Director emphasizes unity

Abelmann wants stronger ties among schools

Priyanka Shrijay, Opinion Editor

As new director Charlie Abelmann takes the reins, he plans to strengthen connections within and outside the Lab community. Dr. Abelmann also hopes to encourage student voice and to promote a balance between work and recreation.

Dr. Abelmann has set relationships within the Lab community as a primary goal.

“My hope is that we can have more connections between the schools for students to interact with students of different ages more and teachers to interact more as well,” he said, adding that despite five divisions of Lab Schools spanning two campuses, he wants to have one community.

Charlie Abelmann, Lab Schools Director

Aside from inter-school relationships, Dr. Abelmann hopes to fortify Lab’s ties with the charter schools, University of Chicago and local community through service learning.

In addition to bolstering relationships, Dr. Abelmann’s vision for Lab is a safe, welcoming institution promoting student voice, innovation and a work-fun balance.

We need to be a serious place of learning while not taking ourselves too seriously and knowing we can have fun.”

— Charlie Abelmann

“We need to always question how schools have worked and imagine new possibilities,” he said. “I am a strong advocate for schools working for all students and promoting having a healthy balance of activities for students. We need to be a serious place of learning while not taking ourselves too seriously and knowing we can have fun.”

Most recently, Dr. Abelmann was the head of school at Barrie School in Maryland, and previously was a principal at Janney Elementary School in Washington D.C.

Dr. Abelmann, who has a bachelor’s degree in English and religion from Duke University and a doctorate in administration, planning and social policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, was involved with the World Bank’s education programs in China, Mongolia and Indonesia. He also worked with ministries of education and local governments in Africa, Europe and South America.

While curious about Lab’s traditions and student experiences, Dr. Abelmann believes his history of working on educational issues in private and public schools around the world will allow him to break new ground on his goals.

“I think my time working in some very progressive schools influences how I value hands on learning and authentic projects,” he said. “I believe deeply in continuous improvement and value supporting the work of principals. I value innovation and out of the box ideas.”

Dr. Abelmann — already aware of Lab’s history, standing and connection to the University of Chicago — found he shares many of Lab’s core beliefs, and was attracted to it from the start as a result.

“The job appealed to lots of my interests and experience in education. I value partnerships, and the school has a few great ones and can do much more with the University, the city and organizations and schools in other places. I value student voice and authenticity and when I visited, I felt this was a community that shared that value,” he said. “I also felt people embraced the idea of how Lab can also serve others outside of Lab.”

Dr. Abelmann is excited to grow with Lab.

“I felt like this could be a challenging and rewarding position and one where I hope to make a significant contribution as I help Lab serve students and be a great workplace for adults,” he said. “I know I will learn and grow at Lab and like the challenge of new endeavors.”