Tao Smith has a more intimate and multifaceted understanding of Gould than any previous newly hired head but he says he will nonetheless take the next year or so to identify “the inherent strengths of this place and then sing them to the rafters.”
“A revolution is not needed here,” he explains. But Smith does see evolution as a necessity, one that will accentuate and enhance Gould’s assets to make it the best version of itself that it can be.
“I learned early on that you don’t make someone or something better by trying to turn it into something that it’s not,” Smith says. He expresses frustration that Gould’s location
has not been celebrated enough.
We have the most beautiful campus of any boarding school in New England, nestled up against a beautiful town. It’s the root of all our good fortune and impacts our curriculum, the people we attract, the decisions we make about sustainability.”
“That’s our signature strength!” he says emphatically. “We have the most beautiful campus of any boarding school in New England, nestled up against a beautiful town. It’s the root of all our good fortune and impacts our curriculum, the people we attract, the decisions we make about sustainability.”
He also points to the curriculum and the faculty.
“The quality of education and the quality of the people here are better, in many ways than when I left 20 years ago,” he says, although the faculty has lost some of its joie de vivre
during five years with three leadership changes.
“This is hard work that we do,” Smith says. “Everyone needs to feel as though they are in this together—with camaraderie and spirit and trust—[especially] right now in the climate of the pandemic, social unrest
, political upheaval, and calls for racial justice.”
Putting the pieces of his vision together, Smith holds close to his personal watchwords: acceptance and belonging, home, intellectual curiosity, hard work, respect for others, respect for the land
, people as ongoing works in progress, community, communication, leaving a place better than you found it.
“There are no original ideas,” Smith admits. “But I keep coming back to the Maine State motto: Dirigo, meaning ‘I lead.’
“Rather than following, Gould should be doing something unique. We should be leading. Let’s go deeper with something that we already are.”