Head of School Allison Gaines Pell Announces 2024-25 School Year Will Be Her Last at Wheeler

February 12, 2024

Earlier today, Head of School Allison Gaines Pell P’23, P’25 and Board Chair Alisia St. Florian ’86 shared the following letters with the Wheeler community.

Dear Wheeler Community,

I am writing today to let you know that the next school year (2024-25), which will be my eighth at Wheeler, will be my last.

I take this step with a heavy heart as I have grown close to so many of you and developed such a strong attachment to the Wheeler community and its future. That being said, after much discussion with my husband, Ben, we’ve decided that it is time to move closer to my aging parents in Brooklyn. With both of our children away at college in 2025, we recognized that the needs of our family must take precedence, no matter how difficult that may be.

I love being Wheeler’s head of school. During these past seven years, I have been enriched by the extraordinary relationships I’ve developed with faculty, staff, students, and families. It has been an honor to help make Mary Colman Wheeler’s vision a reality alongside Wheeler’s unparalleled leadership team. Bestowed upon us almost 140 years ago, Miss Wheeler’s founding ideal…to learn our powers and be answerable for their use…is one of the best mission statements I’ve ever known for defining a great education. To help Wheeler rededicate itself to its founding principle has been a great privilege.

I am grateful for so many other collective experiences and achievements over these years. We revitalized our educational vision, unifying and strengthening it under this mission, and we established ambitious plans to realize that vision on both of Wheeler’s campuses. We launched new programs that not only impact the educational experiences of our students but also engage and support the community around us. We sustained the Wheeler flame, our “spirit that giveth life,” through several unprecedented periods – the pandemic perhaps being most notable – that historians will no doubt deem some of the most difficult educational challenges of our time. Above all, the experiences I will treasure most have been in the small moments: the laughter, connection, resilience, humility, and care that ties our community together. I am so grateful to have served our amazing and diverse faculty, staff, students, and families who make Wheeler dynamic, impressive, and unstoppable.

As I imagine Wheeler beyond my tenure, the future is bright. There will no doubt be many outstanding, highly qualified individuals who will apply to be the next head of school. Wheeler is a nationally respected institution. With a highly experienced and effective leadership team, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees, as well as our engaged parent community, Wheeler is poised for continued great success. With all of these factors in mind, it is both a natural time for me to step away and an exciting time for a new leader to join our community.

I end where I began: Wheeler is a place I love dearly; it is a community for which my family and I will be forever grateful. Just as Wheeler heads have done seven times before, I look forward to supporting a smooth transition to our ninth head of school. In the meantime, for each and every day before June of 2025, I will be here with all of the energy and commitment I have had for Wheeler from day one. There is a great deal more to do, and I will be here for it all.

Allison Gaines Pell
Head of School

Dear Wheeler Community:

As you read in Allison’s letter, she has made the difficult, but understandable, decision to conclude her tenure as Wheeler’s head of school at the end of the 2024-25 school year. While the Board of Trustees received this news with sadness, we are also tremendously thankful for her leadership.

At the conclusion of her tenure, Allison will have guided Wheeler for eight years, during which she spearheaded significant initiatives at the school. As she referenced, Allison brought us together around a unified academic mission, and she built a strong and dedicated administrative team upon whom we will depend after her departure. She has also strengthened our school in other key ways. Since her arrival, enrollment has grown across both campuses; our community is more diverse, supportive, and inclusive; and the school’s path forward is clear as we embark on consequential improvements to the farm and Providence campuses. And, of course, we are so grateful for her steady hand as she steered us through the incredible challenges of the pandemic. Despite those challenges, we did more than persevere; Wheeler is thriving today. We can all take pride in the recent assessment of the NEASC re-accreditation team who found Wheeler to be a national model for independent schools in several areas. Much of what Allison brought to Wheeler – the incredible people and programs – will remain long after she departs. For all of these things, and for much more, we will be forever grateful for Allison’s tenacious leadership. She has become a treasured part of Wheeler’s story, and we will certainly take time to celebrate her meaningful impact.

When Allison shared the news with us that next year would be her last, the Board’s executive committee got right to work and partnered with Resource Group 175 (RG175) to lead the Head of School Search. You may be familiar with RG175 because they previously partnered with Wheeler on a number of searches and are currently working with us on our search for a head of Lower School. We are confident they will help us find the right person to become Wheeler’s ninth head of school.

During the search process, we will engage all constituency groups for their input. We will work closely with administration, faculty, staff, parents, and students to ensure that our next head of school continues to lead us with the spirit for which Wheeler is known. Importantly, Allison will also be here to support us through the process while continuing to lead Wheeler for her final year.

While it will be sad to say goodbye, this is also an exciting time. As Allison prepares to move on to her new chapter, we are poised to launch ours. We will be back in touch soon with more information on the search, and we will update you along the way. For now, please join us in thanking Allison for the indelible mark she has made and, no doubt, will continue to make on our community throughout the end of the next school year.

Alisia St. Florian ’86
President, Board of Trustees

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