, Tennyson adds that “We’ve remained really true to our mission. That mission has served as our guiding light.” LFA’s mission, formalized in 2003, has been to cultivate excellence of character, scholarship, citizenship, and responsibility in its students.
During the search for a new Head of School, the designated search committee and Head of School Equity Task Force sent surveys to current students, faculty, and alumni regarding what they believe needs to be improved upon campus. This “gathered a lot of information,” Tennyson reported. In conjunction with the ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States) review this month, Tennyson and his team will use the information to help identify what the community values. This will allow the ‘strategic plan,’ formulated by Tennsyon and team that details LFA’s plan for the coming years, to be influenced by all members of the community. If Tennyson’s class is a small microcosm of his management style, then LFA is surely in good hands. When asked about his class, Lily Ainsley ‘22, a Senior in Calculus says it is engaging and that it is clear that he “wants to help everyone. He’s very determined, and passionate about LFA!”
When asked about specific changes he hopes to implement, Tennyson discussed that “There are campus improvements that still need to happen. I think that the establishment of a Health and Wellness center around campus is a big one.” The Health and Wellness center, planned to be funded fully through the LFA Gala on April 30th, will be underneath New Hall [Orchestra Room and Advancement] and offer a new space for physical and psychological needs. Dermatologists, gynecologists, and psychiatrists will be brought in to help students, and this building will accommodate 24-hour nursing staff. Additionally, this will make counseling more accessible as well as a more comfortable space for group therapy sessions.
One of Tennyson’s core plans for the upcoming years at LFA is reconnecting: Tennyson said, “We’ve come out of a pandemic, we’ve come out of a period of racial reckoning, we’ve come out of a period of a very divisive political climate in the US and around the world. We want to make sure that, as a community, we can always be the best we can be for one another but also for partners outside our school.” In a time period where “normalcy seems more tangible,” LFA will be able to restart beloved community events like graduation ceremonies, prom, and Move-Up day. These end-of-school-year activities have been postponed since 2020 and plan to be held this year.
As Tennyson transitions from Dean of Students to the new Head of School, he will continue teaching his Calculus class as well as continuing to run his advisory. This aligns with his intention “to remain student-centered” when he becomes Head of School. When reflecting on his time as the Dean of Students, he explained that “as the DOS I hope that I represented the student voice to the best of my ability, and it meant a lot to me to get to know the students as best as I could.”
Tennyson remarked that he has “a few favorite moments” regarding LFA traditions that he believes brings the community closer. Specifically, he commented on how he loves the All-School Handshake. “I think it’s an awesome tradition. I love being able to go around and either fist bump or handshake people…I read files over the summer to get to know students on paper, but during the handshake, I get to see peoples faces even if masked, and start to get to know them,” said Tennyson.
He also noted that he looks forward to “start[ing] to work alongside all constituent groups,” including students. He stated that, “Our students are amazing in every way.” During this transition period, he noted that, “We always say how wonderful it is that our students will be lifelong learners, and I’m living that now. I’m learning so much, and that’s so exciting.”
On the whole, Tennyson expressed how, “working on behalf of the school – more importantly on behalf of the students and faculty– that’s a win for me.”