After four months of vigorous and thorough search for a new principal, the Woodstock Community was informed on April 12, 2019 about the appointment of Dr. Craig Cook as principal designate of Woodstock. The board of directors unanimously chose Dr. Cook as the principal, with the belief that he would be an outstanding educational leader.
The staff and students of Woodstock seem to share similar thoughts on Dr. Cook. Mr. Ethan vanDrunen, vice principal, said, “He has a lot of experience in various cultures all across Asia. I think that he brings a lot of cross cultural experience to Woodstock. That kind of diversity of experiences will allow him to come into Woodstock with a listening spirit.”
Further, Mr. vanDrunen believes that as a trained sociologist, Dr. Cook has the skills to really understand what the students and staff care about, and will reflect our hopes and fears back to us in a way that would lead the school to its greater next stage.
The school chaplain, Mr Simon Paul, described Dr. Cook as “a warm character, who was open to Woodstock.” According to Mr. Paul, he seemed to have a generosity of spirit. Students and staff who met him found him approachable and genuinely interested in learning about Woodstock instead of just imposing his views on the school.
Anirudh Aggarwal, Class of 2020, who gave Dr. Cook and his wife, Mrs. Jamie Cook, a tour of Upper Years, also provided largely positive feedback. He found their enthusiasm in interacting with the community and their love for nature a very enriching attribute. Lila Morzadec, Class of 2019, liked his educational philosophy which he described as “student centred” and “inclusive.”
However, Morzadec also added that he was a little less conservative in one-on-one conversation than he was in front of the students during the question-answer session in the dining hall. He may have thought that Woodstock is a Christian institution so he might take a conservative angle in his views. “I hope he’d be closer to his personality as a principal as I witnessed one-on-one than when he gave a speech”, Morzadec said. Zohal Haidari, Dorm Council member of Class of 2020, added that Dr. Cook was “inclusive” in his visions and ideologies.
Any time a new leader comes into a school following a longstanding and successful tenure, people tend to compare him to the legacy of the previous leader, which in this case is Dr. Jonathan Long.
Mr. vanDrunen talked about his apprehensions on this comparison that would take place. Mr. vanDrunen said, “My apprehension regarding Dr. Cook is that people would look at him only in the light of the strengths Dr. Long had. I don’t want people to compare Dr. Cook to Dr. Long. I want people to appreciate him for who he is. He will do things differently than Dr. Long, anyone will. Hence I want people to give him a chance and not to judge the way he does things based on anything other than who he is as a person.”
We have all experienced coming into a new place, and the new hopes and fears that come along with it. It takes a bit of time to settle into a new role, a new place, a new life. We, as a community, can make this transition smoother for Dr. Cook and his wife Jamie Cook by helping him engage in the diverse range of events and activities Woodstock has to offer.
As Dr. Long once said, “The most complex part about a relay race is passing the baton to the next person.” This is it. This is the moment when Dr. Long passes his baton on to Dr. Cook. What we can do to help this transfer of enormous responsibility easier, is to welcome Dr. Cook with an open, warm heart, and wish him all the best as he boards on a new journey, taking Woodstock to great new heights.
Archi Arunima is a staff reporter of The Woodstocker
Photo by Hyenjin Cho
Edited by Hyenjin Cho and Navya Sethi