HEBRON — Katherine Ducharme, who graduated from Hebron Academy in May, moved off campus for the last six weeks of classes out of fear of reprisal from former Head of School Dan Marchetti and to escape the campus climate.

Two weeks ago, Marchetti — hired in 2016 — resigned. He left campus last week.

It was sudden, according to students, parents and faculty connected with the school who spoke with the Sun Journal, but his departure has been seen as welcome.

Mary Warner, former director for Advancement and External Relations for the school, has been appointed interim head of school, the first woman to hold the top leadership position in the private college preparatory school’s 217-year history.

William Lyness, chairman of the academy’s Board of Trustees and a member of the board since 2014, said the board was delighted to appoint Warner through unanimous ratification, pointing to her “terrific background and great leadership style.” The reaction so far, he said, “has been very, very positive.”

Mary Warner was appointed interim head of school at Hebron Academy in July 2021. hebronacademy.org

Prior to Hebron, Warner was assistant head at Mater Christie School in Burlington, Vermont, and had worked at Green Farms Academy and Choate Rosemary Hall, both in Connecticut.

A graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, she holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Southern California.

Warner declined to speak with the Sun Journal about the change in leadership, writing in an email that she “cannot comment on the previous head of school or his administration.” Or, she wrote in a later email, comment on faculty retention under Marchetti’s leadership.

According to Hebron Academy’s admission literature, there were 45 faculty members on campus for the 2020-21 school year. Of those, more than half left in the spring, according to students, parents and faculty members who spoke with the Sun Journal. The number of departures is reportedly close to 30, but neither Warner nor Lyness would confirm an exact number.

According to several people connected with Hebron Academy, most of the departures were a direct result of Marchetti’s management style, described as overbearing and retaliatory, and to a specific incident in late-winter over a student-led video.

A number of faculty members who left after the spring term have posted comments on social media about their time at Hebron, including multiple posts about a “culture of fear” fostered by Marchetti among faculty and students.

Ducharme, who lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, said she knows the fear firsthand.

She was one of 10 proctors at the school during the past year, part of a group of high-achieving seniors who had earned the trust of both faculty and students to hold leadership positions. The proctors, some of whom were former day students, lived on campus and were considered a resource for other students.

As part of the school’s winter cabaret, the proctors were encouraged by two staff members to craft a video in the satirical style of a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

Ducharme, who was in quarantine when the video was being filmed, said the proctors had fun putting together a skit impersonating faculty discussing on-campus COVID protocols. She called the video “very playful” and that some staff members who watched it thought it was cutting, but harmless.

Dan Marchetti, who was hired as head of school at Hebron Academy in 2016, resigned earlier this month. hebronacademy.org

But, she said, after Marchetti watched the video he called the proctors together for a special meeting and proceeded to loudly berate and belittle them for over an hour, including making fun of a student who stuttered.

“Mr. Marchetti had gotten us pizza for that night, but we weren’t allowed to eat our food until after the meeting. ‘We had to earn our food,’ he said,” according to Ducharme.

“As soon as we got in there we knew it wasn’t going to be a good meeting,” she said, as Marchetti asked the students to turn off their phones and put them away. She said that, later, she recognized he didn’t want the students recording the meeting.

Ducharme said the former head of school screamed at each of the proctors individually and as a group, slammed his hand on desks, told them they were worthless and stupid. “He belittled us and made us feel absolutely awful,” she said, to the point where many of the students were crying.

“He said we should all be grateful for what we have,” she said, and “grateful to be going to school here.” He turned to one of the students, who is from Sweden, and said “if you’re not happy here, if you don’t like the rules, you can go home. You can all go home now,” and he offered to buy plane tickets for several of the students to go home.

He threatened to kick all of them out of school, Ducharme said, and said he’d personally mail them their diplomas if they wanted to leave right away.

Ducharme said she tried to explain the thinking behind the skit, telling Marchetti “you’re telling us you want to listen to our ideas and want our voices to be heard, but as soon as I told you how I was feeling you told me to go home, so I don’t know how to respond to that.”

