Marlborough head is helping prepare students for the future

| February 29, 2024 | 0 Comments

It has been 18 months since Jennifer Ciccarelli took over as head of school at Marlborough, and we at the Larchmont Chronicle thought we’d check in to see how things are going.

JENNIFER CICCARELLI with students at a school assembly.

“It’s been fabulous,” said Ciccarelli. “The Marlborough community has been incredibly warm, supportive and welcoming on all levels,” she added. The head of school at the 7th-12th grade independent girls’ school is pleased that, with a full school year at Marlborough under her belt, students, teachers and parents are feeling comfortable coming to her with questions and concerns. “That feels good to me. I fundamentally love the work of leading schools. I love solving problems. I love working collaboratively with people to make the school even better. That’s sort of my happy place.”

One thing that Ciccarelli loves about Marlborough is the way the Rossmore Avenue institution embraces innovation. Even though the school has been in Los Angeles since 1890 (and in its current location since 1916), the school community is open and eager to find new ways to best serve its students.

This year, a world languages program has been put in place for seventh graders. Rather than jumping into the study of a chosen language right away, all seventh grade students are given the opportunity to think about how people learn languages that are new to them. They are given exposure to the four languages offered at Marlborough — Korean, Mandarin, Spanish and French — while working to find the commonalities among the four.

This year’s seventh grade students are also the first ones participating in a newly refreshed Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) experience, Ciccarelli tells us. Rather than getting a taste of a few of Marlborough’s CEI offerings — such as engineering, media studies, entrepreneurship, computer science, robotics and fabrication — each student gets to try them all so that she can make an informed decision about what she will pursue further in the upper grades.

Optimism for the future
Ciccarelli also told us about a program now being offered for 10th, 11th and 12th graders: Global Futures Institute (GFI). Our planet’s and local communities’ environments, the future of democracy and global identities are all areas of study as part of GFI. Ciccarelli said, “We are getting [our students] to think about the possibilities for the future so that they can embrace the uncertainty of it with optimism and with an eye toward making a wonderful future for our world.”

One thing the head of school really loves about the Marlborough community is its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. At schools she has helmed in the past, Ciccarelli often felt like she had to lead the work. At Marlborough, she said, it has been gratifying to feel that everyone is with her. “Instead of my being out alone in front and pulling people along with me, I’m part of a wonderful tide of support for having a really diverse community, and everyone understands why that’s important.”

Healthy futures
Looking to issues she wants Marlborough to work on over the next few years, lessening dependence on cell phones and social media are present in her mind. “We are taking it on as a whole community conversation,” she told us. She wants to talk about how the community can learn to use that technology wisely and with health in mind.

Ciccarelli, who came from Columbus School for Girls in Ohio, spoke further on the health of Marlborough students. “We know that depression and anxiety rates (around the country) are higher than they’ve ever been, and they are increasing,” she said. The head of school is proud of the fact that Marlborough ensures that there are a lot of adult eyes on kids through programs like home room and advisory and health classes. She thinks it’s important that students are well known at school so that faculty can help notice and catch a child who is struggling.

The 530-pupil school has begun partnering with caregivers as well. Through its Parents and Guardians Education Series (PAGES), Ciccarelli told us the school is helping parents build a community with one another while they learn about important mental health topics. In addition to these goals, Ciccarelli aims to continue having conversations about what an excellent education looks like in the 21st century. “I want to give our students the tools to talk across differences; to disagree with people respectfully and constructively.

“I think that is a critical component of developing citizens for the world who are critical thinkers, who are problem finders and problem solvers, who can work with people who are different from them.  All of those things are key components of academic excellence. We aim to help our students and ourselves do it better,” she said.

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Category: People

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