New principal selected

Paul Beekmeyer will be the new U-High principal, and according to Laboratory Schools Director Charlie Abelmann, much of his first year will be spent forming bonds throughout the U-High community.

“As a new principal, he needs to focus on learning about and understanding Lab, and you do that by building relationships and doing a lot of listening,” Dr. Abelmann said in an interview with the Midway. “I think he needs to build relationships with the faculty. I think he needs to build relationships with the students. I think he needs to build relationships with the staff. He needs to build relationships with parents.”

Mr. Beekmeyer was announced as principal-designate on May 13 in an email to the Lab Schools community.

Mr. Beekmeyer said in a visit April 26-27 that he is dedicated to working with the faculty to facilitate student-faculty relationships.

“Because that is the most important relationship. That is what a school is,” Mr. Beekmeyer said in a meeting with parents during his visit. “It’s what happens in the classroom and halls, it’s not what happens in the principal’s office. So, the focus has to be there.”

Dr. Abelmann and Mr. Beekmeyer also agree that University of Chicago relationships are very important to Lab’s success.

“Lab has a very close relationship with the university, which is what makes it great,” Dr. Abelmann said. “He needs to build relationship with the university and think about how to leverage, as best we can, this relationship to benefit students and faculty.”

During his April visit, where he met with groups of students, faculty, parents and other stakeholders, Mr. Beekmeyer said he would like to build a relationship like this with the University of Chicago and plans to share resources with the University of Chicago Charter School Woodlawn to foster a relationship with them.

Dr. Abelmann explained that Mr. Beekmeyer’s experience working at schools around the world would fit well with Lab’s values.

“I think his international experience is great,” Dr. Abelmann said. “The fact that he’s worked in different countries, that he’s from a different country, adds to what it means to be preparing students to be global citizens.”

Mr. Beekmeyer is Sri Lankan-Australian.He grew up and went to school in Australia and has worked in schools in Morocco, Turkey and Afghanistan. Currently, he works as assistant head of the upper school for academics at the Brooklyn Friends School in New York.

While he has a lot of experience working at different schools, U-High would be the largest school he has ever worked at and the first school he has worked at with a faculty union. He said that he would approach the experience openly.

Mr. Beekmeyer said he is dedicated to hearing student voice. At his previous school, students were involved in the school’s principal search and given an equal say in the decision as everyone else in the room.

He said, “It’s not ‘When do you bring students to the table?’ It’s ‘When don’t you?’”