His response, she remembers, is that the students should think about life on campus from the teachers’ perspective and how difficult campus life has been for everyone under COVID restrictions. But, she said, he was so angry and loud that “it got really bad pretty quickly.”

It was, she remembers, “like a fight-or-flight moment. We were in such shock we couldn’t move our bodies. We couldn’t even drink our water bottles. We were just terrified.”

After the meeting ended, some students sought out nursing staff and other faculty members for support, including a staff nurse who decided to stay overnight in case any of the students needed to talk with her, and some later sought professional counseling.

“He gave us so much anxiety that we all felt a need to ignore him, stay away as far as possible from him. He instilled so much fear in us,” Ducharme said.

Multiple attempts to reach Dan Marchetti by phone and then by email through administrators at the school were unsuccessful.

A lingering disappointment, Ducharme said, is that there were two other faculty members in the room during that meeting “and they didn’t say anything during the entire meeting while we were being screamed at and verbally harassed.”

Ducharme — who is enrolled in the international business honors program at Temple University for the fall — said she was so rattled by the meeting that, immediately afterward, she recorded 17 minutes of audio to capture her thoughts while they were still fresh. She has kept the audio, she said, because she doesn’t know what else to do with it.

Marchetti refused to allow the proctor video to be shown to the student body, but it has since been widely shared with students and staff, and on social media.

Cindy Hathorne, whose son was a proctor, is a staff nurse at Hebron and felt obliged as a mandatory reporter to report Marchetti’s behavior to the Department of Education and to the Department of Health and Human Services. Several faculty members and more than one student have since reached out to DHHS to join Hathorne’s complaint.

Parents and faculty also reported Marchetti’s behavior to the Board of Trustees.

Lyness acknowledged he heard from a “number of parents” following Marchetti’s meeting with proctors, but declined to talk about those complaints.

He said the school has a policy of not commenting on employee matters and would prefer, instead, to focus on Warner’s administration.

Lyness said “I’ve also heard from a few (parents) who expressed support for the school.”

“I have great hopes and expectations,” he said. “We have a lot of wind at our back right now. Record enrollment for the fall. We have financed our debt and put ourselves into a fairly strong financial position. Our endowment is looking good thanks to the generosity of our donors and thanks to the performance of the market. I’m focused on a bright future with a full school and a great faculty and staff to take that on in the fall.”

Asked to confirm complaints, Kelli Deveaux, director of communications for the Department of Education, said any report “that may or may not be submitted to the Department of Education alleging misconduct is confidential” under state law.

The same confidentiality restrictions apply to complaints filed with DHHS; the agency’s director of communications, Jackie Farwell, did not return a message seeking comment.

According to Hathorne, the proctors each begged their parents not to make a big deal about the incident because they didn’t want to get kicked out of school. They worried about retaliation and wanted to graduate with their class.

But she said she couldn’t, in good conscience, not speak up, even knowing that doing so might cost her her job. “Just the effort of trying to fight back would result in you not getting a contract or some other reprimand,” Hathorne said, as she has seen in the past. “I’m a mandated reporter and my license is on the line,” she said. “I have to make these calls.”

She did agree, as did the other parents, not to go public until after the school term had ended.

Former faculty member Cynthia Reedy, who taught at the school for over 30 years and recently retired, said she understands the fear of retaliation because she’s seen it. She said Marchetti has a temper and, when crossed, “people have not gotten contracts renewed. People who called his judgment into question did not get contracts. He could be vindictive.”

Former English teacher Trevor Paul said he and his wife, Molly Paul, who worked in the school’s academic guidance center, are among 28 staff members who left campus during the year; most left at the end of the school year. “We felt we were in a toxic working environment and we did not want to continue to work there under those conditions.”

He said the “inciting” proctor incident played into that decision, after working at Hebron for eight years, but it was about Marchetti’s “tyrannical” style and his routine unwillingness to accept feedback from faculty.

Paul was one of the faculty members depicted in the proctors’ video. He said he thought it was edgy and a couple of parts could have been toned down, but overall it was a clear piece of satire.

