Francois Jean Charpentier ’15, Landon School

Francois-CharpenierLast January during Intercession, I had the chance to intern three days at Landon School for Boys, a school from grade 3 to grade 12 next to DC in Bethesda, MD. The headmaster of the school, David Armstrong, a Princeton alumni, class of 1970, generously offered me this wonderful opportunity to learn about the organization of a small but excellent private school.

As an engineering major, I decided to focus more on the study of the administrative side of the school rather than the education part. For any career it is useful to know how an administration works, how all of the moving parts fit together and more importantly how to lead teams and how to use leadership. Landon gave me a particularly good insight on those themes.  Since it is a small organization, I had the chance to speak with most of the key administrators of the school, thanks to Mr. Armstrong’s assistant, Patti Pfeiff, who organized my days at Landon. Patti gave me a tour of Landon, showing me their beautiful campus and sharing with me the Landon spirit and how much the school does for the boys, who in turn consider Landon as their second home.

On my first day at Landon, after the campus tour, I met with the CFO of Landon, Jeremy Kugel, and attended a budget meeting with the head of the IT department. I learned about making a budget and the different kinds of funds that can be used for long term projects versus everyday expenses. That day I also met with the head of college counseling, Jamie Kirkpatrick, who in addition to talking to me about actual college counseling was the first to talk to me about the different kinds of leaderships. As a member of the Landon staff, Mr. Kirkpatrick has to report to the headmaster, but there are different ways that a headmaster, or any other leader, can exert his leadership, with types of leaders ranging from a micromanager who directly controls every project of every member under him in the hierarchy of the organization to a manager who lets the key members of the organization be independent, both ends of the spectrum having its advantages and drawbacks. I later met with Marcos Williams, the Director of Center for Teaching and Learning who has been at Landon for many years, as many people there have, because Landon creates an amazing sense of community and family. Mr. Williams talked to me about the social aspect of being a leader and how important it is to know, respect and understand the people we supervise as a leader. This was confirmed by David Holm, the Director of Athletics, who told me that when he arrived at Landon he was younger than many people he had to supervise and as a result, had to be humble and really get to know everybody and how everything worked before deciding to make any changes to the general organization.

On my second day at Landon, I spent most of my day with the fundraising department of the school. Landon is a nonprofit organization and there are fundraising projects and events running in order to allow the school to continue to offer the best for the boys. I asked everybody I met about the different kind of leaderships. Everybody agreed that Mr. Armstrong gives people independence, allowing them to make their own decisions, but at the same time, people I met all told me that he deeply cares about the school. Mr. Armstrong knows every boy (almost 600 of them!) and every staff member by name and despite the fact that he lets people be independent, he still takes the important decisions about the administration of the school.

On my third day, I went with Mr. Armstrong Charpentier 3to two important meetings, the first one being a board meeting (the board of trustees), during which I learned more about establishing a budget and setting goals for the school. Unlike a company whose main goal would be to make a profit, Landon´s goal is to provide the best learning environment for the boys. I then went to a calendar meeting, during which the key administrators of the school met to talk about the upcoming events of the school to make sure there is no conflict.

At the end of this Princeternship I had learned very valuable information about administration, especially in terms of financing and leadership styles and I now feel more ready to work in teams and to use leadership. Landon school was a really great place to visit, and Mr. Armstrong and his assistant, Patti Pfeiff, as well as the entire Landon community very generously welcomed me. I would definitely recommend the Princeternship experience to anyone.