Paul said he advised the proctors to go to the board to let trustees know how they had been treated, but “they decided to do nothing. They had a month and a half until graduation. They were exhausted. They were intimidated. They didn’t want to be booted out of school, removed from the dorm or not allowed to walk for graduation,” which they feared would happen if Marchetti found out they complained.

Since Paul and his wife had already made the decision to leave campus, he said he was one of a few faculty members who confronted Marchetti and other administrators over the incident, without relief. He said “the fear of reprisal was high among students and staff,” but once graduation was over “there was a sea change about faculty contacting DHHS,” which he was relieved to see.

Last month, several weeks before Marchetti’s resignation, the Board of Trustees sent a survey to returning faculty to gauge the environment and culture on campus. That survey was followed by a second survey that also went out to departing faculty.

And, Reedy said, “once the board recognized a pattern of information they reacted.” Particularly, she said, because Marchetti’s “controlling behavior” and the discouraged feeling among faculty led to “twice as many (faculty members) as I’ve ever seen leave” at the end of a school year.

Lyness said the surveys were part of work that’s “just ordinary, good governance to pulse your faculty and staff and assess leadership. They were not specifically a reaction to the ‘proctor incident,’ but normal due diligence.”

Asked if these surveys were the first such “climate surveys” sent to staff since Marchetti’s hire in 2016, Lyness confirmed they were.

Steve Lane, an attorney in Honolulu who graduated from Hebron in 1962, reached out to the Sun Journal after hearing about Marchetti’s resignation because he found it oddly sudden.

Lyness dismissed the suggestion that Marchetti’s five-year tenure at the school was short, saying of the resignation, “I don’t know how much of a surprise it was.”

An average corporate CEO, Lyness said, lasts about 4 1/2 years, and “five years is about the average for the head of school.”

Of the dozen heads, or acting heads, of school before Marchetti, six of them served in the post for five or fewer years.

Lane told the Sun Journal he was concerned about an online petition for administration accountability, racial inclusivity and education at Hebron Academy, organized by a group of 50 current students and alumni last year, that is highly critical of what it calls Marchetti’s and the board’s “tone-deaf” social media posts regarding diversity and inclusion, and lack of formal recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Lane, who is the parent of two Hebron grads and who has referred a dozen or more students of color to the school over the years, said he’s never encountered “any hint of racial or other discrimination by way of Hebron’s admission policies,” hoping that commitment hasn’t wavered.

In his experience, Hebron has “been very proactive in seeking to broaden the base of their student enrollment by race, national origin, economic circumstance and geographic location” and “has been especially welcoming to the new Americans from Southeast Asia following our years of armed conflict there extending generous financial aid to Indo-Chinese immigrant students who went on to matriculate to some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities,” a standard Lane wants to see continue at Hebron.

Paul said that last summer’s petition prompted administrators to bring in a consultant to work with staff to discuss how they are “actually connecting with our students of color,” which he found to be a positive step.

Looking forward, Hathorne said she’s thrilled to have Warner leading the school. “Now Hebron can heal, and these employees can do their job and not feel like their job’s at stake. It can be a safe place for our kids again, and an environment they can learn.”

Reedy said much the same.

“I was very relieved when I heard about Mary Warner. This whole situation really is a positive one for Hebron because, I think, it shows that the trustees want the spirit of the school to continue and they’re going to require that to be part of what the education there is.”

In a news release announcing Warner’s appointment, Lyness acknowledged “transitions and change often create anxiety, but members of the Hebron community should rest assured that the school is in excellent hands and has come through the past 18 months extraordinarily well.”

Since Marchetti’s departure, social media posts have taken a more optimistic tone, including a July 13 post on Glassdoor — a site that features job openings and company reviews — from an employee who has been with the school for more than five years, writing “So excited to be working for the new acting head of school. Looking forward to starting the year and taking Hebron in the right direction. Change is a good thing!”

Marchetti’s wife, Courtney Marchetti, who was the director of student success in the school’s admissions office, has also left Hebron.

Multiple phone calls and messages seeking comment on filling the open staff positions that were left with Emily Carton, director of Hebron’s Upper School, and Emily Bonis, dean of faculty, were not returned.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the first name of the chairman of the Hebron Academy Board of Trustees.


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